Now that the intensity level of the major media's war coverage is downsized, routinized and parceled out casually between commercial breaks, we can take the time to analyze the possibility that nobody loves a good war like the professional left-wing media critic.
In peacetime, the radicals believe the Dan Rathers and Tom Brokaws are somehow hopeless tools in the hands of greedy CEOs. They are far too malleable, far too "objective," far too passive. A good journalist would be lighting a Molotov cocktail for socialist revolution instead. But in wartime, the left's clarion call sounds. Suddenly they want "objectivity," which they define as the media elite boldly placing themselves outside a dramatically unified American political system in order to denounce the United States as if there were no difference between it and the Taliban.
Columnist Norman Solomon recently announced his "P.U.-litzer Prizes" for 2001, a blatant rip-off of a venerable conservative tradition of marking the worst media quotes of the year. Solomon is outraged that Cokie Roberts expresses love for a man in a military uniform, or that columnist Thomas Friedman likes the wily unpredictability of Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld. How dare these luminaries express a thought that sounds like they're ... well, normal.
Solomon is apoplectic that a Florida newspaper would warn its staff: "DO NOT USE photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan. Our sister paper ... has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening e-mails." He hates that CNN would dare add a disclaimer to its Afghanistan civilian-casualties guesswork noting that the terrorists started the war by murdering thousands of innocent Americans.
Leftists like Solomon despise America.
Their politics start with the notion that America is a gargantuan military-industrial complex that seeks to dominate the world through its armed might and multinational corporations, so wartime is the time to end every critique with a page of exclamation points. They're horrified by the sight of retired military men standing in front of large maps explaining how "we" (one, two, three: "Not US!") go about killing the enemy. They believe that most Americans are bewitched by a cynically manufactured patriotism that seeks to crush courageous dissenters who know the "fact" that America isn't peaceful, free or humane.
For left-wing carpers like Solomon, wartime is the time for the highest of high dudgeon.
But in this struggle, the far left is all alone, thoroughly out of the mainstream of political thought. As America struggled to process the toll of death and destruction, even the media elite cast aside their usual wartime cynicism. In the days following Sept 11, there was no wave of obnoxious claims that this President Bush had something to prove about his manhood or his military record. There was no declaration that this was somehow a conflict masking greedy designs for oil or other resources. There were no breast-beating demands for a reporter on every secret mission. As the war began, there was very little liberal bias, and conservative critics could only respond by thanking the media for the sobriety of their coverage. This must be driving Normal Solomon nuts.
Leftist media critics had a harder time 10 years ago complaining about Gulf War coverage, which came with truckloads of liberal bias. The press gave Democrats a media platform to hold up body bags and make endless predictions of thousands of casualties, all of them reduced to ridicule. Ample TV time was allotted to leftist rallies denouncing Bush the Elder for trading the blood of young men for cheap gas. TV producers even admitted they went looking for "mainstream protesters" to soften the anti-war movement's freakish, even pro-Saddam image. Though victory came quickly and dramatically, still the media never stopped complaining about the "problem" of patriotism.
Back in 1991, during an unforgettable Time magazine editorial meeting aired on C-SPAN, Time's Washington reporters cynically compared Sen. John McCain to Hitler's thugs. Congressional correspondent Hays Gorey remarked: "Well, McCain has got this ad hoc group of superpatriots he's organizing." NASA reporter Jerome Cramer retorted: "They wear brown shirts and march around. Small potatoes." No one would be caught on tape saying anything like that today, and not just because they now worship Senator McCain.
As 2002 unfolds, the media should join America in simply ignoring the anti-Americanism of Solomon and his radical colleagues. Let's hope the media's newfound spirit of national unity and resolve holds firm until America succeeds in taking a bite out of the global terrorist threat.