Hear No Victory, See No Victory, Report No Victory
The Los Angeles Times goes to war.
6:00 AM, Mar 31, 2003 • By HUGH HEWITT
THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, often called the Lost Angeles Times or the Left Angeles Times, escapes the sort of scrutiny that Andrew Sullivan and others apply to the New York Times because the "West Coast's leading newspaper" simply doesn't matter much on the East Coast (and increasingly not so much in its own back yard).
Had the New York paper run with a front page like Sunday's LA Times did, Sullivan would have been at work for a week playing catch up. It is as though the editors had agreed on an "All setbacks, all the time" policy, regardless of the actual news from Iraq. Here are all of the headlines from Sunday's front page:
"Suicide Blast Kills 4 GIs at Checkpoint"
For good measure, here are the headlines from the Sunday "Opinion" section:
If actual control of the paper were handed over to Nancy Pelosi, I doubt that she could have come up with a more anti-Bush, pro-war-critic set of headlines.
Imagine if this crowd has been in control of the paper on June 18, 1944. For the benefit of the history-challenged, here is a portion of the World Book's account of Normandy:
"Eisenhower chooses Monday, June 5, 1944 as D-Day . . . Rough seas forced him to postpone D-Day until June 6. During the night, about 2,700 ships carrying landing craft and 176,000 soldiers crossed the channel. . . . D-Day took the Germans by surprise. But they fought back fiercely . . . By the end of June, 1944, about a million Allied troops had reached France. The Allied forces advanced slowly at first. The Americans struggled westward to capture the badly needed port of Cherbourg. British and Canadian soldiers fought their way to Caen. The battle for Cherbourg ended on June 27. Caen, which the British had hoped to capture on D-Day, fell on July 18. Near the end of July, the Allies finally broke through German lines into open country."
Had the Los Angeles Times today been reporting the war then, here are how the headlines might have read 12 days into the invasion:
"Hedgerow Hell: Allies Stall in Fields of Normandy"
More inventive folks than I can e-mail me corresponding headlines as the parallel timeline changes, but the point will stay the same. The Los Angeles Times and other papers and media outlets have made conscious decisions to express opposition to the war in their editorial pages. That opposition is, less than two weeks in, seeping into the news coverage. It is a first for American media to turn against a war so quickly and abandon objectivity so thoroughly. Although Operation Iraqi Freedom is the farthest, fastest major advance of U.S. military forces in history, with the fewest casualties, and although the prospect is still in front of us of a decisive victory within three months, nevertheless the doomsayers on Spring Street are working overtime to create an alternative vision of the war. This vision evidently requires the front page to be kept clear of all reports of victory.
I am unsure what to brand this practice, but whatever it is, it sure isn't journalism. That would require objectivity concerning the advance of coalition forces, the casualties the coalition has suffered, and the damage down to civilians, all measured against history's ruler. Such reporting might end up sounding like a paper endorsing victory, if only implicitly. For the folks at the Los Angeles Times, that would be going too far.
Hugh Hewitt is the host of The Hugh Hewitt Show, a nationally syndicated radio talkshow, and a contributing writer to The Daily Standard.