- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 4, 2006

The geniuses who run America’s Fourth Estate have gone nuts. Last week, the commander in chief visited U.S. troops fighting a war in Afghanistan, paid a state visit to the largest democracy on Earth, closed a deal on nuclear cooperation and met with the man most likely to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Big news? Not for the press potentates.

The masters of the media could have focused in-depth on one of the most important overseas trips President Bush has made during his tenure. His meetings with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf are likely to produce long-term benefits for the U.S. economy and the Global War on Terror.

Apparently the network and newsroom royalty found all this beyond their ken. So the barons of bombast chose instead to devote countless column inches and hours of air time to the “civil war” in Iraq, recriminations over a hurricane that hit Mardi Gras city six months ago, a Playboy centerfold sashaying into the Supreme Court; Jane Fonda and Babs Streisand blathering about “impeachment;” and a Hollywood flick about homosexual cowboys. And they call this stuff news?

Those who wonder why fewer and fewer Americans buy newspapers or tune into network “news” need only look at last week’s coverage to see why. “Hard” news stories were harder to come by every day. Events and issues that are covered carry more than just a “tinge” of bias, ignorance or both.

A few recent examples:

• The violence after the bombing of the Golden Mosque — a major Shi’ite shrine in Samarra, Iraq — was immediately branded as “the long-feared civil war” by major networks, newspapers and magazines. Last week’s Time magazine cover features a gaggle of screaming Iraqi supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr with the breathless headline, “Iraq: BREAKING POINT.”

Though not one Iraqi or American official in Baghdad has described the upsurge in violence as a civil war — and pointedly refused to depict it as such — the press deemed it to be so.

c It’s the same with the flap over “Arab ownership of American ports.” Every editor, publisher and broadcast news director knows that Dubai Port World won’t “own,” “operate,” “control” or be responsible for “providing security” at any U.S. seaport. Yet, all of those words and phrases are routinely used to describe the DP World purchase of several container-handling facilities at six American ports.

Three weeks ago these courageous media moguls decided not to show any of the Danish newspaper cartoons that precipitated violence, pillage and murder in more than a half-dozen Islamic countries. These are the same indomitable characters who “bravely” determined it was “right” to expose a highly classified National Security Agency (NSA) program to intercept overseas calls to and from suspected terrorists. They also resolved that the NSA effort should be described as “domestic surveillance” — ensuring maximum political effect.

Those who bemoan the demise of America’s proud newspaper heritage or question why fewer people tune in the mainstream networks for news need only look at what they put “above the fold” and use as their “lead story.” All of us in the business know the phrases “if it bleeds it leads” and “celebrity sells.”

That’s why terrorist carnage in Afghanistan and Iraq get covered. Footage and photos shot by Arab cameramen, often traveling with the terrorists who plant the bombs, will always trump the story of American soldiers — like those of the 67th Armored Regiment — distributing more than 1,000 wheelchairs to disabled Iraqis.

And that’s why two celebs — Jane Fonda and Barbara Streisand — made “news” last week. From Australia, Miss Fonda, known affectionately as “Hanoi Jane” for posing on an enemy anti-aircraft gun during the Vietnam War, labeled the war in Iraq as “a crime, a tragedy, disgusting and despicable.”

Miss Streisand’s Web site demanded the impeachment of President Bush, claiming, among other things he “lied to the public about the presence of WMDs in Iraq and rushed to unilaterally invade the country after promising to work with the United Nations.” The dynamic duo may be singing the same old song — “Blame America First” but the masters of the mainstream media made it “news.”

One can be forgiven for believing they did so because it is “politically correct” to castigate and denigrate this president while he is traveling overseas, for it will assuredly be picked up and used against us in the Islamic press.

Those who believe such “coverage” is valid would do well to heed the words of Brigitt Gabrielle, a Middle East expert, who spoke a few days ago at the Intelligence Summit here in Washington. As a 10-year old child, Ms. Gabrielle barely survived an attack by Islamic radicals. To underwhelming press coverage she observed: “Tolerating evil is a crime. Appeasing murderers doesn’t buy protection, it earns disrespect and loathing in the enemy’s eyes. Apathy is the weapon by which the West is committing suicide. Political correctness is a shackle around our ankles by which Islamists are leading us to our demise.”

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and the founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.

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