Mainstream Media: New American Crisis

It finally happened. The New York Times finally went too far. A member of Congress has finally called the mainstream media on its treasonous behavior. The public has finally had enough, and so have I.

Without even the appearance of impropriety or a hint of illegality, the New York Times released information about America’s secret wartime effort to track and cut international funding to terrorist operations. The move came despite numerous bipartisan pleas for the Times to show restraint.

Instead of calling for restraint, Rep. Peter King (R.-N.Y.) went one step further. He called for a criminal investigation. “We’re at war, and for the Times to release information about secret operations and methods is treasonous,” King told the Associated Press.

While other papers also ran with the story, the Times was likely singled out because it made a similar decision in December to released classified information about a National Security Agency program for overseas terrorist surveillance of telephone calls.

While the leader of the pack, the Times is not alone in this disgraceful behavior:

  • In November, the Washington Post released allegedly classified information that the “CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe.”
  • For months, the Democratic leadership, CNN and members of the liberal elite press treated the photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison like a 13-year old boy would treat his first copy of Playboy.
  • A Newsweek article reported, as gospel, a terrorist detainee’s accusation that U.S. personnel at Guantanamo had flushed a Koran down a toilet. The story led to protests, riots and deaths throughout the Muslim world. After a lengthy investigation, a detailed inquiry found the charges had no basis in fact.
  • And earlier this month, while two brave American soldiers were being "barbarically" tortured and killed, the mainstream press was convicting American servicemen of heinous crimes without the benefit of a trial and referring to the “massacre” in Haditha with out the benefit of all of the facts.

The media use “1st Amendment” as their sole justification for their anti-American bias. The right of free speech is at the core of what makes us a great country and unique from our enemies; however, a proper understanding of liberty must always include the principle that with freedom comes responsibility.

While the press should never be a lapdog to any administration, reporters and editors should nonetheless never forget that they are Americans first and foremost. This is the proud history of wartime journalism in America; it predates the flag-wearing news anchors on September 11, the visibly joyful correspondents who danced with East and West Germans as a wall crumbled down, and the gutsy reporters stationed in a London under siege during WWII.

It’s a legacy as old as the Republic. In 1776, Thomas Paine was the editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine in Philadelphia. The author of Common Sense, a best-selling commentary on the abuses of the British crown, was the Revolutionary War’s equivalent of a modern day war correspondent.

These were bleak days for the new nation. In addition to further British entrenchment, the American patriots often found themselves faced with a loyalist or complacent citizenry. Many felt the war was ill-advised folly, had no chance of success and should have never been waged in the first place.

By December of that year, most of New Jersey was under British control, and many feared that an assault on Philadelphia—the home of the Continental Congress—would soon take place. The city, including members of Congress, fled for Baltimore.

Those who believed in the cause were increasingly pessimistic about their chances. And, as if the British and Loyalists were not tests enough, the weather and lack of provisions took a turn for the worst.

Paine saw that this as a time when the press had a responsibility to report accurate information, but also to praise our heroes, denounce our enemies, and support the struggle for freedom. As one historian put it: “He used the media as a weapon against British rule. He was in strong favor of a war against Britain, if that is what it was going to take to gain independence. Knowing that the war was going to need the support of all the colonists, he understood that unity was essential and found it necessary to offer what he could to help unite the thirteen colonies into one nation.”

Paine’s Crisis put forward in clearly written language the obstacles the colonists faced. It was hard-hitting journalism, make no mistake about it. Sure, there had been mistakes. Independence should have been declared much sooner. Sure, the war was proving costly and casualties were increasing. But Paine put these facts in perspective, in their proper and challenged his readers to keep the faith, dig deep and prepare to make the necessary sacrifices.

His words still speak to us today:

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

The Crisis was widely read and had a huge impact. It was so powerfully written, that it led many Loyalists to turn against the crown, caused those that were ambivalent or too timid to see the urgency of the cause, and boosted the morale of our troops in the field.

On Christmas Eve, as he prepared to take his freezing, starving and ill-equipped troops across the Delaware River, George Washington even read The Crisis to his beleaguered men. This reading is often credited with steadying the troops and inspiring them on to their Christmas Day victory.

Can one imagine the New York Times being read on the battlefield by our troops today for inspiration before a battle?

To call today’s media “sunshine patriots” would imply that it was on America’s side when things go well. I’ve seen no evidence of that.

Even the death of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was greeted with the typical skepticism and pessimism. While Iraqi reporters cheered the death of this barbaric murderer, the American media attempted to downplay the victory. Some even searched in vain for American underhandedness. “Why was he not taken alive?” they asked.

At a time when the mainstream media is focused on the still-unproven allegations of wrongdoing by a relatively small number of individuals in uniform, it is important that we remember all the good the U.S. military has done for the world. We are the most powerful nation the world has ever seen, yet our brave fighting men and women sacrifice, not to conquer, but to liberate. American journalists should take pride in this.

The new “American Crisis,” however, is our mainstream media, which is determined to undermine the security of this nation by any and all means necessary. Reporters and editors should be able to do their job, love their country and fight for its betterment, without aiding the enemy in the process. When a paper or network fails to meet this moral obligation, and actually crosses the line into treason, as the case has been with New York Times, it should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.