April 28, 2007

Western Media's Fifth Column

The observation that western media has a predominant leftist bias that leads to "news" reports critical of US and Israeli military and foreign policy is not new. Thomas Sowell wrote 'Western Media: Fourth Estate or Fifth Column' more than two years ago.

Whether the one-sided reporting of the war in Vietnam was a factor in the American defeat there used to be a matter of controversy. But, in recent years, high officials of the Communist government of Vietnam have themselves admitted that they lost the war on the battlefields but won it in the U.S. media and on the streets of America, where political pressures from the anti-war movement threw away the victory for which thousands of American lives had been sacrificed.

What is new is a Harvard University researcher publishes a paper that "describes the trajectory of the media from objective observer to fiery advocate, becoming in fact a weapon of modern warfare." And that researcher is none other than Marvin Kalb, a household name from his work on network news broadcasts in decades past. Like Bernard Goldberg, Kalb made his career as a member of the vaunted Fourth Estate he is now critical of.

The full paper can be downloaded here, and is replete with examples of internet and satellite TV enabled military espionage by middle east "news" outlets, and similar abetting behavior by western media:

Whether “sub,” “supra” or “trans” this fusion of radical, revolutionary politics and ultramodern communications technology, as witnessed in the Lebanon War of 2006, has come to define the very nature of asymmetrical warfare. A key consequence of this new warfare is that the role of the journalist in many parts of the world has been dramatically transformed—from a quest for objectivity and fairness to an acceptance of advocacy as a tool of the craft. If once the journalist aspired to honest and detached reporting, now it has become increasingly acceptable for the journalist to be an activist player and a fiery advocate. 24/7 cable news has placed a premium on provocative chatter, not on substantive discourse. Many journalists in the Middle East, born into a culture of submissiveness to centralized authority, have always seen themselves as players and advocates, but this has not been the norm in Europe or the United States, and this change is both noteworthy and disturbing. {Emphasis mine.]

The motto of the Scripps-Howard newspapers, still displayed prominently on the masthead of papers they publish (including Denver's 'Rocky Mountain News') reads: Give light and the people will find their own way. Consider in which direction the light now being given is intended to lead people.

Hat tip: Cox & Forkum with an appropriately selected cartoon from the South Lebanon war of 2006.

Media and Blogging Posted by JohnGalt at April 28, 2007 11:44 AM

I think that's true, but I'm ok with it as long as we know it. And I think most people do know that the news isn't objective. Once it's determined that journalists are not objective, then you can start to arrest them for being an enemy combatant if that ends up being the case. And you can do it without listening to the argument that they're just trying to be "fair".

Posted by: Terri at April 28, 2007 2:37 PM

I think you're right that most people who are paying attention know that the news isn't objective, but what about the other half (or more) who don't pay attention?

And if there were no market for objective news, Fox News wouldn't continue to use the motto "fair and balanced."

Bloggers have proven an effective counterweight to MSM misinformation. But when the dominant mass distributors of news information can be counted on to deliver consistently slanted reports consciously designed to support a particular dogma, how is that any different from state control of the media?

Posted by: johngalt at April 29, 2007 12:24 PM

Do I misread? The answer is coercive power and your comparison seems uncharacteristically relativist from jg.

The leftist media oligopoly is subject to corrective market pressure from FOXNews, blogs, and talk radio. The public school monopoly has nothing to fear.

Posted by: jk at April 29, 2007 7:26 PM

Coercive power is AN answer, but not the one I'd choose. Instead I'm cautioning against thoughtful individuals being "ok with" ideological filters on news broadcasts which, by definition, are advertised as thorough and objective.

What is relativistic in the comparison between state control of media (which censors what threatens state control and embellishes what flatters it) and a dogmatic information oligopoly, which does exactly the same thing?

The LMO is subject to democratic market pressure. When the market is polarized and evenly divided ideologically then the market pressure you rely on evaporates. Particularly when individuals who disagree with the dominant paradigm are "ok with it."

Posted by: johngalt at April 30, 2007 2:53 PM

I left a better comment on this subject over at Terri's blog:

"Fair enough - the news is a free-market business. However, I am particularly sensitive to the redefinition of the concept ‘reality’ that is driven by the philosophy of Pragmatism. Abdicating the principle that news must be objective and opinion must be on the editorial page is the civil equivalent of allowing a wartime enemy to capture your capital because defending civilian property “isn’t the army’s job.”

The progress and security of a free society is based upon individual choice of the best ideas amongst all available. When the available ideas are restricted by ideological censorship then freedom is in jeopardy.

Edward R. Murrow is turning over in his grave."

Posted by: johngalt at April 30, 2007 3:23 PM | What do you think? [5]