On the Other Hand...

The Media: Biased or Blind?

by Jim Davies

I had the pleasure some weeks ago of hearing an address by a leading member of the New Hampshire media. These moguls fascinate me. They have so much influence, deciding which bits of news you and I will get to hear about. They don't need to show any bias at all in the reports they publish; all they have to do to convey a powerful bias is to select what gets broadcast and what gets left out. As a group, over the years, they fix the way America thinks. Wow!

This gentleman made one remark which horrified me; but because I sense that he was only reflecting the opinion of most of his kind, I'll not embarass him by revealing his name. What he said might well have been said by any media chief.

His speech was entertaining and unobjectionable, and he pledged his allegiance to that part of the First Amendment that guarantees a Free Press. Amen to that; and many reporters have defied the government justice monopoly rather than betray that allegiance, so I mean it.

Then he was asked questions, and one was, I thought, especially well formed. It was that, having in mind the persistence with which reporters pursue their quarries - even to the point, perhaps, of intruding on privacy - how is it that last year, not one reporter saw fit to defy the government's two-mile diameter exclusion zone around the Branch Davidian retreat in Texas and go in to hear David Koresh's side of the story? - why is it that in seven weeks, all the press corps did was to sit at the feet of the government spokesmen and obediently print and broadcast only what was handed out to them?

Then came the reply which revealed his powerful pro-government bias. Without hesitation, he said almost casually of Koresh: "The guy was a nut case who killed little children, who should have been arrested on gun charges and who would not have received a reporter anyway." Folks, it's people with opinions like that who are telling us all we know. Let's take his reply apart, bias by bias.

Nut Case?

Here's a man who believes himself to be God incarnate, who is followed in that belief by a small band of simple people who live a little apart from others, and who predicts that the secular authorities will execute him.

Who is this? David Koresh, or Jesus of Nazareth?

The description could fit either. And, a couple of millenia ago, the latter too was killed by the government with general popular approval. It follows that either of them could be equally called a "nut case"; in fact, that each should be equally described, either so or not, until the claim is proven.

Mr Media had quite obviously homed in on the Free Press clause of Amendment #1 without pausing to notice its Free Religion clause: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof." And it is precisely bizarre, unfamiliar and upstart religions like that of David Koresh that need protecting from government, not the well-respected ones - attended, perhaps, by Mr Media of a Sunday morning.

But did Koresh "kill little children"? - not that I heard. He is reported to have had sex with some, with their parents' permission , but that could be said of some Roman Catholic priests, albeit without such permission. But he never killed a single child; all of them died at the hands of agents of Janet Reno, who was never charged. Did he imprison them, though, in a building that Reno's mob would burn? - not that anyone has credibly alleged. All of his followers were free to bail out, any time; and a few did.

So Mr Media's reply, so far, reveals a wickedly, wildly inaccurate bias; and because he is so influential, that matters very much indeed.

Gun Crook?

Mr Media's opinion that Koresh should have been arrested on gun charges is similarly, wickedly false and biased; and it, too, springs from his deep ignorance of everything in the Bill of Rights except, apparently, the Free Press clause; for the very next Amendment (#2) says that "... the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Since any and every gun-control law obviously "infringes" that right to a greater or lesser degree, it follows that every one of the government's 20,000 gun-control laws violates that prohibition - that it's unconstitutional and therefore void. And since they are all void, it's incorrect (to put it very politely) to say that anyone "should be arrested" for breaking any of them.

I neither know nor care whether Koresh had broken any anti-gun law. I do know that if he had, it was the law that was grossly at fault, not Koresh.

Reporters Welcome?

It's a very elementary principle of journalism that you never take just one person's version - you cross-check with others. Yet here was a professional journalist at the peak of his powers, apparently accepting all that one party (government spokespersons) said, even about the other's willingness to talk.

I'm really not sure whether, when they get out of bed of a morning, our media chiefs say to themselves, "I must be careful today to tell the people only what the government wants them to hear."

Perhaps it's much more likely that the thought of radically questioning what government people say simple never enters their minds. If so, that's the scariest part of all; for we have to wonder what a Free Press is for.

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 70

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