All Violence All The Time

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 7, 2006; 11:00 AM

Now, I could lead with Ann Coulter's appearance on "Today," talking about how Democrats "celebrate" abortion and how the 9/11 widows are "reveling in their status as celebrities" and "using their grief in order to make a political point while preventing anyone from responding. . . . I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

But I won't. Coulter is selling her latest book, which is titled something like How Godless Liberals Are Ruining America and Want to Take Away Your Kids and Send Them to Reeducation Camp Where They Will Become Soft on Terror and Same-Sex Marriage (or was that the last one?). She knows that by throwing some rhetorical bombs, she will create lots of buzz that will help launch her toward the best-seller list once again. So I'm going to pass.

I could sound off on the gay marriage amendment, but the MSM keeps telling us it doesn't matter, it's not going to pass, it's just a political ploy, so apparently it would be a waste of bandwidth. (Actually, we'll come back to that in a few moments.)

More intriguing to me at this nanosecond in time are the questions swirling about the coverage of Iraq. This has become the overriding issue of our time, and while it seems to me that the daily drumbeat of murders and kidnappings has almost rendered moot the debate over how the media are portraying the war, not everyone agrees with that. In fact, there are those who argue that television in particular is sanitizing the war by almost never showing dead bodies.

There is also a debate about whether journalists are aiding the enemy by playing up the work of terrorists (which is, like it or not, news) and reporting on problems with the U.S. military effort and tragedies such as Haditha (which is, like it or not, also news).

National Review's media blogger, Stephen Spruiell , watched my CNN show on Sunday and wondered why the guests (who included NBC's Richard Engel and CBS's Allen Pizzey) didn't display any anger over such violence as the car bomb that killed two CBS News staffers and wounded Kimberly Dozier last week:

"I'm surprised that whenever I see correspondents in Iraq show anger in public, it's usually directed toward conservative commentators who have criticized the media's performance. They express that anger by simplifying conservative criticism of the media down to one single slogan -- 'Where's the good news?' -- and rebutting it with something like, 'In the field of daily journalism, the violence is the breaking news. In Iraq, the security situation is the prevailing story. When the insurgents attack, it's our job to report it.'

"Most of the American correspondents in Iraq who report for the major news organizations believe in the journalistic principle, most infamously expressed by Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes, that you do not take sides in reporting on the war. You are a 'citizen of the world,' as CNN's Bob Franken put it just before the invasion of Iraq, and you check your patriotism when you put on your reporter's hat. This mentality was not as pronounced during the actual march to Baghdad, when embedded journalists were watching the U.S. military do what it does best. But now that the lines aren't as clear cut, they report on the insurgency as if it were a natural disaster that the United States has helped create and has failed to control.

"They are still reporting the news as Americans. But their code of neutrality prevents them from conveying the true evil of the brutal terrorist campaign that targets civilians, including journalists. Insurgent attacks, so often described in passive voice, are described as merely part of the 'deteriorating security situation,' rather than the acts of a cruel and barbaric enemy that must be defeated. 'Evil' is one of those words that George Bush was mocked for using -- it is definitely not a word journalists feel comfortable printing."

But evil aside, don't the tone and language with which journalists report on car bombs and suicide attacks convey that this is pretty awful stuff?

An interesting letter from a soldier in Fallujah , Anthony Ippoliti, to his hometown paper, the Ridgefield, Conn., Times (via Andrew Sullivan):

"How can these groups claim to support our troops while telling us that what we are participating in is wrong? How can they support us if they are essentially saying that our blood and sacrifices have all been given in vain? How can they support us if they say that our comrades and brothers who have been wounded or killed in action have done so for a hopeless and morally questionable cause? . . .


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