The Free Congress Commentary:

We Distort, You Figure It Out

By Paul M. Weyrich
December 28, 2000

On the night the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its extraordinary ruling that, for practical purposes, ended the 2000 elections, I happened to be watching the Fox News Channel, whose motto is " we report, you decide". One of their breathless reporters came on to pronounce that the court had granted a stunning victory to Vice President Al Gore.

It was near 11 p.m. and Mrs. Weyrich was already asleep. I hastened to awaken her with cries of disbelief. As she shook herself sort of awake she heard another reporter say that perhaps it wasn't a complete victory for the Vice President but it certainly was a great deal of what he wanted. Then as she regained near total consciousness, a third reporter chimed in to suggest that perhaps the decision was at least a partial victory for Gov. George W. Bush. It wasn't until perhaps an hour later were we viewers informed by anyone reliable that this decision was a major victory for Bush and that it made the next step for the Vice President all but impossible.

The same scenario apparently occurred on ABC as no less than Regis Philbin remarked the next day that watching that network was like trying to consult a group of Sherlock Holmes detectives. Only in the end was the truth finally revealed.

This, of course, is no longer journalism. It may be entertainment. But it is not responsible information upon which we can any longer rely. Indeed one could argue that had the networks not made premature calls on election night, the nation might not have been dragged through the month long plus nightmare we have all had to endure.

Since accurate information is indispensable to the functioning of a viable Republic, we must either find a voluntary method to correct this situation which is way off course, or we will be forced to give up our way of governing.

In this Christmas season one can imagine how it would have been if these media types were in the little town of Bethlehem when Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was born. It was a terribly exciting event, and a confusing one for the shepherds since they had no idea of the significance of what they had seen or heard.

One can imagine it now. The reporter comes on breathlessly announcing: A group of shepherds claim they have seen a choir of angels singing right near the cave next to the Bethlehem Inn. First reports say that the angels sang "Glory to Harod on earth and peace to those who have paid their taxes." A second reporter then interrupts saying "Ah, sorry to break in but another eye witness claims that the angels sang "Glory to God up in Haifa and peace to men on the Golan Heights." A third reporter after some discussion said, "We now have one of the shepherds who heard what was actually sung standing by. Sir. What is it you say the angels said tonight over there by the cave?"

The Shepherd said, "Well, I tried to write it down and if you've ever tried to write with mud on wool you know it isn't easy, but I think I got it. But first let me ask you. How much are you going to give me if I tell you? Because your rivals over there have promised me two oxen and a drachma. Sir? Sir?"

And then the anchorman comes on and says, "Well thanks to you reporters in the field, I know it has been a long night. We'll check back with you later on tonight. Meanwhile, Reuters claims that it has first hand information that the angels sang "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth and goodwill to men". That seems unlikely since nothing like that has ever been tried in this world before."

On that note let's wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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