Monday, May 16, 2005

Yellow Journalism

This term is most often associated with the Spanish-American War and in particular the slanted reporting of the Hearst news organization. It is hard to argue this fact. Of how the Spanish were portrayed as tyrants oppressing the Cuban people and the mysterious explosion aboard USS Maine had to be a Spanish plot. So off to war the United States went, swept up in a tide of righteous anger manufactured by the Hearst newspapers.

One hundred years later, one would think such slanted reporting would be anathema in all the news rooms and editorial boards. But alas it is not and the effects of such can be just as deadly as back then.

In the May 9th issue of Newsweek, such a piece of yellow journalism was published. In the article, Newsweek writers who cited unnamed sources, stated military personnel had flushed a copy of the Koran down the toilet at Camp X-Ray.

As the United States military was holding press conferences about these allegations to lay them to rest with facts, riots broke out in Afghanistan over the outrage reported. Fourteen people died in these riots and now Newsweek has retracted its story.

I am sorry Newsweek, but a retraction is not enough. People have died over your lies. Your retraction will not bring these people back to life like Lazarus. You had better make restitution to all the families your lies destroyed. Do something concrete to prove your remorse.

How can a news organization that prides itself on being globally oriented be so darn culturally insensitive? Did it not cross one of their allegedly superior minds that the fabled Arab Street might react in a violent manner to this? Or worse still perhaps they hoped that by poking the Arab Street with this bit of raw-unverified information-meat the backlash would sink their real target, President George Bush. Perhaps their zealotry, their animus, against President Bush blinded them to all other consequences. If so, then they need to be fired least they kill again.

As an endnote to this sorry tale. I can not help but think of the long term consequences this could have on journalism itself. If more Jayson Blairs, if more fake TX ANG memos, if more falsified stories like this appear; then the journalists will have themselves to blame when the citizens of the United States demand of their Congress and President that the First Amendment be abridged to prevent even more abuse. And then people like Eason Jordan, who remained silent while Saddam’s thugs tortured his Iraqi employees to keep access to Saddam, will finally understand what it means to live under an oppressive government. And they will have brought it upon themselves due to their ego along with bringing the United States one step closer to being the totalitarian government they already accuse it of being.


docjim505 said...

BINGO! Of course, Newsweek and its defenders (i.e. the rest of the BM outside of Fox News, the Washington Times, and the NY Post) will deny until the end of time that they had ANY malicious intent in publishing that firebomb.

Have you read Keith Olbermann's rant on his MSNBC blog? It takes a strong stomach and a fistful of blood pressure pills to get through it, but basically he blames (you guessed it) the Bush admin for 1) not telling Newsweek that the story was wrong before it was published (as if Newsweek would believe it); and 2) criticizing Newsweek for running the story. Olbermann calls the White House's conduct "treasonous" and thinks Scott McClellan should resign!

The guy is obviously on crack.

Anna said...

I wonder if Newsweek will reverse an old canard of the media and use it as their new masthead logo, "If it leads, it bleeds."

Not read Olbermann's tirade, though the reviews, from all except denziens of DU-istan, pretty much are in line with what you just said. So I think I will save my few remaining points of sanity and skip it.