Now that we face a lull in hard news coverage of the war on terrorism, the TV talking heads have to fill the time with analysis. One area being scrutinized is: Who was to blame for our lack of preparedness before September 11? Some on the right are hammering President Clinton for never making fighting terrorism a priority; some on the left blame conservative "Clinton haters" for distracting the country away from terrorism by its focus on presidential sex and lies.
No honest person outside the specialties of intelligence and Middle Eastern political movements can claim they knew that the unfathomable attacks on New York and Washington were imminent. Truth is, not even the professional spooks saw this coming. As America grew wealthier and less vigilant, we grew lazy, focusing on petty agendas rather than serious issues.
The "we" in that sentence includes our national media. While our military readiness was slipping during the Clinton years, the only defense issues that really attracted the network stars were the social ones: gays in the military, sexual harassment allegations at Tailhook, the adulteries of Kelly Flinn, or the medical mysteries behind "Gulf War Syndrome." There was seemingly one imperative: report any story which might cast the military as a benighted, uncaring institution that was out of step with these progressive times.
One new book shows how the liberal media's affinity for feminism and gay-left politicking, as well as one-sided crusading on other social issues, have impoverished America's public discussion on defense and many social issues. Author William McGowan insists he's no conservative, but it doesn't matter: "Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism" certainly packs a wallop against the political correctness dominating many newsrooms of the national media.
The book tackles the knotty issue of race. One story cited is the sad case of Dr. Patrick Chavis, a celebrated black physician and poster boy for affirmative action who followed his media stardom with the suspension of his medical license for gross negligence and incompetence on three patients, one of whom died. The media outlets that had celebrated Dr. Chavis were just as predictably slow and wary to correct their previous promotional profiles.
It tackles feminism, such as the story of Lt. Kara Hultgreen, the Navy's first female pilot assigned to combat duty on an aircraft carrier. When Lt. Hultgreen died in an accident, the media joined the Navy in claiming it was solely a case of engine failure, when in reality, Hultgreen routinely made piloting errors that weren't corrected due to pressure for preferential treatment.
McGowan even takes on the greatest political taboo, the nearly unanimous celebration of homosexuality as just another lifestyle choice. When some gay activists started suggesting in 1995 that gay men were relapsing into AIDS by abandoning any pretense of "safe sex" practices, New York Times reporter Frank Bruni (then with the Detroit News) told McGowan he followed the party line: "I was hesitant to do a story that would give comfort to our enemies. That would immediately be hated by my friends, that would be questioned every time I went to a gay event. On balance, I made the wrong decision. I chose to protect the community from critics, rather than holding gay men's feet to the fire."
McGowan believes that conservatives shouldn't complain much about liberal media bias, since trumped-up liberal advocacy journalism can often spur conservative activism - and perhaps more importantly, jolt the politically inactive into getting involved. One example might be the 1993 crusade for openly gay members of the military. Media coverage reflected the political facts of life - that even many Democrats were afraid of a political backlash and crumbling military morale. But when it came to portraying not what was feasible, but what was desirable, the media put the pedal to the metal for the gay agenda.
The result of even that energetic media crusade was only a "don't ask, don't tell" code for homosexuality in the armed forces, which gay activists now completely loathe. But the political backlash was intense, motivating Christian conservative voters who were insulted by reporters as "poor, uneducated, and easy to command" to generate the 1994 Republican sweep of Congress.
McGowan has not considered that conservative documentation of liberal media bias, complete with facts and figures, is an important part of convincing conservatives and political neophytes that only they can stop the media from ruling by indoctrination on important social issues. If such documentation were unimportant, McGowan wouldn't have written his book. Thank goodness he did. It's an excellent distillation of at least a decade's worth of journalism mangled by political correctness.