Ted Koppel’s Sweeps Week “Tribute” To The Soldiers KIA In Iraq

by John Hawkins | April 30, 2004 11:59 pm

There has been quite a bit of debate about Ted Koppel’s attempt to gin up ratings by reading the names of all the soldiers KIA in Iraq on Nightline tonight. Of course, they’re claiming this is simply a “tribute to the dead” and the fact that it’s occurring during sweeps[1] is pure coincidence — sure it is Ted, sure it is.

That being said, there’s nothing inherently wrong with reading the names of the fallen in Iraq. If let’s say Brit Hume were to have done exactly the same thing Koppel is doing tonight, when sweeps were over, I doubt if it would have been treated like a big deal.

So why are people angry about what Koppel’s doing? So angry that the Sinclair Broadcast group[2] has yanked Nightline on its 8 ABC affiliates and said that the program is a “misuse of (the soldiers) sacrifice to support an anti-war position with which most, if not all, of these soldiers would not have agreed”?

Put simply, there are a lot of people, myself, who think the left leaning media’s coverage of this war has been, largely for political and ideological reasons, lopsided to the point of being despicable. Remembering the lives ended and forever altered by the war is important, but obsessively playing up every life lost, every problem, and dramatically exaggerating every negative while either ignoring or downplaying the reasoning behind the war, what we’re trying to do, and all the positive things that have been accomplished, should in no way, shape, or form, be considered to be objectively “reporting the news”.

For example, the media just couldn’t wait to show you the flag draped coffins coming back from Iraq and now Koppel’s reading the names of the dead on Nightline. Did Koppel ever read the names of the people killed on 9/11? No. Didn’t the networks collectively ban the footage of people jumping out of the Twin Towers 48 hours after it happened? Yes.

And that has been the pattern throughout the whole war. Members of 9/11 families angry at Bush about the war? That gets big coverage. Members of 9/11 families supporting Bush’s stance on the war? It gets buried. Saddam Hussein is toppled? Big deal, let’s talk about the Baghdad museum. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Vietnam. We’re on about 4th one of the war on terrorism. The war in Afghanistan was Vietnam, then we won. The war in Iraq was Vietnam, then we won. A few weeks after the Iraq war when things were still fairly chaotic, we were in Vietnam again. Then it quieted down for a while, but when Fallujah and Al-Sadr’s militia heated things up, the media decided it was Vietnam again.

So gloom and doom are always the order of day with the media, but where’s the perspective? How often do you hear ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the WAPO, the Chicago Tribune, etc, etc, etc, explaining how many people actually died in Vietnam and how long we were there, the difficulties of occupying Japan & Germany, comparing our casualties today to casualties in other major wars, talking about why it’s so important for us to help bring Democracy to Iraq, talking about Saddam’s terrorist ties, the ricin chemical weapon his scientists were working on, how many Democrats — John Kerry included — said Saddam has WMD before the war just like Bush did, all the good work we’re doing in Iraq, on, and on, and on? Very seldom and that’s the problem.

When you don’t get that balance from the media, it undermines America’s will to fight which encourages our enemies not only to hang on, but to try to take advantage of what is in effect “friendly” Western media coverage. Undoubtedly, there are soldiers & hostages who are dead today because the terrorists and insurgents wanted to try to break our will by using Ted Koppel and his ilk to their advantage.

That’s why I don’t particularly care for Koppel’s little “sweeps week” stunt. You want to pay tribute to our soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty? I applaud you for that. But, if you want to exploit our soldiers KIA to (stick it to Bush / slam the military / to try to undermine support for the war / to pull a few more eyeballs than normal during sweeps week / fill in the blank), then color me unimpressed. And yeah, Koppel — as well as most of the mainstream media — and while I’m at it, the overwhelming majority of bloggers on the left — leave me very unimpressed.

***Update #1***: Joe Mariani from Guardian WatchBlog wrote a splendid column[3] on this subject that I think is worth a read.

  1. sweeps: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/entertainment/news/celebrity/sfl-nitelineapr30,0,3083013.story?coll=sfla-entertainment-headlines
  2. Sinclair Broadcast group: http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/040430/phf033_1.html
  3. splendid column: http://guardian.blogdrive.com/archive/cm-4_cy-2004_m-4_d-30_y-2004_o-0.html

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