Anti-Military Bias in the Media

Given the recently retracted report in Newsweek claiming that a Koran was deliberately flushed down the toilet to upset Muslim prisoners held a Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the question has arisen as to whether the American media dislikes the military and is all too anxious to believe the worst about them. Newsweek concedes that the report did not reach journalistic standards of credibility and should not have been published. Could an anti-military bias be at work?

For some members of the journalistic generation that grew up during the Vietnam War, there remains a deep and abiding distrust and even animosity towards the military. There is every indication that the younger journalists, especially those that were embedded with the troops actually report with far more empathy for the troops. Reporters traveling with the troops in Iraq shared their danger and two famous journalists even died. David Bloom of NBC died from a blood clot from sitting in a military vehicle for many hours. Michael Kelly of the Atlantic Monthly died when the Humvee he was riding in flipped while avoiding gunfire. Geraldo Rivera is an older reporter who seems to have transcended generations. He has history of support for “progressive” causes, while still largerly sympathetic to individual military soldiers.

For other older journalists, many of them in leadership positions, it may be another matter. Earlier this year, CNN news executive Eason Jordan, suggested at an open discussion that US troops had deliberately targeted journalists. Liberal Democrat Representative Barney Frank was present and was taken a back by the remarks, while Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd was “outraged by the comments.” Jordan tried to explain away his comments as a misinterpretation of his true feelings or the result of accidentally clumsy wording. However, the evidence of Jordan’s real feelings was too strong and he resigned from CNN.

Given Jordan’s fate, one might expect journalists, even those who might secretly agree with him about the US military, to be a little more circumspect in their remarks. However, in the company of like-minded people, it is possible for people let down their guard. This seems to have happened to Linda Foley, President of the Newspaper Guild. On May 13 at National Conference for Media Reform Foley claimed, “Journalists, by the way, are not just being targeted verbally or politically. They are also being targeted for real in places like Iraq. What outrages me as a representative of journalists is that there’s not more outrage about the number, and the brutality, and the cavalier nature of the US military toward the killing of journalists in Iraq.” The remarks elicited cheers from the crowd, suggesting that at least some present were in agreement with her allegations.

Attempts by Hiawatha Bray, a member of the Newspaper Guild, to have Ms. Foley clarify her remarks have thus far not been successful. According to an article posted at the Newspaper Guild website, Foley claims her remarks were distorted. Perhaps she would be willing to clarify them by stating unequivocally that she does not know of the deliberate targeting of journalists by US troops. Click here to listen to the entire video of her remarks to determine for yourself, if her remarks were taken out of context.

If Ms. Foley has proof of her allegations she should share them so that any problems might be resolved. Without proof she should refrain from making charges lest she tar other journalists with any anti-military bias. So far, Ms. Foley’s allegations about military behavior reveal more about her than they do about the troops.

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