One day, years from now, after the war to defeat the global jihad has been won, historians will proclaim that the years of this war marked the darkest period in the history of Western journalism.
In an essay in the current issue of Commentary magazine entitled "The Panic over Iraq," Norman Podhoretz makes the case that in its biased, distorted coverage of the American-led campaign in Iraq, the Western media, or what in the US is referred to as the "mainstream media," is doing its best to ensure that America and its allies are defeated in a war that they are winning.
This, Podhoretz argues "is part of an increasingly desperate effort to portray Iraq as another Vietnam: a foolish and futile (if not immoral and illegal) resort to military power in pursuit of a worthless (if not unworthy) goal."
For the liberal American establishment, a victory in Iraq, and against the global jihad overall, will sound the death knell for the Vietnam syndrome. That syndrome, which has been internalized and espoused as a writ of faith by the mainstream media for almost 40 years, dictates that the US and its allies can only be viewed as moral powers if they renounce war even when it is being waged against them by forces bent on their destruction.
To combat the media campaign being waged against the war, the US military is taking measures to bypass the mainstream media and get news of the US forces' victories on the ground in Iraq to the attention of the general public. Public affairs officers in the Marine Corps for instance, have begun sending out press briefings to prominent military weblogs and to veterans associations.
Last week The Washington Post attempted to stir up controversy over the US military's attempt to bypass the mainstream media. In an article entitled, "Bloggers, money now weapons in Information War," the Post portrayed an invitation extended by the Marine Corps to military analyst Bill Roggio, who operates a popular military weblog called "The Fourth Rail," to embed with its forces in Iraq, as an attempt to manipulate coverage of the campaign in Iraq. The article portrayed Roggio as nothing but a military cheerleader, downplaying his field reporting and critiques of the mainstream media's reliance on manufactured stories promulgated by terrorists attacking US forces in Iraq.
There are four significant aspects to the story of Roggio's embedment with the Marines. First, in extending an invitation to him, the Marines showed that they are aware of the fact that they are losing the media battle on the home front due to the ferocity of the anti-war animus in the editorial boardrooms of America. Second, the Marines showed that they are looking for ways to bypass the obstacle of the hostile media establishment because they understand that in order to maintain the domestic support for the war - support they need to continue fighting to victory - they must get their stories to the American public.
Third, the Post's puerile reaction to the Marines' attempt to bypass their editorial chopping block shows that the mainstream media is concerned that their uniform animosity to the war may actually harm their credibility. Finally, the Marines' willingness to turn to bloggers shows that at least in the US, the Internet revolution is weakening the mainstream media's control over information.
OBSERVING THIS Homeric battle for the public's trust and support taking place in the US from Jerusalem is a cause for despair. The fact of the matter is that at least in America, there is a reasoned, impassioned debate over whether or not the media suffers from an institutional bias. And both sides are taking the steps they deem necessary to ensure that their side wins both the debate and the support of the American public.
In Israel's media culture, no such debate exists. It isn't that Israelis do not see the far-left bias of the major media outlets in the country. Everyone here knows that the press is leftist. The problem is that now that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has himself adopted the political platform of the radical Left, there is no debate about anything at all. Sharon's political opponents receive little more than a sneering brush-off from the major papers while Sharon himself is venerated from every angle in the best tradition of North Korea.
Last weekend's mass-circulation Hebrew papers are case in point. In Ma'ariv's news supplement, diplomatic "analyst" Ben Caspit wrote yet another of his nauseating hagiographies of Sharon. He romanticized Sharon's hospitalization for his stroke two weeks ago, making it appear that Sharon was a heroic figure even as he had absolutely no idea where he was when he was being wheeled into the emergency room. Caspit painted a picture of the brave Sharon, alone in the hospital until his loyal aides belatedly arrived at the scene.
"Sharon was there with himself. Completely alone. It was a refreshing change. He actually enjoyed this state of affairs, (as much as he could given his condition). His long career in the IDF and in politics has taught him that even loneliness has its advantages. And here, suddenly, he got a bit of quiet."
There's never an airsickness bag around when you need one.
Then there is Yediot Ahronot's diplomatic "analyst" Nahum Barnea. He devoted the first half of his two-page spread in Yediot's news supplement this weekend to a mind numbing, pandering interview with former Shin Bet director Avi Dichter - Sharon's latest recruit to his Kadima one-man party. Barnea, who is generally a pacifist, ignored his anti-war tendencies in this case to buck up Sharon's newest pretty boy.
He began his veneration of Dichter as follows: "Avi Dichter, 53, calls to mind Ariel Sharon at his age: Handsome, charismatic, cresting on the wave of what is viewed as his personal success in his wars against the Arabs, very assertive in his views, and free of even a speck of trust in our cousins the Palestinians. Maybe because of this Sharon likes him: he looks at him and sees a wild horse that he must tame. He looks at him and sees himself."
Last week Israel absorbed terrorist attacks on all fronts. Kassam rockets rained down on Ashkelon, Sderot and the communities of the Western Negev. Katyusha rockets were launched against cities in the North. Palestinians attacked Israelis throughout Judea and Samaria and an IDF officer was killed when he stopped a suicide bomber at a roadblock outside of Tulkarm.
The Palestinian Authority has ceased to operate in any effective way. Foreigners are kidnapped on a daily basis in Gaza. All Palestinian terror groups have called off their imaginary cease-fire. Hamas's chieftain Khaled Mashaal just rounded off a two week visit to Iran, replete with a prolonged visit to a Revolutionary Guards training base. And the IDF has acknowledged that al-Qaida has successfully seeded itself not only in Gaza but in northern Samaria.
But all of this is relegated to the back pages of the newspapers, because the only thing that Israelis need to know is that Sharon is a great man and a great leader. He's as fit as a fiddle and the fact that the physicians at Hadassah hospital lied two weeks ago to the Israeli public when they said that Sharon had suffered from a minor stroke, when in fact, as came out a week later he had a major stroke, should be of no concern to anyone.
It is a terrible thing when in a democracy as small and as vulnerable as Israel the media takes it upon itself to collude with a failed, sick leader in systematically lying to the public about the state of the country in order to advance a dangerous political agenda that has already been borne out by events as a failure.
Indeed, when the history of our times is written, the treachery of the Western media will fill future generations with disgust. And the perfidy of the Israeli media will be the source of the most extreme revulsion.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.