THERE ARE still people in the mainstream media who profess bewilderment that they are accused of being biased. But you need to look no further than reporting on the war in Iraq to see the bias staring you in the face, day after day, on the front page of The New York Times and in much of the rest of the media.
If a battle ends with Americans killing a hundred guerrillas and terrorists, while sustaining 10 fatalities, that is an American victory. But not in the mainstream media. The headline is more likely to read: "Ten More Americans Killed in Iraq."
This kind of journalism can turn victory into defeat. Kept up long enough, it can even end up with real defeat, when support for the war collapses at home and abroad.
One of the biggest American victories during World War II was called "the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" because American fighter pilots shot down more than 340 Japanese planes over the Mariana Islands while losing just 30 American planes. But what if our current reporting practices had been used back then? The story, as printed and broadcast, could have been: "Today, 18 American pilots were killed and five more severely wounded as the Japanese blasted more than two dozen American planes out of the sky." A steady diet of that kind of one-sided reporting and our whole war effort against Japan might have collapsed.
Whether the one-sided reporting of the war in Vietnam was a factor in the American defeat there used to be a matter of controversy. But in recent years, high officials of the Communist government of Vietnam have admitted that they lost the war on the battlefields but won it in the U.S. media and on the streets of America, where political pressures from the anti-war movement threw away the victory for which thousands of American lives had been sacrificed.
Too many in the media today regard the reporting of the Vietnam War as one of their greatest triumphs. It certainly showed the power of the media - but also its irresponsibility. Some in the media today seem determined to recapture those glory days by the way they report on events in the Iraq war.
First, there is the mainstream media's almost exclusive focus on American casualties in Iraq, with little or no attention to the often much larger casualties inflicted on the enemy. Since terrorists are pouring into Iraq in response to calls from international terrorist networks, the number of those killed is especially important, for these are people who will no longer be around to launch more attacks on American soil.
With all the turmoil and bloodshed in Iraq, military and civilian people returning from that country are increasingly expressing amazement at the difference between what they have seen and the one-sided picture that the media present to the public here.
Our media cannot even call terrorists "terrorists," but instead give these cutthroats the bland name "insurgents." You might think that these were like the Underground fighters in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II.
Real insurgents want to get the occupying power out of their country. But the fastest way to get Americans out of Iraq would be to do the opposite of what these "insurgents" are doing. Just by letting peace and order return, those who want to see American troops gone would speed their departure.
But the real goal of the guerrillas and terrorists is to prevent democracy from arising in the Middle East.
Still, much of the Western media even cannot call a spade a spade. The Fourth Estate sometimes seems more like a Fifth Column.
Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, writes a syndicated column that appears Thursdays in The Sun.
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