Walter E. Williams

People in the major news media have come in for considerable and sometimes bitter criticism. They've been charged with anti-Americanism, leftism, bias and just plain lying, as in the cases of former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, The Associated Press' Washington reporter Christopher Newton and The New Republic's associate editor Stephen Glass. My assessment is much kinder. Yes, a few are scoundrels with devious hidden agendas, but for the most part they're nice people with little understanding.

Brit Hume, Fox News anchorman -- a notable exception -- delivered a speech at Hillsdale College last April highlighting grossly erroneous predictions by some of his colleagues. In the days before the Iraq War, NBC's Chris Matthews predicted, "(It) will join the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Desert One, Beirut and Somalia in the history of military catastrophes." NBC military analyst Gen. Barry McCaffrey warned that if there were to be a battle for Baghdad, the United States could take "a couple to three thousand casualties."

In the war's early stages, Merissa Marr of Reuters said: "As the dream of a quick clean war and cheering Iraqis evaporated last week, America and its allies have been furiously tweaking their media strategy. But how can they hope to gain the upper hand?"

The history of events has proven these know-it-alls dead wrong. Why aren't these people ashamed to show their faces? But more importantly, why do we even listen to them?

Maybe we aren't. That might explain why alternative news sources such as Fox News, Drudge Report and talk radio are capturing larger and larger audiences.

On NBC's June 15 edition of "Meet the Press," Tim Russert interviewed retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who might be a presidential candidate in 2004. Clark criticized President Bush's tax cuts. That's OK, but Clark demonstrated gross ignorance when he said, "I thought this country was founded on a principle of progressive taxation. ... In other words, it's not only that the more you make, the more you give."

Tim Russert, just as ignorant, passed over the statement.

The fact of the matter is that the Framers of our Constitution so feared the imposition of direct taxes, such as an income tax, that Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution says, "No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration herein before directed to be taken."

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
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