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Media and the War: Who's Fair, Who Reports What We Want?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:56 AM

Now, I'm not saying I spent countless hours scribbling notes or anything like that, but I was interested in seeing media bias in the war and if, as one friend put it a short time ago, CNN really stands for the “Communist News Network.” First, save Fox News' Geraldo Rivera and NBC's Peter Arnett, I think the media deserves a round of applause for war coverage. Overall, I haven't seen anything that screams “unfair” from any network (I do wonder how the press come up with the stupid questions they ask at press conferences and the “almost ads” for the upcoming “shock and awe” were annoying, but, I degress…). Good job, guys!

After reading a piece like this, I must say I wonder whether other conservatives are watching a different CNN than I am, however. Now, I should say, I'm not normally an avid TV news (or TV) watcher, so this is based mostly on war coverage, but I just haven't seen anything that bad and certainly not anything completely left wing biased.

Just as I write this, there was a fellow named Michael Medved on CNN seemingly defending the president (I'm only half listening). I looked at his web site, and guess what, he has been a guest host behind the golden EIB microphone when Rush Limbaugh is away! Yeah, that's right, a dittohead was being interviewed by Aaron Brown on primetime CNN. Not bad, I say.

In fact, I've found that while maybe most of the interviewed people weren't head-over-heals in support of the war, most of the people behind the anchor desk seem to be pro-war or at least pro-troops-and-government. Mr. Brown, for example, almost got into a verbal brawl on CNN with an Al-Jazeera correspondent after the said network aired the video showing the bodies of the Americans a few weeks ago.

Brown, who seems to be a thoughtful kind of anchor, has also spent most of the last three weeks opposite former NATO Supreme Commander and American Gen. Wesley Clark, who seems to support the Pentagon on virtually everything that has happened thus far. While Brown has maintained some sense of a journalist's goal for asking pointed questions to both those he agrees and disagrees with, I've yet to seem him seem to attack much that has happened.

The afternoon/evening anchor for the coverage, Wolf Blitzer (who normally has 4 p.m. CT show), also has been seemingly pro-war from what I've seen. I believe it was actually Blitzer who today referred to Iraq's minister of information as the “minister of disinformation.” Hehehe. Good one, Wolf. I hardly think that comes from an Iraqi sympathizer.

Then, there is Larry King. King, of course, is the anchor of the network's flagship program, and thus ought to say something about the network's position. During the war, he has almost always had several pro-war people on each night. For example, Kuwait's ambassador to the United States has appeared numerous times, as have many many generals. King's nightly guest for the war, Colonel David “Hack” Hackworth has also proved a supporter of the action, making many statements suggesting it would be a simple and very good military campaign that will be effective (in much more brash terms, such as “wham, bam, bomb say-dam”). In fact, Hack's almost “glee” at the campaign caused some callers to call in and complain that he wasn't taking the war seriously enough (the colonel chalks it up to his Irish heritage).

King also did something really interesting before the war: he did an entire show on Evangelical Christian and Christian opinion of the plan! He brought on three conservative Christians (Max Lucado, Dr. Bob Jones, and a head of a seminary) and then placed two liberal Christians opposite them. In other words, not only was King interested in Christian opinion, by default, he gave the Evangelical side an edge simply by the fact that almost each interviewee got equal time.

Now, the article I linked to earlier accuses CNN of focusing too much on the few countries in Europe that do not support us. I'd imagine than means France and Germany. That's for good reason: many (most?) Americans actually care what our historic allies think. It really isn't nearly as interesting if Liechtenstein decides to support us as it is if France is complaining about our actions. I may be off-base, but I think it does matter that our allies don't agree with us — I'm not saying we should change our path, but I don't think hurling insults at them is the key to unbiased coverage either.

Fox News, supposedly, is suppose to be the place where “they report and you decide.” When I got the opportunity to get cable, I was quite anxious to see this great news source. I haven't watched it all that much, but a few hours of Fox gave me a very bad taste. For example, the fellow that was reporting on Friday (IIRC) reported that Saddam International Airport was 100% under American control. CNN reported that there was still fighting going on… and surprise, surprise, the next morning some fighting was still going on. Admittedly, CNN wasn't giving as much of a “pro-war” stance, but isn't the truth better than showing a certain stance? The Fox News anchor, looking for another pro-campaign comment while talking with an embed later that evening tried to suggest that Iraqi civilians with their hands up and a white flag (while crossing a bridge) didn't just have their hands up in surrender, but because they were celebrating the arrival of Americans! This was so clearly incorrect that the embed actually disagreed with the anchor!

Bernard Goldberg, in his book Bias, says almost the same thing. He has become known for his bold attack on the liberal media. But, as an “old fashioned liberal,” Goldberg notes that doesn't mean he wants a conservatively biased news source, like many who rail against the media wouldn't mind. He wants unbiased news. News reporters should greet both sides with skepticism, not just the side we don't like.

And in that way, I think CNN has done a good job. Watching CNN, I have gotten the impression that most Americans support the war (true), that there are good reasons to do it (true), that there have been some problems (true), and that there is a very vocal minority against it (true). And, for those who think the name minority gives the people committing civil disobedience too much credit, guess what Aaron Brown just referred to them as? “The fringe [of America].”

So, good job CNN. Thanks for doing a very decent job.

[Note: I don't mean this rant/editorial to offend anyone on my side of the aisle who thinks I may be a modern day Benedict Arnold of conservatives, I had originally planned to write it in a less antagonistic fashion, but it just came out this way. I should also note that I do have a bone to pick with Fox News because they have recently threatened legal action against an Evangelical Christian (and ex-gay) who runs a group aimed at helping people escape homosexuality because the said Christian made a tape of the harsh attacks Bill O'Reilly fired toward him in an interview, but to the best of my ability, I did not hold that against Fox News in my consideration of it here.]

Uhhhh, so that's the choice?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:50 AM

This just in from the folks at National Public Radio: Saddam is either alive or… in hiding! Yes, that's right. Apparently, if you are hiding, you are not alive. You heard it first on NPR and Maybe this explains why we have so many embedded reporters — if our troops appeared to be hiding, we would know they weren't alive, right?

Now, remember folks: if you are ever thinking about hiding — don't! If you do, you won't be alive any more.

American Flag...

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:32 AM

How sad. I just had CNN Headline News on, and some student (and star sports player at some college) who disagrees with current government policy felt a good way to express this way to face away from the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance. How sad that someone would think that rejecting our flag, in essence, our country is the right way to disagree with certain policies. Apparently the student is at the college only has the opportunity to be the star there because the government is giving her a scholarship…

At What Cost?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 11:02 PM

What do I mean? Many people around the world (not just Muslims) are looking at this as a “Christian Fundamentalist” war. While that isn't really the case, the fact that President Bush is a Christian does make it seem at least somewhat plausible. The problem, as I see it, is that people may be less prone to the Gospel if they think it is that thing that those “war mongers” talk about. The fact that many (most?) evangelical Christians (including myself) are conservative in politics means that we are indeed closely aligned with the “war mongers.”

Further more, the doctrine of the Preemptive Strike, no matter how right it is in nature, seems to go against everything that we stand for, if we take the Bible at its word. Again, it could be argued that the attack is in order because Iraq is violating UN resolutions, but in that case, the administration should stick to the UN framework, at least for now, and drop the preemptive strike concept.

I should mention that I was a big supporter of the war. I think in many ways it would be a good thing in the long run. But, I'm not sure I can justify support for it if it will end up creating more and more enemies of the church that are less prone to accept the good news of Jesus Christ.

In essence, I worry that we are trading spiritual things (bringing people to the Gospel) for wordly things (safety from a rogue regime). Is it worth it?

Is the State of the Union (Address) Good?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:10 AM

On Tuesday, Americans around the country gathered for that highly anticipated event on television and radio that happens just once a year. No, it wasn't the Super Bowl delayed by two days, it was the annual State of the Union address by the President of the United States, and this time around, everyone nervously anticipated whether President Bush would use the opportunity to declare war.

Surprisingly, he didn't. Rather than a unilateral declaration of war, over half of the address was spent talking about various domestic issues. It was certainly reassuring to see that the President was keeping up on other issues beyond what to do with Iraq, and many of his proposals sounded both bold and laudable.

Unfortunately, while he ran on a conservative platform of more responsible spending, and even during the speech, emphasized the need for the country not to grow its budget faster than the incomes of those it serves, it seemed that the President was suffering a bad case of “fuzzy math.” Although he managed to emphasize the tax cuts that his core supporters and party want, it was unfortunate that he also unveiled billions of dollars in new spending. Considering that the federal budget is already running up a large deficit, I found it puzzling that President Bush was proposing more spending and more tax cuts at the same time.

Still, on other issues that he covered, his positions seemed to be sizably less contradictory, thankfully. For example, it was good to see the President speak boldly against the threats of human cloning and urge the legislators to pass a ban on the same this year. It was at this point that he seemed on a roll as he also spoke out for preserving “human dignity” by pushing for a ban on partial birth abortion. These were the kind of things that had made President Bush's campaign the dynamic, successful one that it was, and it was nice to see that he hadn?t given up all of his values in his attempt to be a “unifier and not a divider.”

Then came Iraq. After attempting, rather unsuccessfully, to use the North Korean crisis as a launching board for why we should attack Iraq — odd logic indeed — the President dove into the issue everyone was really waiting to hear him speak on. Considering that the State of the Union address is hardly the proper place for declassifying information, the President did do a good job of providing a convincing “I really do know something I'm not saying yet” element to his discussion of Iraq.

I was pleased to see that the President's plan includes sending Secretary Powell to the United Nations on the fifth of February. While I have long been an opponent of the United Nations and its attempts at encroachment on national sovereignty, in this case it would seem that working with the UN security council, and hopefully convincing them to support us, will lend more credibility and strength to the United States' effort to depose the Iraqi regime.

All of this built up to the “big idea” of the evening as the President concluded that, based on the evidence, if Iraq is not an evil regime, then “evil has no meaning.” Indeed, the details, if they can be proven true, would show that Iraq has violated virtually every core point in the 1991 ceasefire agreements, as well as basic human rights laws that would most certainly put Saddam Hussein in line for a crimes against humanity trial.

The real question though, was left up the air. I think virtually no one doubted that the current administration is determined to get the regime change that it desires, however, the question of when was not addressed. Considering Powell's scheduled meeting with the UN Security Council next week, we know there is at least a week, but after that, things become significantly harder to figure out.

In summary, as usual, the State of the Union address was interesting; although not necessarily informative on the issues we all really wanted to know about. At least it did give the pundits something to talk about.

Tim Butler is the guy that writes this journal. He also writes on the computer industry at Open for Business.

Problematic Holidays

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 7:17 PM

     Now there are several major problems with a holiday like this one, all of which serve to make it a very intolerant day. First, it purposely excludes those who aren't thankful. It's enough to make the complainers in society develop a persecution complex. Is it fair that we can exclude the sincerely ungrateful from this day?

     It gets worse when you consider the clear lobbyist influence in the holiday. Thanksgiving isn't named “Turkey Day” just for grins. Clearly, there was a payoff from those peculiar poultry producers that forced the heaping of even more intolerance onto that late November day.

     There is no doubt that hog and cattle farmers are willfully and unfairly excluded from this “holiday.” Who ever heard of carving the Thanksgiving Roast Beef? I assure you that anyone trying to promote such as concept would not be successful.

     If this hasn't demonstrated the problems of Thanksgiving, I cannot image what would. However, before you lose hope, let me say that I have a suggestion on how to repair this truly horrible mess. This is my official proposal to rename the fourth Thursday of November the “National Day of Thankful or Unthankfulness” with the new nickname of “Any Meat or Poultry Product Day.”

     Sadly, Thanksgiving is not the only politically incorrect day of the year. Clearly we have a problem with Independence Day too. This day is loaded to the brim with exclusionistic practices. It starts off with the nickname “Forth of July,” which completely ignores those folks who prefer to celebrate on a different day, say July third or maybe January thirtieth.

     It gets worse too. This is a day that blatantly ignores the fact that other countries did not obtain independence on July fourth - perhaps they never have at all. How is a Tibetan citizen going to feel if they were here on Independence Day? I think they'd feel excluded.

     Furthermore, how can we forget the British? I can hardly imagine that they can think anything other than depressing thoughts on the day we celebrate attacking them. I doubt the Canadians feel much better either, after all, our Revolution could be interpreted as us saying we didn't like being part of the same empire as them - a thought that surely causes every Canadian on the border to dread the sounds and festivities they hear from their southern neighbor. The only way we can resolve these problems is to rearrange the entire day.

     To wrest away this cold hand of intolerance, I propose that before the celebratory fireworks, the nation have an hour of mourning. The first part will be so that those in occupied countries can join with us, then the second part of the hour can be for mourning the British defeat in the Revolutionary War. Also, rather than flying an American flag, each house will be assigned a flag from another country that has declared independence at some point. We surely don't want to infer our independence is any better than anyone else's, and this new flag protocol will insure this never happens.

     Finally, to insure that no families with pyrophobia are forced into their houses, fireworks should be prohibited. One fireworks display can be filmed from the middle of the ocean, allowing people to watch them on TV. This will allow them to enjoy the display of fireworks without offending anyone. To insure that people who don't like certain colors aren't bothered when watching the display, only the natural color of the sparks will be allowed.

     With plans like those I have presented, I hope you can see how much better things can be. I trust with measures like these, everyone will soon enjoy improved holidays. Although, we must be careful not to exclude those who dislike holidays, so my plan may require a bit more improvement. After all, we wouldn't want to exclude anyone.

When not wasting time in his blog, Tim Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business. You can reach him at

Originally published December 12, 2002. © 2002 Timothy R. Butler

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