Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Newsweek Report Retracted

Last week, Newsweek magazine published a story alleging that US military interrogators desecrated copies of the Koran in order to intimidate and coerce Muslim detainees at Guantanamo Bay Cuba. This story enraged the Muslim world and resulted in major protests in Afghanistan (resulting in 14 deaths and over 100 injuries) and the Palestinian territories and other unrest across the Middle East from Egypt to Pakistan. Fundamentalist entities in Pakistan have demanded the extradition of the alleged blasphemers so that they can be tried according to Pakistani law (which upon conviction could lead to a death sentence) and Afghani clerics have threatened to declare holy war upon the US if the people who committed this act were not brought to justice. The damage done to the credibility of the US throughout the Middle East is incalculable (but likely on par with the Abu Ghraib revelations) and no matter where the investigation into the matter eventually leads, probably irreversible. Of course, US troops will now find themselves in the midst of this fallout and can now expect to be the target of further ire from an already bellicose Afghani population for an instance that they had nothing to do with.

And now, we find that the act that is causing all of the trouble probably never even happened. I hope that the people at Newsweek are proud of themselves. They finally broke a story that really made an impact across the globe. It has got people talking, in fact rioting, over its content and given the Islamic fundamentalist militants another rallying point in their war against the satanic US. The propaganda arm of al Qaeda could not have done it better.

So, what should we do with Newsweek, a magazine with journalistic standards apparently so low that even the folks at the Weekly World News are probably shaking their heads in disgust? I, for one, no longer find any journalistic value in it anymore and do not even see it fit for use as toilet paper. I would rather risk the wrath of my wife by using the guest towels if I was caught in a pinch.

As for the strife now rolling through the Middle East, I find it hard to believe that this has been a spontaneous reaction to the alleged desecration. Even Afghan government officials have speculated that pro-Taliban agitators have been escalating the violence. These agitators, who are currently working their compatriots into a frenzy over this fabricated blasphemy are sympathetic to a militant regime that, in addition to barbarically trampling the rights of their own people, destroyed two towering 1,300 year-old Buddhist monuments carved out of the side of a cliff in 1998. Frankly, I would find the militants’ indignation laughable if it was not so dangerous to American interests, deployed service men and women being chief among those. As far as I’m concerned, any militant cleric that has the nerve to decry an indignation to the Islamic faith deserves to get slapped upside the head with a rotten pork chop for blatant hypocrisy before getting sent straight to hell in the first class compartment of a Tomahawk missile.

So, am I suggesting that good Americans openly vandalize Islamic relics in response to the fundamentalist element’s disrespect of non-Muslim relics? Absolutely not. As an unrepentant advocate of western culture, I demand that we behave better than that. Furthermore, disrespecting the Koran would be an inexcusable affront to the Muslim citizenry of the United States who have done nothing to deserve the insult. I also believe that the extremist elements we are currently fighting do not speak for the world’s Muslims any more so than the Ku Klux Klan speaks for the Baptist church. I believe it to be our duty to better distinguish between the two. We do however need to put instances like this in perspective. If someone did desecrate the Koran during an interrogation it would be an ABERRATION, something out of norm, something not worthy of being trumpeted across the globe as a blazing beacon proving our fascist inclinations and intentions of global subjugation. For me, this Newsweek fiasco is little more than an example of the media elite zealously searching for the next Abu Ghraib story, desperately foaming at the mouth to uncover some heinous example of the Bush administration’s evil intentions, something that will disgrace our troops, empower our enemies and prove that they, the liberal journalism elite, were right from the very beginning. Not to mention, stories that uncover the evils of the United States sell and of course, Newsweek does exist to make a profit. It is just too bad the only way they see themselves able to make this profit is at the irreparable expense of a nation that allows its media to speak freely and to the benefit of those with no concept free speech whatsoever.

The American media is often called the fourth branch of the US government, independent of its control yet crucial to keeping it honest. The problem is that unlike the executive, legislative and judicial branches of federal governance, the media is not susceptible to the same checks and balances that keep IT from gaining too much power. So how can people keep a free press from growing too powerful and exerting undue influence over world events such as that which has been witnessed over the past week? By hitting it where it will hurt them the most: their profit margin. As of this moment, I am promising myself to never again buy another issue of Newsweek magazine, letting it join Dan Rather, CBS News and Mitch Albom in the JEP Report’s “Jaded Journalist Hall of Shame”.

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