Accuracy in Media

Vince McMahon, chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), told American troops in Iraq before Christmas that when he returned to the U.S. he was going to look up the “negative media nay saying types and I’m going to say that you said that they can go straight to hell.”

His comments were met with cheers and thumbs up.

McMahon and several of his WWE stars were in Iraq to perform for the troops. They crisscrossed the country in Blackhawk helicopters and met the troops in 16 different locations. They signed autographs, took photos and taped a full show that was broadcast on December 23 on the UPN network.

Those who witnessed the TV spectacle and the reaction of the troops to McMahon’s strong attacks on the media saw something that was extraordinary. It is clear that many of our troops are seething with anger and resentment over media coverage of the war.

Speaking to thousands of soldiers in an old soccer stadium near Tikrit, Iraq, McMahon said that “The most important reason why we’re here is to simply say ‘thank you.’ On behalf of an appreciative nation, on behalf of the WWE, on behalf of your family and loved ones back home, we thank you for all that you do from the bottom of our hearts. Quite frankly, we thought we were going to come over here and boost your spirits. Hell, you boosted ours. The secret weapon of the American fighting men and women is the American spirit that lives inside each and every one of you.”

McMahon continued, “Unfortunately, back home we don’t hear about that. Unfortunately, back home in the media all we hear is all the negatives here in Iraq. Negative, negative, negative, negative. We never hear about all the positives. We never hear about all your progress and accomplishments. We never hear about all the good things all of you do each and every day of your lives.”

Upon his return home, McMahon was deluged with requests for interviews. His WWE website featured an article noting that he had “one clear message” for the media: “Report the good work being done in Iraq, not just the bad news.”

McMahon said, “We get a little bit closer to the soldiers than most entertainers who just go and do their show and then leave.  So we really get to know what’s on their mind. And one of the things that concerns them is that the job that they’re doing is not very well reported over here in the states. As far as the media is concerned, their point of view?and they get the news just like all the rest of us over here?is that it’s generally very negative, and they take exception to that because they’re doing a great job over there.”

As if to illustrate McMahon’s point, the lead front page story in the December 23 Washington Post was more bad news about Iraq. “Iraq Base Was Hit by Suicide Attack” was the headline. However, inside the second section of the paper was a story back on page seven about a funeral service for a U.S. Marine corporal, Binh “Ben” Le, who had been killed by a car bomb in Iraq on December 3. Normally, this would have been another bad-news story. And it was a tragedy. But this story had an interesting twist: “Over his coffin stood two Marines in dress uniform, one holding a U.S. flag steady in the breeze, the other the flag of the fallen South Vietnam.”

Binh Le was born in Vietnam and brought to America as a child. “He understood what it was like in a fairly oppressed society, and he really enjoyed the freedoms he had over here,” said his friend, Jamey Payne. “He wanted to help others experience that?It was a true American story.” His father said, “He did the right job for the family, for the country, for himself.”

What an inspiring story about American sacrifice!

A website in his honor, created by his friend Paul Stadig, declares that “Binh joined the Marine Corps to serve the country he loved.” A close friend said, “He gave the ultimate sacrifice so that others could live.” Another said, “Freedom cannot be achieved without sacrifices, and sacrifices cannot be made without deaths. Binh Le, like other soldiers who gave up their lives for freedom, is a man of honor because of his decision to defend the country from terrorists and enemies abroad so we at home can enjoy freedom.”

The Post reported, “Le returned from his first tour brimming with stories of the gratitude of ordinary Iraqis, friends said. Stadig recalled Le describing an Iraqi family that invited the Marines for tea. When they were finished, the Marines handed their cups back, only to find them quickly refilled. Many cups later, they learned that according to local custom, if a guest drains his cup all the way, it should always be refilled.”

It is tragic that the inspiring story about Binh Le gets buried in the paper while bad news about the war in Iraq is constantly featured on page one.

The Vietnam Strategy

It is an old media strategy that we saw during the Vietnam War.

Writing in the American Legion Magazine, Jim Bohannon, the talk-show host who served in Vietnam in 1967-68 with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, wrote that the communist strategy of “winning away from the battlefield worked?an especially fortunate circumstance for the communist cause, since they never came close to winning on the battlefield against U.S. forces.”

Bohannon cites coverage of Tet, when a U.S. military victory was depicted as a success by the communists. He said that American reporters “exaggerated the power and popularity of the Viet Cong” and provided the American people “gloomy media depictions” about progress of the war. Bohannon concludes, “No matter how one feels about the war, few can deny that the enemy would have approved of the coverage.”

Bohannon notes that former CBS Evening News anchorman Walter Cronkite wrote with apparent pride that, “The daily coverage of the Vietnamese battlefield helped convince the American public that the carnage was not worth” [it]. One has to consider that the gloom and doom coverage of the Iraq war is also designed to force a U.S. withdrawal and another American humiliation.

In Iraq on Christmas Eve, a soldier expressed his disgust with the media directly to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. “Everything we do good, no matter whether it’s helping a little kid or building a new school, the public affairs sends out the message that the media doesn’t pick up on,” the soldier said. “How do we win the propaganda war?”

Rumsfeld replied, “Everything we do here is harder because of television stations like Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya and the constant negative approach. You don’t hear about the schools that are open, and the hospitals that are open, and the clinics that are open, and the fact that the stock market is open and the Iraqi currency is steady and the fact that there have been something like 140,000 refugees coming from other countries back into this country. They’re voting with their feet because they believe this is a country of the future. You don’t read about that. You read about every single negative thing that anyone can find to report. I was talking to a group of congressmen and senators the other day, and there were a couple of them who had negative things to say and they were in the press in five minutes. There were 15 or 20 that had positive things to say about what’s going on in Iraq and they couldn’t get on television. Television just said we’re not interested. That’s just?sorry. So it is, I guess, what’s
news has to be bad news.”

The story about Rumsfeld’s visit to Iraq in the New York Times the next day, written by Richard A. Oppel, Jr., made no mention of the exchange over the negative influence of the media.

Washington Post reporter Josh White covered the exchange with one sentence, deep inside his story. 

On NBC News, Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski claimed that Rumsfeld made the trip to Iraq to counter the “sagging morale” of the troops there. But it appears, based on what the soldiers are saying, that any morale problems can be attributed to the relentlessly negative media coverage.

Some reporters do not want to acknowledge the fact that the troops have turned against the press.

TIME TO DE-FUND PUBLIC BROADCASTING

Left-wing partisan Bill Moyers, a former Democratic Party mouthpiece who has had a national platform on the taxpayer-funded Public Broadcasting Service for three years, used his December 17 NOW program on PBS to launch a vicious smear of conservatives for succeeding in the media. In comments that Tom Shales of the Washington Post said “may not have helped his own image” as a rational commentator, Moyers flailed away, comparing Pentagon officials to Adolph Hitler and accusing conservative talk radio personalities of using Hitlerian Big-Lie techniques. Moyers began by citing a New York Times story that some military analysts want to deceive the enemy in Iraq by planting misleading stories abroad about U.S. strategy and tactics.

Moyers said, “We have news for them. A former corporal in the German army learned how to do that first. In his gospel of Mein Kampf, the future fuehrer of Nazi Germany wrote that, ‘The great masses of people?will more easily fall victim to a great lie than to a small one.'”

“Which brings us to our first subject,” Moyers continued. He proceeded to call conservative talk radio “a freak show of political pornography” consisting of “lies, distortions, and half-truths?”

But it was the Moyers crew doing the lying. His producers had claimed that Moyers would go “inside the right-wing media machine that the conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks called a ‘dazzlingly efficient ideology delivery system.'” 

This quote, which actually appeared in The Weekly Standard, was Brooks’ description of how liberals view conservative-oriented media. Here’s the full quote:

“Wherever Democrats look, they sense their powerlessness. Even when they look to the media, they feel that conservatives have the upper hand. Conservatives think this is ludicrous. We may have Rush and Fox, conservatives say, but you have ABC, NBC, CBS, the New York Times. But liberals are sincere. They despair that a consortium of conservative think tanks, talk-radio hosts, and Fox News?Hillary’s vast right-wing conspiracy?has cohered to form a dazzlingly efficient ideology delivery system that swamps liberal efforts to get their ideas out.”

Notice the phrase “they despair.” This is how Brooks, who himself appears on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS, had described a liberal belief about the influence of those outlets. Much of his article was an attempt to understand how liberals and Democrats view political events. Brooks’ only mistake was in neglecting to add PBS to the mix of the liberal outlets. And that includes Bill Moyers, who was leaving his perch on PBS on that final NOW show of his career with one final massive distortion.

Faux Balance

Moyers’ only attempt to bring balance to the discussion was a brief interview with conservative leader Richard Viguerie, co-author of the book, America’s Right Turn. Moyers tried to contrast conservative radio hosts like Sean Hannity, who is openly pro-Republican and endorsed President Bush for re-election, with a “Walter Cronkite or a David Brinkley, the anchormen of those days [who would never] endorse candidates, or propagate a partisan viewpoint as I see now in the conservative movement.”

Viguerie replied: “Well, I think you have to recognize the difference between the Peter Jennings, the Dan Rathers, Tom Brokaws and a Rush Limbaugh and a Sean Hannity. They clearly identify themselves as conservative partisans. They’re up front about it. And, they make no claim to be an objective unbiased observer. And that’s fine. You have people on the left, Mario Cuomo, Jim Hightower, others have Al Franken. They’re out there with a point of view?”

Moyers countered: “None with the megaphone that your side has.”

Viguerie responded that liberals were not succeeding in the marketplace and that their views were being rejected by the American people.

But Moyers hasn’t had to worry about that. He appeared on PBS, which has a guaranteed market and 349 member stations across the U.S. He would not have been on the air except for the taxpayers being forced to provide him a platform. And now, in his final NOW program, he insulted the taxpayers who gave him that megaphone.

Nevertheless, the omnibus appropriations measure approved by Congress last year included $400 million more for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in fiscal year 2007 and almost $80 million to modernize public television for the digital age.

Birds Of A Feather

Moyers’ ridiculous claim about the “nonpartisan” Cronkite ignores how Cronkite helped turn the American people against the Vietnam War by airing his now infamous commentary claiming that the war was unwinnable. This was during a time when CBS News had much more influence than it does now and when Cronkite was considered by some “the most trusted man in America.” In fact, however, a study conducted by the Ethics & Public Policy Center found Cronkite guilty of consistently airing a broadcast slanted against increased spending on national defense during the Cold War.

After his retirement, Cronkite became even more outspoken. He joined the pro-world-government World Federalists (who have renamed themselves “Citizens for Global Solutions”) and expressed opposition to the Iraq War and support for homosexual marriage.

Air Time For Liberals

Another part of the Moyers show consisted of giving Gene Kimmelman of Consumers Union an opportunity to describe how liberal-left groups successfully intimidated Sinclair Broadcasting into not airing all of the Stolen Honor film showing how John Kerry’s anti-war testimony contributed to the torture of our Vietnam POWs. Sinclair owns 62 TV stations that reach 24% of the country, including in battleground states such as Ohio and Florida. 

Having won that battle, many of these groups are now protesting Sinclair’s airing of conservative commentaries by Sinclair Vice President Mark Hyman.

Liberal activist Victor Kamber appeared on CNN to comment on this campaign. He said, “I think, frankly, I’m critical of the liberals for not going far enough. All they’re going to do is a protest. I would like to see them lift the licensing of Sinclair Broadcasting” or organize an advertiser boycott of the network.

While Kamber wants to censor or stifle conservative views, he claims to be a defender of press freedom. His public relations firm, the Kamber Group, organized the 2004 “Freedom Award Banquet” for The Newspaper Guild, the AFL-CIO-affiliated union that represents news employees at major media organizations. Cronkite and Moyers were guest speakers at the 2004 awards ceremony.

What does this say about liberal media bias?

In another segment of his NOW program, Moyers gave time to Anthony Romero of the ACLU to attack the conduct of the war on Islamic terrorism.

ACLU Distortions

Then, Moyers turned to another current topic?the ACLU’s lawsuits against school districts that want to “teach an alternative to evolution.” Romero insisted that, “?teaching alternatives to evolution is about teaching religion in our public schools. And in a country as diverse as this one, and in a country where religious belief is such a core belief for so many Americans, you want to keep the government as far away as we can from involving itself in our most important and private institutions?”

Romero’s statement was false. Teaching alternatives to evolution does not necessarily imply the existence of God or the need for religion. Rather it recognizes the problems with a theory holding that random and natural processes cannot account for the origin and complexity of life.  

The Discovery Institute, for example, focuses on the issue of whether there is any evidence of design in nature, rather than whether there is a designer. Still, its representatives tend to be portrayed in religious terms not only by the ACLU but by the media.

Those who believe in intelligent design or find gaping holes in the theory of evolution frequently encounter a hostile press. The Discovery Institute provided to Accuracy in Media a thick file of complaints about the way their representatives have been treated by the media, especially CPB-subsidized National Public Radio and PBS.

Back in 2001, when PBS aired the seven-part series, Evolution, financed by Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul G. Allen, it asked Discovery Institute scientists to appear on the last segment dealing with God and religion. It was a trick. The institute rejected this ploy, saying that its representatives had scientific objections to evolution and that they should be included in the scientific episodes.

PBS went ahead with its one-sided program anyway. In response, the Discovery Institute produced a 152-page viewers’ guide, noting that the series distorts the scientific evidence, ignores scientific disagreements over Darwin’s theory, and misrepresents the theory’s critics. Because the PBS series is still being marketed to high schools around the country, the Discovery Institute critique continues to be helpful and relevant. You can find it at: www.reviewevolution.com.

The problem at PBS has been around for many years. Back in 1997, an important book was published, entitled, PBS: Behind the Screen, by Lawrence Jarvik. Writing in the Wall Street Journal op-ed section, James Bowman said that “Again and again, Mr. Jarvik provides examples of dishonesty and hypocrisy at the heart of the public broadcasting enterprise.” But eight years later, the public broadcast establishment is still in business. Why? One reason may be that it is now airing a show featuring members of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, who have dropped their opposition to taxpayer subsidies for PBS.

These days, if you look for something critical of public broadcasting on the Journal op-ed page, you’re more likely to find a notice that members of its editorial board are going to be on a public television station near you. PBS airs a show titled “Journal Editorial Report,” a weekly series produced by public television station WNET in New York. The CPB provided $4.48 million toward production of the program.  

What You Can Do

Please send the enclosed cards or cards and letters of your own choosing to Paul Gigot of The Wall Street Journal, Bob Meyers of the National Press Foundation, and WWE chairman Vince McMahon.




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