Right-Leaning Media Barons Black Out ABC’s Airing of War Dead

The Sinclair Broadcast Group has joined the broadcasting Hall of Cowardice with its craven decision to prevent its customers from seeing tonight’s Nightline broadcast, on which anchor Ted Koppel will read the names and show pictures of the American service men and women killed in the current Iraq War.

On Sinclair’s home page today is a statement about the company’s reason for this move: a claim that the Nightline show is a purely political act. Let’s assume for a minute that this is true, and that — as the statement implies — the motive is to cast a bad light on the war — even though Sinclair’s statement doesn’t begin to make such a case. Does this mean Sinclair will start blacking out the flagrantly pro-administration Fox News programming?

You will not be even slightly surprised to know that the various Smiths who run this company are HUGE donors to George W. Bush and the Republican Party, according to the always-valuable Open Secrets database of political influence-peddling. See this and this, in particular.

Who’s being political?


Posted by: on April 30, 2004 09:11 AM

By Sinclair’s logic, the names of the dead at the Vietnam memorial should be taped over. It’s beginning to play like the reaction to that war: any opposition to the President’s decisions about the war are portrayed as anti-GI and unpatriotic. The irony of politicians and camp followers attempting to suppress the free expression of dissent in the name of patriotism always seems to be lost on them.

Personally, I can’t think of a better way of supporting combat troops than to keep them alive. The U.S. has made some bad decisions, and we have magnified their impact by stubborness and CYA political posturing.

We’ve got a firm grip on the tiger’s tail, and all the spinning and posturing apparently hasn’t impressed the tiger at all. I’m sure cutting deals with Saddam’s generals to put them in charge of suppressing the population will be portrayed as a noble act, just as Vietnamization was marketed as an honorable way to get us out thirty years ago.

For those who call on us to encourage needless suffering as an act of political orthodoxy and civic virtue, I suggest they enlist for combat arms and join in the fun. It isn’t fair for the grunts to get all the glory…the joy of earning Purple Hearts should be shared by the war enthusiasts.

Posted by: Dave Kearns on April 30, 2004 09:30 AM

AS with all first amendment protected sources, the Sinclair stations alone can decide what to proadcast and what not to broadcast (within the law, of course) on their airways. ABC cannot tell them what to air, and neither can you. Or would you prefer that AP and Reuters be able to dictate which of their stories the Merc will carry?

Posted by: on April 30, 2004 10:26 AM

As usual, it’s biased politics when you don’t agree with the position.

I don’t know what Ted is doing: it’s not journalism and it’s not entertainment. Someday Ted may buy his own media outlet where he can broadcast himself 24 x 7.


Posted by: on April 30, 2004 11:03 AM

It’s sad when people like Jorgen say that honoring the men and women who died for our country is “partisan politics”.

Posted by: on April 30, 2004 11:17 AM

There those slimey Liberals go again, insisting on honering our war dead. Don’t forget the *MOST* unpatriotic and selfish act of all was that of the Soldiers that *ALLOWED* themselves to be killed. Yes, we forget about how they swore to protect our country and now look at them… Dead and making the administration look bad. I’m proud that our President refuses to acknowledge these evil malingering war dead by even attending a single funeral. Yes, we *SHOULD* hide their dishoner by not showing their flag draped coffins returning to Dover Air Force Base.

Posted by: on April 30, 2004 11:17 AM

Jorgen, I guess unless we define journalist to equate to publicist, what Koppel is doing is classic journalism: taking a newsworthy topic and helping our nation understand the impact of decisions made by our elected officials.

There is an entire generation of Americans who have never experienced a war…the “war” in Panama and the “war” in Grenada offered little in the way of real impact on the vast majority of people. Gulf War I was so low on casualties that we didn’t really understand what a real war can mean. The focus on deaths in the media ignores the horror of non-fatal wounds, but we don’t see the litters coming back, or the shattered bodies of veterans in our military hospitals on TV.

It doesn’t trivialize the deaths of the relatively few solders of the past 28 years to say that American hasn’t experienced a national sense of loss. Without that knowledge, how can citizens gauge for themselves whether the cost was justified?

9/11 was such a monstrous act of mass terrorism that we celebrated the lives and mourned the deaths of the victims without really understanding why they died…and those names were repeated many times and many places with politicians of both parties scrambling to be associated with them. What Ted Koppel is doing is worthwhile.

Posted by: on April 30, 2004 12:59 PM

“ABC cannot tell them what to air, and neither can you.”

Actually, according to the First Amendment you profess to respect, we can. It’s the government that can’t tell them what to air.

Oh, and ABC might well, depending on what their contracts say.

Posted by: on April 30, 2004 01:40 PM

Dan, buy your own network of broadcast stations and go wild.

It’s nice to see some moderate and conservative influence beginning to temper the worst extremes of the far Left “news” operations of the major networks.

It’s an outrage that so-called ‘campaign finance reforms’ have never addressed the problem of political advocacy by the broadcast media elites.

To clamp down of spending cash raised, whether from ordinary Americans or special interests, but to leave the ‘major media’ free to lambaste conservatives and, in this case, the War on Terror — with no restraint on their spending (in this case, TV time valued easily in the millions) — reveals ‘campaign finance reform’ for what it is:

THE PRESERVATION OF AN OLIGOPOLY OF LIBERAL MEDIA ELITES, shaping if not controlling the public agenda at their pleasure.

ed by: on April 30, 2004 01:58 PM

Al, a restraint on the spending of media outlets will not solve anything. Think positive, not negative.

Buy your own network of broadcast stations and go wild. You can be outraged all day long. 🙂

Posted by: on April 30, 2004 03:05 PM


Ted is just acting out a stunt. He – and ABC – are not honoring the dead. Sadly, this is political activism.

Perhaps Ted will next read the names of the unborn children killed through abortion in the last year. That would a stunt. That would be political activism.

Another month until Memorial Day. If you want to fake it, honor the dead on that day. This is just too transparent.

Posted by: on April 30, 2004 03:24 PM

So, Mr. franken, can you please give me your definition of liberal? There is no country in the world that has a better conservative propaganda machine than the United States media. Newspapers in Thailand are more liberal than in the United States.

Posted by: on April 30, 2004 04:43 PM

Joergen, I’m sorry you feel that honoring our dead men and women of the armed forces is something we should not do, or something that only phoneys do (there’s, apparently, that conservative habit of projection again) — personally, I believe that these people should get some notice and we should feel bad about them. But then I don’t think Bush should’ve shot down raising their death benefits (a relatively measly $3000) just after he sent them into a war. That’s just me, that’s the way I am; I think they are of worth, even if the cause they were sent to fight for was a lie — you obviously feel differently about their worth.

Posted by: Ian Betteridge on May 1, 2004 03:17 AM

I’m what you would probably call a liberal: in fact, I’m a socialist. But one of the principles that I’ve always regarded as important is that, no matter whether you agree with a government’s decision to go to war, you remember and honour the dead servicemen and women. Even if the cause they’re fighting for is a dishonourble one, that doesn’t make them any less courageous.
And remembering the dead doesn’t mean remembering them only AFTER the shooting stops. It means honouring them from the moment they sacrifice their lives. It means knowing their names, knowing about their lives, knowing that there are men and women out there who are prepared to die for their countries – even when that country asks them to do so for the wrong reasons.
To refuse to air the names of the dead is to attempt to sweep their lives under the carpet. No matter whether you think the war is just or not, that’s wrong.
If I were in favour of this war, I would still want their names read out, because to do otherwise is both dishonourable to their memories, and a weaselish attempt to hide the fundamental truth that war – just or not – always has consequences. We should always remember those consequences, and especially those who have to pay them.

Posted by: on May 1, 2004 05:21 AM

Are some of you arguing that Sinclair’s act, like the prohibition on pictures of flag-draped coffins, isn’t a cynical and calculated political act?

The current flow of coffins is a profound embarrassment to the President, since the occupants inconveniently died after his somewhat premature “mission accomplished” crowing. But they did die for their country as surely as if in the victorious phase 1 of the Iraqui debacle; it’s a shame that the conservatives feel obligated to diminish the importance of their sacrifice now.

Our nation must understand the real cost of our decisions, both in dollars and in deaths, and the efforts of the administration to screen these until after the election are shameful. The current administration wrote the check and these soldiers backed it. McCain spoke for many of us. It’s Sinclair who dishonors our dead, not Koppel.

Posted by: on May 1, 2004 08:39 AM

I’m surprised that no one mentioned the fact that the Newshour on PBS has been showing the pictures, names and ranks of the war dead “as soon as pictures and their names become available” since the very beginning.

Is this because “It’s just PBS, those whiny leftists?” Perhaps it’s that it’s easy to ignore those last minutes of silence. Perhaps it’s because they come only in dribs and drabs, 1, 2, or 10 at once.

Why did people, including the President complain about the Dover AFB pictures? http://www.thememoryhole.org/war/coffin_photos/dover/gallery.htm Anyone who has looked at the site could see there was no enumeration, no editorializing accompanying the information, except on the lead-in cover page where the webmaster describes the process he had to go through to get them and that was only the total number of pictures. No help is given to identify whether any two pictures describe the same or different events, that is up to the individual viewer to decipher. Perhaps the families are haunted by the notion that any ONE of those caskets COULD be Horace’s or Johnny’s or Julia’s. I don’t think that one of those families has the right to avoid that discomfort to deny the comfort of those who also lost loved ones to see the honor and dignity and care taken as their loved ones traveled home to them.

Nobody is dragging bodies out of caskets to display the horrors inflicted upon them for political purpose. Indeed this one of the mitigating factors is insidious on its own. The caskets are as anonymous as could be. There is little sense, except that which we can project upon them that they carry the remains of individual human beings whose lives ended early because of decisions, right or wrong, made by others. Others who have an obligation and resposibility to measure the cost versus the benefits to the rest of society. Responsibility comes from acquiesence as well as deliberation.

A sense of shame or denial is where I believe these objections come from with those without a direct personal relation to the dead. Why is it different in this case? Why is it, when the names of those who died in the attacks of September 11, 2001 were read aloud at the places where they were murdered, that it was not dishonoring to them? Is it the place? Should ABC have sent Ted Koppel to Iraq to read out their names at the sites of their deaths? Or would that be too personal, too sensational?

I believe that part of the reason stems from the fact that those people did not die as a result of some decision made by those who opposed the reading or the pictures. There is a feeling of guilt-by-association. Nobody forced those people to get on the planes, to show up for work or to charge up the stairs. They had a duty. No one blames the passengers on the planes for not taking over when they thought they were getting a free trip to Cuba. Fred’s statement above was a bit over the top, but it hints at the kernel of what I’m talking about. Are the soldiers somehow to blame for your guilty feelings or negligent?

A lot of straw men up there, and the floor’s getting kind of messy so I’ll wrap it up. Those who agreed with the war, and I was one, cannot let these people who did their duty be anonymized into numbers. Tha
t works for the generals and staff who have to fight a war with assets. When those who are killed and not killed come home they should then again become the fathers, sisters, sons and daughters that they left as. One small way to do so is to give them back their names and identities. Those killed cannot reclaim them without our help.

Posted by: on May 1, 2004 09:14 AM

Sinclair serves in the Guard. Do you Owen?

What right do you have to question his patriotism?

(Sorry, but it was too easy to borrow from the nauseating rhetoric of John “F” Kerry).

Posted by: on May 1, 2004 01:45 PM

Going to war is obviously sometimes necessary, but all the time involves huge costs on all sides. Keeping this in mind, cheers to Nightline for reminding us of this.

Posted by: on May 1, 2004 02:57 PM

Do you serve in the National Guard, al’s? Or the Reserves?

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