October 11, 2001


It has become brutally clear that little or nothing was learned from a decade of attacks on Americans before the 1991 Gulf War, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and all the other acts of terrorism against the United States leading to the horrific September 11th attack on America -- least of all by the news media, now reporting all terror all the time.

Rather than practicing deliberative journalism, the news media used the Gulf war to thrust themselves into obsessive/compulsive reporting of events deemed major by the their culture. Certainly, the list is well known, from the O.J. Simpson case to the Columbine High School massacre, from Somalia to Bosnia and Kosovo, and from the death of Princess Diana to the death of JFK Jr. Each resulted in extended, saturation coverage that was simply overdone with negative results.

However, these horrible, unconscionable, acts of terrorist war are entirely different. Knee jerk reactions and feeding frenzy business as usual have no place in this deadly arena. Yet the news media have kicked their action into overdrive competition for the latest scare, throwing fuel on the fires with mixed messages, and leaving people vastly more afraid and insecure than necessary.

The anthrax scare is clearly a case in point, not to mention pointing out all the nation's vulnerabilities for all the world and terrorists to see or get ideas they might not otherwise have.

Indeed, the message most people, whose lives are rapidly changing, might have for the news media could very well be, "We should have trust and faith in the press, but we don't. It's time to come down from your lofty perches and get your acts together with caution and common sense for the good of the country, our survival and our future."

Surely, we want to have faith in our news media. But we need to be truthfully informed about important things to help us understand what's going on, rather than being incapacitated by fear or steeped in uncertainty by overblown terrorist scenarios or biological, chemical and nuclear threats which could easily turn into panic attacks.

Now, more than ever, we need free speech and the free press protect us from the often blurred lines between liberty and tyranny. Now, more than ever, we need a responsible press to hold those lines. And now, more than ever, we need the press to distinguish between the real deal and rumors, and not to yell "fire" in a crowded theater unless there is a fire.

Daniel B. Jeffs, founder
The Direct Democracy Center