Proving Goldberg’s Point

Dear HonestReporting Member,

“Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News,” by Bernard Goldberg, collects no dust on the bookstore shelves. The book is jumping into willing and approving buyers’ hands and onto the bestseller list.

HonestReporting is a nonpolitical organization, and we won’t enter into the liberal-conservative, Democratic-Republican wars. But we wish to bring to the attention of HonestReporting members what Goldberg says about Middle East reporting.

Goldberg does not accept “an argument that the media are intentionally pro-Arab. Rather like the U.S. State Department, they are pro ‘moral equivalence.’ If they connect the dots with stories on the news about hit songs called ‘I Hate Israel’ and all the rest, the Arab world will accuse the ‘Jewish-controlled’ American media of being sympathetic to ‘Israeli oppression.'”

A lengthy excerpt from “Bias” appears below, with our recommendations that HonestReporting members read the book.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post’s coverage of yesterday’s terrorist attack on Moshav Hamra — where three Israelis were killed in cold blood — serves as proof of Goldberg’s complaints of “evenhandedness” and false moral equivalence. The Post’s Lee Hockstader presented an “analysis” of “Sharon’s Empty Promise of Peace.” Some 260 words into the article, Hockstader wrote:

“Four more Israelis and a Palestinian died tonight when soldiers stormed a house in an Israeli settlement that had been taken over by a pair of Palestinian infiltrators. Since taking office last March, Sharon has… authorized dozens of army incursions into territory ceded to the Palestinians…”

Read it again. Hockstader implies that the soldiers caused the deaths (“stormed a house”), and it is unclear if the Palestinian was an innocuous “infiltrator” or was killed due an Israeli incursion into Palestinian territory. Either way, Hockstader creates a false equivalence by lumping the Israeli victims together with cold-blooded Palestinian gunman.

CNN reported the attack without any attempt to sugarcoat the Palestinian assault: “An Israeli woman and her daughter were among three Israelis killed in a Palestinian gun attack… One gunman was killed by an Israeli army force as he tried to take hostages from a home, officials said. Local news reports said the mother and daughter were killed by the gunman inside the home.”

Express your opinion of Hockstader’s account by writing to:

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And what about Arafat, who presented his “vision of Peace” this week in The New York Times? It seems that his terror campaign is continuing, despite his flowery op-ed words. It was reported that the terrorist who infiltrated Moshav Hamra on Wednesday was a member of the Arafat-affiliated Aksa Brigade of the Fatah Tanzim.

Then, at a rally in Ramallah on Thursday (Feb. 7), the Jerusalem Post reports that Arafat repeated his call for millions of martyrs to march toward Jerusalem.

HonestReporting encourages members to monitor their local media to see how Arafat’s stance is being reported this week: Is he portrayed as the visionary of peace, or as the king of terror?

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


Following is an excerpt from “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News” by Bernard Goldberg, published by Regnery Publishing, Inc. Chapter 14, “Connecting the Dots… to Terrorism.”

…Was what happened on September 11 a subversion of Islam, as pundits and journalists on network and cable TV told us over and over again? Or was it the results of an honest reading of the Koran? It’s true, of course, that if taken too literally by uncritical minds, just about any holy book can lead to bad things. Still why are there no Christians suicide bombers, or Jewish suicide bombers, or Hindu suicide bombers, or Buddhist suicide bombers, but no apparent shortage of Muslim suicide bombers? If Islam is “a religion of peace” as so many people from President Bush on down were telling us (and, for what it’s worth, I’m prepared to believe that it is), then what exactly is it in the Koran that so appeals to these Islamic fanatics? Don’t look for that answer on the network news…

I understand that even to ask questions about a possible connection between Islam and violence is to tread into politically incorrect terrain. But it seems to me that the media need to go there anyway. And any network that can put thousands of stories on the air about sex and murder should be able to give us a few on the atmosphere that breeds religious zealotry. It might have helped us see what was coming on September 11.

In fact, I learned much more about the atmosphere that breeds suicide bombers from one short article in Commentary magazine than I have from watching twenty years of network television news. In its September 2001 issue (which came out before the attack on America), there was an article by Fiamma Nirenstein, an Italian Journalist based in Israel, entitled “How Suicide Bombers Are Made.” In it, she tells about a “river of hatred” that runs through not just the most radical of Arab nations but also much of what we like to think of as the “moderate” Arab world.

She tells us about a series of articles that ran in the leading government-sponsored newspaper in Egypt, Al Ahram, about how Jews supposedly use the blood of Christians to make matzah for Passover. She tells us about a hit song in Cairo, Damascus, and the West Bank with the catchy title “I Hate Israel.”

…Can you imagine if the big hit song in Israel was “I Hate Palestine” or “I Hate Arabs”? The New York Times would have put the story on page one and then run an editorial just to make sure we all got the message — that the song is indecent and contributes to an atmosphere of hate. And since the Times sets the agenda for the networks, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Peter Jennings would have all fallen into line and run big stories on their evening newscasts, too, saying the exact same thing. A week later, Mike Wallace would have landed in Tel Aviv looking absolutely mortified that those Jews would do such a thing.

…It’s true that not long after the twin towers of the World Trade Center came tumbling down, the networks showed us pictures of Palestinians in East Jerusalem honking their horns, firing their guns into the air, and generally having a good old time celebrating the death of so many Americans in New York and Washington. They cheered “God is great” while they handed out candy, which is a tradition in the Arab world when something good happens.

…But here the media — apparently feeling squeamish about stories that put the “underdogs” in a bad light – keep us virtually in the dark. And it’s not just little tidbits like “I Hate Israel” and articles about Jews taking Christian blood that I — and almost all Americans — knew nothing about.

…[T]hat kind of news makes liberal journalists uneasy. After all, these are the same people who bend over backwards to find “moral equivalence” between Palestinian terrorists who blow up discos in Tel Aviv fill
ed with teenagers, on the one hand, and Israeli commandos who preemptively kill terrorist ringleaders before they send their suicide bombers into Israel on a mission to kill Jews, on the other.

On September 11, right after the networks showed us the pictures of Palestinians celebrating American deaths, they also showed us Yasser Arafat expressing his condolences and giving blood for the American victims. This, in its way, represented a kind of moral equivalence: while some Palestinians celebrate, the news anchors were suggesting, their leader does not; he is somber and, we’re led to believe, absolutely shocked. But we could have done with a little less moral equivalence on the part of the press and a little more tough journalism. Someone should have asked the leader of Palestinian people if he understood that the cultures that he and other “moderate” Arab leaders preside over “carefully nurture and inculcate resentments and hatreds against American and the non-Arab world,” as a Wall Street Journal editorial put it. And if that’s asking too much of a field reporter covering a seemingly shaken and distraught Arafat in the wake of September 11, then an anchor back in New York should have wondered out loud about that very connection.

But to have asked such a question might have been viewed as anti-Arab (and therefore pro-Israeli), and reporters and anchors would rather be stoned by an angry mob in Ramallah than be seen in that light. So we didn’t learn that day if Chairman Arafat quite understood his role in the celebration he so deplored. Nor did we get an explanation on the news about why there were not thousands of other Arabs in the streets — on the West Bank or in Jerusalem or in the “moderate” Arab countries — expressing their condolences. Was it because they were afraid to show support for American victims of terrorism? Or was it because they, like the Palestinians we saw with great big smiles, didn’t feel that bad about what happened?

…None of this is an argument that the media are intentionally pro-Arab. Rather like the U.S. State Department, they are pro “moral equivalence.” If they connect the dots with stories on the news about hit songs called “I Hate Israel” and all the rest, the Arab world will accuse the “Jewish-controlled” American media of being sympathetic to “Israeli oppression.”

…But moral equivalence and the quest for evenhanded journalism should not stop the media from telling us more — much more in my view — about the kind of backwardness and hatred that is alive and well, not just in places like Kabul and Baghdad, but in “moderate” cities and villages all over the Arab world. Even if it means going against their liberal sensibilities and reporting that sometimes even the underdog can be evil.