There was a time long, long ago when news was reported with emphasis on fact and commentary was labeled “commentary” on TV. There was a time when your hometown paper interspersed news among the advertising, and the editorial page was reserved for point-of-view editorials. A time when political cartoons were exclusively on the editorial page rather than the sports, business and cartoon section as well. Those were the days when you could read an article or watch the nightly news and have some confidence the information was as accurate as possible.

Nowadays you can read or watch the news with a skeptical and inquiring point of view or be slowly seduced into a brain-dead rigid position on nearly every issue that a particular “news source” believes is of consequence, and therefore worth influencing your decision making process. Don’t believe me? Here are a few recent subtle examples; there are many more blatant:

Last evening, I watched the nightly news on CBS as a reporter described the latest worldwide anti-U.S. propaganda issue, a reputed massacre of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines. She ended her story by emphasizing how difficult this makes our efforts in Iraq and “the (Bush) administration’s search for an exit strategy.” That phrase caught my attention. I thought we were trying to win a war against a worldwide terrorist movement based in politicized religious fundamentalism that has perpetrated repeated sneak attacks against U.S. citizens over many years and against other democracies. I thought we were assisting a new nation to create a democracy in the Middle East. But now I should believe that we are desperately “searching for an exit strategy” since CBS apparently believes we should not be involved in Iraq. See how subtle the media is? They plant the seed and repeat the opinion until you absorb it as “popular opinion.” Can you imagine what Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, could have done with an Edward R. Morrow opinion that the U.S. was “searching for an exit strategy from WW II.”

I read a lot of newspapers because I want to understand both sides of issues and I also enjoy uncovering bias due to deception or ignorance. Of all the editorial pages you would expect to support the U.S. effort in Iraq, the Wall Street Journal would be near the top of the list. But, consider this statement from a Thursday, May 25, editorial titled "Iraq’s War Cabinet:"

“All of which points out again the troubles that have arisen from the terribly slow transition to Iraq sovereignty. The momentum of Saddam Hussein’s swift fall from power was squandered as Iraqis were forced to wait more than a year and a half to vote in their first free election. Then that election was held under a system of 'proportional representation' that exacerbated the very sectarian trends that are plaguing the country now.”

Can you believe it has taken the U.S. and Iraqis three years to fight a war, free their country from dictatorship, form an elected congress, vote for a constitution, elect a prime minister and begin the path to democracy? What part of “A New York Minute” don’t they understand? However, consider that it took the U.S. seven years to prevail in our Revolutionary War; four more years to hold a constitutional convention; another year to ratify the constitution; another year to elect a president and pass the Bill of Rights. By my count the Iraqis are 10 years ahead of our track record, and it took us four more years to pass the Fugitive Slave Act and take a step backward. I know, it’s all in your perspective, but it helps to read between the lines.

Kudos, gripes, suggestions? E-mail dfbackus@aol.com.

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