The Acceptable Bounds of Discourse, Pro-War Version


Today, Glenn Reynolds put up this post:

THE OFFICERS' CLUB looks at the media and the war on terror.

Following the link—usually an interesting exercise when Glenn gets terse—and you see such measured analysis as this:

The media, while a single-edged sword against [the] US now, can have its edge doubled by reports of Arab reaction to the enemy's senseless women-and-children killing.

Italics mine, to emphasize a common theme that Reynolds has long helped to promote—that American journalists are monolithically serving the needs of, and perhaps even openly rooting for, American's enemies. It's a load of bull, but that hasn't stopped Reynolds from warning sadly about what will happen to the First Amendment if Americans start believing the nonsense his friends write.

But I was more interested by one of the pieces of writing The Officers' Club post highlighted, from genial weblogger and self-described libertarian Stephen "VodkaPundit" Green.

It's a long post, so I won't attempt to summarize it, but among other things he describes the media as the "Arm of Decision" in the war on terror; warns that "We could lose also because our mainstream media seems to find terrorists less unattractive than having a conservative Texan in the White House," and concludes:

But if we lose this Terror War, our media will be seen as largely to blame. They'll suffer blame for their ignorance and for their petulance. They'll suffer blame for seeing al Jazeera as comrades closer than the privates and NCOs and officers fighting to protect the First Amendment. They'll suffer blame for putting their hatred of a Republican President before their love of country. Whether that assessment is fair or not, it is how the public will see things.

Then the public would demand changes. And they'd probably get them, courtesy of a government looking for scapegoats, real or imagined. Should that day come, we'd lose our free press, and we'd lose our freedoms. We'd lose our country.

I don't think we'll ever "lose our free press," for these or any other reasons, though I'll note again that if the sky should indeed fall in this way we should reserve at least some finger-pointing for the people who popularized the inaccurate idea that the media is rooting as one for America's enemies.

But what I'm more curious about, especially in the wake of President Bush's "pushback" strategy, is Green's solution to the media crisis. Turns out, it involves strict definitions on the bounds of acceptable discourse:

It's fair to ask if the Iraq Campaign was a necessary component to the Terror War. It isn't fair to compare Iraq to Vietnam, when the two wars have nothing, zero, nada in common. It's fair to ask if our soldiers are dying in vain, or because of stupid policy, or because of inferior equipment. It's not fair to run headlines like "Battle Deaths Continue to Mount." No shit, Sherlock? A real story would be, "Battle Deaths Decline as Fallen Soldiers Miraculously Resurrected." It's fair to question Bush's policies. It's not fair to act as a conduit for enemy propaganda. It's fair to ask if Iraq is draining resources from our efforts in Afghanistan. It's not fair to complain that Afghanistan isn't perfect yet. It's fair to complain about indecencies at Abu Ghraib. It's not fair to virtually ignore atrocities committed by the other side everywhere else in Iraq.

So, if I'm getting the general vibe of the pro-Pushback crowd right, it's "fair" to declare that the U.S. media (and those who have the temerity, or should I say derangement, to believe that the White House manipulated pre-war intelligence), are deliberately (and again, monolithically) trying to lose the war by siding with America's enemies … but it's "not fair" to print the headline "Battle Deaths Continue to Mount."

Or maybe it boils down to this—it's OK to say that "Newsweek lied, people died," but don't you dare say such a thing about the guy who actually commands the world's most powerful military.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds says "Matt Welch is dissing me and Stephen Green for having the temerity to suggest that it's wrong for the press to peddle falsehoods about the war," and also: "By treating complaints about dishonest and politically motivated reporting as the equivalent of complaints about simply reporting bad news, Welch is attacking a straw man." Read the whole thing. I did neither, of course; never have, and never will.