Accuracy in Media

I come across a lot of junk on the Internet but was truly shocked when I saw a column by a popular left-wing writer and former local Democratic Party official named Mike Whitney that served to justify the kidnapping of Fox News journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig by a Palestinian terrorist group possibly connected to al Qaeda. Whitney claimed that the Fox employees are “an integral part of the American war machine” and should not be considered non-combatants. 

The terrorists holding Centanni and Wiig want Muslim prisoners in U.S. jails released in exchange for their freedom. They have produced a video which aired on Al-Jazeera, the terrorists’ favorite propaganda channel, showing the captive journalists claiming they have been treated well and asking for help in getting freed. The U.S. was given 72 hours to make a decision and time is running out. The lives of Centanni and Wiig are hanging in the balance.

Whitney, a former official of the Snohomish County Democrats in Washington State, declared that “The group which captured the two Fox employees did what they felt they had to do to address the egregious human rights abuses at American gulags at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. When peaceful means for acquiring justice are foreclosed, violence becomes inevitable. This truism is even enshrined in our own Declaration of Independence.”

In a brief phone interview, before the line suddenly went dead, Whitney said he did not intend to justify the kidnapping of the Fox News Journalists but that “I certainly understand it.” When I told him that his column had put the lives of the journalists in danger, he shot back, “I think that [responsibility] belongs to George Bush, not me.” He said he doesn’t want to see the journalists murdered. 

However, Whitney’s column, being circulated around the world on the Internet, has undoubtedly contributed to putting the lives of Centanni and Wiig in jeopardy. That has to be one reason why Steve Centanni’s brother Ken has just issued a new statement pleading for their release.   

In a follow-up email, trying to mitigate the damage his column may have caused, Whitney expressed concern that his piece would become “cannon-fodder” for a “smear campaign” against him and that he does not regard Centanni and Wiig as “legitimate” targets but we can “logically” expect that extremist groups “will continue to act similarly in the future.” 

His solution is that “Bush could save their lives by simply offering a prisoner swap for captives in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib.”

While Whitney tried to back away from the implications of his column in our phone interview, he has not equivocated about the war in Iraq, declaring in one column, “?I can say without hesitation that I support the ‘insurgency,’ and would do so even if my only 21 year old son was serving in Iraq. There’s simply no other morally acceptable option.”

The column was headlined, “Why America Needs to be Defeated in Iraq.”

He added, “We should be clear about our feelings about the war and the occupation. The disparate Iraqi resistance is the legitimate manifestation of a national liberation movement. Its success is imperative to the principles of national sovereignty and self-determination; ideals that are revered in the Declaration of Independence.”

Whitney told me this article was “a blueprint for getting out” of Iraq. In fact, it’s a plea for a terrorist victory. 

Whitney is not an isolated crank. His columns have appeared on websites that go by the names of Information clearinghouse, Smirking Chimp, Counterpunch,, the online journal, axis of logic, Palestine Chronicle, and buzzflash.

His attack on Fox News represents the pathological hatred that exists on the left for the channel because it dares to give conservatives some airtime. By appealing to conservatives, who have not had a national television voice, the channel has become a tremendous success. In terms of international coverage, however, Fox News is not that significantly different from other news organizations. Whitney seems to forget that Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera was expelled from Iraq for allegedly divulging details of a future U.S. military operation. 

At AIM, we have more recently been critical of Fox News correspondent Jonathan Hunt’s coverage of the war in Lebanon for taking an anti-Israeli slant. We previously were critical of a Saudi prince, who is a significant financial investor in News Corporation, the parent of Fox News, for claiming to have influenced the channel’s coverage of the Muslim riots in France.  

For Whitney, however, Fox News has to be demonized. Not surprisingly, another one of his targets is President Bush. According to one biography of Whitney posted on the Internet, his interest in politics began with the “appointment” of Bush as president and he believes that “the Cabal that presently occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.” poses “a threat that is as real and as far reaching as any we have seen since the rise of Fascism in 1930s Germany.”

Such remarks would be laughable were it not for the fact that they seem to reflect a significant percentage of the grass roots of the Democratic Party and his views get such wide circulation in this new media age. The newsworthy aspect of this controversy, of course, is that dissent has crossed the line into apparent support for those who kill Americans. That cannot be excused or condoned. 

For their part, the Snohomish County Democrats are in good standing with key figures in the party in Washington State. A notice on the group’s website says that Senator Maria Cantwell and Rep. Jay Inslee were “patrons” for its summer picnic.

Its official political platform does not openly declare support for the terrorists in Iraq but it does advocate a U.S. foreign policy of “nonviolence and sustainability” that would leave us defenseless against the enemy.

It also declares support for:

  • The growing of marijuana for personal “medical” use,

  • Abolition of the death penalty,

  • Civil rights for ex-convicts,

  • International treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Criminal Court,

  • Working with the world community through the United Nations and its agencies, including the World Court.

  • Bearing a fair share of the United Nations’ development, peacekeeping, and defense initiatives.

For his part, Whitney says he dropped out of the Snohomish County Democrats a few years ago. Asked why, he said, “I don’t know.” Perhaps they were too moderate.

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