It might seem odd to compare and contrast two news stories from early November the resignation announcement of Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Paris death of Palestinian terrorist Yasser Arafat. But an examination of the two demonstrates the degree to which the “news” media’s compass of objectivity is so terribly misaligned. To read the coverage, you’d think Ashcroft was the tyrant, and Arafat the liberator.
On November 10, the New York Times front page put the two stories side by side in the top left-hand corner. Reporter Elisabeth Bumiller told readers the “polarizing” Ashcroft was resigning after a “tumultuous tenure” in which he was praised for his aggressive fight against terrorists but “assailed by critics who said he sacrificed civil liberties” in the wake of September 11. Bumiller noted Ashcroft was praised by President Bush, then added his critics were “caustic,” citing the Georgetown professor David Cole, who strangely called Ashcroft “a disaster from a civil liberties perspective but also from a national security perspective.”
But right next door on the front page, reporter Elaine Sciolino found far less controversy in the camp of Arafat. The dying terrorist has accumulated a long and blood-spattered résumé of violence that fills a cemetery, a filthy legacy of innocent Olympic athletes and airplane passengers and Israeli schoolchildren massacred. But the Times didn't even use the word “terrorist.” Instead, Sciolino referred to Arafat as a cult hero, “the guerrilla fighter and Nobel Prize winner who has symbolized the Palestinian struggle for statehood for four decades.” Of his potential successors, Sciolino warned they had “little of the street credibility and aura that surrounded Mr. Arafat.” A big chunk of that aura is created in Western capitals by left-wing correspondents.
Is it any wonder the press doesn’t understand why a majority of Americans didn’t want a president with the media’s moral vision elected? They just don’t really get the concept of a “war on terrorism.” They like declaring war on nebulous, romantic concepts like poverty and rainforest logging, but can’t see the mortal threat in front of their faces on TV, people screaming their desire to bring death to Americans. Most mainstream media types are not just soft on the terrorists. They’re not really sure which side is evil. That’s dangerous.
The American majority wanted a government which will protect them from the Arab fanatics who whooped and cheered as 3,000 of our own people had their civil liberties forever removed on 9/11. That included many partying pro-Arafat Palestinians, who threatened any Western reporter with death for putting out footage of their street celebrations of the Twin Towers collapsing and the Pentagon ablaze.
For his part, Ashcroft graciously resigned with a letter celebrating the American people, his fellow terror-fighters in government agencies, and God: “the Author of our freedom has stood beside us.” (You just know that drove secular reporters crazy!) Ashcroft’s record stands for itself. No attack on American soil since 9/11. The dismantling of terrorist cells from New York to California. Almost 200 terror convictions. Federal gun prosecutions are up 76 percent. Violent crime has dropped to a 30-year low, down 27 percent over the last three years. Think of the estimated 250,000 people saved from having their civil liberties violated. For all this and more, you cannot count on the mainstream press to give Ashcroft one iota of credit. The media can’t even be counted on to mention these numbers in passing.
Instead, the ACLU line on Ashcroft, the menace to liberty, has dominated. In a New York Times graphic on “Ashcroft's tenure,” there was no balance. “To his critics, he was a symbol of the antiterror campaign's excesses.” The six one-paragraph items summarizing his tenure were a tendentious listing of liberal talking points, beginning with his championing of the Patriot Act, which the Times did not mention passed Congress almost unanimously.
The same bias crept into a “news analysis” by the Times reporter put on Ashcroft’s tail. In a piece headlined “Powerful and Polarizing: Antiterror Campaign Made Ashcroft a Lightning Rod for Bitter Criticism,” Eric Lichtblau briefly noted the Bush praise, then underlined that “To his many critics, however, Mr. Ashcroft was a symbol of excesses of the antiterror campaign, a man engaged in overzealous prosecutions and insensitive to civil liberties.” Just as they made Arafat’s “aura,” so have the bitter media magnified and manufactured a lot of Ashcroft’s “lightning.”
We find proven American terrorist collaborators like John Walker Lindh on a battlefield in Afghanistan, we try him and imprison him. In the land of Arafat, people are shot at the slightest suspicion, true or untrue, of collaboration with the enemy. Why are the American news media so harshly judgmental of the first system, and such apologists for the second?
(This update courtesy of the Media Research Center.)