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Jewish World Review Nov. 11, 1999 /2 Kislev, 5760

Don Feder

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Media bias? Don`t be so paranoid!

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- Trying to convince my colleagues of the Fourth Estate that there really is such a thing as media bias is as hopeless the mythical labor of Sisyphus.

They simply shrug off such pronounced pleading as a recent New York Times story titled "Victoria Would Not Be Amazed by Chile Today." Its premise: Countries that don't have liberal divorce and abortion laws are benighted and hypocritical.

"Chile is the last country in Latin America where divorce is still illegal," though the rich have no problem getting annulments, the article informs readers. It's also one of only four countries in the region where abortion is illegal.

"Pregnant teen-agers are legally forbidden to seek abortions and are given few other options," the Times laments. "Moralistic high school principals force many to quit their studies, at least until they give birth. ... Sex education is almost nonexistent."

But Chile's Puritanism is a facade. The article quotes a former Chilean congresswoman who charges, "Our social elite is very conservative, but I don't know a city in the world with more ... infidelity," the last in reference to Santiago.

Exactly how she determined this is a mystery. Does the lady possess a scientific instrument for measuring adultery levels in different cities? Her remarkable statement went unchallenged.

The Times does see signs of progress. In October, "Seven transvestites protested police brutality before the Supreme Court building and received a surprising amount of media attention."

Besides the indignant ex-legislator, the article quotes a "prominent literary critic" and a psychologist -- all condemning their socially repressive homeland. Apparently, it was impossible for reporter Clifford Krauss to find a Chilean to defend the status quo.

Biased? Don't be paranoid. During the last presidential campaign, Timesman Russell Baker declared, "The 'liberal media' are a fiction created by political paranoids to discredit all journalism that annoys them."

A decade earlier, CBS's Dan Rather observed, "An image of reporters as people different and apart from the mainstream of the country has been created, and it just ain't so."

And all of those polls that show the average journalist leagues to the left of the mainstream? Must be the product of paranoids, right? Paranoids like the Roper Center for the Freedom Forum supported by the Gannett news organization and the Los Angeles Times?

The center found that among the Washington press corps, 89 percent voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. When the study was released, America's newspaper of record ignored it, presumably so as not to fuel paranoia.

In a 1985 survey of editors and reporters, the Los Angeles paper found 82 percent were pro-choice and 89 percent supported gay rights. Well, so what if the average newsroom resembles a Gore for President policy session (presided over by Naomi Wolf), that doesn't affect news coverage -- much.

A 1990 series of investigative reports, also by the Los Angeles Times concluded, "The news media consistently use language and images that frame the entire abortion debate in terms that implicitly favor abortion-rights advocates."

When Dan Quayle gave his 1992 Murphy Brown speech, the media were apoplectic. The Neanderthal is stigmatizing unwed mothers, adding shame to the backbreaking burden they already bear, was the consensus.

CBS political reporter Bruce Morton lectured Quayle: "If you want to see the problem, visit a housing project called Clifton Terrace. ... You could talk to a 15-year-old mother of two who doesn't want her kids. ... She might have been helped by a good sex-education course, by readily available condoms or maybe even an abortion."

Did Morton fall asleep in 1962 and miss the sexual revolution? Was he unaware that in 1992 we had comprehensive sex education (starting in grade school), condom-distribution in many public schools and abortion on demand? Was America conquered by Victorian Chileans while we slept?

Because I believe reporting the news is a noble calling, I am annoyed by much of what passes for journalism today.

There should be a program of exporting American journalists. Then, backward nations like Chile could have the blessings our cultural elite has bestowed on the United States -- a 50 percent divorce rate, one in four pregnancies ending in abortion and shares in clinics for the treatment of sexually transmitted disease as the decade's growth stock.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest book is Who's Afraid of the Religious Right. Comment on his column by clicking here.


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