Jewish World Review May 13, 2002 / 2 Sivan, 5762
The Carnival at the FAIR
"Unbiased" acquires a new definition
Imagine you're a soldier in the middle of a firefight and your buddy says, "What right do you have to shoot back? You're really not any better than your 'enemy,' you know. Maybe they have a good reason to shoot at you. Maybe you can reason with them," he says as a grenade explodes behind you. "Act like a mature adult and take their side for a moment, okay?"
You resist the temptation to punch your "buddy" in the mouth, and keep fighting back. He exits the battle to lead a protest against your hypocrisy, oblivious to the fact that the enemy is aiming at him, too.
In the eight months since 9/11, Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR) has been America's own "buddy" in the foxhole.
According to founder Jeff Cohen, FAIR is a "media watch organization offering constructive criticism in an effort to correct media imbalance." But read on for FAIR's solution to the problem: "[S]tructural reform is needed to break up the dominant media conglomerates, establish independent public broadcasting, and promote strong, non-profit alternative sources of information." This is a scholarly-sounding version of the standard Leftist line: America should abolish private media in favor of strictly controlled and state-regulated media.
From its vehement anti-Israel stance, to its opposition to fighting poverty with job creation, to its proud hostility to capitalism, FAIR specializes in fighting enemies on semantics even as it hides within the weeds of its own. Since 1986, FAIR has spent its resources identifying media "biases" and slinging slanders such as these:
These examples were just since 9/11, but FAIR has been at it for years-and with little evidence to back things up:
They blamed the Oklahoma City bombing on radio host Rush Limbaugh (July-August 1995).
FAIR objected to PBS's airing of a report in favor of school choice; this on the grounds that "viewers hardly heard a debate at all." Yet FAIR has apparently made no objection to any PBS explication of the anti-school-choice argument (July-August 2000).
Though FAIR promotes itself as the guardian of even-handed, detached debate, FAIR casually castigated Mona Charen as "crazy" for free trade (November-December 1995)-and Tina Brown's Cosmopolitan magazine for being too unconcerned about the dangers of smoking (May 2, 2002).
Even though Blacks vote for Democratic presidential candidates in as much as a 90 percent majority, FAIR expresses puzzlement why the views of Black conservatives are presented so often on TV-though FAIR claims to favor more TV and print media for groups whose numbers are small (August-September 1992-and note the "blob" photo they offer of Clarence Thomas).
FAIR imagined a guilt-by-association conspiracy around then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, then accused the media of sweeping it under the rug (January 15, 1999).
- The U.S. supports the use of "child soldiers"-and Newsweek magazine is covering it up (May 8, 2002).
- The New York Times has suppressed stories of Palestinian deaths in the "Israeli invasion" of the West Bank (April 12, 2002).
- The U.S. is as much a "terrorist" organization as Al Qaeda (April 8, 2002).
- The Pentagon plan to use disinformation to avoid the loss of life by armed conflict in the war against Al Qaeda is "Undemocratic, Possibly Illegal" (February 19, 2002).
- ABC is suppressing information about human rights violations by the U.S. government. FAIR fails to identify the violations, but insinuates that whatever they are, they are as bad or worse as those occurring in China and Uzbekistan (January 18, 2002).
- Media outlets were wrong to give significant voice to the overwhelming American support for retaliation against the attacks of September 11 (September 17, 2001).
If FAIR is the guardian of a free press, one would expect the group's endorsers to be journalists from a wide spectrum. Instead, FAIR claims support from Robert W. McChesney, editor of the socialist magazine "Monthly Review"; and Noam Chomsky, the famous "socialist-libertarian" who once called the U.S. a "leading terrorist state," and who recently conducted a wartime speaking tour in Pakistan to personally denounce the U.S.
If FAIR wants respect beyond its small audience of the already converted, it should start with some honesty about its agenda, and set aside the rubric that they worry about media "bias." In 16 years, FAIR has been a cipher for anti-globalism, lockstep feminists, leftist race-baiters, and radical environmentalists. FAIRness has nothing to do with the charges they make.
A footnote: FAIR only occasionally trains its guns on FOX News. Is it because they find the network so conservative as to be beneath their contempt? Do they somehow find it to be the first realization of FAIR's vaunted standards?
Or is it because FAIR founder Jeff Cohen doesn't want to offend the corporate bosses who keep him on the network's "Fox News Watch" show?
Oh well. Even watchdogs have to pay
JWR contributor Michael Long is a a director of the White House Writers Group. Comment by clicking here.
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© 2001, Michael Long