Thomas Sowell

This year's elections are not only contests between Democrats and Republicans, they are contests in which the mainstream media are not simply observers and reporters but active partisans.

Remember how the media carried on for weeks about Vice President Cheney's hunting accident? How a Time magazine reporter had a temper tantrum at a White House press briefing because the news wasn't released soon enough -- as if this hunting accident had any significance for the nation, beyond those in the media who were frustrated at being deprived of a Sunday talk show feeding frenzy?

Remember how long we were told that the Bush administration had committed a crime by revealing the identity of a CIA "agent" as revenge for her husband's having attacked administration policy? Indignant editorials in print and on the air practically salivated at the prospect of seeing Vice President Cheney, or at least Republican strategist Karl Rove, frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.

It was a terrible crime, as portrayed in the media, when they thought it would discredit the Bush administration. Now, very belatedly, it turns out that the leak did not originate in the Bush administration after all, but with a critic of that administration, Richard Armitage.

Suddenly it was no longer a scandal, a crime or anything, as far as the media were concerned. There were no cries that Armitage should be frog-marched anywhere in handcuffs. Some in the media belatedly acknowledged that it was never a crime because the CIA "agent" was actually someone sitting behind a desk in Virginia.

It all depends on whose ox is gored.

Remember how absolutely certain the mainstream media were that Terry Schiavo was for all practical purposes already dead because she had been classified as being in a "vegetative" state?

Just recently a woman in a "vegetative" state was discovered by scientists to be able to respond to statements. But have you heard anything about it, much less anything about its relevance to Terry Schiavo?

If the media had been on the opposite side of this issue, it would have been front page news across the country and on TV 24-7.

Reporting the news is very different from filtering the news or spinning the news. Too many people in the mainstream media have become filterers and spinners, especially during an election year.

While Senator Kerry's recent controversial remarks have been spun in the media to mean something different -- and better -- than what he plainly said, talk show host Rush Limbaugh's recent remarks about actor Michael J. Fox have been spun to mean something different -- and much worse -- than what he plainly said.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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