Accuracy in Media

On August 25, the NBC Nightly News inadvertently put the pieces of the puzzle together on the significance of anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan. NBC’s Carl Quintanilla said she might eventually be compared to former CBS Evening News anchorman Walter Cronkite, who turned against the Vietnam War and helped convince the American people and the Congress it was a losing cause. He said Sheehan has made it safe, her supporters say, “to voice doubts about the war, just as Walter Cronkite did on the Evening News in 1968.”

Now that’s a fascinating analogy-comparing Sheehan to a then-popular evening news anchorman. Without knowing it, Quintanilla was providing a history lesson about media power and influence, and how the major media’s authority has waned over the years. In effect, he was stating that Cindy Sheehan, in the case of the Iraq War, was a surrogate for the media’s opposition to that war. That has to be the case because of the extravagant coverage being given to Sheehan by NBC News and other media.

What he’s saying, in effect, is that an evening news anchorman could not pull a Cronkite in this day and age. And that’s a good thing. There are too many alternative media to permit such a thing to happen. So the media have decided to pick a surrogate-Sheehan.

On the NBC Nightly News, Quintanilla showed video footage of Walter Cronkite on February 27, 1968, saying, “To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”

Quintanilla should have carried the analogy further. He should have pinned the blame for the U.S. defeat in Vietnam on the influence of Cronkite, then considered the most trusted man in America, and he should have suggested that the media’s glorification of Sheehan could contribute to a similar defeat in Iraq. But of course he didn’t make that comparison. To do so would have put his own newscast on the spot for a political agenda designed to inflict a military defeat on the United States, using Cindy Sheehan as a pawn in that effort. 

Sometimes, reporters don’t understand the significance or impact of their own news reports. This was a classic example. He was presenting Cronkite’s role in the Vietnam defeat as something to be emulated when it was a dark day for America and a reminder that the power of the media can be abused for the purpose of undermining our country during a time of war when we need to maintain our national unity.

Left unsaid was the fact that Cronkite went on to become a spokesman for the World Federalists, a group promoting world government and the subversion of U.S. national sovereignty. Perhaps Sheehan will join Cronkite in that crusade.




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