C-SPAN’s Shaky Balance

Yesterday (3/15), leaders from more than 40 nations gathered in Jerusalem to dedicate a new, expanded Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. Yet at the very time that this monument to Nazi evil was inaugurated, the American cable network C-SPAN planned to give a notorious Holocaust denier a broad audience to promote his ideology that the murder of six million Jews never occurred. This, in the name of ‘journalistic balance’. Here’s what happened: Deborah Lipstadt, Holocaust scholar at Emory University (pictured), will deliver a talk at Harvard University this evening (3/16), promoting her new book, History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving. C-SPAN wished to broadcast Lipstadt’s talk on the network’s BookTV program, but informed Lipstadt that a recent speech of Irving’s (recorded by C-SPAN) would need to be broadcast as well. C-SPAN producers explained their reasoning to Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen:

‘We want to balance [Lipstadt’s lecture] by covering him [Irving],’ said Amy Roach, a producer for C-SPAN’s Book TV. Her boss, Connie Doebele, put it another way. ‘You know how important fairness and balance is at C-SPAN… We work very, very hard at this. We ask ourselves, ‘Is there an opposing view of this?’

C-SPAN, that is, sought out an ‘opposing view’ to Lipstadt’s confirmation of the Nazi Holocaust. Lipstadt refused to be cast side-by-side with Irving, on the grounds that Holocaust denial does not merit public debate. Cohen asks the appropriate question: ‘For a book on the evils of slavery, would C-SPAN counter with someone who thinks it was a benign institution?’

In personal correspondence with HonestReporting, Lipstadt explained:

I would have been delighted to appear on C-SPAN’s BookTV. It is an important venue and is watched by a book-reading audience. However, there was no way I was going to be forced into debating a man who is the equivalent of a flat-earther. I spent six years in court fighting this man. We defeated him completely. That C-SPAN should now give him an opportunity to resurrect arguments which the court found completely false is appalling.

Appalling ? six million times over.

HarperCollins, the publisher of Lipstadt’s book, has supported Lipstadt’s decision not to appear on C-SPAN, despite the fact that this loss of publicity means a loss of book sales.

HonestReporting encourages subscribers to write to C-SPAN, questioning its policy that grants equal air time to mendacious and immoral claims.

Comments to C-SPAN: booktv@c-span.org


HonestReporting has continually raised this issue of ‘journalistic balance’ in regard to coverage of the Mideast conflict as well. In the name of ‘balance’, the media all too often distort the truth or completely cloud over the moral dimension to stories. A few examples:

? On many occasions, media outlets have run side-by-side profiles of ‘victims of terrorism’, where the ‘victims’ are both those Israeli civilians killed by suicide bombers, and the terrorists or the terrorists’ families themselves. This brand of ‘balance’ fails to convey the moral outrage of Palestinian terrorism. See, for example, this Newsweek cover from April 2002:

? The longtime media refusal to call terrorism ‘terrorism’ is based on the principle of ‘balance’ that ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.’ (Reuters executive Stephen Jukes used this cliche to describe why his agency refused to call even the 9/11 perpetrators ‘terrorists’.) Yet as New York Times Public Editor Daniel Okrent recently recognized, the refusal to call terrorism by its name is itself a political act, for that omission supports the terrorists’ claims to political and moral legitimacy. ? In 2002, a British journalist reporting on the rampant incitement to violence in Palestinian media was instructed by his London editor to ‘find similar examples of incitement in Israeli media, to give your article balance.’ When the correspondent responded that there was no such incitement in Israeli media, the editor killed the story.As Lipstadt told HonestReporting:

The notion that there are ‘two sides to every story’ is simplistic, fuzzy thinking at best, and far more dangerous than that at worst.

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias. HonestReporting