Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Motives of Journalists

Howard Kurtz, the Washington Post's media reporter, reduced the Newsweek furor in the U.S. down to two questions that summarize these kinds of issues:

...we've been plunged back into the same left-right debate that's been raging since the days of Nam. Are journalists irresponsible clowns out to smear the military, hurt America and glorify themselves with overblown and sensational stories? Do reporters continue to use anonymous sources to put out garbage, and how do we know they're not making it up?

Or: Is the administration trying to neutralize the press so it can put out a sanitized version of the news without the annoyance of an independent reality check? How can a White House steeped in deception lecture the Fourth Estate on ethics?

And he concludes,

Every media blunder these days, it seems, comes down to this: Not just a dispute over whether journalists made mistakes, as they often do, but whether their motives are malevolent.

I've followed media reporting closely since the days of Vietnam, and I've been involved in some of the events they've reported on. I have no doubt that they are, in fact, often "out to smear the military, hurt America and glorify themselves with overblown and sensational stories." Some are better than others, of course, and some make an honest effort to observe reasonable ethical standards. But the overall effect is indeed malevolent in many cases. Newsweek and Dan Rather are just the most obvious recent examples.

The leftist, anti-American, anti-military, self-interested, opportunistic nature of many members of the fourth estate is tragic. I firmly support freedom of the press, and I would rather endure the media we have today than see it less free. But sometimes I have to wonder how it came to this.

13 Comments:

Blogger John Walter said...

Go to the Newsweek Website and take a poll. Any poll. Then look at the results. You'll see why Newsweek in particular writes the stuff they do: because they cater to their readers who are about 70% hard left. I've got no problem with a publication playing to its audience, but Newsweek has this false pretense of neutrality which is irritating to those of us who aren't afraid to frankly say which way we lean.

2:34 PM, May 18, 2005  
Anonymous Jadegold said...

Oh, baloney.

If anything, the media is too unquestioning of the military. I'm a vet as well and I've seen stories I was involved with covered by the media and, without exception, when the media got something substantively wrong--it was to the military's advantage.

Obviously, you don't believe we should cover stories where militray abuse and malfeasance is present. I disagree; I've seen Third World nation militaries and their use (or intimidation) of the press--no thanks.

4:10 PM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger Tran Sient said...

jadegold: I would think that this incident was not to the advantage of the military.

'Obviously, you don't believe we should cover stories where militray abuse and malfeasance is present.'

Not when it turns out to be a fairy tale.

8:13 PM, May 18, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Jadegold, I have to admit that I enjoy your comments. If you have a blog or website, can you provide a link? I'd like to read whatever you're writing.

"...the media is too unquestioning of the military." You can't be serious. Which planet do you live on?

"...you don't believe we should cover stories where militray abuse and malfeasance is present." Are you attributing that sentiment to me? If so, please provide a quote of anything I've ever said to that effect. What you'll find me saying is that I think freedom of the press and freedom of speech are absolutely essential foundations of our country. I just wish some of those in the press were a little more honest and a lot less biased.

6:27 AM, May 19, 2005  
Blogger John Walter said...

"...you don't believe we should cover stories where militray abuse and malfeasance is present."

Military abuse and malfaesance have not been shown to be present. Rather, information was improperly leaked from an ongoing investigation where an unproven claim was being considered. That claim, which turns out to be unsupported, was improperly portrayed by Newsweek as a finding of fact.

9:00 AM, May 19, 2005  
Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

It seems to me that whatever happened at Gitmo wasn't the army's fault. I don't think they were the interrogators.

Tom, I completely agree with this:
" I have no doubt that they are, in fact, often 'out to smear the military, hurt America and glorify themselves with overblown and sensational stories.'"

I've looked up enough sources in the present conflict to realize that the media is reporting with an agenda. I think they consider it actively wrong to portray the military as effective, brave, compassionate and efficient. The national media seems willing to report no success. If it weren't for the milbloggers and Chrenkoff....

The justification is that such stories would only serve as propaganda for military recruiters. This is literally their belief, just as they believe that they shouldn't tell the truth about global warming.

10:20 AM, May 19, 2005  
Anonymous Jadegold said...

You can't be serious. Which planet do you live on?

The big blue one with all the oceans. Let me run just a few instances where the media was too unquestioning of the military:

USS LIBERTY
Initial My Lai investigation
USS IOWA turret explosion
USS GREENVILLE
Jessica Lynch/Pat Tillman

I challenge you to come up with instances where you believe the media deliberately and unfairly went after the military.b


Look, when I was at the Academy, one of the very first lessons they teach is that the military is an instrument of foreign policy. That the military doesn't make foreign policy.

I think you're confusing criticism of what is very clearly a tragically flawed foreign policy (both in VN and Iraq) and equating it with criticism of the military.

One can support the military and be critical of foreign policy. And one can--and should--demand accountability for actions which do not reflect the values of our country.

11:15 AM, May 19, 2005  
Blogger John Walter said...

"I challenge you to come up with instances where you believe the media deliberately and unfairly went after the military."

How about Eason Jordan at ABC throwing around accusations of soldiers targeting journalists in Iraq?

Or Peter Arnette declaring on Al Jazeera that the American war plan was a complete failure just a week before Baghdad fell?

Or that same Peter Arnette doing a fictitious CNN report on American assassination operations in Vietnam?

Or (guess who) attributing the infamous "We had to burn the village to save it" line to an American officer in Vietnam when he himself coined the epithet.

Or perhaps CBS "Sixty Minutes" report trying to claim seriously!) that no Patiot Missile ever actually shot down a Scud in the First Gulf War and that it was purely a coincidence that the Scuds kept detonating in mid-air a nanosecond after the Patriots detonated near them.

And how could I forget the news story (released simultaneously from several outlets the week before the November elections) about how soldiers from the 82nd Airborn had somehow overlooked massive stockpiles of WMDs just outside Baghdad? And how the story was forgotten entirely as soon as the voting was done?

And I can't post this comment without recalling the constant chant of "quagmire! quagmire! quagmire!" that acompanied the Army and Marines all the way from Kuwait to Baghdad in the longest, most rapid offensive in military history.

Jadegold is right in one respect: none of these unfair attacks on the military were deliberate.

They were kneejerk and instinctive.

12:49 PM, May 19, 2005  
Anonymous Jadegold said...

Very good, John Walter. You've stepped up to the plate. Unfortunately, you haven't a bat in your hands.

How about Eason Jordan at ABC

And Eason Jordan's comments appeared on what media broadcast? ABC? What newspaper? As we both know, Jordan's comments were allegedly made at a conference and were reported by a blogger:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6490-2005Feb7.html

Peter Arnette declaring on Al Jazeera that the American war plan was a complete failur

Hate to break it to you--the war "plan" is a failure.

Peter Arnette doing a fictitious CNN report on American assassination operations in Vietnam?

You almost have a point, here, WRT Operation Tailwind. In this case, CNN/Time relied on a fmr. Green Beret and several Operation Tailwind participants. As it turns out, several of these witnesses were unreliable or contradicted by other participants WRT a sensational claim that Sarin had been used.

"We had to burn the village to save it"

No idea who said it or who coined it. A Google search on the quote turns up several military sources who refer to it without attribution.

that no Patiot Missile ever actually shot down a Scud in the First Gulf War and that it was purely a coincidence that the Scuds

Be pleased to address this one. The Patriot missiles in the first Gulf War had an abysmal record in shooting down Scuds.

Let's remember, you had US military commanders and political leaders declaring the Patriots had 100%, 96%, 80% kill-rates. Well, that was simply false. Today, the Army says they only have confidence the Patriot may have hit 25% of its targets.

But an MIT professor, Theodore Postol disagreed. His analysis--shown on 60 Minutes--asserted the Patriot system almost always missed. And, in fact, the American Physical Society backed up Postol's analysis.

how soldiers from the 82nd Airborn had somehow overlooked massive stockpiles of WMDs just outside Baghdad?

Not WMDs. And not overlooked. These were conventional munitions and, again, the war "plan" was so flawed that munitions depots were left unsecured. Our troops are paying for this failure to this day. If you read Iraq AARs, you almost always see no plan or provision to transition to SASO.

"quagmire! quagmire! quagmire!"

It is a quagmire.

1:59 PM, May 19, 2005  
Anonymous Jadegold said...

BTW, J Walter, I fail to see how reporting on the failure of a weapons system reflects badly on the military. Talk with some uniform-types, sometime--they'll fill your ears with plenty of examples of hardware and software that doesn't work.

Seems to me you'd want to know the truth about a system that's supposed to protect American forces not working as advertised.

2:10 PM, May 19, 2005  
Blogger John Walter said...

jadegold:

When the chief news executive of a major network (sorry: it was CNN, not ABC) makes accusations the way Eason did at an international conference, you know he is working with an impeded sense of objectivity. That he wanted to share these accusations with international commercial and political figures, but not have them aired to the general public, smacks not merely of prejudice but of being conscious of that prejudice and attempting to act on it while hiding it from the general public.

And, from reports coming out, apparently, the same wild accusations were aired yesterday during C-Span coverage of the "National Conference for Media Reform" which, if you look at the agenda, could have been called "National Conference for Defaming Conservatives".

Regarding Arnette, of course the war plan worked. To claim the war plan didn't work reminds me of the black knight from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" saying "It's just a scratch!" when his arm had just been sheared off. The dictatorship in Iraq has been replaced by a democratically elected government. We are currently in a cleanup phase which hostile press coverage has played no small part in impeding. And for Arnette to claim the war plan had failed at the time he did-- was both unfair and imbecilic.

Regarding Tailwind: What do you mean "almost have a point?" It was a false report, was easily proven false, and should never have been aired. The only fair thing about it was that it finally got retracted after public pressure was put on CNN.

When I said "Guess Who?" I was being sarcastic. The "burn a village to save it" story was the tale that first won Arnette stardom. And it was based on a lie. Arnette interviewed an officer in front of a burning village, and attributed the "burn to save" quote to him after the filmed portion of the interview was completed.

Arnette's entire career is a monument to liberal media bias.

On the Patriot story, you and I saw the same 60 Minutes Broadcast. Happily, I know baloney when I see it. So, apparently, do a score of countries who have become very happy customers of the Patriot system since that report was aired.

And happily, too, most people who remember the defaming of the 82nd agree that it was a cheap shot. Since the election, several commentators have sited a backlash caused by public realization that the story was nothing more than a piece of opportunistic cooperation between Democrats and the MSM to snatch votes from Bush just before the election. As it happens, it probably helped Bush more than it hurt him. Thank goodness American voters are not as dumb as the media libs think they are.

The only quagmire I see in Iraq is the way that country has become a death trap for would-be jihadists.

3:44 PM, May 19, 2005  
Blogger John Walter said...

"I fail to see how reporting on the failure of a weapons system reflects badly on the military."

How about if it's a good weapons system being maligned? I keep on thinking of John Kerry, who never saw a weapons system he didn't think was worthless. I also remember the screams over the Blackhawk helecopter and the F-14 Tomcat-- how they were called wastes of money. Since then they have proved the finest weapon systems of their class in the world.

" Talk with some uniform-types, sometime--they'll fill your ears with plenty of examples of hardware and software that doesn't work."

Jadegold: you play more on your veteran status than Kerry did last year. Guess what? You're not the only former servicman on the internet. I was a lighy armor commander in the 80s and know very well that no weapon system is perfect. I also knew at the time our LAVs had their issues. But I would have been an idiot to think they were worthless and needed scrapping.

"Seems to me you'd want to know the truth about a system that's supposed to protect American forces not working as advertised."

If we listened to liberal "truths" about all the weapons systems that are supposedly worthless, our troops would still be packing muskets out there. The problem is that the media has cried wolf so often on our strategies, weapon systems, troop behavior; that the credibility of the alphabet networks is close to nil among most Americans.

3:59 PM, May 19, 2005  
Anonymous Jadegold said...

When the chief news executive of a major network (sorry: it was CNN, not ABC) makes accusations the way Eason did at an international conference,

Again, the comments (which are somewhat disputed) were not publicly made. I question Roger Ailes objectivity--are you demanding his ouster?

Happily, I know baloney when I see it. So, apparently, do a score of countries who have become very happy customers of the Patriot system since that report was aired.

The Patriot missile system has evolved since it first appeared in the 1970s. Yu say you know 'baloney' when you see it but you ignore MIT's Postol and Israel's Pedatzur who testified before Congress the Patriot's success rate in the first Gulf War was below 10% and likely closer to zero.

Israel doesn't sound like a happy customer. A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary quotes the former Israeli Defense Minister as saying the Israeli government was so dissatisfied with the performance of the missile defense, that they were preparing their own military retaliation on Iraq regardless of US objections.

6:18 PM, May 19, 2005  

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