Jewish World Review March 3, 2003 / 29 Adar I, 5763
Hey, it's personal
In this very turbulent time, Americans are still distrustful of the media that they are dependent upon for vital information. A brand-new Gallup Poll says that 60 percent of Americans believe the media is biased; 45 percent think the media too liberal; 15 percent say it is too conservative.
But take it from someone who has been a "media type" for almost 30 years, ideology is not the main problem, although it is a significant one. The primary problem with the press is a lack of courage.
While some newspapers and TV networks do impose an ideological filter on story selection and placement, most editors are far too busy to consistently push a candidate or even a consistent philosophy outside of the editorial page. But there is constant pressure on editors NOT to cover certain situations and stories, and this is an enormous disservice to the American people.
All over the country pressure groups, armed with political Web sites, have sprung up to challenge and in some cases intimidate the media. If you get on the wrong side of these groups, watch out, they will come after you with a vengeance.
Three specific examples: first, the "hip-hop industry" is angry with your humble correspondent for criticizing rappers like Ludacris and Jay-Z for their pernicious lyrics. It is my contention that glorifying the "gangsta" lifestyle and the anti-social behavior that it incorporates does tremendous damage to unsupervised and impressionable kids. My opinion is based partly on testimony by grammar school teachers in poor neighborhoods who say that many 10-year-old boys are now dressing like rappers and calling little girls bitches and ho's.
Because of my analysis, a hip-hop magazine has labeled me a "racist," even though white rappers like Eminem and "Insane Clown Posse" have come under my fire. Because I believe the rap industry is doing some harm, I have been racially demonized by some in that business who have a lot to lose if it goes south.
Second, my analysis of the chaotic border situation has resulted in my being labeled anti-Mexican, even though I have also focused on the Canadian border and blamed much of the problem on Presidents Clinton and Bush. No one disputes that the porous borders are dangerous in this age of terrorism, and it is undeniable that Mexican nationals themselves are being killed and injured trying to illegally cross over. Yet the fact that I would call for the military to back up the Border Patrol makes me an enemy of an entire ethnic group.
Three, as you may know, my television program was instrumental in breaking the Sami al-Arian story nationally a year and a half ago. During that time, I was routinely described as being anti-Muslim. And even AFTER al-Arian was arrested on terrorism charges, the two television critics working for Tampa Bay newspapers attacked me as being unfair and using McCarthy-like tactics.
Now, I can take the heat. I dish out plenty of commentary and have to expect backlash. But the personal attacks that are launched by special interest groups in this country have reached critical mass -- they are intruding on freedom of the press.
Threats of racial demonization have put a tremendous fear into the journalism industry. These kind of tactics have prevented some news organizations from covering news that is vital to the nation. The rap situation has been almost completely ignored by the elite media. The border chaos is underreported almost everywhere. And the al-Arian story was virtually ignored outside of Tampa until the feds popped him.
If you can't win the debate, smear your opponent. That's an old political trick that has been elevated by pressure groups to strategy No. 1. Americans are dependent on a free and courageous press. Honest debate and disagreement have made our country strong. All of us must realize that racial demonizaton is now organized and well funded, and it will not end until everyday people begin condemning it.
In this time of terror, Americans must come together and face the cold, hard truth about the world. Using the race card to frighten the press hurts us all.
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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the
Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author
of the new book, "The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America" Comments by clicking here.
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© 2001 Creators Syndicate