Does the press ever see both sides?

January 17, 2000|By Mona Charen

To paraphrase National Review, my patience with the new century is exhausted. Here are three complaints.

Uttering anti-liberal sentiments immediately plunges you into far more trouble than any calumny against, say, Christians or conservatives. This is common knowledge.

You can compare Republicans who want to cut the rate of increase in spending on school lunches to Nazis, secure that there will be no outcry (except from conservatives), no need for a public apology and no groveling required.

We've seen it a thousand times. Racist or xenophobic remarks (the vast majority of which seem to come from the world of sports -- why is that?) are an instant ticket to obloquy -- which they should be. But the corresponding outrages against conservatives, or the things conservatives tend to hold dear (like religion), are tolerated.

John Rocker, a player for the Atlanta Braves, apparently let the competitive spirit lead him astray in discussing the New York Yankees. His remarks, quoted by Sports Illustrated, included the following: "Imagine taking the (No. 7) train to the ballpark, looking like you're in Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids."

Now it is perfectly reasonable for the Atlanta Braves to punish Rocker, or even to dismiss him. But things have moved to a new plane. The Braves have ordered Rocker to undergo psychiatric evaluation!

What is this, the Soviet Union? They used to send dissidents to mental hospitals on the grounds that anyone who didn't tow the party line must be insane. Are we far behind? What's next, re-education camp? As psychiatrist Dr. Sally Satel pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article, psychiatrists treat the mentally ill -- not the racist or obnoxious.

Then there is the tiresome bias of the press. This is so common it is almost unfair to single anyone out. But I happened to be watching CNN recently and heard this bit of editorializing from Bernard Shaw, after he had shown a clip of Steve Forbes' new anti-abortion commercial running in Iowa: "The ad is Forbes' first on the abortion issue, and reflects his hard-line stand against abortion rights."

Two crotchets. First: Forbes is not actually known for a "hard-line" stance on abortion. He was squishy on the question last time around. A more knowledgeable news operation would have described the ad as part of Forbes' attempt to burnish his new anti-abortion credentials.

Second: The use of the term"abortion rights" amounts to taking sides. It sounds so much worse to be against somebody's "rights," whatever noun precedes it, than simply to be against the thing itself.

CNN and the other news operations don't want to use the terms "pro-choice" and "pro-life" -- probably because they don't like the implication that those who favor unlimited abortion are pro-death. OK, so why not use "pro-choice" (we know you don't want to use "pro-abortion") and "anti-abortion."

The pro-life folks don't mind saying what they're against -- even if the pro-choicers don't want to admit what they're for.

Finally, the Washington Post, in a story about the Supreme Court, engaged in the sort of foolishness that characterizes so much reporting about the courts. The justices were considering whether grandparents should have visitation rights to their grandchildren.

Six of the justices, the Post informed readers, are grandparents themselves, and one justice, Clarence Thomas, who was raised by his grandparents, asked no questions during oral argument.

Well, so what? Thomas never asks questions during oral arguments. But the larger point is this: Our ideal is that judges should never be influenced by their own personal situations.

Clearly, the ideal is never quite reached. But liberals, in this era of identity politics, don't even believe in the ideal anymore.

It is assumed that being female will affect two justices' votes on the Violence Against Women Act, and that being black will affect one justice's vote on prisoners' rights, and so. No, no, no. They should decide on the facts and the law.

Sigh. Keeping up with the news is not good for one's blood pressure.

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist.

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