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Oh My God! They Killed Journalism!

WorldNetDaily goes after "South Park" again -- with slanted coverage and by glossing over one key fact.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/9/2003

Given that its founder wants to bring back the bowdlerizing Hays Commission to censor movies (not that he calls it that, of course), it should be no surprise that WorldNetDaily is using its news pages to push its own brand of no-tolerance morality.

Of course, WND forgets that when you're using journalism to push a point of view to the point where you gloss over inconvenient facts, it stops being journalism.

The latest example of this is a Dec. 4 story on the airing of the "South Park" movie on Comedy Central. Besides its slant and inaccuracies, it is also noteworthy in that it's one of the few WND stories of late that isn't cribbed from the organization that originally reported it. It also has writers taking credit for it, too -- Ron Strom and Felicia Dionisio.

Strom and Dionisio do quite a hatchet job here. Looking beyond the rehashing of a recent Federal Communications Commission ruling not punishing U2 singer Bono for using the F-word during an awards show, the only person quoted in the story related to the issue at hand is "Christian film reviewer Ted Baehr," who offers his own unbiased opinion that the "South Park" movie is "the most vile content in the history of mainstream moviemaking."

Baehr continues with the toll: "340 counted obscenities (there may be more that are muddled), 14 profanities and many disgusting bodily functions. … Canadians are vilified; Jews are belittled; God is also mocked and called a wimp, a faggot and worse; and, to top it off, African-Americans are called darkies and are used by the U.S. Army to shield the white troops, accompanied by dialogue telling everyone that this horrendous act is the Army's intent."

Concluded Baehr: "The future of our society looks very dim after thinking what those children [who see the film] will do and how they will behave after this powerful entertainment virus corrupts their hearts and minds."

Let's not invite Mr. Baehr to our next party, shall we?

One thing he somehow forgot to mention was that the movie also depicts Saddam Hussein in a homosexual relationship with Satan; perhaps he (and Strom and Dionisio) were comfortable with that depiction.

While it's true that the "South Park" movie is aggressively, gleefully offensive (there's probably something wrong with you if you weren't offended by it), it's also savagely funny and satiric. That's something our forest-for-the-trees reviewer Baehr overlooked while he was trying to decide to count those 340-plus words as obscenities or profanities.

It zooms right past Strom and Dionisio too, as evidenced by the fact that their story, in an attempt to be ironic, quotes the dialogue from a scene in the movie in which slovenly Cartman has a V-chip implanted in him that gives him a shock when he says a swear word. It's hilarious -- and it makes a mockery of Strom and Dionisio's attempt to focus on the vulgarity.

Then again, Strom and Dionisio were too busy disguising a key fact of the story -- when the movie aired on Comedy Central. Their story makes a big point in the lead paragraph that the movie was presented "to America's families for Thanksgiving weekend," but the story doesn't get any more specific than that until the third-to-last paragraph of the 31-paragraph story, which notes that the movie's airing "occurred late in the evening."

When exactly did the movie air? At 1 a.m. Eastern time -- not exactly evening and not a time when families are gathering around the tube after a holiday meal. That important detail exists nowhere in the story.

(Oops, we found another person quoted for this story: an anonymous Internet developer in Quebec who says that the "South Park" TV series airs in the afternoon there. Interesting, but irrelevant to the issue, which is about the movie.)

If WND's bias on "South Park" wasn't clear at this point, it's enhanced by the related stories the story offers links to -- a two-part analysis of the show by Anthony LoBaido, best remembered for a post-9/11 WND commentary that was so whacked out (he wrote that "all that is evil in the world can be found in New York" and thus deserved to get attacked, with a special nod to "the openly Marxist, treasonous and abortion-mongering, occultic Hillary") WND eventually pulled the piece off its Web site. One part is titled "'South Park': Satanic or just harmless fun?" (Gee, what will be WND's answer?); in the second, he quotes a man who moved to Kansas City from Jordan as saying, "In any Muslim nation, such blasphemy would bring swift execution." No mention anywhere of the conservative leanings of some of the show's content and the "South Park Republicans" who like it.

The important thing to remember here is that Strom and Dionisio are, according to the bottom of the story, employed as news editors at WND, and this article appeared on the WND news page, even though the job title implies that Strom and Dionisio should have some grasp of basic journalistic tents such as fairness. Apparently not. Besides, WND is not exactly known for fairness in news coverage.

This is even more clear in another entertainment-related story, an unbylined Nov. 18 piece that looks disapprovingly on the movie "Bad Santa," featuring Baehr again providing the grim body count of naughty words ("over 250 mostly strong obscenities and profanities"). Nowhere in the story is it noted that movie was not being marketed to children.

Another part of this story, however, provides a more ominous view of the WND approach to entertainment reporting. It notes that Ed Asner plays Santa in the movie "Elf" -- while taking care to point out that Asner is "one of Hollywood's most radical political activists who raises money for the Democratic Socialists of America." The story says that Asner "brings to the role some of the gruffness he was known for in 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' and 'Lou Grant'" and quotes him on how he played the role, none of which sound like anything WND would be offended by.

So why mention Asner's political leanings at all? The only possible reason is that WND believes Asner should not have another acting job ever. The founder of WorldNetDaily, in addition to his pro-censorship statements, wants to bring back the Hollywood blacklist for offenses as mere criticism of President Bush.

That's the dark side of WND -- building these slanted little crusades into its news coverage, even as it holds itself above the New York Times for its alleged biases. It may be interesting reading, but it's not news, and composing such a slanted, incomplete article hardly lives up to the title of "news editor" Strom and Dionisio are supposed to have.

Then again, maybe it does. Strom and Dionisio certainly edited any sense of balance and fairness out that would fit the time-honored definition of "news."

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