The Mainstream Media can’t get enough of Tiger Woods’ marital woes, the fallout from Adam Lambert’s sexually suggestive act at the American Music Awards and those publicity hungry White House party crashers.
Those same outlets can’t be bothered to tell the story of charges filed against three Navy SEALs who captured the supposed mastermind behind the slaughter of four Blackwater security guards in Fallujah five years ago.
The SEALs in question who captured Ahmed Hashim Abed — Matthew McCabe, Petty Officer Jonathan Keefe and Petty Officer Julio Huertas — are accused of bloodying his lip after apprehending him.
Instead of being held up as an example of military heroism, the men will face a court martial proceeding. The trio chose that option in the hope of fully clearing their names and resuming their Navy careers.
Sounds like the kind of story any reporter would pounce on, a tale blending legal intrigue, a horrific act against Americans and national security.
The case is reminiscent of the charges against two former U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean who served time for shooting and wounding an unarmed illegal immigrant. Their sentences were commuted by former President George W. Bush.
But this time the wounded party was a dangerous man potentially responsible for one of the most notorious acts against U.S. citizens of the past decade.
It’s hardly a shock Fox News is leading the investigation into the incident, since the news channel often goes where its competitors fear not tread. But didn’t The New York Times recently assign an editor to scour right-leaning blogs and media outlets so the paper wouldn’t miss another story like disgraced green jobs czar Van Jones or the ACORN investigations?
Tim Graham, Director of Media Analysis for the Media Research Center, says he hasn’t seen coverage of the Navy SEALs story in The Washington Post, The New York Times or the major network news programs.
“It’s only a Fox story,” Graham says.
It’s part of the way the modern news media operates, Graham says. If major outlets cover a story, Fox News generally will follow their example. But if Fox News is leading the way, its competitors typically back off, he says, something he calls “the Fox effect.”
“It’s why the Anita Dunns of the world would say this is an not a legitimate news organization,” Graham says, referring to President Barack Obama’s former press official who has openly criticized Fox News.
“When news sources won’t cover a story like this they want it to go away,” he says, and that’s despite the fact that the 2004 Fallujah assault made it to the front page of the New York Times.
Graham suspects the SEALs case isn’t being treated the same way now because the underlying story doesn’t fit the media template.
Back in 2004, the media had a vested interest in news stories illustrating how the war in Iraq was going badly – and how that reflected on President Bush, he says.
“In this case … they seem almost averse to controversy, or tangling [President] Obama in controversy,” he says.
A defender of the press could argue that news of the SEALs situation broke around the time of the Thanksgiving holiday, when many reporters were home with their families. But enough press outlets rallied their troops to cover the White House party crashers and the Woods’ imbroglio with wall to wall coverage.
The SEALs case doesn’t just affect the three men embroiled in the matter. It could send a signal to other U.S. soldiers on the battlefield, a sign that says handle terrorists with care or their careers could be in jeopardy.
Jay Kopelman, retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel and executive director of Freedom is Not Free, says incidents like this dampen a soldier’s morale, but not in the way one might expect.
Kopelman says the potential prosecution of the SEALs is a “loss of confidence in the senior … leadership of the military” and the Department of Defense.
“Losing men and battles and not having support from higher headquarters can lead to loss of morale, in my opinion, not this,” says Kopelman, whose group helps veterans in a variety of ways. He compares the incident to the Tailhook Convention scandal of 1991 in which senior leadership officials “took cover behind their rank and decried the moral outrage of it all.”
Kopelman can’t know what happened at the moment the SEALs grabbed Abed, but taking the word of a known terrorist over three Navy SEALs who is hardly the best decision in these times.
“We’ve become so overly sensitive to detainees’ rights following Abu Ghraib … that if one of these guys has a hang nail we’re going to launch an investigation,” he says.