On the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, something remarkable happened. On the evening of Sept. 11, respected Hollywood actor James Woods read from a news clipping he had gleaned from a large, metropolitan daily newspaper in the L.A. area. Woods proceeded to excoriate the newspaper for publishing a harshly critical commentary about Sept. 11, 2001, which blasted the United States for its arrogance and urged the country to "humble" itself before its enemies.
Woods had every right to be outraged. Even as he represents a profession famed for taking sides with the left, he could see that this major newspaper had gone too far in raking America over the coals on the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack ever on this nation's soil.
Sadly, the phenomenon of anti-American spin in domestic media, as exposed on Leno's show, is not isolated. The American media - namely, the metro newspapers, major television network news programs (with the exception of FOX News) and newsweeklies such as Time and Newsweek - seem to delight in pointing out America's flaws and implying that we are partly to blame for the rise of anti-American terrorism and hatred around the world.
Even the Oregonian joined the chorus, with a lengthy piece prior to Sept. 11 analyzing alienation in the Middle East and our supposed culpability. Portland's metro did itself credit by mixing the whipping-boy critiques with pro-patriotism comments from George Will and others, in honor of the Sept. 11 anniversary.
True, seeds of much of the hatred in the Middle East can be traced to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Yet, little context is offered in news reports when violence erupts between these people.
A letter writer to the September 2002 American Journalism Review posed an interesting question: "Can you think of another nation that was given a sovereign state, as were the Palestinians in 1947, rejected it, fought and lost five wars and then bemoaned the unfairness of their fate?"
Yet, media outlets never point out this telling history. Instead, many reporters and pundits probe America's support for Israel as though it were an unhealthy infection, while the Palestinians assume the role of victims, notwithstanding the terrorist tactics of their leadership.
Certainly, the Palestinian people deserve sympathy. They live in a horrible situation. However, America is not the ogre that has doomed them to their fate. President Bush, and President Clinton before him, took pains to defend Palestinian interests while recognizing the sovereignty of Israel. Israel won those past wars at considerable cost to its own population. Why, then, do so many news broadcasters want to brand us for supporting Israel's right to exist?
America deserves better from its free press. The American military frees the people of Afghanistan from totalitarian oppression. What do we hear about six months later? How wicked our country is, and how we need to humble ourselves in the face of Middle East opposition.
"Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists," a handbook by Robert J. Haiman, states, "A 1996 study by the Roper Center for the Freedom Forum found that 61 percent of Washington-based reporters said their politics fell left of center; and only 9 percent described themselves as right of center."
Accusations of "media bias" are nothing new. But when major American newspapers have become so out of touch with the mainstream that even Hollywood stars are blasting them on the Tonight Show, you know we're in trouble.
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