Posted on February 28, 2007
Missile Bites Dog
Media unfazed by the unexpected
There's an old adage in journalism that says if a dog bites a man, that's not a story, but if a man bites a dog, that's a story. Okay, so a man biting a dog isn't really that interesting either, but the point is that the unexpected is part of what makes a story newsworthy. That's why you don't often read headlines like "Pirates Finish Fifth," or "Alec Baldwin Goes Berserk." The papers are supposed to tell us something we don't already know.
That's what makes the silent progress of our missile defense program so curious. According to the man-bites-dog theory, any development that contradicts the conventional wisdom on as many levels as this one does ought to be the biggest story of the year. For starters, the willingness of Poland and the Czech Republic to host U.S. missile defense bases, along with America's ongoing collaborations with Japan, Australia and Israel, defies the charge that we have become geopolitically isolated. Apparently, the media are sticking to their story that without France, we're all alone in the world.
Then there's the simple fact that the tests have been successful enough that we're deploying the system, and our allies are eager to take part. When President Bush first proposed reviving the dormant program, the press chided him for wasting funds on an unrealistic idea, which they believed had already failed. Don't hold your breath waiting for their retractions.
To most of the media, Bill Clinton, who mothballed our missile defenses on the basis that they were not technologically feasible, is the Man from Hope, who came to Washington bursting with fresh ideas. Conversely, they derided Ronald Reagan, who first proposed an anti-missile shield, as a crazy old man who thought he was living a B-movie. George H.W. Bush, who adapted Reagan's idea into the concept of theater missile defense, in which batteries are deployed to remote locations around the world, was flayed for lacking "the vision thing." The program's recent advances have shown Reagan and Bush to be visionaries, and Clinton a Luddite, but these supposedly unexpected results are failing to raise many eyebrows.
This story also confounds the argument that conservatives are waging a "war on science" -- an accusation based primarily on their opposition to embryonic stem cell research. Liberals have opposed missile defense just as fervently, although the issue does not raise the same ethical objections. Instead, they take the defeatist view that shooting down another missile is "like hitting a bullet with a bullet." It doesn't occur to them that, to the nation that won the race to develop the A-bomb, and put the first man on the moon, hitting a bullet with a bullet might not be an insurmountable feat.
They are supremely confident, however, that they can transplant a nucleus into a human egg to create an embryo, then kill the embryo and take its stem cells, morph those cells into any kind of tissue they need, and use them to cure every disease known to mankind. Whereas liberals describe every failed anti-missile test as proof that the system can never work, they take their solid record of failure in embryonic stem cell research as evidence of the need for more funding.
They also seem to think that developing alternative fuels is as easy as cramming vegetables into a Jack LaLanne Power Juicer. If not for the power and influence of "Big Oil," they suppose, fossil fuels could be replaced by Crisco, or else by harnessing solar power, wind power, hamster wheel power, you name it. But to develop the technology to knock an enemy missile out of the sky? Surely we jest.
Considering all the media prejudices being punctured, you'd think that every indication of progress would be met with amazement. Instead, the deployment of our missile defenses had received little attention, until Russia objected to the involvement of the Poles and Czechs. The fact that America and its allies are on the verge of achieving what was thought to be impossible is not the big story. The predictable and hollow outrage of a few Russian bureaucrats is.
We may now be witnessing significant strides toward rendering nuclear missiles obsolete, which was Reagan's goal when he introduced the idea more than twenty years ago. That so few in the media would pay it any notice suggests that they consider it unwelcome news. Hence the loophole in that man-bites-dog adage. Whoever came up with that saying never considered that the editor might harbor an anti-man agenda.-- Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
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