Under siege — Signal overrun with groundless propaganda

As those involved in journalism are fond of pointing out, Thomas Jefferson once wrote “our liberty depends on the freedom of the press.”

Jefferson also wrote “error of opinion may be tolerated when reason is free to combat it.” Sadly, today’s press provides much of the error and little of the reason.

I wrote last semester on how the press should be wary of making itself a party to political mudslinging, as it detracts from coverage of more noteworthy issues.

Needless to say, I’m quite chagrined to find that the very publication for which I write each week has been beseiged by baseless propaganda from the campus community

For instance, in a letter to the editor last week, Daniel Wilburn wrote, “now Bush is a terrorist. Just because he’s our ‘president’ doesn’t mean he’s any better than bin Laden or Hussein.”

Mr. Wilburn offered no further explanation for this absurd remark nor was there any indication that he was kidding.

The misdeeds of George W. Bush, whatever they may be, do not equivocate the misdeeds of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Presumably, the thrust of Wilburn’s faulty analogy pertains to the number of civilian casualties in Iraq.

That figure is estimated to be between 13,000 and 16,000 for the duration of the war.

For the sake of comparison, between 30,000 and 140,000 civilians died in a three-day span when Dresden was bombed in February 1945.

By Wilburn’s twisted logic, Winston Churchill (and, by extension, Franklin Delano Roosevelt) was no better than Adolph Hitler.

Wilburn also seems to overlook the fact that coalition forces in Iraq have not been targeting civilians (with a few exceptions), but rather armed insurgents.

The bin Laden-backed hijackers, on the other hand, flew their planes into the midst a dense civilian population.

Lastly, Wilburn’s comparison of Bush’s presidency to Hussein’s rule smacks of contempt for the suffering of the Iraqi people. Hussein was an autocrat who protected his rule by making use of brutal repression, the torture and execution of his enemies and authoritarian censorship of the press.

The mere fact that Wilburn was allowed to have his baseless tirade printed points to the wide discrepancies between Hussein’s Iraq and Bush’s America.

Wilburn would also do well to learn that, unlike Hussein prior to his forced removal, Bush will be voluntarily leaving office, either by defeat in the November election or by the expiration of his term after 2008.

Inasmuch as my fellow Signal editors have a policy of printing whatever letters they recieve, I do not begrudge them for printing Wilburn’s inflammatory garbage.

However, I do find it troubleing that their vocifierous dislike of the president has caused them to go against their better journalistic instincts and print information that can only be described as lacking in factual support.

Hundreds of substantive criticisms of the Bush administration can be (and have been) put forth, but the one advanced by my editors, like Wilburn’s, isn’t one of them.

In last week’s editorial, Bush was described as “dangerous” and his desire to bring democracy to Iraq a “tyrannical conquest of all that is anti-Christian right about the world.”

Hyperbole aside, this line of reasoning is, at best, disingenuous. And, while op-ed pieces needn’t be as objective as news stories, they should at least be honest.

Consider, for example, Bush’s “tyrannical conquest.” The editors imply that Bush is conducting some sort of grandiose religious crusade.

If that is the case, perhaps they would mind explaining to me why he counts among his allies a Jew (Ariel Sharon of Israel) and several Muslims (Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia and Iyad Allawi of Iraq chief among them).

They might also want to note that, since Bush helped topple the Taliban government, the people of Afghanistan have been able to enjoy music, television, dancing and even alcohol (though supposedly illegal, officials tend to look the other way).

In other words, some Afghans are making themselves out to be the scourge of the Christian right, thanks largely in part to the man my fellow Signal editors insist is the Christian right’s chief advocate and henchman.

And, while attempts to pawn this development off as a byproduct of Bush’s ineptitude are convenient, they don’t jive with Bush’s support of the liberal Hamid Karzai before, during and after these reforms took place.

The sad irony of this article is that I write it in defense of a person I don’t even like (the president) while criticizing an institution (The Signal) I’ve come to respect.

I do so because I believe misinformation is a cancer and realize the door can swing the other way (and often does – see the misguided ravings of the Wall Street Journal editorial page for an indication).

I also do so in the sincere hope that, should I stray from the path of truth, someone will call me on it.

If my fellow journalists and I, however unwittingly, contribute to the cause of ignorance rather than the cause of information, we really have no reason to go on. There are enough stupid people in the world already.