The little girl who stole America's heart during the Vietnam War was only 3 years old when she asked her father, "What if they gave a war and nobody showed up?" She's now plenty old enough to ask, "What if America scored a major victory in a war started by terrorism and the mainstream media refused to let anybody know?"
American media today reminds me of a woman I used to know. Occasionally she and I would disagree. When she turned out to be right, she radiated drums, trumpets, fireworks, acrobats, artificial thunder, and a high-energy campaign to keep the fact of her rightness flashing like downtown neon in mid-air, and in my face, for a very long time.
When it turned out I was right, she changed the subject.
Not only that, but it was considered bad taste for me to bring it up ever again.
In early fall of 2007 when it was began to look like things were turning around for the better in Iraq, the media would make the biggest deal possible about what was not yet going well; no political teamwork among the Iraqis, no national reconciliation, that kind of thing. And when it became apparent there'd indeed finally been a major turning point in America's favor in Iraq, the media found room for grudging stories on Page 32 under the shipping notices while continuing to rake in all the negative news they could and pile it onto Page One.
The way my lady-friend handled that situation was to admit what she could no longer deny, speaking very fast in a low voice, and then raising her volume and blasting out with whatever she could think of that would rebalance my triumph back down as close to zero as possible.
Howard Kurtz of CNN's Sunday morning "Reliable Sources" show, billed as "a critical look at the media," actually succeeded in wheedling the confession out of a leftish female reporter that she did not believe the substantial drop in casualty figures was a big story.
When Howard asked her if it would have been a big story in her opinion if there'd been a similar rise in casualties among American troops and Iraqi civilians, she unbelievably and unflinchingly said yes!
We have here a situation in which the most powerful organs of news dissemination in America perform front-page abortions of any news that might serve the Bush administration or cast the American effort in Iraq in a less-than-hopeless light. I feel like the boxer who, sensing the referee and the judges and even the timekeeper were all against him, complained he'd have to score a knockout in every round to break even.
The most egregious example of this media stone-walling of any news liable to lift the spirits of those Americans who crave victory is the early-December 2007 conquest of Musa Qala in Afghanistan from the Taliban, whose earlier conquest of that strategic strong-point in Helmand Province in February 2007 had no trouble getting big Page-One publicity. The Taliban was so cocky they invited international reporters in to Musa Qala to witness the Taliban control of the town.
On Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day, American air and ground forces launched a massive assault on Musa Qala resulting in overwhelming enemy losses. The bombing of a Taliban meeting nearby added to those losses, including quite a few Taliban commanders. Musa Qala was a training base for the Taliban and foreign Islamic militants. No more. The town was also home to as many as seventy heroin labs, so Investor's Business Daily properly suggests this be chalked up as a win in the war on drugs as well as the war on terror.
They tell about the dour Norwegian man whose wife left him. "I loved her so much," he cried to a friend, "I almost told her." Maybe there were employees of major American media who were so moved by that American victory they almost reported it. If so, the record shows they managed to control themselves.
I've been aware of medical malpractice for as long as I can remember, but legal malpractice popped up as a surprise to me around the 1980s. Then came accounting malpractice.
Maybe we need something called journalistic malpractice. Let an organization, an interest group or just a plain old citizen bring suit against media that grotesquely underplays a victory like Musa Qala. Let them cite the damage to national morale, the likelihood of unfair influence on upcoming elections when such a major victory is "concealed" from the public and the myriad other "damages" even bad lawyers could ad-lib in their sleep. Let 12 jurors see the evidence of much smaller stories getting much bigger play.
Let those in charge of those media be cross-examined and testify under oath what they knew from the battle zone and why they did so little about it.
If they feign ignorance or incomplete knowledge, let the plaintiffs' attorney present all the various wire services that report such things and let those editors try to explain how those reports were overlooked or lost or better yet, let those 12 Americans hear the editors try to justify making so little of it all in the light of their record of over-playing all the smaller negative news.
Fortunately we're in a kind of "he-snores-she's-deaf" zone. The mainstream media may be ponderously bored by American victory and treasonously excited by American disaster, but the mainstream media just aren't as mainstream as they used to be.
Alternative media are growing like kudzu all over the world. I learned about Musa Qala from my computer. If you're learning about it right now for the first time, you're learning about it from a Web site, not a newspaper or a network TV show.
Churchill said to Hitler, "You do your worst, and we shall do our best."
That's great, but a little overmuch for this particular vexation. I think I'll just say to the mainstream media as they try to keep the good news from us, "Fellows, you can hide the fire for a while, but what are you going to do with all that smoke?"
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