Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review March 4, 2003 / 30 Adar I, 5763

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Dan and Saddam | CBS News constantly referred to Dan Rather's interview with one of the world's cruelest tyrants as a "coup."

A coup? For whom? Was it a coup for the American viewing public? Of course not. Other than the lengths to which Dan Rather went to be obsequious to a tyrant, Americans learned nothing from his interview with Saddam Hussein. Was it a coup for the news profession? Again, no. No news was learned, nor was any likely to be.

No, it was a coup solely for CBS News and Saddam Hussein. That the world of television news (not only CBS) regards it as a major achievement shows the depths to which television news has sunk. Obviously, the industry sees ratings as its reason for being.

The moment it was announced that Dan Rather had secured an audience with Saddam, I suspected (and said so on my radio show) that the only beneficiaries would be Saddam and CBS. The only way it could have been newsworthy is if Rather had asked hard questions.

For example, Rather might have asked the world's most powerful sadist:

  • You claim to have received 100 percent of the vote in your last "election." Do you think the world believes that in a nation of 24 million people, there aren't 24 people who want another president in Iraq?

  • Eight years ago, your two sons-in-law, Hussein Kamil, the former minister of defense, and his brother, defected to Jordan. We are quite certain that they were told that their entire extended families would be murdered if they did not return to Iraq. And when they did return, they were killed and their bodies dragged through the streets of Baghdad. How do your daughters feel about what you did to their husbands?

  • Was it you or another Iraqi official who came up with the idea of having the children of suspected dissidents tortured in front of the parents?

  • Have you seen any photos of the thousands of Iraqi Kurdish families you ordered gassed?

  • Do you regret having invaded Iran and causing the deaths of about one million Iraqis and Iranians?

  • How many more hundred-million-dollar palaces do you plan to build for yourself while Iraqi children die of malnutrition?

  • Where are the billions of dollars Iraq has been allowed to earn for humanitarian needs?

Now, of course, few, if any, reporters would have asked Saddam Hussein these questions. (Television reporters tend to restrict tough questioning to democratically elected leaders they don't like.) But if one is not going to ask a dictator anything approaching the truth about his actions, why bother interviewing him? Isn't the whole thing morally compromised and journalistically meaningless?

What would we think of a radio network that had nationally broadcast an interview with Adolf Hitler in 1944 in which the fuehrer was asked nothing about Nazi anti-Semitism or the concentration camps? An interview in which the American reporter had warmly clasped the Nazi leader with both hands? An interview that had been procured through the services of an American Nazi sympathizer (as the Rather interview was procured through the services of the longtime friend of America's enemies, Ramsey Clark)? Would we have deemed such an interview a "coup," or a moral fraud which only gave Hitler an opportunity to portray himself as a decent human?

That is what CBS News and Dan Rather did -- and the news community is giving them high-fives.

All this is sad, even angering, but not surprising. For decades, television news has largely been a failure, almost entirely avoiding many of the world's great events -- from the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the Chinese crushing of Tibet, to the mass murders and slavery in Sudan, the genocide in Rwanda, and the slide of middle-class Argentina into destitution -- in favor of drama and entertainment in the pursuit of ratings. Just think how much time television news devoted to the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

That most Americans get almost all their news from profit-driven television news is bad news. And non-profit, government-owned newscasts (as in Europe) are even worse. With the exception of image-driven events such as the 9-11 attacks, television news is a failure.

If you want to know what is happening in the world, read good newspapers, listen to quality talk radio, watch quality TV talk shows, and spend time on the Internet. But don't rely on TV news for news.

And if the Dan Rather-Saddam Hussein interview prompts people to get their news elsewhere, that will truly be a coup.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. He the author of, most recently, "Happiness is a Serious Problem". Click here to visit his website and here to comment on this column.


02/26/03: Which will the world's future be: Muslim, European or American?
02/18/03: When have millions of Europeans ever been wrong?
02/11/03: Don't waste your money on an expensive college
02/04/03: What the world would like the president to say
01/28/03: How memories paralyze: Why Jews and blacks vote Democrat, cont'd
01/21/03: Why Jews and blacks vote Democrat
01/14/03: Why the Arab world hates America --- time to myth-bust
01/07/03: Conservatives have talk radio; liberals have everything else
12/31/02: If you believe that people are basically good . . .
12/17/02: Lott, Clinton, and the problem of the career politician
12/10/02: The healthiest and longest living generation of humans since the 900-year-olds of Genesis are being scared silly
12/04/02: Morally neutral reporting is dishonest reporting
11/26/02: Understand Nigeria and you understand the Islamic threat
11/19/02: James Bond meets his most fanatical foe yet -- anti-smokers
11/12/02: Conservatives need to be more compassionate on divorce
11/05/02: Of course, the great majority of Muslims are peaceful -- so what?
10/29/02: Nice guys finish first: Thoughts on the World Series
10/24/02: A Jew defends evangelical Christians
10/16/02: Bigot laureate well represents New Jersey
10/11/02: Why the Creator must always be higher than the Angels
10/02/02: Loudmouth "stars" are remaining surprisingly quiet about Israel
09/25/02: Bob Greene is a good man
09/11/02: 9-11 made America better
09/04/02: What I learned at the Minneapolis Metrodome about liberals and homosexuality
08/28/02: Teach our college co-eds about Islam --- but teach them the truth
08/14/02: How the nuclear family became "controversial"
08/07/02: Every generation is tested by great evil
07/31/02: Those who curse the Jews and those who bless them . . .
07/24/02: Children should talk to strangers
07/17/02: Why my son's best friend is black
07/11/02: Why Hesham Hadayet may be scarier than al Qaeda
07/03/02: "Pro-Israel lobby" is not why America supports Israel
06/26/02: Why does the Left support the "Palestinians"?
06/19/02: The commencement address I would give
06/12/02: Why do adult children live with their parents? Because they actually like them
06/05/02: The stripper and the Christian school: Thoughts on what a Christian school should do when a parent is a stripper and on who the biggest sinner here is
05/31/02: Don't worry, New York, you are safe from a terrorist threat
05/15/02: A proud member of the world's two most hated peoples
05/10/02: What Israelis are saying
05/06/02: Thank Heaven for moral violence
04/29/02: Give back the Nobel Peace Prize: A letter to Elie Wiesel
04/22/02: Why so many students cheat
04/12/02: Is it 1938 again for the Jews?
04/05/02: It's the values, stupid
01/31/02: Smoke and lose your son
10/30/01: Why Arab/Muslim anti-Semites are worse than the Nazis

© 2002, Creators Syndicate