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Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Media's Van Gogh Moment

Belmont Club explores the issue of media cowardice in the face of Jihad. The case can be made that the murder of Theo van Gogh by an enraged follower of Islam – and there are millions – has made some media figures, shall we say, “sensitive” to the issue of respect for the sensibilities of the followers of the “Religion of Peace.”

That may be why I heard CNN refer to the “Holy Koran” during a news-break on the radio. That may be why Anne Applebaum writes an article about the aftermath of the Newsweek Koran desecration story and blames the Bush administration. Not a word about the rioters.

Glenn Reynolds notes that the New York Times coverage of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan may not really be about prisoner abuse or even Afghanistan, but about maintaining the prestige of Newsweek. He calls it "circling the wagons", the idea being to teach press critics an object lesson in how expensive it is to humiliate the mass media by catching them at sloppy reporting by flooding the zone with stories similar to the one which was discredited . That may or may not be the case, but it is nearly undeniable that the effect of the media's coverage of American misdeeds has been to make the slightest infraction against enemy combatants ruinously expensive. Not only the treatment of the enemy combatants themselves, but their articles of religious worship have become the subject of such scrutiny that Korans must handled with actual gloves in a ceremonial fashion, a fact that must be triumph for the jihadi cause in and of itself. While nothing is wrong with ensuring the proper treatment of enemy prisoners, the implicit moral superiority that has been accorded America's enemy and his effects recalls Rudyard Kipling's The Grave of the Hundred Dead.


For example, a court in The Hague turned down a demand by a dozen plaintiffs who wanted to force the Dutch government to arrest US President George W Bush when he visits the Netherlands. Donald Rumsfeld has been repeatedly asked to resign over 'widespread prison' abuse in Abu Ghraib. The point of these calls for lopsided retribution is to drive home just how dangerous it is to trifle with sacred person and belief system of the enemy. It aims to paralyze anyone who even contemplates such an act of lese majeste. The modern "grave of a hundred dead" isn't a pyramid of skulls over the tomb of British Subaltern: it's an American Secretary of Defense's head on a stake over a photograph of a jihadi wearing a pair of panties as a hat. It is front-page calls for an abject American apology for flushing a Koran down a toilet even if it was never flushed down a toilet at all, except on the pages of Newsweek. It is calls for an admission of guilt if only the mere possibility of guilt existed. And if that were not psychological domination at par with the worst the British Empire could offer in its heyday then nothing is. There are Empires today of a different sort, but they maintain the power by much the same means.

The good news is that while this Empire (dare we call it and “Evil Empire?”) is still powerful and has the ability, the will and the resources to mount a powerful offensive, the Evil Empire is no longer alone in the world of ideas.

The medium is no longer one-way: from mass media to its readers and viewers. It is now multi-way allowing virtually anyone with a computer and modem to become an analyst and commentator. Like the British empire in India, the media barons are not able to withstand the millions who wish to be free and will no longer accept the claims of superiority of the of “the Anointed” as Thomas Sowell has dubbed them.

If you want to see exactly how the new medium can expose the rot at the head of the media, you can go to no better place than Powerline. There three attorneys battle an entrenched newspaper monopoly – The Minneapolis Star Tribune – and has made this liberal dinosaur a laughing stock throughout the country.

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