Accuracy in Media

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has reminded us again of why we don’t want our tax dollars going into this left-wing outfit. Its Frontline documentary about the events leading up to the war in Iraq was an absolute model of liberal media bias. From the absurd title, “The Dark Side,” to the dour images of Vice President Cheney and the other villains of the piece, to the complete one-sided nature of the arguments and the cast of characters. It made the argument for an end to taxpayer funding of PBS.

It was designed, like so many other media products these days, to discredit the Bush administration’s rationale for the Iraq War. All that was missing was filmmaker Michael Moore trying to poke a microphone into the face of the vice president.

The title, “The Dark Side,” refers of course to Darth Vader, the evil villain in the fictional “Star Wars” series, and was meant to suggest that the Bush Administration had been behaving like some kind of sinister force in the world. Cheney also used the term, but in a completely different context, in order to highlight the behind-the-scenes efforts that would have to take place to put the international terrorists and their sponsors out of business.

The context was that Cheney was on Meet the Press on September 16, 2001, just five days after the horrific events of September 11th. Here was the exchange:

MR. RUSSERT: When Osama bin Laden took responsibility for blowing up the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, U.S. embassies, several hundred died, the United States launched 60 tomahawk missiles into his training sites in Afghanistan. It only emboldened him. It only inspired him and seemed even to increase his recruitment. Is it safe to say that that kind of response is not something we’re considering, in that kind of minute magnitude?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I’m going to be careful here, Tim, because I-clearly it would be inappropriate for me to talk about operational matters, specific options or the kinds of activities we might undertake going forward. We do, indeed, though, have, obviously, the world’s finest military. They’ve got a broad range of capabilities. And they may well be given missions in connection with this overall task and strategy.

We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.

Clearly Cheney’s comments were measured and reasonable, and not the least bit sinister.

From there the program takes us on a familiar ride. It presents an array of people, some journalists like Ron Suskind and Bob Woodward, and numerous former intelligence agents, many with books, who have come out against the war. Producer/writer/director Michael Kirk gives it all of the usual gravitas and seriousness of a Frontline special, but the problem is that he gives little or no attention to evidence that strongly contradicts his conclusions. He has every right to do that, except for the fact that people might think that programs based on the use of our tax dollars would make some attempt to be credible and balanced.

While Kirk is entitled to his point of view-and he lined up an impressive group of people with a lot of experience and credentials-his case just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. More on that in my next commentary.




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