Accuracy in Media

Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s senior foreign correspondent, thinks Western journalists censored themselves during the war in Iraq. She blames the Bush administration and Fox News for creating a “climate of fear and self-censorship” that inhibited reporters from asking the right questions. “We were all duped,” she claimed on CNBC. She even said CNN was “intimidated.”

Martin Smith, the producer of a public television documentary entitled “Truth, War, and Consequences,” claims that “commercial pressures at the major networks and cable news outlets” limited the scope and depth of the reporting before the war.

A Police-blotter Mentality

But the coverage turned almost unremittingly negative after the war, with daily body counts of U.S. servicemen killed and interviews with individual Iraqis disenchanted with our presence. Time Magazine pronounced as “debatable” the administration’s claim that Iraqis are still grateful that we are there.

However, the negative cover-age of post-war Iraq has sparked a backlash. One returning bipartisan delegation, for example, charged that journalists were giving a slanted and unduly negative account of events in Iraq. Even some journalists, on their return from Baghdad, noted the contrast between what they saw in Iraq and what was reported to the American public.

The real story is how the media covered up the conditions in Iraq before the war. On April 11, the New York Times published an op-ed by CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan, who admitted that for years his network had been withholding the truth about Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship from its viewers. Jordan said the network censored itself in order to keep its Baghdad bureau open and to maintain access to Iraqi leaders. He wrote that he “felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me.” He predicts there will be many more “gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment” under Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Jordan’s op-ed drew numerous letters, all critical of the network’s refusal to report the truth.

In June 2003, The Atlantic Monthly’s Internet website published an interview with Michael Kelly that sheds light on the CNN case. Kelly, who was the magazine’s editor-at-large, was about to leave for Iraq to be embedded with the U.S. Army’s Third Infantry Division. Tragically, he was killed just a few days before Jordan’s op-ed appeared in the Times. The interview was conducted in February and Kelly talked about his experiences as a freelance reporter in the first Gulf War in 1991.

CNN’s Special Relationship

He was at the Al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad when the coalition bombing campaign began in late January 1991. Among his reminiscences, he said that there were “a lot of people there who were mad at CNN” on that first night. When asked why, he replied that “CNN had this special relationship with the Iraqi government that they had earned, in part, through what I thought was corrupt reporting.” Confirming Jordan’s later admission, Kelly charged that its “special standing” with the Iraqi government got CNN interviews that no other network could land. More importantly, he said, “they also had this land-line that allowed them the 24-hour open telephone.” The Iraqis did not interfere with this line and this enabled CNN to get its stories, distorted as they may have been, out of Baghdad when no one else could.

Kelly said that CNN “bought” these privileges, in part, by covering up Iraqi brutalities its troops had committed during the occupation of Kuwait City. He said the Iraqis offered CNN a deal by which the network would help discredit a story (later proven false) that its troops had killed babies in incubators in Kuwait. But CNN also had to ignore other atrocities committed by Iraqi troops during the occupation. Kelly pronounced CNN’s bargain with the Iraqi government “wholly corrupt and wrong and indefensible.”

Allegations of corruption in the media business were also made by John Burns, the New York Times’ Baghdad bureau chief in the last years of Saddam’s reign. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for his coverage of Sarajevo and Afghanistan.

He denounced the media’s performance before and during the war as “absolutely disgraceful.” He said that, with the possible exception of North Korea, Saddam’s Iraq was in a category by itself as a “terror, totalitarian state.”

“That was the central truth” about Iraq that was “untold by the vast majority of correspondents” there. In order to maintain their access to Iraqi officials, Burns said correspondents routinely paid bribes totaling “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to Iraqi Ministry of Information officials.

He said Jordan’s New York Times op-ed “missed the point completely.” Burns said those Iraqis protected by CNN and other media outlets “are only one thousandth of one percent of the people of Iraq.” “So why not tell the story of the other people living in Iraq,” he asked. Burns also told the story of a reporter from a “major American newspaper” who went out of his way to show Iraqi officials stories written by his competitors that were unfavorable to the regime. According to Burns, this reporter would then give these officials copies of his stories “to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state”?in this case Burns. Burns doesn’t name this correspondent and Jack Shafer, writing on Slate.com, wonders why reporters haven’t worked harder to uncover his identity.

Criticism of media performance in Iraq has come from other media stalwarts as well. The New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Thomas L. Friedman told Charlie Rose on public television that the last ten years of coverage of Iraq was not a “shining example of American journalism.” He agreed with Burns and Kelly that the media refused to cover Iraqi atrocities in order to keep their visas to Baghdad and access to Iraqi officials.

Similar criticisms were levelled by NPR correspondent Ann Garrels. She was one of the few American journalists who stayed in Baghdad from the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom to the initial coalition occupation of the city. Her book, Naked in Baghdad, cited accounts of bribes paid by correspondents, including herself, to get in and stay in Iraq. She, too, has written about the “unspoken agreements to pull punches on sensitive issues, such as the anti-Saddam underground or the disappearance of tens of thousands of people, in return for Iraqi favors.” And she singled out CNN, which “curried favor” to stay in Baghdad.

Rather Strange

CBS News’ Dan Rather wrote that Burns’ critique is a “brilliant, important contribution to American journalism at a critical point in the history of our country?and our craft.” But Rather, among other reporters, came in for some harsh criticism himself from Ann Garrels. A USA Today review of her book says that she characterized Rather’s pre-war interview with Saddam Hussein as “obsequious tripe.” She quotes a colleague as criticizing Rather for asking “softball questions” and saying that he “might just as well have been interviewing the prime minister of Belgium, not a tyrant who has imprisoned and killed thousands upon thousands of his own people.”

The real censors were the network executives and senior news editors who cared more about maintaining a “presence” in Baghdad than truth.

Think about that the next time you watch or read reports from Cuba, Syria, Iran, and communist China.

MORAL STRENGTH, MILITARY MUSCLE, AND THE MEDIA

President Bush says that we are winning the global war on terrorism. But it is clear that we are losing the war on moral corruption at home. This is why foreign enemies and adversaries, such as the Chinese communists and the Islamic extremists, see the U.S. as being in inevitable decline.

A report prepared by Dr. Michael Pillsbury of the National Defense University says that while the Chinese media insist that the U.S. is in economic decline, they believe that our most severe problems are crime and drug use, a “spiritual and moral crisis,” and “excessive sexual indulgence.”

An article posted on several pro-Muslim websites by a radical Islamic activist attacks our “decadent, materialistic, infidel way of life?” and says, “signs of this decline are evident in America.”

Dr. Herbert London, president of the Hudson Institute, says we must not overlook “the nexus between internal moral strength and military muscle.”

Indeed, the spread in the military of sexually transmitted diseases? some deadly and life-threatening?is such a threat to readiness that a Defense Department “Sexually Transmitted Diseases Center” has been proposed to monitor and control the growing problem.

Former POW Jessica Lynch, who was put forward as a heroine in the Iraq war, suffered an embarrassment when pornographer Larry Flynt announced that he had purchased semi-nude photos of her partying at an Army base. He said he acquired the photos from two soldiers who had served with her.

Lynch, 19, may have been influenced by America’s corrupting culture, alluded to by Kendel Ehrlich, the wife of Maryland’s moderate Republican governor Bob Ehrlich, when she remarked that, “If I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would.” Mrs. Ehrlich was joking, but her spokeswoman explained, “As a working mother raising a 4-year-old son, the first lady has concerns about the negative influences that the entertainment industry can have on young children and teenagers.”

Spears was a featured entertainer at the music festival that kicked off the NFL football season on September 4 at the National Mall in Washington D.C. Her performance included the removal of her pants by two men in the middle of a song on national TV.

Priority seating at the event, which was also designed to honor those who serve our country in uniform, was provided to military members and their families.

Is this what we’re fighting for?the right of Britney Spears to undress on national TV?

Spears staged a lesbian kiss of aging rock star Madonna at the MTV Video Music Awards, posed topless for Rolling Stone magazine, bottomless on the cover of Esquire, and appeared at a Glamour magazine event where she and Jessica Lynch were honored as “Women of the Year.” Then Spears appeared on “PrimeTime Thursday” with Diane Sawyer of ABC News.

NBC’s Dateline program featured a story, “Britney Unzipped,” on her “wildest, rawest performance yet,” dancing at a nightclub.

Stories about declining moral standards among young people are getting so routine that they hardly make news anymore. A “Nation in Brief” section of the Washington Post on page 22 carried the following items:

  • A Florida 16-year-old wore a T-shirt to school covered with packaged condoms. She got the idea after watching MTV.

  • Three high-school students at Milken Community High School in Los Angeles made a pornographic video that was distributed to other students.

The book, Epidemic (Lifeline Press, 2002), by Dr. Meg Meeker, documents how one of every four sexually active teens is infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Her book cites a 1996 Public Broadcasting Service program, “Lost Children of Rockdale County,” about more than 200 teenagers?many as young as 13 and 14?who were infected with syphilis after getting together in their Georgia community for drinking, drugs, and re-enacting sex scenes from the Playboy Channel.

A more recent Northern Kentucky University survey of nearly 600 teens who took abstinence pledges showed that more than half believe a person should still be considered abstinent after engaging in oral sex. This attitude was traced to media coverage of Bill Clinton’s claim in the Monica Lewinsky scandal that oral sex wasn’t really sex.

The new Hepatitis B vaccine, mandated for most infants, is primarily designed to prevent a disease acquired by teenagers and adults who are sexually promiscuous or drug abusers. Dr. Meeker notes that homosexual teenage boys are “at the greatest risk” of getting the disease. On display nationally, the Maury Povich television show regularly features young mothers who have slept around so much they need a paternity test to determine the identity of the father of their children.

Another Clinton legacy is that pornography has become a $10 billion-a-year business, bigger than professional football, baseball and basketball combined.

In AIM’s new book, Why You Can’t Trust the News, Reed Irvine notes that the House Government Reform Committee held a hearing into how young children can access pornography, including child pornography, on the Internet.

Today, General Motors (through DirecTV), Time Warner and Marriott distribute and profit from pornography. Clothing manufacturer Abercrombie & Fitch regularly releases catalogs filled with nudity.

Obscenity laws were vigorously enforced between 1987 and 1993. But as Morality in Media has noted, prosecutions were almost non-existent during the Clinton administration and the first two years of the current Bush administration.

On August 8, however, the Justice Department indicted the owners of “Extreme Associates” on ten counts of violating federal obscenity laws. Interestingly, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Frontline program, American Porn, had documented the production of a video from “Extreme Associates” that was so disgusting that the PBS camera crew couldn’t watch. PBS said the actress in the film was “kicked and beaten” and subjected to oral, vaginal and anal sex before other actors “pretend to cut her throat and leave her for dead in a pool of blood.”

Pornography was discovered in the home of Gary Ridgway, the “Green River Killer” who just pled guilty to the rape and murder of 48 women in the Seattle area. He was also a marijuana user.

Serial killer Ted Bundy told Dr. James Dobson that his obsession with pornography drove him to murder young women for sexual gratification Homosexual pedophile Gary Bishop, convicted of killing five young boys, ages 5-13, said that pornography “stimulated” his rages. Homosexual pedophile John Wayne Gacy enticed his victims?33 young men and boys?with pornography and marijuana before raping and killing them.

Yet, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was the subject of a sympathetic October 30th Wall Street Journal article because he is doing commercials for Carl’s Jr. restaurants and the ESPN network. Journal reporter Brian Steinberg said 20-something consumers think Hefner is a “fun dude” and his magazine is “racy.”

In fact, researcher Judith Reisman conducted a 1989 study that found that Playboy had run numerous images and even cartoons depicting children as sexual objects or enjoying themselves as sexual partners of adults. The magazine has celebrated the use of illegal drugs such as LSD and cocaine, and Playboy money has gone into the movements for abortion rights, homosexual rights and legalized drugs.

Former “Playmate” Miki Garcia testified in 1985 before a Commission on Pornography about Playboy models who suffered from venereal diseases, attempted suicide, procured abortions, used illegal drugs, and engaged in orgies to please Hefner.

Out Of The Closet

In an October 21, 2002, article, “How the Culture War Was Won,” E.J. Graff wrote in the liberal magazine, The American Prospect, that, “you can scarcely find a TV show without a sympathetic lesbian or gay character, and politicians skirmish for the more than 4 percent of the electorate who identify themselves as lesbian gay or bisexual.”

The article gave President Clinton credit for this, saying that he “blasted lesbian and gay issues onto the national stage.”

Today, New York City has opened a school for homosexual teens? Harvey Milk High School?and several of its students have already been arrested for a series of robberies.

As the controversy over the CBS miniseries, “The Reagans,” unfolded, it was rare for the media to note that the producers of the hatchet job were homosexual activists responsible for several other network programs featuring “gay” characters.

The November 12th Oprah Winfrey show featured former Atlanta Falcon football player Esera Tuaolo, a “gay dad” and advocate of same-sex “marriage.”

At Fox News, on the November 8 edition of The Big Story, Rita Cosby hyped a pay-per-view cable show, “Can you be a porn star?” She interviewed Tabitha Stevens, a veteran of 300 “adult films” and the host of the show. “Any pointers?” asked Cosby.

At the Washington Times, Andrew Sullivan wrote in his weekly column that “more and more principled conservatives” are coming out against a constitutional amendment in defense of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Sullivan is an out-of-the-closet homosexual infected with HIV who was caught advertising for sex on the Internet.

Tammy Bruce, a lesbian feminist and adviser to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, has become a favorite of some conservatives because she criticizes the left in such books as The Death of Right and Wrong.

Herbert London of the Hudson Institute says it is apparent that some conservatives have either forgotten the lessons of the culture war or have chosen to ignore them. He cites The Weekly Standard’s David Brooks, the author of Bobos in Paradise, who “seemingly ignores the deep-seated moral consequences of middle-class financial analysts who go to S and M [sadomasochistic] clubs in the evening.” Brookes says the “Bobos,” who believe in economic but not cultural conservatism, “tolerate a little lifestyle experimentation…”

What You Can Do

Order copies of the new AIM book, Why You Can’t Trust the News, and send the enclosed postcards or cards and letters of your own choosing to Maryland First Lady Kendel Ehrlich and Michael K. Young of the religious freedom commission.




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