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 Saddams 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.