Media bias, boredom, banality and big-headedness

Posted: Nov 14, 2001 12:00 AM
Conservative commentators regularly criticize the elite media for their undisclosed liberal bias and their penchant for creating – rather than reporting –news. Their foolishness continues unabated, but other factors may be contributing to their mischief: boredom and narcissism. This is quite ironic, considering that we're living in a very unboring period of history. We're at war in Afghanistan and under constant threat of terrorist attack at home. Some pundits have even observed that the sobering realities of war have elevated the media above their pre-9-11 Gary Condit-obsessed mentality. But have they? Consider these things: Item One: Without discounting the horror of the anthrax attacks, the media sensationalized the incidents to obscene proportions. Then when Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw became apparent targets, they both dramatized their personal "involvement" to the point of embarrassment. Rather, with his sleeves rolled up, treated us to hours of sappy self-absorption. Brokaw commended us to the saving qualities of Cipro, "In Cipro we trust." Item Two: The Bush administration has properly reduced media access to military secrets, and despite its frequent press conferences, has failed to allow the media literally and figuratively to parachute in with our special forces in Afghanistan. So they pout and ask asinine questions at press conferences and raise phony criticisms of our conduct of the war. It seems that the war just hasn't been fast-paced enough (read: visibly sensational enough) to deliver them from their boredom. So they complain that we're going about it all wrong. They piggyback onto renegade and unsubstantiated European press reports that our military operations have been abysmally unsuccessful. "The Taliban is invincible, there haven't been enough air sorties; our special forces are ill-equipped to fight an unconventional war; we're bombing civilians; and we're about to lose the coalition," they charge. They refuse to accept Donald Rumsfeld's explanations: "We have fewer sorties than over Iraq and Kosovo because our planes have had much farther to fly; our special forces were not routed by the Taliban; we are trying hard to avoid civilian casualties; and the coalition is fine." I wonder if the faces from which these cacophonous voices proceed feel the egg dripping all about. Just over the weekend, it became abundantly clear that the bomb-softened Taliban are falling like dominoes – to the Northern Alliance, no less – the most rag tag of rag-tag militias. As I've said, and now reiterate, Bush has been handling this war just about right. Item Three: Many of the media's prima donnas have made a conspicuous point of advertising themselves as being above the primitive urges of patriotism. They answer to a higher calling. Item Four: The media's incredible resurrection of the ceaseless Florida recount non-story. While laying off employees right and left, they were expending hundreds of thousands of dollars to examine and tabulate illegally cast ballots. A few points about this are in order. There is no such thing as an undervote – my spell-checker doesn't even recognize the word! A vote that isn't indented sufficiently to be picked up by a machine is a non-vote. It is not supposed to be counted because it hasn't been filled out properly. They were never supposed to be manually recounted under Florida law in the absence of evidence of machine error – and there was none. I realize that the Florida Supreme Court later ruled otherwise, but that wasn't the only instance that august body twisted or fabricated the law to conform it to its desired results. So what's the point of this endless media analysis? It surely isn't to determine who would have won had all mistakes been avoided. If it were, they wouldn't ignore the many compelling arguments made in Bill Sammon's book "Truth At Any Cost" – including that Bush lost an estimated 10,000 net votes in the panhandle because the media erroneously declared Gore the winner before the polls had closed. To disguise their persistent crusade to undermine President Bush's legitimacy – the media admit that Gore could only have won (barely) had he challenged all counties rather than the four he disputed. So beyond their bias, why couldn't they just let this woefully irrelevant story drop? Sadly, they are probably trying to justify their quixotic, pedestrian misadventure in Florida. It is all about them because there is no news to report here. Whether they're beset by perennial boredom or simply crave becoming part of the story, the media just need to get over themselves.