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CyberAlert -- 10/18/2001 -- Brokaw's Moral Equivalence

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Brokaw's Moral Equivalence; Freedom "Lies in Eye of the Beholder"; CNN's Platform for a Terrorist; Rather Wound Down with the Bible

1) NBC's moral equivalence of terrorists and victims of terror. Tom Brokaw referred to the assassins of an Israeli cabinet minister as "militants" and relayed their claim that it was payback for Israel's "murder" of their leader, before he lamented how the incident could escalate "the cycle of revenge."

2) CBS's Allan Pizzey dismissed "freedom" espoused by the U.S. as "a perception that lies in the eye of the beholder." Pizzey argued despair rationally fuels terrorism: "If you were born into grinding poverty where upward mobility isn't even a dream and have little to sustain you in life beyond religion..."

3) ABC's Michele Norris on Friday on Bush's suggestion that kids give $1 to help Afghan children: "There are concerns that American children are being used in a propaganda campaign." On Tuesday, however, Peter Jennings delivered a lighthearted item about how an 11-year-old raised $45 by feeding chickens and collecting their eggs.

4) If CNN existed in the 1940s would it have given air time to Adolph Hitler to explain why Jews are awful or to Emperor Hirohito to justify the attack on Pearl Harbor? So the MRC's Brent Bozell wondered in reaction to how CNN has offered its air time to Osama bin Laden by posing six questions to him.

5) Those in Pakistan who hate the U.S. are best described as "the religious right" according the phrase repeatedly applied by MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield.

6) Dan Rather revealed in Texas Monthly that to stay alert during his long hours on the air he relied "on something I call 'zoom juice,' a heavy protein mixture that's whipped up in a blender." He also recalled that the morning after the first night he went home and read the Bible.


>>> Terrorism Coverage: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. For a compilation of all the MRC's analysis of media coverage since September 11, check out the MRC's Web page which lists, in date order and by "hot topic" area, all the CyberAlert items, Media Reality Check reports and columns by MRC President L. Brent Bozell. Plus, our special edition of Notable Quotables. Go to: http://www.mediaresearch.org/terrorism/welcome.asp <<<

1

Now that the United States has had a taste of terrorism, which has afflicted Israel for decades, you'd think no one the U.S. media would describe killing a terrorist as "murder" and would cease employing derivatives of "cycle of violence," which morally equates the actions of terrorists and their victims. But on Wednesday night, NBC's Tom Brokaw did just that in reporting on the assassination by terrorists of an Israeli cabinet minister.

Brokaw referred to the perpetrators as "militants" and relayed their claim that it was payback for "Israel's recent murder of one of their leaders," before he lamented how the incident could escalate "the cycle of revenge." The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israel believes is behind recent deadly car bombings, claimed responsibility for killing Rehavam Zeevi, though Brokaw mentioned neither the group nor the minister's name in his short item.

Brokaw announced on the October 17 NBC Nightly News: "Whatever hopes the United States has about peace in the Middle East are a good deal dimmer tonight. Israel's tourism minister was assassinated today by Palestinian militants. Revenge, they say, for Israel's recent murder of one of their leaders. The fear now: that the cycle of revenge will only escalate in that part of the world."

Let's hope Brokaw does not describe the killing of Osama bin Laden as a "murder" which will "fuel the cycle of revenge."

2

Rationalizing terrorism and dismissing the "freedom" espoused by the U.S. as, "like beauty, a perception that lies in the eye of the beholder." In a piece for CBS's Sunday Morning this past weekend, MRC analyst Brian Boyd noticed, reporter Allan Pizzey argued despair reasonably fuels terrorism: "If you were born into grinding poverty where upward mobility isn't even a dream and have little to sustain you in life beyond religion, you too might find yourself screaming for the new Messiah with a $5 million price on his head."

Pizzey explained in his October 14 report: "To Western ears calls for blood soaked martyrdom are an alien concept, but consider the way things are for millions of Muslims of all ages. If you were born into grinding poverty where upward mobility isn't even a dream and have little to sustain you in life beyond religion, you too might find yourself screaming for the new Messiah with a $5 million price on his head. Osama bin Laden's simple view that Muslims are the innocent victims of Western infidels might well seem a clarion call to fight to a death that leads to paradise."

Pizzey also contended: "Every where you go in the world you will hear some version of the words 'we are a freedom loving people,' but like beauty, freedom is a perception that lies in the eye of the beholder. And we ignore other nations' version at our peril. The most dangerous perception of all may be that one's own side has an exclusive claim to either the truth or patriotism."

Not everyone may believe our version of "the truth," but that makes it no less accurate.

3

Peter Jennings making up for feeling guilty about his show's derogatory attack last week on President Bush's suggestion that kids donate one dollar each to help children in Afghanistan? On last Friday's World News Tonight, Michele Norris saw a nefarious side: "Behind the scenes there are quiet grumblings about this dollar drive. There are concerns that American children are being used in a propaganda campaign."

But on Tuesday night, Jennings himself aided in the "propaganda campaign" as he ended his broadcast with a cheery item about the enthusiastic reaction from kids to Bush's request. Over video of Bush at the Red Cross headquarters accepting dollars from kids, Jennings concluded the October 16 World News Tonight, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth:
"Finally, this evening, just a glimpse of motivation. The White House said today in response to the President's suggestion that American children send a dollar to help the children of Afghanistan, it has had 90,000 responses so far. And today when the President met some of the children, there were more dollars on offer, which the President, we are told, duly handed over to the head of the Red Cross. Now, we've heard many ways in which the children have raised money. We actually liked this one today from eleven-year-old Kristen Strickland of Virginia."
Kristen Strickland: "When I heard the President was collecting money for the Afghanistan children, I wanted to help. So my brother Daniel said that I could feed his chickens and collect his eggs. I hope the money I have earned will help a child in Afghanistan to have a better life."
Jennings: "Apparently, she raised $45."

It's fortunate for the starving kids in Afghanistan that few U.S. kids watch World News Tonight.

4

If CNN existed in the 1940s would it have given air time to Adolph Hitler or Emperor Hirohito? CBS and NBC never did at the time, but now CNN has offered its network to Osama bin Laden by posing six questions to him in writing via the Al Jazeera network. CNN promised to only air his answers if they are "newsworthy," though it's hard to believe they would ignore his reply.

Wolf Blitzer announced the questions on Tuesday afternoon during the 5pm EDT hour on CNN. His prefacing remarks closely followed, if they were not identical to, language now up on the CNN Web site: "Someone claiming to represent al Qaeda has asked Al Jazeera and CNN to submit written questions for Osama bin Laden -- questions they say bin Laden will answer on videotape and send back to Al Jazeera. This proposal came in to Al Jazeera, which then notified CNN.
"CNN has some questions we would like to put to Osama bin Laden, but first we want to be absolutely clear about this process:
"-- We want to stress that CNN has no information about where bin Laden is or whether he is alive or dead.
"-- We do not know how al Qaeda communicates with Al Jazeera or how Al Jazeera plans to get the questions to bin Laden.
"-- We agree to no prohibitions or preconditions from Osama bin Laden's organization or from the Al Jazeera television channel.
"-- By submitting our questions, we are making no commitment to air bin Laden's response. We will look at the tape, if there is a tape, and decide how much or how little to run. If we believe his comments are not newsworthy, we will not run any of them.
"-- We claim no exclusivity over this tape, and we will allow other news organizations to make their own judgments on how to use bin Laden's answers."

CNN's six questions:

"1. Your spokesman has praised the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands of innocent people and threatened to carry out more attacks involving planes and tall buildings. How can you and your followers advocate the killing of innocent people?
"2. What was your role and the role of the al Qaeda organization in the September 11 attacks?
"3. What was your role and the role of your organization in the subsequent anthrax attacks in the United States?
"4. Did any of the September 11 hijackers or their accomplices receive al Qaeda financial support or training at al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, and was any other government or organization involved?
"5. In the past, you called on your followers to acquire weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Do you or your followers have any such weapons and, if so, will those weapons be used?
"6. The vast majority of Muslim and Arab leaders, including Muslim clerics and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat, say there is no justification in Islam for the terrorist attacks you advocate. They have denounced you, your followers, and your self-declared holy war. How do you respond to their criticism?"

The Web site story, which matches the language employed by CNN on-air staff on Tuesday, concluded: "We have no idea if bin Laden will answer these questions, and we intend to run only what we think is newsworthy. We will report back to you as this process unfolds."

For this story as posted on the CNN Web site, go to: http://www.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/central/10/16/ret.binladen.questions/

In reaction to CNN's gambit to give air time to an enemy with whom the U.S. is at war, MRC President L. Brent Bozell on Wednesday released his own six questions to CNN formulated with input from the MRC's Liz Swasey and Rich Noyes. Bozell suggested: "One finds it absurd to believe that if CNN existed 60 years ago it would give an audience to Adolf Hitler or Emperor Hirohito who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor. This is truly outrageous, it is harming the war effort and it's a slap in the face to the American people."

Bozell's six questions for CNN:

"-- Knowing that terrorists thrive on media exposure to spread their propaganda, and that the interview was instigated by al Qaeda, why would you allow your international network to be used by a wanted terrorist and known killer?
"-- Have you sought assurances from the government of the United States that this endeavor will not in any way jeopardize the war against terrorism or cause further loss of life?
"-- Given that bin Laden is a liar - he first denied having anything to do with the terrorist attacks on the U.S. -- why do you think he will be honest with CNN?
"-- Will you independently verify bin Laden's statements before you put them on the air?
"-- If CNN had existed 60 years ago, would it have interviewed and aired comments from Emperor Hirohito, the man who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor?
"-- If CNN had existed 60 years ago, would it have given a forum to Adolf Hitler to explain his hatred of Jews and Christians?"

To see the MRC press release in full with Bozell's comments: http://secure.mediaresearch.org/press/news/2001/pr20011017.html

I'm pretty confident CNN has a much better chance of getting Osama bin Laden to answer its questions than the MRC has of having CNN address ours.

5

Those in Pakistan who hate the U.S. are best described as "the religious right"? That's the political term MSNBC's Ashleigh Banfield applied in reporting on the strike called to protest Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit.

Just because they may have a more extreme interpretation of the Koran does not put them on the political "right" and if the media consider dictators like Pakistan's Musharraf to be right-wing, how can those so fundamentally opposed to him also be right-wing?

At about 10:35pm EDT on Monday night, October 15, Banfield checked in: "Here in Islamabad, here in Pakistan, it was a national day of strike as called for by the religious right in this country. It was to mark Colin Powell's visit here, but it was also to protest this President, Pervez Musharraf's support of America's foreign policy, vis-a-vis the strikes in Afghanistan. The trouble is not everybody felt the same way as the religious right had hoped they would. Not everybody closed their shops. In some cities closer to the borders with Afghanistan, which have extremely fundamentalist populations, there were widespread strikes. But in other centers there were not, and where that happened, many took to the streets to try to bully those shop owner to close, and in some cases, in many cases, it worked."

Another example of how to the media anyone on the bad side is labeled as right-wing.

6

Dan Rather revealed in Texas Monthly that to stay alert during his long hours on the air after September 11, he relied "on something I call 'zoom juice,' a heavy protein mixture that's whipped up in a blender." He also recalled that the morning after the first night he went home and read the Bible.

Rather repeated his assertion that "in the first stages of this national emergency, I was willing and in some ways am still willing to give more of a pass to the official government spokesmen than one would otherwise do," but, he emphasized, "Those of us in journalism have to remind ourselves that part of patriotism is continuing to ask the tough questions."

Rather's recollections and comments appear a first-person account published in the November Texas Monthly, an article highlighted by Jim Romenesko on his MediaNews page: http://www.poynter.org/medianews

An excerpt from the Texas Monthly account by Rather:

....I knew from going through long periods on the air before -- following the Challenger explosion, for instance -- that this wasn't going to be one day but day after day. Early on I remember saying to myself, "You have to pace yourself." Keeping your energy up is not hard in a situation like this, but I did rely on something I call "zoom juice," a heavy protein mixture that's whipped up in a blender. Frankly I don't know what's in the damn stuff -- someone on my staff makes it -- but it's good for a few reasons: It gives you a burst of energy, you can gulp it down quickly, and it's liquid, so you're not chewing when you come back on the air.

That first day, I got home at five-fifteen in the morning. I know from past experience that you can't just have a glass of milk and go to bed. There's always a long glide down. This time, there was no glide down. My head was so full. I had to be back at the office at nine the next morning. I tried to read for a while, something completely different. I read the Bible. Frequently that will take my mind off things. It didn't. Then I picked up whatever I could find. I tried to read Richard Reeves's new book about Richard Nixon. I got through three sentences. I ate, paced, tried to sleep. Sleep wouldn't come....

The line dividing what's appropriate for a journalist or any of us to say moves from time to time. I'm not sure I could defend this in a post-graduate seminar, but in the first stages of this national emergency, I was willing and in some ways am still willing to give more of a pass to the official government spokesmen than one would otherwise do. As time goes on, we're still in a national emergency, and we stretch out for the long haul -- but it's more important than ever that you stand up, look them in the eye, and ask the toughest question you can think of. That's my definition of patriotism in these circumstances. It can get uncomfortable. You have to face the furnace and take the heat. Nobody does it with perfection, but you keep telling yourself, "This is what I have to do." I'm aware of what went on in Texas City and other towns and cities when journalists wrote stories or editorials critical of the president and got hate mail or were officially reprimanded. I'm here to argue that that's not in the American tradition. We're all taught a saying no later than the seventh grade: "I disagree with what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it."

That's the larger point to be taken from all this. Those of us in journalism have to remind ourselves that part of patriotism is continuing to ask the tough questions. I've never subscribed to the idea that journalists should be cynical, but they should be skeptical. There's a great and important difference between cynicism and skepticism. As they say, "You trust your mother, but you cut the cards."

END Excerpt

To read Rather's observations in full, go to: http://www.texasmonthly.com/mag/issues/2001-11-01/reporter.php

If Dan Rather won't really even trust his mother, I guess Don Rumsfeld shouldn't feel so bad when Rather casts doubts upon his statements. -- Brent Baker


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