Blaming the news media is the reflexive weapon of the advocates of any cause when things go badly.
Writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Congressman Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) suggested that the news media “were somehow complicit” in the death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq.
“I’m afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes,” he wrote. “But it is not balancing this bad news with ‘the rest of the story,’ the progress made daily, the good news. The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation and emboldens our enemy.”
A proponent of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Marshall said that the harm of our media “is killing our troops.”
But Marshall is not alone among those who must now defend a worsening situation to a public growing skeptical about governmental claims of weapons of massive destruction, victory parades in Baghdad and few economic costs of war.
Defending the Iraqi occupation, Merrick Carey, CEO of the Lexington Institute, wrote in the Tennessean, “The media see disaster and destruction 24/7, and have no concept of the real flow of events and history. And they have been working overtime to scare the daylights out of the American people.”
He said, “Keep in mind it is the business of reporters to bring us bad news so they can boost ratings and pressure political leaders they do not agree with.”
Both Marshall and Carey offer conspiratorial rubbish about the news media.
The media did not hype the Iraqi threat. That was well-done by the Bush administration and a host of unreflective Democrats.
Unfortunately, blaming the news media has become an all too frequent strategy in the age of spin doctors and self-denial.
Friends of Baylor University blamed the media for the school’s self-inflicted wounds related to the murder of a basketball player and an effort to remove the university’s president.
Southern Baptist fundamentalists accused the press of writing the leads and focusing on minor comments, after a public outcry opposing preacher Jerry Vines’ charge that the prophet Muhammad was “a demon-possessed pedophile.”
A Jesuit magazine attacked the American media for its “morbid and scandalous” coverage of the Catholic Church’s ongoing crisis of sexual abuse. It said the media’s treatment reflected an anti-Catholic attitude.
The news media is certainly not perfect. Reporters do make mistakes. Editors and publishers have biases. But the news media is not the problem.
The real problem is those who want only their version of reality told or lack the fortitude to engage in self-criticism.
A better way is an integrity that admits failure and seeks real solutions based on honest assessments.
Robert Parham is executive director of Baptist Center for Ethics and executive editor of EthicsDaily.com.