Politics & Policy

The Truth Squad

From the July 26, 2004, issue of National Review.

Weapons of Mass Distortion: The Coming Meltdown of the Liberal Media by L. Brent Bozell III (Crown Forum, 272 pp., $25.95)

L. Brent Bozell III is, as has been frequently noted, a national treasure; the work his Media Research Center does in compiling evidence of the media’s flagrant bias is invaluable. Bozell’s new book, Weapons of Mass Distortion: The Coming Meltdown of the Liberal Media, provides example after hilarious example of the press allowing its biases to obscure the truth.

One golden instance will serve to illustrate. In late October 2001, the venerated R. W. Apple of the New York Times asked: “Could Afghanistan become another Vietnam? Is the United States facing another stalemate on the other side of the world? Premature the questions may be, three weeks after the fighting began. Unreasonable they are not, given the scars scoured into the national psyche by defeat in Southeast Asia. For all the differences between the two conflicts, and there are many, echoes of Vietnam are unavoidable.” Unavoidable, certainly; in the sense that to the obsessed patient his idée fixe is unavoidable. Bozell helpfully points out that despite the scoured scars in our psyche, and the unavoidable echoes of Vietnam, our troops went on to roll up the Taliban within the following couple of weeks.

Which proves that reality will preserve its integrity, despite what the New York Times says. And this leads to Bozell’s deeper contention: A media establishment so willing to make empirically falsifiable claims is losing touch with its very need for credibility. If you semi-automatically raise the specter of Vietnam over Afghanistan, only to have your fears disproven within weeks, you need to adjust your worldview. If you don’t, people will rightly suspect that your intellectual commitments are not rationally based, but rather a form of superstition. This suspicion is indeed mounting, and not just among political conservatives; it’s the reason so many Americans are tuning out the biased mainstream media and turning to other news sources.

Bozell is part of an ongoing process of media reformation; this book is a step forward in that effort.

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