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J.F. Kelly, Jr. - Contributor
Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who
writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident
of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]
Media Gets It Wrong... Again
Bias leading to sinking credibility…
[J. F. Kelly, Jr.] 5/26/05
As nearly everyone knows, newspaper and news magazine readership
is declining. It is tempting for critics of the mainstream media
like myself to blame the decline on reader dissatisfaction over
what we perceive as an excessively liberal, anti-administration
bias and on recent egregious examples of poor reporting and shoddy
As satisfying as that might be, it would be unfair. Readership
is down because Americans are reading less; less, at least, of
any printed material with a modicum of intellectual content.
Fewer than half of American adults read a newspaper on a daily
basis. As Americans have grown fatter, news magazines have grown
thinner. While talk radio, television and the internet undoubtedly
have played a major role in this, declining reading skills have
probably contributed as well. At the same time, the ratings of
the large network TV news shows also have been declining.
But even among loyal
newspaper readers and habitual viewers of the TV network news
shows like myself, there is growing concern
over bias and inaccuracy, exacerbated by the recent Dan Rather/CBS
and Newsweek fiascoes. Rather’s eagerness to report a story,
which, if true, would have reflected negatively on George W.
Bush and his campaign for reelection, ended up backfiring when
shown to be unsubstantiated. Newsweek’s gossipy and equally
unsubstantiated report regarding alleged desecration of the Koran
reflected the magazine’s willingness to rush to judgment
on something that might reflect badly on the military or the
war. These examples came at a time when the credibility of the
press was already suspect.
Talk show hosts had a field day, putting the blame for the
rioting in Afghanistan squarely on Newsweek. To be sure, the
magazine deserved condemnation for its irresponsibility for publishing
an unsubstantiated piece that it should have known would likely
inflame militant Muslim crazies. But the blame for the rioting,
deaths and destruction that followed, as well as the damage to
relations between the United States and the Muslim world, belongs
to the fanatics who rioted in the name of Allah, not the Newsweek editors.
a contributing editor at Newsweek, went to great lengths in
an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal to
explain Muslim sensitivities regarding the Koran, or Qur’an,
as culturally sensitive publications have taken to spelling it.
It is not, he said, just the equivalent of the Christian bible
but rather more like the Jewish Torah, revealed orally on Mt.
Sinai. It is more than just a holy book, he continues. It is
to Muslims rather what Christ is to Christians.
I don’t recall Christians rioting and
killing when Andres Serano immersed a crucifix in urine and called
it art or when the Brooklyn Museum exhibited a “work” depicting
the mother of Christ covered in elephant dung. It’s acceptable,
apparently, that bibles are banned in such places as Saudi Arabia
and that Christians can be executed for distributing them or
even for possessing more than one. Anyone can practice any religion
freely in the United States but Christians, Jews, Hindus and
others are forbidden to practice theirs in many Muslim and Arab
lands including some we consider allies. Schools in Saudi Arabia
and elsewhere are still permitted to teach their children to
hate Christian and Jews as the moral equivalent of animals, unclean
and subhuman. Yet a piece of unsubstantiated gossip buried in
a newsmagazine can provoke Muslims to riot and kill in the name
of their religion.
We hear endlessly
that Islam is a religion of peace. You could have fooled me.
Yes, I know that the beheadings, kidnappings
and hate speech directed against Americans are all the work of
the militants and extremists who don’t speak for the majority
of Muslims who are peaceful. But where is the outrage on the
part of these peaceful Muslims? How is it that they continue
to allow an extreme minority to highjack and disgrace their religion?
Newsweek is guilty
of lousy journalism. In its eagerness to publish anything negative
about he military, it instead damaged
its own credibility. Far worse than the misguided Rather report,
which actually helped reelect its intended victim, Newsweek’s
blunder was seized upon as an excuse to kill people. But let’s
put the real blame for the riots where it belongs: on the murderers
and fanatics who hate and kill in the name of their god and who
really need no excuses to do so. tOR
2005 J. F. Kelly, Jr.