Yesterday morning I blogged my outrage at what struck me as a deliberate effort by our nation’s Big Liberal Media to downplay the gruesome decapitation of Nicholas Berg by Islamic terrorists in an attempt–futile in my opinion–to keep America’s attention focused on the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and the attendant finger-pointing at the Bush administration instead of real continuing terror in Iraq. (See my Dead Silence From the Media on the Murder of Nicholas Berg, along with The Other Charlotte’s follow-up, Still Abu Ghraib 24/7.) As I pointed out, the nation’s four largest newspapers–the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times–devoted not a single inch of editorial space to Berg yesterday, except for an anti-Bush snipe or two from Maureen Dowd in the NYT and an op-ed piece in the L.A. Times by the redoubtable Charles Paul Freund of Reason magazine.
Turns out I was hardly the only blogger in the ‘sphere to notice both Big Media’s efforts to downplay the Berg story–and also the fact that the rest of America was having none of the Abu Ghraib breast-beating and wanted instead to learn more about Berg. Yesterday afternoon Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit blog reported Reynolds’ own observation (you have to scroll down) that the media had moved the Berg story off their front pages yesterday in order to keep plugging away at Abu Ghraib “even to the point of running already discredited fake porn photos purporting to be from Iraq” (Click here and here for the fake-photos scandal at the Boston Globe). But on the Internet, where, as Reynolds points out, users, not editors set the agenda, the story that the users cared about was Berg’s. Indeed, the ghastly videotape of Berg’s head being hacked off with a knife seemed to be the top item for several leading search-engines, including Yahoo and Lycos.
It’s nice to see that the American people are too smart–and too in tune with what’s really at stake in Iraq–to be manipulated by the Big Media fixation on what what was in the end a lamentable lapse in military discipline, not a wholesale indictment of U.S. society. As Andrew Sullivan writes:
“My gut tells me that the Nick Berg video has had much more psychic impact in this country than the Abu Ghraib horrors. I even notice some small evidence for this. Every political blog site has just seen an exponential jump in traffic – far more than anything that occurred during the Abu Ghraib unfolding…. People who have tuned the war out suddenly tuned the war in. They get it. Will the mainstream media?”
Fortunately, some of America’s newspapers, if not the Big Four, did. My friend Rod Dreher wrote this editorial for the Dallas Morning News (excerpted in National Review Online’s The Corner), which carried a photo from the videotape of a terrorist displaying Berg’s severed head (blacked out in places so as not to offend his family’s sensibilities):
“Publishing this photo in no way justifies what happened in Abu Ghraib, nor does it lessen America’s responsibility to bring those responsible for perpetrating those acts to justice, and to atone for those wrongs. It is meant to bring perspective to events in Iraq, to refocus the nation’s eyes on the larger picture of the war against radical Islam, and its stakes. Nick Berg was but the latest victim in the terrorist war on civilization. Al-Qaeda doesn’t intend him to be their last. To paraphrase British Prime Minister Tony Blair, al-Qaeda members killed one, but if they could have killed 100,000, they would have rejoiced in it. Look at the photo of what they did to this young Pennsylvanian, and understand that this is why we Americans fight, however imperfectly, and that this is why we dare not lose faith in the justice and necessity of our cause.”
Today, the Washington Post seems to have gotten the message to some extent, publishing two feature stories on Berg himself. This nasty cartoon by the Post’s Tom Toles suggests, however, where the Post’s interests continue to lie.
Speaking of blogs, blogster Nicholas Boortz has some sharp words for Nicholas Berg’s bereaved father, who was anti-Bush and anti-Iraq War before his son’s tragedy and now is blaming it all on G.W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield:
“The last time I checked, Mr. Berg, the evidence was that your son traveled to Iraq on his [own] … looking for work. He wasn’t drafted. He wasn’t conscripted. He wasn’t forced. He made the decision, and unfortunately paid with his life. There are Islamic terrorists throughout the world, Mr. Berg. Your son could have gone to the Philippines instead of Iraq. Islamic terrorists have decapitated Americans there, too. Would you have also blamed that on Bush and Rumsfeld?
“Wouldn’t it be a travesty if Michael Berg were using the death of his son as an excuse to assign blame to a president he hasn’t liked from the beginning? For now, we’ll just chalk it up to grief. A few more words out of Michael Berg and we’re going to start thinking otherwise.”
Yes, we grieve along with you, Mr. Berg, but you’re starting to lose credibility.