Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bennette and Dershowitz on "A Failure of the Press"

The Washington Post offers their view here
We two come from different political and philosophical perspectives, but on this we agree: Over the past few weeks, the press has betrayed not only its duties but its responsibilities. To our knowledge, only three print newspapers have followed their true calling: the Austin American-Statesman, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Sun. What have they done? They simply printed cartoons that were at the center of widespread turmoil among Muslims over depictions of the prophet Muhammad. These papers did their duty.

Since the war on terrorism began, the mainstream press has had no problem printing stories and pictures that challenged the administration and, in the view of some, compromised our war and peace efforts. The manifold images of abuse at Abu Ghraib come to mind -- images that struck at our effort to win support from Arab governments and peoples, and that pierced the heart of the Muslim world as well as the U.S. military.

The press has had no problem with breaking a story using classified information on detention centers for captured terrorists and suspects -- stories that could harm our allies. And it disclosed a surveillance program so highly classified that most members of Congress were unaware of it.

In its zeal to publish stories critical of our nation's efforts -- and clearly upsetting to enemies and allies alike -- the press has printed some articles that turned out to be inaccurate. The Guantanamo Bay flushing of the Koran comes to mind.

But for the past month, the Islamist street has been on an intifada over cartoons depicting Muhammad that were first published months ago in a Danish newspaper. Protests in London -- never mind Jordan, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Iran and other countries not noted for their commitment to democratic principles -- included signs that read, "Behead those who insult Islam." The mainstream U.S. media have covered this worldwide uprising; it is, after all, a glimpse into the sentiments of our enemy and its allies. And yet it has refused, with but a few exceptions, to show the cartoons that purportedly caused all the outrage.

The Boston Globe, speaking for many other outlets, editorialized: "[N]ewspapers ought to refrain from publishing offensive caricatures of Mohammed in the name of the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance."

But as for caricatures depicting Jews in the most medievally horrific stereotypes, or Christians as fanatics on any given issue, the mainstream press seems to hold no such value. And in the matter of disclosing classified information in wartime, the press competes for the scoop when it believes the public interest warrants it.

What has happened? To put it simply, radical Islamists have won a war of intimidation. They have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons. The mainstream press has capitulated to the Islamists -- their threats more than their sensibilities. One did not see Catholics claiming the right to mayhem in the wake of the republished depiction of the Virgin Mary covered in cow dung, any more than one saw a rejuvenated Jewish Defense League take to the street or blow up an office when Ariel Sharon was depicted as Hitler or when the Israeli army was depicted as murdering the baby Jesus.

So far as we can tell, a new, twin policy from the mainstream media has been promulgated: (a) If a group is strong enough in its reaction to a story or caricature, the press will refrain from printing that story or caricature, and (b) if the group is pandered to by the mainstream media, the media then will go through elaborate contortions and defenses to justify its abdication of duty. At bottom, this is an unacceptable form of not-so-benign bigotry, representing a higher expectation from Christians and Jews than from Muslims.
When political polar opposites such as William Bennette and Alan Dershowitz agree on something, the wise should take note. Therefore, all Fools had better consider their argument carefully.

In the context of how the MSM has identified its role in representative governing societies, these gentlemen are right. Has not the cliche of virtually every MSM operator been "the public's right to know"? Have not their giants repeatedly proclaimed the importance of their institutions to society?

They have. Then along comes a relevent and risky story. It's relevent because some of the fires the violent mobs set have not yet burned out. It's risky because these same mobs, and their opportunistic instigators, have promised violent attacks and even murder on those that carry the heart of the story. That heart, of course, are the controversial Danish cartoons that depict Mohammad in admittedly an offensive light. Nevertheless, these cartoons are the story.

And how has the MSM addressed this story? With dereliction of their self-proclaimed duty. With hypocrisy. With silence.

Only three newspapers in the US ran the cartoons. Only one newspaper publically confessed to the cowardice many newsrooms may have felt.

"Now, wait a minute, Fool!" Some of you might say, "Didn't we read just the other day about how you're not going to publish the cartoons? Aren't you the pot calling the kettle black, now? Aren't you the one being the hypocrite?

Actually, this is what I had to say regarding my "coverage" of the cartoon controversy:
The same press that many bloggers have flocked to support are the same that celebrate the "piss christ" or the "dung Mary." The secularism that Reasonable MSM elites in Denmark and beyond celebrate have no place for Fools of any creed, muslim or otherwise. I'm in no hurry to encourage their abuse of the freedom of speech.

Not that rioting, embassy and flag burning, and murder have any place in a civilized society. The Islamofascists that organized this fanatical response as a punishment to Denmark's internal management of its own society deserve nothing but utter condemnation. Their violent enablers on the street should be confronted with the full force of the law, and each of them should face the consequences of his action.

I can oppose the violence of islamofascists while refusing to stab law-abiding muslims in the back. Why should I obstruct any spiritual seeker's path?

For that is what endorsing the Danish cartoons amounts to for the Christian. Bear with me as I explain.

Nostra Aetate clearly states that the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is good and true in all religions. It follows then that whatever truth Muslims receive from Islam is truth that I, as a Christian, can agree. Muslims may not possess the fullness of truth; however, their encounter with the measure of truth that they do experience sets them on the road. They're seeking that communion with God for which we all long to experience.

Will standing up for the abstract right to freedom of speech help them to further seek communion with God through their tradition, and beyond? Will my identification with secularists' disdain for religion guarantee that right? Of course not! But it will most likely alienate those honest muslims that seek the fullness of truth.

If I have any hope of evangelizing such seekers, I will jeopardize that hope by destroying the vehicle that allows him to grasp part of the truth before he's ready to acccept all of it. I therefore sabatoge my own efforts to offer him the Gospel. How can that be something Christ wants of me?
My vision differs from MSM's. Look at my profile. What am I doing here?
For today's fashion of reason suggests that God does not exist or does not matter. Whether by conscious principle or unconscious practice, many elites in society live such a belief in nothing publicly and consider themselves reasonable. That means living the Faith makes one a Fool. Then call me a Holy Fool! Would that I could spread my Foolishness to all the world! With your help, we will!
I'm a guy that runs a blog in order to offer anyone who reads it a taste of the Foolishness of Roman Catholic Christianity. I'm about reflection, opinion/analysis, poetry and whatever other foolishness comes to mind.

The MSM, on the other hand, inform the people of a representative democratic society. They have long advocated their essential role in ensuring the continuation of our tradition. They do this, they say, by providing us with the information we need in order to live free and govern our lives in that freedom. In other words, they live upon the foundation of the first ammendment of the United State's Constitution. They have a made a contract with the American People--and their other consumers throughout the world--to protect the people's "right to know" and to deliver them the news.

They have failed to honor this agreement by not printing the cause of the hottest international story in weeks. Whether through their own liberal guilt, fear of islamofascist intimidation or some combination, the champions of MSM have let the American people down.

They have also encouraged the enemies of free speech--and non-sharia thinking--to continue their totalitarian violence and public intimidation. Recall that the Nazis in the late twenties and early thirties participated in similar public "protests" as the one islamofascist radicals take part in today.

If the beneficiaries, defenders and advocates of free speech will not stand for the right that ensures their very existence, who will?