Open letter to the mainstream media

Posted: Aug 09, 2006 12:01 AM

Dear mainstream media,

I understand why you report as you do in both the Israel-Hezbollah conflict and the larger war on terror. You believe journalism requires a sort of elegant moral relativism, that telling "both sides of the story" is a necessary prerequisite to "objective" journalism. You don't believe that there can be an objective right or wrong; if you were reporting World War II today, you'd feel obligated to speak to front-line Japanese and Nazi soldiers and discuss the Allies' disproportionate response to the attack on Pearl Harbor and the invasion of Poland.

Since you don't believe in right and wrong, you also don't believe in a bright-line distinction between truth and falsehood. Terrorists are just as believable as American and Israeli officials. Everyone has an equally valid perspective on the truth. Of course, it doesn't hurt that terrorists are more than willing to fabricate juicy stories you can print on page one. "Terrorist Kills Civilians" simply doesn't have the same shock value as "American Soldiers Murder Family," even if the second headline is a complete and utter canard. It's easier to win a Pulitzer when you use the fertile imagination of terrorists as reliable sources.

Nonetheless, I feel compelled to offer some advice. It is quite obvious that you do not understand some basic concepts with regard to war. It is also obvious that you do not understand some basic concepts with regard to the state of the world. If you take any of this advice to heart, you may lose your shot at a Pulitzer -- but you may restore your own usefulness.

Lesson #1: In a war, civilians die and civilian property is destroyed. Since the days of Napoleon, armies have routinely drawn support from civilian populations. There is no way to win a war without also devastating a certain amount of the civilian population. The more popular the enemy force, the more devastation is necessary. We didn't simply defeat the Japanese military in World War II -- we absolutely devastated Japan's ability to make war.

Lesson #2: Terrorists are not fools. They recognize that you are unwilling to accept Lesson #1. They therefore melt into the civilian population, knowing that humane forces (read: American and Israeli) will attempt to avoid civilian casualties. If, however, humane forces have no choice but to kill civilians in order to kill terrorists, terrorists can rely on your sympathy.

Lesson #3: Islamists dissemble. You may love the stories Islamists tell, but don't rely on their truthfulness. You made complete fools of yourselves at Qana after listening to the Syrian-run Lebanese government and Hezbollah terrorists. You made fools of yourselves in Jenin in 2002 after listening to Palestinian Arabs complain of a nonexistent massacre by Israeli forces. "War is deceit," Mohammed stated. Take him at his word.

Lesson #4: Don't expect Muslim journalists from the Middle East to objectively report about Israel or America. Verify first. Trust later. Adnan Hajj is Lebanese, yet Reuters had him taking photos of the current conflict. They were shocked -- shocked! -- to learn he had blatantly altered those photos to make Israel's campaign look more brutal. Charles Johnson, who exposed Hajj's falsifications, received a death threat from another Reuters employee, who used the e-mail address "zionistpig": "I look forward to the day when you pigs get your throats cut." I'm willing to give odds the sender is Muslim. Any takers?

Lesson #5: Terrorists can read. When you reveal national security secrets during a time of war, assume that you are probably getting American soldiers and American civilians killed.

Lesson #6: War is not about proportionality. Knitting is about proportionality. War is about winning.

Lesson #7: Hatred is not a synonym for justification. Don't pretend that because Islamists hate us, they are justified in that hatred. Yes, Islamists hate America and Israel. So what? Nazis weren't particularly fond of Jews. Just because one group hates another group doesn't mean the first group is justified in its hatred.

I hope you take some of this advice to heart. Now that would be front-page news.