Responsibility for a War, If It Comes, Must Be Shared by the Mass Media. (Late Edition)

Article excerpt

Americans are intimidated. So are the mass media. They are intimidated not by terrorists, but by the U.S. administration.

The acceptance of war as a likelihood by a majority of the American public is not due only to the resolve of the president and his representatives, but also due to the collaboration of the media.

With very few exceptions, among them the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, essentially a local newspaper, the national media offer every administration announcement, observation or report without rebuttal. The public has been bombarded for months not with the possibility, but the inevitability of war.

This one-sided presentation of "news" was starkly illustrated before and after the president's State of the Union message.

"There was not a single voice last night on television or in the media to reflect the tens of millions of Americans who were broadly identified with the million or more who marched in opposition to the war in Iraq on January 18th in cities around the U. S. Not one voice said in plain English, 'We oppose this war because war is the wrong way to settle international disputes," reports Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor, Tikkun Magazine.

The Democrats, supposedly the opposition party, only nibbled at the edges of the president's message. They either agree with the message of war or, if not, they are intimidated, too.

All the commentators on the air or in print marvelled at the president's somber tone and his determination--characteristics of his personality traits--which do not address the substance of his message. Very few observed that all of the evidence submitted was a repeat of previous charges.

Many statements and proposals on domestic and foreign policies in the State of the Union message have encountered strong domestic opposition.

Is it the responsibility of the media to point out such opposition?

Is it the responsibility of the media to point out half-truths or outright untruths made by leaders on the local or national scene?

Of course, it is their ethical and professional obligation to point out lies and misstatements. Most reporters are intelligent, knowledgeable and most likely are better informed than some officials.

And if reporters do, do they abandon their stance of fairness and not taking sides?

Such actions do not forsake their role as observers because it is not the specific policies they oppose, but the misleading statements they clarify and expose. …