Sunday, November 19, 2006

Media Bias

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson writes an excellent article here on the Iraq War and the ubiquitous, simplistic mantras of "Bring Our Troops Home" or "Increase the Boots on the Ground." But the final third of the article is an insightful angle on media bias that I think is worth quoting at length:

Third, what does unbalanced reporting really mean? We all harp that the media — specifically, the wire services, network television, and the international stations like the BBC and CNN — all focused on Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, the carnage left by IEDs and suicide bombers, and the allegations against the Marines at Haditha, and neglected entirely the damage we did to the terrorists and Islamic fascists, or the singularity of seeing parliaments in places like Kabul and Baghdad.

But the important question left unspoken is Why? Was the unbalanced converge, in the case of leftwing elites in the American media, a simple effort to embarrass Republican policy, allowing more sympathetic Democrats to regain power? In the case of the envious European media, was it to take down the Americans a notch or two to remind us that we are not as powerful as we think?

Or is the bias a more general result of a Western elite so deeply conflicted about its own culture, and so fundamentally unable to define its own civilization, that it either doesn’t care whether it wins, or in fact wishes that the West lose in Iraq?

One can grasp that generic hypocrisy by reviewing all the journalists’ charges leveled against Gulf War I — too much realpolitik; too much pay-as-you-go war thinking; too much Colin Powell and James Baker and not enough Paul Wolfowitz; too much worry about stability and not enough about millions of poor Kurds and Shiites; too much worry about empowering Iran. Then compare those charges to those leveled against Gulf War II — too much na├»ve idealism; too much expense in lives and treasure; not enough Colin Powell and James Baker and too much Paul Wolfowitz; too little worry about regional stability and too much given to ungovernable Iraqis; and too little thought about empowering Iran.

The one common denominator? Whatever the United States does is suspect; and journalists without responsibility for governance, either for setting policy or for its implementation, are always brighter than generals, politicians, and policy planners saddled with it.

The truth is that wealthy Western elites in the media have evolved beyond worry over the basics of their civilization. They are so insulated, even after September 11, that they don’t believe there is much connection between liberty, freedom, consensual government, freedom of expression, and the everyday mundane things they depend on — whether excellent medical care, clean water, nice cars, neat electronic gadgets, eating out, or safety in their streets. A nuclear Iran, a missile-laden North Korea, a theocracy in oil-rich Iraq, an unleashed terrorist-sponsoring Syria, and an emboldened Hezbollah — all these still could still never quite take away their good life, so strong is the assurance of their never-ending comfort zone that they could not conceive of ever losing it.

And thus the most vehement and angry critics find it possible, even desirable, to nibble away at their own civilization’s efforts, on the understanding that a loss in Iraq would be only an apparent loss. That defeat would not entail any material detriment to themselves, but surely would enhance their own sense of contrarian self-righteousness and self-worth, as they boldly caricature the very culture that so empowered them.