from the Congress Action newsletter
by: Kim Weissman
May 18, 2003
Another reporter at a major left-wing “news” outlet is revealed to have repeatedly lied to the public – committed “frequent acts of journalistic fraud”, in the words of the New York Times itself, the media outlet in question – and we are again supposed to be shocked at the deceptions and fabrications that have been revealed. The surprise is that anyone is still surprised by this sort of disclosure. We should, rather, consider this incident as perfectly encapsulating the utter moral bankruptcy of what remains of modern liberalism. In recent years reporters for major left-wing “news” outlets have been caught at or have admitted fabricating or withholding relevant information with regularity. Lies, distortion, and disinformation have become the stock in trade of modern liberalism.
This week it was Jayson Blair of the New York Times who gave the paper “a huge black eye”, as Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman of the company, admitted. A month ago it was Eason Jordan of CNN who admitted that his “news” organization withheld important information over more than a decade of reporting on Iraq; and more than that, actively deceived the public by spewing Saddam Hussein’s propaganda, as a former CNN reporter, Peter Collins, revealed. While covering-up the true horrors in Iraq, CNN was at the same time criticizing President Bush for publicly stating what CNN privately knew to be true.
CNN is no stranger to presenting fallacious stories to advance an ideological agenda. The Vietnam war constituting liberalism’s defining moment (and the left being hopelessly mired in the past – after all they are still devoted to socialism despite a century of proof of failure), they naturally try to resurrect their moment of glory as often as possible, and in 1998 CNN presented a “report” claiming that in a secret mission called “Operation Tailwind”, U.S. forces used Sarin nerve gas to kill defectors in Laos in 1970. Time Magazine also ran the story. Within a month both CNN and Time retracted the story, two CNN producers were fired and a third resigned, and the on-air correspondent, Peter Arnett, was reprimanded.
In the wake of the scandal CNN said it was setting up a new Journalistic Standards and Practices office, supposedly to prevent such a deception being repeated. But at the very time of the Sarin gas story, we now know thanks to Jordan and Collins, CNN was already deep in their ongoing Iraqi disinformation which, apparently, CNN’s new Journalistic Standards and Practices office never noticed, since the flow of Iraqi disinformation would continue unabated for five more years. That the Journalistic Standards and Practices office never noticed the disinformation – i.e.: incompetence – is the more generous of the possible explanations for their failure to blow the whistle. It is also possible that they knew all about it and allowed it to continue – i.e.: intentional duplicity. We may never know whether CNN and its Journalistic Standards and Practices office were intentionally duplicitous or were merely incompetent, but when it comes to journalistic integrity and credibility, does it really matter?
There are many other examples. In 1997 a jury found ABC liable to the Food Lion supermarket chain for damages relative to an exposé of allegedly unsavory practices at the chain. The jury saw evidence that the producers presented selective information to fit their theme of proving wrongdoing. In June, 1998, The New Republic fired associate editor Stephen Glass because 27 of 41 articles he wrote over 3 years “could be considered entirely or nearly entirely made up”. In August, 1998, the Boston Globe fired Patricia Smith for fabricating quotes and characters in her column, then Globe columnist Mike Barnicle resigned following accusations of plagiarism. NBC’s staged a story about exploding fuel tanks on GM trucks, the Washington Post’s Janet Cook won a Pulitzer for a phony story, the media’s constant fear-mongering over what usually turn out to be spurious environmental dangers (remember Alar?), so-called budget “cuts” in the school lunch and Medicare programs that are really increases, and the media’s endless lies about virtually everything having anything to do with firearms.
More recent deceptions involve the Iraq war. Many images were shown of anti-war protests with the banner of the organizing group ANSWER in plain view. Yet hardly anyone in the media bothered to reveal, as left-wing columnist David Corn did (to his credit) in L.A. Weekly, that ANSWER is “run by activists from the Workers World Party”, which “advocates socialist revolution and abolishing private property”, is “a fan of Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba”, and praises North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il. In March of this year the BBC was lambasted for misleading viewers about the progress of the war by its own defense correspondent, who asked his senior executives, “Who dreamed up the line that the coalition are achieving ‘small victories at a very high price’? The truth is exactly the opposite.” In the Weekly Standard, a New York Post reporter embedded with the Third Infantry Division in Baghdad recently wrote, “…the intensity of the population's pro-American enthusiasm is astonishing…and continues unabated despite delays in restoring power and water to the city. … But you won't see much of this on TV or read about it in the papers. To an amazing degree, the Baghdad-based press corps avoids writing about or filming the friendly dealings between U.S. forces here and the local population… . Instead you read story after story about the supposed fury of Baghdadis at the Americans for allowing the breakdown law and order in their city. … Perhaps this is just another case of reporters with an anti-American or antiwar agenda.”
Consider the stories about the Baghdad Museum looting. The media expressed far more outrage over lost artifacts than over the millions of Iraqis who disappeared into Saddam’s prisons and torture chambers, the mass graves, and the children imprisoned for years for not joining Saddam’s version of the Hitler Youth (the relative weight of outrage speaking volumes about the left-wing media’s true values). But as columnist Ann Coulter observed, “At least we finally got liberals on the record against looting. It seems the looting in Iraq compared unfavorably with the ‘rebellion’ in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. When ‘rebels’ in Los Angeles began looting, liberals said it was a sign of frustration – they were poor and hungry. … Meanwhile, the Iraqis were pretty careful about targeting the precise source of their oppression. Their looting concentrated on Saddam's palace, official government buildings – and the French cultural center.”
Initial reports were that 170,000 antiquities were stolen from the museum, but that was later revised downward to only about 38 items missing. Big difference, and we are still hard-pressed to find much of the media devoting anywhere near the extent of coverage to the radically reduced extent of the damage as they devoted to the initial erroneous reports. Nor is there much mention of the evidence that much of what is still missing may have been taken in the years before the present war, possibly by Saddam’s henchmen, and replaced by fakes; and that much of the current looting may have been done by museum insiders with knowledge of which items were real and which were fake, and who had the keys to the vaults.
Comparing the coalition’s safeguarding of Iraq’s oil infrastructure while supposedly ignoring Iraq’s cultural treasures is just too good a story for the media to let go of or correct, because it plays into so many of the left’s ingrained prejudices – that this was, after all, just a war for oil; that the U.S. military is made up of uncultured boobs who couldn’t possibly appreciate fine antiquities; that Iraq’s cultural heritage (and by extension, Iraq itself) was better off under Saddam’s orderly reign than during the messy emergence of freedom (recall the World War Two pro-fascist refrain that at least Mussolini made the trains run on time). Many leftists lament the fall of the Soviet Union for much the same reason – fondly recalling the orderliness of the Soviet empire while ignoring the hundreds of millions imprisoned and slaughtered, and the nations enslaved, during the Soviet reign.
The duplicity of modern liberalism is not confined to the media. Disinformation to advance the leftist agenda is widespread in academia as well. A recent high-profile example concerns anti-Second Amendment author Michael Bellesiles (whose book was a study allegedly refuting the idea that the private ownership of firearms was widespread in colonial America). Bellesiles’ book was finally and utterly disgraced by an investigating committee initiated by his employer Emory University, which concluded, “Every aspect of his work in the probate records is deeply flawed.” “Bellesiles’ explanation raises questions about his veracity…”, and “we find evidence of falsification.”
But these instances represent just the tip of the iceberg, when a media outlet has actually admitted lying or an academic researcher has been publicly exposed. Of more concern is the far larger problem of all the little distortions promulgated daily, for which there is no acknowledgment of deceit; disinformation that, as Bernard Goldberg (author of the media exposé Bias) has suggested, media outlets may not even be cognizant of because of their insulated world-view.
Case in point – in several articles on the Miguel Estrada judicial nomination, the New York Times (and others) either implied or stated unequivocally that Estrada refused to answer questions from Senate democrats who are filibustering his confirmation. That is simply not true. Estrada had a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Are we to believe that he simply remained silent in the face of questioning? That’s exactly what the Times wants us to believe. The White House invited Senators to submit additional questions in writing (a standard practice after confirmation hearings, with or without an invitation to do so). Are we to believe that Estrada received additional questions and again refused to respond? Again, yes, that is what we’re supposed to believe. Again, untrue. Estrada indeed answered questions at his confirmation hearing – except those that would have violated the Canons of Judicial Ethics, such as how he would rule on future issues that might come before him – and only two of the ten allegedly concerned democrats even bothered to submit additional written questions.
The questions Estrada declined to answer – prompting the increasingly shrill Michael Kinsley to liken Estrada to a “gangster” taking the Fifth – sought to determine how he would rule on future abortion-rights cases. Democrats also want the confidential legal memos that Estrada wrote while he worked at the Solicitor General’s office, a clear intrusion by the Legislative branch on the Executive, and a demand objected to by every living past Solicitor General, democrat and republican alike. But from the left-wing media’s perspective, preserving the “right” to abortion is such an important social value that it transcends mere judicial ethics, judicial independence, the separation of powers, or legal confidentiality; and so from the media’s jaundiced point of view – the left-wing elitist point of view, the only one with which the major media is familiar – those are the only questions that mattered.
Deception occurs through omission as well, what the media calls editorial decisions about what stories deserve coverage. This week the British Medical Journal released a study (not the first) concluding that there is little if any “causal relation between [second-hand] smoke and tobacco related mortality.” This was news in London newspapers and Reuters also carried the story, but most of the major media in this country simply ignored the story on the day it broke. It is politically correct to support smoking bans, as the media does, and to report this study would reveal these bans – and the media’s support for them – to be based solely on their own totalitarian instincts rather than on science.
So where does all this leave us? Large swaths of the only sources of information for the overwhelming majority of people cannot be trusted – knowing how often they lie, how can we tell whether they’re telling the truth or just making it up, and if reporters lie about sources they actually do name, what is their credibility when quoting “unnamed” sources? – and very often the media’s disinformation stems from a conscious or unconscious desire to advance a political agenda. The majority of those lies flow all in one direction – toward the hard left. And people vote on the basis of that disinformation. Which means that any diminution of our ability to receive information from sources other than the major media – limits such as those contained in so-called campaign finance “reform”, for example – not only does great harm to our Constitution, it severely damages our very ability to make intelligent decisions about governing ourselves.
above article is the property (copyright) of Kim Weissman, and is reprinted with
Go on to Part 2
updated 21 apr 2010