Brit Hume on Media Bias
Imprimis is a monthly publication put out by Hillsdale College. (For some reason I ‘ve received it for over 10 years, despite never signing up for it or ever indicating I want to continue to receive it.)
As a publication it isn’t much, really nothing more than a pamphlet, featuring a single editorial. But they seem to attract the A list of conservative commentators and intellectuals and other public personalities that don’t typically editorialize on matters of a partisan political nature. The latter of which is on display in the June issue, which features Brit Hume of Fox News.
In an article entitled “The American Media in Wartime,” he provides some pointed observations on media bias as it pertained to the war Iraq. His examples and analysis don’t necessarily shed any new light on the issue, these criticisms have appeared elsewhere already. But delivered from his position as a veteran member of the mainstream media, he does lend additional credence to the argument.
Hume’s willingness to name names and cite specific examples of poor reporting and suspect motives is refreshingly candid (including brickbats thrown at both Peter Jennings and Ted Koppel, his former colleagues at ABC). And his overall summation of the war reporting is withering:
They didn’t get it just a little wrong. They got it completely wrong. And many of these same people had gotten it wrong in much the same way a year-and-a-half earlier, portraying U.S. forces in Afghanistan as facing the most inhospitable kind of terrain imaginable, not to mention the most dug-in and difficult-to-find enemy ever confronted.
Hume never comes straight out and says that the media bias is politically motivated. Rather, he ascribes it to a general institutionalized suspicion of the military, stemming from the experience of the Vietnam War.
I think about this phenomenon a lot. I worry and wonder about the fact that so many people can get things so wrong, so badly, so often, so consistently and so repeatedly. And I think that there are ideas lurking under the surface that help to explain why this happens. In brief, when it comes to the exercise of American power in the world, particularly military power, there seems to be a suspicion among those in the media – indeed, a suspicion bordering on a presumption – of illegitimacy, incompetence and ineffectiveness.
If you go back and look at American military operations beginning with the Grenada invasion and including Panama, the Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, and you study what U.S. military spokesmen said about how those conflicts were going at each stage, you’ll see that they were right, and that they told the truth, by and large. No doubt they made some mistakes, but there was nothing like the large deceptions and misrepresentations that made so many journalistic careers in Vietnam. The military learned its lesson in Vietnam, and it has not behaved that way since. You’d think journalists would have noticed. They haven’t.
Hume also comments on what he thinks makes Fox News different than all of its competitors in the mainstream media.
There is a balance to be struck in journalism. I know that some people would argue that FOX News was cheerleading on the war, and in some instances, perhaps, those criticisms are justified. What we didn’t do was to announce early on and repeatedly that all was lost, that nothing could be done, and that the whole thing was an illegitimate enterprise bound for failure. Others did, and the beat goes on.