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Jewish World Review March 31, 2003 / 27 Adar II, 5763

David Limbaugh

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Consumer Reports

The stench of mainstream media narcissism

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The self-absorption and self-elevation of the mainstream media in disparaging our military efforts, complaining about being kept out of the information loop, and asserting their neutrality in the war never cease to inspire shock and disgust.

Some of these reporters sound like spoiled brats completely oblivious to the gravity and sensitivity of the military matters they are covering. It's all about them and their lofty mission to inform the public, irrespective of the risks involved in prematurely releasing classified information.

At Thursday's Centcom briefing, a New York Magazine reporter whined about the quality and timeliness of the information the military was sharing. He asked why Gen. Tommy Franks wasn't at their beck and call, rather than running the war.

Gen. Brooks deftly responded, "First, I would say it's your choice." Translation: "There's the door – don't let it hit you in the rear on your way out." As for Tommy Franks, "He's fighting a war right now."

But there's something worse than their puerile objections to being denied access to details, the release of which could cost American lives. Many media players apparently view themselves as watchdogs over a presumptively corrupt and imperialistic military industrial complex acting at the behest of neoconservative warmongers to make Iraq a wholly owned American subsidiary.

They ask rhetorical questions with pointed messages instead of those seeking to elicit information. It's as if they are on a mission to prove their lack of bias by being attack dogs. Their reasoning – in the case of American reporters, at least – must be that they serve the unique function of safeguarding the First Amendment, which is the highest patriotic calling. As long as they challenge the military loudly, disbelievingly and rudely enough, they are proving their mettle, not to mention their suitability for a Nobel Peace Prize, the Helen Thomas award for reporter-impertinence and invitations to elite cocktail parties in the Beltway-New York milieu.

In the process, instead of disproving their bias, they reveal it – a bias against the Allied war effort or designed to embarrass the administration. Several questions at Wednesday's Centcom briefing charged the administration with covering up its killing of Iraqi civilians with misguided bombs, suggesting its press briefings "are more propaganda than truth." Questions at Friday's briefing implied the administration would conceal news about American casualties and our successes to paint a falsely optimistic picture to Americans. Questioners also hinted that the war effort was exacerbating, rather than ameliorating Iraq's humanitarian crisis.

Even more outrageous is this notion among some in the American media that their obligation to be objective in their reportage requires them to be neutral in the war. How can we ever forget when ABC News President David Westin, during a panel discussion at Columbia University, asserted a duty to stay neutral as to the terrorist attacks. When asked whether the Pentagon was a legitimate target for the terrorists he said, "I actually don't have an opinion on that, and it's important I not have an opinion on that as I sit here in my capacity right now."

You might think this offensively knuckle-headed sentiment died with Westin's subsequent apology, but think again. The Washington Post in a "news" story chided talk radio and cable TV for being too patriotic and supportive of the war and for under-reporting the anti-war protest movement – a charge, by the way, echoed by the ever-frustrated Al Gore at a recent speech at Middle Tennessee State.

Media analysts, though, take the cake. Harvard's Alex Jones said that members of the media expressing their patriotism are doing so as part of a calculation – presumably economic, "despite any kind of journalistic cost." And analyst Eric Burns mildly chastised Fox's Shepherd Smith for his and other reporters' routine reference to American soldiers as "our troops." Burns said it would be better if reporters didn't taint their objectivity by identifying with America's troops.

No, Eric, and Alex, what would taint them is a feigned indifference – you don't overcome a bias by lying about it. There is nothing wrong with American reporters being supportive of America and nothing inconsistent therein with their duty to accurately report. There is everything wrong with American reporters pretending to be or actually being impartial.

It is no accident that an alternative media, in talk radio, the Internet and cable television has graciously risen up with a vengeance to report and analyze the news, without the artificial anti-Western filter through which much of the mainstream media often disseminates its news.

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David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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