Update: The Proper Way to Criticize A President
WorldNetDaily takes Bush to task for not being conservative enough, though our boys are still in Iraq. Plus: Conservative correctness at CNSNews.com, and the ConWeb's man in Iraq -- er, Kuwait.
By Terry Krepel
WorldNetDaily is criticizing President Bush, even as our troops are still in harm's way.
Don't worry -- the double standard is still in effect. Any criticism from non-conservatives is still shouted down and ridiculed. Most recently, WND devoted a story to e-mails from readers responding to actor Tim Robbins' comments that there is a "chill wind" of intolerance toward dissent on the Iraq war, and another story allowing Rush Limbaugh to respond to the charges. Writer Joe Kovacs doesn't say where his Limbaugh quotes come from, though it's a good guess that rather than calling him up personally, Kovacs just pulled relevant quotes from a show transcript, which he seems to have a habit of doing. (Robbins' charge that "the same radio patriots that call us traitors today engaged in daily personal attacks on their president during the war in Kosovo" is, interestingly, left unchallenged.)
No, WND criticizes Bush in the only permissible ConWeb criticism of a Republican president -- that he's not conservative enough and, more importantly, supports something approved during the Clinton administration.
That would be the 1994 law that banned certain types of semi-automatic assualt rifles. The law comes up for renewal, and the Bush administration is on record as supporting it. The gun-loving folks are apparently quite incensed about that, and they knew who to call to get a sympathetic story out there: WND's Jon Dougherty, also known for writing sympathetically about anti-abortion extremists.
Dougherty obliges quite well, writing an April 15 story composed of nothing but pro-gun groups' positions of the issue and nary a word from any supporter of the law, including the Bush administration. (Reframing-the-debate jargon watch: One group is calling the banned weapons "homeland security rifles," which Dougherty never explains, let alone questions.) Dougherty followed this up two days later with another story featuring more incensed gun owners and, again, no views from the other side. The story's main focus is an opt-in poll on a pro-gun Web site in which --surprise! -- 93 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that they would not support Bush's re-election if he upholds the ban. Dougherty somehow thinks that the opinions of less than 5,000 people represents that of "many gun owners," though he does finally admit later in the story that the poll results are "non-scientific."
The same day, WND editor Joseph Farah chips in with a column including the bold statement "The president is wrong plain and simple." It's distinguishable from Dougherty's work only in Farah writes in the first person and claims his opinion as his own, while Dougherty quotes others; the slant is exactly the same.
(Update: Dougherty finally allowed an alternate viewpoint in an April 22 story. But it seemed to be there more to inflame to inform since it quotes a letter by two prime conservative punching bags, senators Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer, voicing their support for Bush's stance. The bulk of the story, though, is devoted to the pro-gun viewpoint and doesn't even directly address anything Feinstein and Schumer say.)
Merely quoting other people does not make one a journalist -- just a stenographer. Being able to fairly present both sides of a contentious issue comes a lot closer to real journalism. But if Dougherty knew the difference well enough to actually practice it, would he be working for WorldNetDaily?
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Speaking of gun legislation: CNSNews.com did another of its occasional conservative-correctness stories, in which various groups get accused of not doing things to the satisfaction of conservatives. This time, an April 18 piece permits a pro-gun group to accuse the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics of a "liberal bias" because it allegedly did not accurately describe a Congressional bill designed to shield gun manufacturers from certain lawsuits in a newsletter.
Another conservative-correctness issue CNSNews.com devoted digital ink to: a February 2002 piece criticizing the makers of Dr Pepper for not using the words "under God" when it put "one nation, indivisible" on some of its soda cans.
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CNSNews.com was the only ConWeb news organization to send a reporter to Iraq during the war -- executive editor Scott Hogenson. Well, more accurately, he spent most of his time based in Kuwait City, where the only major excitement was a stray Iraqi missile that hit near a shopping mall. He did about as well as any other reporter in covering his own little area of the war.
More interesting than anything he wrote from the war zone, though, was the article he wrote before he left. It can't be found at CNS; it's located in a bimonthly newsletter sent out by CNS' parent, the Media Research Center, that summarizes the center's activities.
The main theme of the article appears to be the inflated sense of self-importance of both Hogenson and CNSNews.com. Hogenson writes that it's important for him to go cover the war because journalism is the "first draft of history," and because the media is liberal, historical accounts are liberal as well. "Like the news coverage of the New York Times and ABC News, the dispatches published by CNSNews.com will be folded into the total record of events and, with luck, be reflected in the future writing of history." He goes on to tout examples of CNS reportage incorporated into college curricula and the Congressional Record.
Hogenson mentions "balance and accuracy" a couple of times in his article, but mentions "liberal bias" much more, which should indicate where his focus and that of CNS lies. If CNS is so "balanced," why can't its reporters, for instance, tell the truth about Otto Reich or provide balanced reporting on abortion? CNSNews.com is at least as biased as the news organizations he considers biased. Hogenson can write a balanced story, but the biases of his superiors and his funders (remember, MRC is a nonprofit group that takes donations from conservative groups) clearly come first.
One of Hogenson's articles from Kuwait begins: "The spin doctors advancing their parochial perspectives on Operation Iraqi Freedom are not just relegated to offices and briefing rooms in London, Washington and Baghdad." They're also working in the suburban-Washington offices of the Media Research Center and CNSNews.com, and Hogenson should just come right out and admit that instead of burying it in blather that they're providing "balance and perspective."