Weekly Standard's Caldwell: Bias-Fighting An "Irrelevancy" After 9/11

September 14th, 2005 12:59 PM

Tom Johnson, a long-time friend and colleague, forwarded to me a passage from Weekly Standard writer Christopher Caldwell observations on the tenth anniversary of the Murdoch-funded think mag:

But the attacks on the World Trade Center lowered the temperature of almost all my political beliefs to way below boiling. They revealed most political stuff as simply not worth getting riled up over. Defending the country against attack is a first-order issue. Defending the country against, say, gay marriage or affirmative action (or promoting them, as the case may be) is a second-order issue. Defending the country against, say, bias at the television networks is an irrelevancy that I would not take 20 minutes away from my novel-reading to worry about.

Well! Media-watchdogging is an anachronistic waste of time, the crowning example of modern political irrelevancy? We could start by noting that Caldwell's work chronicling the struggles of the Dutch and the Swedes for the Standard could be categorized as toiling on the cold spots of geopolitical irrelevancy. But that would only highlight the flaw of Caldwell's cranky observations, mocking the work of others instead of connecting it to the larger struggle. In this century's War on Terror, in this democracy, battles are fought for public opinion through the news media, a news media which has often seemed much more insistent on protecting the rights of Muslim prisoners to exquisitely clean Korans than the rights of Americans who lost their lives to al-Qaeda. If Caldwell can't see that as relevant to what he cares about, then it's clear he's just too busy with novels to come to the boob tube and see what could happen to our national resolve without a watchdog or two to bark.