Where to begin? The Monitor certainly picked the wrong two weeks to take a long-delayed respite from the rigors of media watching. It's been an extended and extraordinary period of idiocy and advocacy masquerading as objective reporting, so rather than focus on one or two particularly egregious examples of media bias, the Monitor will hopscotch this week and next over a variety of observations in something close to stream-of-consciousness fashion.
It happens every time: Let Israel bomb empty office buildings of the Palestinian Authority and the mainstream American media will for the most part restrain from pouncing - and point to that restraint as "proof" of their even-handedness. But let Israel take military action on a fuller scale and the wolves not only pounce, they devour.
They say if you live long enough you'll see everything, but that doesn't mean you won't need the smelling salts this week. Sit, don't stand, because the Monitor is compelled to defend the Anti-Defamation League and its national director, Abraham Foxman, against some outrageous statements made by Toward Tradition and its president, Rabbi Daniel Lapin.
It was one of those stories that forever change the way an important public figure is perceived. But if you rely for your news on any or even all of the New York dailies, you might have overlooked - or entirely missed - the disturbing revelation that the Rev. Billy Graham, while at the height of his fame and influence 30 years ago, uttered anti-Semitic slurs and stereotypes in the company of an all-too-pleased Richard Nixon.
When we left off last week, columnist Joe Sobran was suggesting that perhaps "black-mail" could explain the evident tilt toward Israel on the part of the Bush administration.
For those of us who came of age in the 1960's and 70's, a time when the Cold War was still very much a daily life-and-death concern, there was never much confusion about what Right and Left stood for in terms of U.S. foreign policy.
Surely any but the most obtuse regular visitors to this space will understand just how painful it is for the Monitor to extend even the slightest praise to "60 Minutes" hatchet man Mike Wallace.
The Monitor likes Bernard Goldberg, it really does. And the Monitor despises the smugly insular media types who've been lambasting the former CBS News correspondent for his bestselling (#1 on this week's New York Times list) expose of the liberal bias that pervades the nation's news media.
For several weeks now the Monitor has put off writing a review of Bias, the blockbuster book by former CBS newsman Bernard Goldberg. As the number one non-fiction best-seller in the country, Bias has been praised and panned, in print and on the air, so many times over that there seemed to be nothing new the monitor could add.
Bill Maher isn't exactly the Monitor's cup of tea. The host of ABC's "Politically Incorrect" is smarmy more often than smart, his jokes run the gamut from the juvenile to the jejune, and, contrary to what one might think from the name of his show, he's actually quite politically correct on a number of social and political issues.
America's pundits and editorialists have for the most part been supportive of Israel's side of the story in the capture of the weapons-laden Katrine-A. Several examples of that support are offered below (the Monitor thanks Zionist Organization of America National President Morton Klein for the compilation), but first, a splash of frigid water from Reuters correspondent Jon Immanuel.
As was remarked upon here last week, The New York Times has for the past eight years been what can best be described as maddeningly ambivalent, when it hasn't been fighting mad, about Rudy Giuliani.
The New York Times has always had a difficult time understanding, let alone embracing, Rudolph Giuliani. From his first mayoral race - the losing effort against David Dinkins in 1989 - through his victory four years later and the wildly successful two terms in office that followed, Giuliani was treated by the Times with varying degrees of skepticism, condescension, moral outrage and, on occasion, admiration that might charitably have been described as grudging had it not been delivered with the obligatory qualifiers and negative asides the paper reserves these days for George W. Bush.
Every year at this time the conservative Media Research Center compiles the most outrageously biased and stupefyingly dumb remarks made by media people during the previous 12 months. Even the quickest perusal of these gems should forever still any doubts about the media's inherent liberal bias and stupefying shallowness.
Readers might find the following items from the Monitor's mailbag to be of some interest. (The Monitor responds privately to all e-mails and letters, but every now and then selects a few for public viewing.)
If you thought the Monitor was finished with ABC World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings last week, you don't know the Monitor or Peter Jennings. Throughout his career, starting with his years as a Beirut-based correspondent in the late 1960's and early 70's, Jennings has evinced a sharp pro-Palestinian bias - one that goes well beyond the ritualistic bromides mouthed by garden variety journalists who strive with all their might to attain the proper level of political correctness.
"Peter Jennings, Palestinian sympathizer first, journalist second?" is how the conservative Media Research Center (MRC) put it in its CyberAlert of Dec. 4. "Israel," the alert went on, "was the victim of a murderous terrorist attack by a terrorist group, Hamas, which claimed credit.
More looniness to report this week from our friends on the left, who since Sept. 11 have put to rest the notion that their habitual opposition to virtually any U.S. military action would dissipate the moment the country came under actual attack from a foreign enemy.
It's been raining rumor and myth since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. And though most of the so-called urban legends that now abound on the Internet and even make an appearance or two in mainstream news outlets are easily dispelled by their very outlandishness, there are some that just won't go away.
Phil Donahue, the godfather of trashy daytime TV talk, has taken himself out of mothballs, seemingly determined to remind persons of discriminating taste exactly why they were so overjoyed to see him go into retirement in the first place.
It was too good to last. The news media, which by and large performed admirably for about a month after the events of Sept. 11, are showing clear signs of reverting to old habits. The sour cynicism directed at American officials, the credulous reporting of enemy claims, the shallowness and sensationalism that once were the province of cheesy local stations but have long since become a staple of the network news departments - all of these are slowly coming out of hiding and reasserting themselves as the driving forces of American journalism.
Onward with the best (or worst, if you will) of what those on the left are saying in the aftermath of Sept. 11. We'll start off the week with Studs Terkel, whose popular oral histories (Working, etc.) lead many to mistakenly label him a writer when in fact he's nothing more than an energetic tape recordist, to use the memorable term coined for him by Chicago Sun-Times columnist Steve Neal.
Ordinary Americans are more or less united in the war on terrorism, but one enters an altogether different universe when paying mind to the torrent of recent commentary from left-wing journalists, academics and entertainers.
The Monitor will return next week to compiling some of the more outrageous anti-U.S. and anti-Israel statements made by prominent leftists in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist atrocities. This week, however, attention must be paid to a welcome and long overdue media phenomenon: the roughing up, by an array of pundits who have replaced their rubber gloves with brass knuckles, of the always duplicitous Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The Monitor's most recent undertaking, interrupted by unavoidable circumstances last week, involved a look at some of the early left-wing reaction to the terrorist attacks on America. That our friends on the left would adopt a blame America and/or Israel party line should have been obvious from the get-go, and was exemplified by essays written by Robert Fisk in The Nation and Gary Kamiya on Salon.com.