To Inform or Influence: A Modern News Media Conundrum
Many were aghast when veteran news reporter Peter Arnett chose to appear on Iraqi Television and share his anti-war views, making what many consider to be traitorous comments. Even though a large majority of the staff at the notably liberal NBC Network News probably agreed with everything he said, they didnít feel his timing was right and disliked the way he said it. After initially supporting his right to make personal statements apart from representing his employers, they fired Arnett. But were his comments any less patriotic or more inflammatory then what we have heard from Broadcast News Personalities at CNN, FOX, ABC or CBS News?
While the Fox News Network waves an American Flag and encourages support for the war and the coalition troops fighting it, CNN is represented by a spinning globe and shows thirty year old images of dead American Soldiers being zipped into body bags. ABC News interrupts two hours of prime time network programming for a special called When Diplomacy Fails, while CBS, NBC and PBS News programmers pull out all the stops for coverage of anti-war rallies and feature a dizzying array of experts who claim the war is a no win situation no matter what the outcome. The spins are unmistakable and leave the American Public with no objective choices.
How did things ever get to this point? Have the American People become so schismatic that we require Peter Jennings to offer a somber delivery of always grim news about any White House plan to remove Saddam Hussein from power, or watch Fox News Reporters glory in the constant reply of Baghdad bombings? Or is it something else? Is it possible that we have allowed the doctrine of Political Correctness and subsequent hated of same to become the author and finisher of the way we receive the news? Given the totally outrageous way the electronic news media has chosen to deliver the war with Iraq to our living rooms, I would say if the shumagg or Arab head scarf fits, wear it!
The problem with trying to play the game of Political Correctness is that there is always going to be a loser, no matter what side youíre on. If you are against the war, but for the rights of children and women, where does that leave you considering the fact that Iraqi women and children have no rights and face daily abuse in a Saddam-controlled Iraq? If you are anti-Bush and feel that the American Public got cheated when the last presidential election was decided by the Supreme Court, what happened to all the anger and backlash in November of 2002? Americans had a chance to vote and seat a mostly Democratic Congress to express their displeasure with an illegitimate Bush Regime without any sort of legal interventions, but didnít. This illustrates the illegitimacy of Political Correctness and the dangers those for and against it create for objectivity and freedom.
The war with Iraq is unique in many ways. But above all else, itís got to be the first war in the history of the world fought with Political Correctness as the rules of engagement! While facing a fierce enemy whose very survival depends on the outcome of this war, Coalition Soldiers are ordered to tip toe around human shields and civilians whose ranks may include everything from suicide bombers to Saddam operatives. And why? Because there is not one politician in Washington who wants to face the cameras and answer questions with piles of civilian dead being shown as a backdrop or injected as a filler image during long answers. For fear of media spin, Politicians are forced to dig the graves of many brave soldiers. This is not only unhealthy, but against the values and freedoms we all hold dear. It creates an environment where anyone who might run afoul of either side of the political correctness machine is afraid to speak their minds or share their opinions.
Political Correctness and the opposition to it has become the driving force behind the way we receive news in America. It has turned once respected broadcast or print journalists into liberal or conservative ideologists and apologists. Reporters have become commentators and commentators have become true believers of one view, forced to accept or reject everything on either side of an issue. Just the fact that many coalition soldiers have expressed the frustration of having to offer themselves as a sacrifice by delaying a shot, lest they be labeled killers of the innocent, shows the devastating effects of this schismatic doctrine. While Reporters should be railing against political correctness as the enemy of free thought and expression, they join its ranks and spoon feed it to an American Public that trusts them to make an honest effort at objectivity.
Before we all pitch in to build the gallows for the hanging of Peter Arnett, we had better be careful that Political Correctness and the battle against it that rages daily in the news media doesnít first hang any and all chances left for us to receive news in an honest and objective manner. If youíre angry at the way that news is reported to you, you have a right to be. Not because it disagrees with some notion you hold to be sacred, but because those bringing it to you have lost all objectivity and become the willing slaves of a doctrine sure to bring the downfall of free expression.
News Reporters have a decision to make. Will their inform or influence? If they choose to influence, perhaps they had better run for office and face the same music they now provide for the politicians they so often applaud or attack. If they choose to inform and cannot keep their personal thoughts, observations or politics separate from what they report, perhaps they had better become commentators. These arenít hard choices, just ethical ones!