Along the Tracks

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The new McCarthys

About a month ago, I wrote a column on the Islamic World’s violent reaction to those cartoons of Mohammed published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

My focus in that piece was on the need for moderate Muslims to step forward and “wrest control of their religion from the wild-eyed radicals” who threaten it. I added the point that the West, and particularly Americans, must recognize there is no compromise with or withdrawal from these Islamist militants which can possibly satisfy them. That was more than enough to fill a column, so I left the free press issue raised by the incident untouched.

Now, let’s poke our stick at it.

More than a month after the initial wave of violence over the cartoons, and pockets are still smoldering. A dozen or so drawings have left smoking wreckage and dead bodies in their wake.

Yet I’d wager many, if not most of you, have never seen even one of those offending cartoons.

Somehow, a worldwide riot made news, yet the factors instigating that riot are off limits to citizens of the nation leading the free world.

Did George W. Bush give an order stripping the press of its rights? Did Don Rumsfeld coldly insinuate showing those cartoons would result in the death of American troops? Did John Ashcroft come out of retirement to strip away one more liberty?

No. The sad truth is the liberal major media have conspired to keep the news from you.
Even as the rantings of left-wing demagogues claim the Bush administration has trampled on this right or stolen that one, media elites have rescinded the most crucial right of all in a free society: The right of a free press.

This is a real conspiracy, not some cooked up diagram of former presidents, captains of industry and foreign diplomats. It is impossible that a truly “free” press would deny its readers and viewers so crucial a piece of this worldwide story as the very cartoons which precipitated the violence. Even if a few editors, publishers and news directors hid under their desks with fear at the thought of Molotov cocktails being lobbed into their offices by Muslim extremists, one would expect most heirs of our long tradition of press courage in the face of intimidation to step forward boldly and show Americans precisely what has caused this latest conflagration.

But no – the cabal of media elites has chosen a blindfold over a spotlight.


The accusation of cowardice is far too simple to be believable. Something more is going on here.

The U.S. media’s coverage of the Danish cartoon uprisings heralds the eclipse of the fundamental tenet of responsible journalism - “Print the truth” - with a new paradigm, borrowed from totalitarianism: “Control the truth.”

Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin would be proud.

In my earlier column, I mentioned my appreciation for the anger many Muslims felt over the depictions of the Prophet in the Danish cartoons. Their initial publication was a stunt, a finger in the eye of adherents to Islam, offering nothing new to the debate over Islamic extremism. The newspaper printed them simply because it could. It was bullying by the press, and little else. Indeed, some of the cartoons gleefully acknowledge the fact.

However, such self-important acts by the media occur every day. They are rightly criticized, yet we recognize the central value of press liberty. Misfires such as the cartoon publication must be accepted if we are also to capitalize on the free exchange of ideas which may prove more worthy and influential.

All that said, the situation changed when the response became violent. Suddenly, those silly cartoons were the key fact in a larger story about anger sweeping an entire culture. That culture, Islam, also happens to be the topic of a wider worldwide debate over democracy, liberty and the potential for a “clash of civilizations.” This story – and its precipitating factor – intersects with the larger issue as few other narratives in the years since 9/11 have.

To place the Islamic reaction in perspective, one must see the cartoons as they were first printed. Yet American media elites refuse to show you.

By hiding the truth, these high-level media executives are making a fully-conscious effort to pull your opinion toward their own. They want you to accept censorship exercised by a cultural elite which “knows better” than someone as simple as you or I. They will tell us what we need to know – and ignore other truths awkward to their agenda. They hope to dull your perceptions of the world so that your political and cultural opinions become more easily malleable.

Hollywood’s George Clooney was widely praised by the major media for his “courageous” portrayal of a free press debate settled 50-plus years ago. The motion picture, “Good Night and Good Luck,” rehashed the McCarthy era, when a congressional committee hunting for Communists overstepped its legitimate powers and was called to task by an observant and independent press.

The spin offered by leftists like Clooney and the media elites is that, once again, the press is being cowed by powerful, opinionated people willing to curb freedoms in an ideological purge.

They’re right on the issue, but have intentionally deflected the criticism to a straw man of “right-wing infringement on civil liberties.” A quick perusal of newspapers, radio, television and film dispels the fiction that dissent against President Bush or conservatism in general is somehow being stifled.

In fact, the powerful, opinionated people curbing American freedoms are found in the media’s own newsrooms and executive boards. Clooney’s film is little more than clever propaganda for these new McCarthys who aim to blacklist new media sources and paint non-leftist journalists as “sympathizers.”

It is up to real journalists, steadfast in their responsibilities, to challenge the shameful conduct of the media elite.

NOTE: The Danish cartoons can be seen at

UPDATE: The repurcussions of the left-wing purge continue. Hat tip, Instapundit.

Comments: Post a Comment