What you don't read in the mainstream media


Item 1: The letter from the mayor of Tal Afar thanking the 3rd Army Cavalry Regiment for liberating his city. The commander of that regiment, by the way, is the remarkable Col. H.R. McMaster, author of Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. Here is McMaster's account of the Tal Afar campaign, which did get some mainstream media coverage.

Item 2: Former Vice President Gore's extraordinary statement at the Jidda Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia. He said that after 9/11, Arabs were "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable. . . . Unfortunately there have been terrible abuses and it's wrong. I do want you to know that it does not represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country."

"The thoughtless way in which visas are now handled, that is a mistake," Gore said during the forum. "The worst thing we can possibly do is to cut off the channels of friendship and mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and the United States."

This is evidently a reference to the ending of the Visa Express program, in which Saudis were issued visas, without personal interviews, delivered directly to their travel agents. Joel Mowbray wrote about this extensively on www.nationalreview.com and showed how the State Department resisted ending Visa Express. Of course, it was just such careless issuing of visas and failure to keep track of those with expired visas that allowed the 15 Saudi September 11 hijackers to enter and remain in the United States. Evidently, Gore takes the wacky view that we should just let Saudis willy-nilly into the United States.

Why do the mainstream media ignore such interesting stories? A long time ago, David Broder, in his book Behind the Front Page, explained that reporters tend to look for the story where they think it is. Time is limited, resources are limited, and so like an intelligent hockey player you go to where you think the puck is headed. And where you think the puck is headed depends on how you think the world works, where you think history is headed.

The mainstream media think we are in a quagmire in Iraq—the same quagmire, they think, as in Vietnam. (Wrongly, I think, on Vietnam, as I discussed in a previous post.) The letter from the mayor of Tal Afar doesn't fit within this meme, so it doesn't appear. The mainstream media think that the Democrats are offering thoughtful and intelligent criticism of the obviously wacky and harmful policies of the Bush administration. Gore's obviously wacky denunciation of "terrible abuses" and his apology for our (belated) tightening of visa requirements on Saudis does not fit within this meme, so it doesn't appear. At least not in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Times, or Boston Globe, according to Hugh Hewitt.

Even though there is increasing talk of Gore's challenging Hillary Rodham Clinton from the left in the 2008 presidential caucuses and primaries. I doubt that Gore will run, but he is certainly a major national figure who can boast, legitimately, of having won the fourth-largest number of popular votes for president in American history (behind Reagan '84, Bush '04, and Kerry '04) and of having played a serious and arguably constructive role on public policy as a member of the House, a member of the Senate, and vice president for eight years each. Such outrageous statements by a serious public figure should be news—but not, evidently, if they get in the way of steering public opinion in the direction that mainstream media would like.

In the meantime, thousands of trees are felled for newsprint decrying to heaven the 18-hour delay in reporting the fact that Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter in Kenedy County, Texas. For what it's worth, I think that was legitimate news and should have been reported earlier. But the fuss is way out of proportion to the offense. Yet it gets plenty of coverage because it fits within a mainstream media meme: You shouldn't trust Dick Cheney and the Bush administration.