Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Failure of the Press

Almost two weeks ago, I briefly discussed the Danish cartoons that ignited a global firestorm of controversy and rage.

Today, one of the most troubling aspects of the whole cartoon controversy is addressed in an
editorial in the Washington Post: the failure of the American press to truly explain to their readers and viewers the cartoons at the center.

I am going to cherry-pick a couple of choice quotes, but you really should read
the whole article.
Since the war on terrorism began, the mainstream press has had no problem printing stories and pictures that challenged the administration and, in the view of some, compromised our war and peace efforts.
Indeed, as the recent revelation of yet more Abu Grahib photos (which date to the original incident - in other words, there is nothing new), the press has reveled in printing them.
But for the past month, the Islamist street has been on an intifada over cartoons depicting Muhammad that were first published months ago in a Danish newspaper. Protests in London -- never mind Jordan, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Iran and other countries not noted for their commitment to democratic principles -- included signs that read, "Behead those who insult Islam." The mainstream U.S. media have covered this worldwide uprising; it is, after all, a glimpse into the sentiments of our enemy and its allies. And yet it has refused, with but a few exceptions, to show the cartoons that purportedly caused all the outrage.

The Boston Globe, speaking for many other outlets, editorialized: "[N]ewspapers ought to refrain from publishing offensive caricatures of Mohammed in the name of the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance."

But as for caricatures depicting Jews in the most medievally horrific stereotypes, or Christians as fanatics on any given issue, the mainstream press seems to hold no such value. And in the matter of disclosing classified information in wartime, the press competes for the scoop when it believes the public interest warrants it.
It is interesting what vices the press is willing to tolerate, and which it targets, isn't it?
So far as we can tell, a new, twin policy from the mainstream media has been promulgated: (a) If a group is strong enough in its reaction to a story or caricature, the press will refrain from printing that story or caricature, and (b) if the group is pandered to by the mainstream media, the media then will go through elaborate contortions and defenses to justify its abdication of duty.

While we may disagree among ourselves about whether and when the public interest justifies the disclosure of classified wartime information, our general agreement and understanding of the First Amendment and a free press is informed by the fact -- not opinion but fact -- that without broad freedom, without responsibility for the right to know carried out by courageous writers, editors, political cartoonists and publishers, our democracy would be weaker, if not nonexistent. There should be no group or mob veto of a story that is in the public interest.
But that is exactly what is happening. Only three - three! - major American newspapers have dared republish the twelve original Danish cartoons. Conspiracy theories flourish when so many walk in lockstep with one another, not so much even breaking step, let alone breaking ranks. It does not speak well of the editors that so many of them think so similarly.
When we were attacked on Sept. 11, we knew the main reason for the attack was that Islamists hated our way of life, our virtues, our freedoms. What we never imagined was that the free press -- an institution at the heart of those virtues and freedoms -- would be among the first to surrender.
Our enemies understand us better than we understand ourselves. The lessons of the 1930s stalk the corridors, but we pay them no heed. Far too many of us are ready and willing to do anything to appease, in the false hope that we might bargain a respite from the gathering storm.

But in this whirlwind, there are no safe harbors. We have been declared an enemy by a significant and motivated group of people, a group which has agitated for our demise for over thirty years now. They have no interest in negotiation - only in subjugation and destruction. They seek power, while claiming to seek the glory of God.

We had best start learning, and listening to what they say. They have only begun to make good on their bloody promises.


At 9:23 PM, Blogger j.m. said...

Tyler, when will you take my advicea nd just go into journalism? The world (well, my world anyway) would be a better place if you'd just get out of that whole Engineer/MBA thing and write for a living.


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