I know that the following op-ed piece isn’t hard news, but it is opinion about the shaping of the news. And I do think that some very interesting people are getting upset about the same things.
Be honest. Didn’t you do a bit of a double take when you saw a piece in the Washington Post with the headline “A Failure of the Press” and, lo and behold, it was topped with the byline “William J. Bennett and Alan M. Dershowitz”? Now that is a flash of diversity.
Sure enough, these two men do not agree on each and every issue when it comes to MSM coverage of the “war on terror.” Still, when it comes to the cartoon crisis, they do agree on some things — especially that, when it comes to the new press rules on not offending religious believers, some believers are more equal than others.
The Boston Globe, speaking for many other outlets, editorialized: “[N]ewspapers ought to refrain from publishing offensive caricatures of Mohammed in the name of the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance.”
But as for caricatures depicting Jews in the most medievally horrific stereotypes, or Christians as fanatics on any given issue, the mainstream press seems to hold no such value. And in the matter of disclosing classified information in wartime, the press competes for the scoop when it believes the public interest warrants it.
What has happened? To put it simply, radical Islamists have won a war of intimidation. They have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons. The mainstream press has capitulated to the Islamists — their threats more than their sensibilities. One did not see Catholics claiming the right to mayhem in the wake of the republished depiction of the Virgin Mary covered in cow dung, any more than one saw a rejuvenated Jewish Defense League take to the street or blow up an office when Ariel Sharon was depicted as Hitler or when the Israeli army was depicted as murdering the baby Jesus.
This is familiar territory these days, but it is interesting to see a leader on the left stating this, as well as an angry alpha male on the right.
So what, for the team of Bennett and Dershowitz, is the bottom line?
So far as we can tell, a new, twin policy from the mainstream media has been promulgated: (a) If a group is strong enough in its reaction to a story or caricature, the press will refrain from printing that story or caricature, and (b) if the group is pandered to by the mainstream media, the media then will go through elaborate contortions and defenses to justify its abdication of duty. At bottom, this is an unacceptable form of not-so-benign bigotry, representing a higher expectation from Christians and Jews than from Muslims.
… There should be no group or mob veto of a story that is in the public interest.
Now, if you want to see this thesis expressed in a more cynical, post-news, Comedy Central is our North Star kind of editorial feature, check out this essay by Bruce Feirstein at the New York Observer (which is not published by anyone on the cultural right, last time I checked). It seems that the new, improved and more faith-sensitive New York Times has a new “public editor,” and here is the top of his first column:
Allow me to introduce myself: I am Ali bin-Zabar, the new public editor of The New York Times. Reporting to no one but the Prophet himself, my goal here is not to defend “All the News That Fits,” but to make sure The Times publishes only “All the News That’s Halal.”
I think you get the idea.