by David Kopel
Sept. 27, 2003
Last week, Michael Tracey argued in this column that Fox News is a threat to national security because its patriotic tone offends Europeans. There is a serious national security threat currently being created by American media, but the problem hardly has anything to do with Fox News.
Tracey is right that a lot of Western Europeans, including much of the opinion elite, is upset with the United States. This has a lot to do with American actions, and who Americans are: In the two years since Sept. 11, 2001, we've invaded two countries on the other side of the planet, conquered them in a matter of weeks, with U.S. and foreign civilian casualties that are astonishingly low in the annals of military history.
The United States elected a president who is a deeply committed evangelical Christian, and who frequently acts unilaterally in what he perceives as America's best interest, rather than deferring to international organizations.
This is bound to be highly offensive to much of Western Europe.
Religiously, Western Europe is accurately described as post- Christian, with many large and historic cathedrals, but tiny rates of church attendance. Although Britons have a great deal to be patriotic about - including tremendous contributions to science, the arts, and the cause of freedom, as well as a very impressive military history - patriotism is widely regarded as vulgar. Guilt over imperialism, racism and so on is the much-preferred emotion, especially among the opinion elite.
Fox News is bothersome to many Europeans; but the problem is that Fox reflects how many Americans feel, and how our president acts.
Blaming Fox for the problem is simply blaming the messenger.
Tracey also trots out the famous headline in the French newspaper, Le Monde from Sept. 12, 2001: "We are all Americans now." He then notes that Le Mondeis now fervently anti-American, and blames the change on the jingoism exemplified by Fox.
A little context is needed. Le Monde has always been a far-left newspaper (by American standards), bitterly opposed to Ronald Reagan's successful prosecution of the Cold War, and generally hostile to American power. The Sept. 12 headline infuriated a large segment of Le Monde's staff. And once the United States started taking action after 9-11, with the conquest of Afghanistan, Le Monde reverted to its customary anti-Americanism.
Far more so than The New York Times, or the Times-owned International Herald Tribune, or CNN International, Fox accurately reflects the feelings of the American people: They wanted America to win the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, they don't think that Palestinian terrorist bombers are morally equivalent to Israeli victims, and they don't think that 9-11 was America's fault. So the problem isn't Fox, it's the Americans.
The cross-border diffusion of international news is a two-way street. In the Internet age, news- savvy Americans have learned how the British newspaper The Guardian printed a story based on lies that the Israelis carried out a mass murder at a terrorist base in Jenin, and how the British Broadcasting Corp. invented a false story alleging that Tony Blair "sexed up" British intelligence reports about the threat from Iraq. The fact that the cream of the British media is so opposed to forceful action against terrorism that they will make up stories provides useful information to American decision-makers: It's fruitless to make decisions about self-defense dependent on the approval of overseas opinion which is shaped by such dishonesty.
So where's the American media national security threat? Early this week, Democratic Reps. Jim Marshall, Ike Skelton, Joe Wilson and Gene Taylor returned from an Iraqi fact-finding trip and accused the American media of grossly under-reporting the good news from Iraq - particularly the stability and major progress toward building a civil society that is occurring in most of the country, outside of the "Sunni triangle" of Baghdad and Tikrit. Neither the Rocky Mountain News nor The Denver Post covered these remarks.
Nobody is saying that bad news, such as attacks on American soldiers, should be ignored, but even CBS News anchor Dan Rather has been chastising media reports for making the overall situation in Iraq look much worse than it really is.
The terrorists don't have the resources to actually win a war in Iraq; rather, their strategy depends on convincing the American public that the troops should come home, so Iraq can revert to its former status as a terrorist haven. That terrorist strategy of manipulating American public opinion would be impossible without the complicity of much of the American media.
Reader Omar Jabara, a consistent source of excellent news tips, points out that the News and the Post both failed to cover a very important statement on Sept. 16 by former United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix. In an Australian radio interview which was reported by the Associated Press and Reuters, Blix said that he believed Saddam Hussein probably destroyed his weapons of mass destruction 10 years ago but deliberately created the impression that he still had such weapons in order to deter his opponents.
Blix's conjecture is plausible, since the threat of WMDs deterred invasion by Iran (which Iraq had fought to a stalemate in a recent war of aggression), and kept the minority Kurds and Shiite majority in line (both of whom had been victims of Saddam's chemical weapons, and both of whom had been eager to overthrow Saddam). It also explains why Saddam violated the "last chance" December 2002 U.N. resolution, which required Saddam to prove that he had no WMDs.