WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security announced today that the government will forbid the television news media from covering the conflict in the Middle East because “displays of U.S. military operations there have the potential to radicalize Americans against the Obama administration’s foreign policy and provoke terrorism in the United States.”
“In these dangerous times we can no longer stand by while graphic accounts of U.S. military action and the Islamic State’s growth inspire impressionable young people to commit violence in misguided acts vengeance,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a joint statement.
“We have worked hard to shut off propaganda channels, such as websites and Twitter accounts, but we have concluded that this will never be enough to adequately address the problem. Frankly, the media’s very coverage of U.S. policy in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, despite good intentions, functions as a recruiting tool for the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. So after much consideration, we are taking this admittedly drastic step to safeguard the homeland.”
Civil-liberties organizations immediately lodged a protest. “This outrageous action violates the First Amendment and America’s best traditions of freedom of speech and press,” stated an ad hoc coalition of groups assembled spontaneously in the wake of the government’s announcement. “If the government’s activities provoke terrorism, that is not the news media’s fault. Perhaps the government needs to reevaluate its policies. We are confident that the American people will not stand for this restriction on freedom and that the courts will vindicate our most cherished liberties.”
Government sources, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, said the action was felt necessary because U.S. policy is known to “create terrorists.”
According to one source, “Government studies and top military leaders have repeatedly acknowledged that America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, bombing of multiple Muslim countries, and unconditional support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians have worked effectively to recruit men and women into the ranks of violent Islamic extremists. More than one top official has estimated that 10 terrorists are created for every one killed.”
Another source said, “We are very concerned about self-radicalized terrorists, lone wolves who sit in their homes in the United States and communicate with no one while plotting violent acts inside the United States. Our FBI informants keep tabs on some of these people, but a few fall through the cracks. To the extent that television news coverage portrays U.S. policy in action, it can’t help but motivate violent resistance. We wish it were otherwise, but that’s just the way it is. We cannot ignore this undeniable fact.”
A third source added, “It would be unreasonable to expect U.S. bombing of hospitals and wedding parties in Muslim countries, however well-intentioned, not to ‘radicalize’ some people against our policies. So the least we can do is to avoid inflaming home-grown terrorism. The president’s decision is aimed at that objective.”
Out of concern for the people who would lose their jobs because of the president’s action, the State and Defense Departments said network correspondents would be given positions in a new Committee on Public Information. “These correspondents have faithfully kept the American people informed of how the government sees the conflict in the Middle East,” a source said. “With them now working formally for the American people, their coverage can be more finely tailored to the national interest, specifically, to the need to lessen the threat of home-grown terrorism.”
The government’s action was applauded not only by conservative groups for its national-security value, but also by progressives, who are reluctant to criticize President Obama.
The presidential candidates also reacted. “The Constitution is not a suicide pact,” Ted Cruz said on the campaign trail in South Carolina. “Desperate times call for desperate measures. But President Obama should have done this long ago. We cannot afford a commander-in-chief who leads from behind.”
“President Obama would have never thought to do this if I had not raised the issue when I got into this race,” Donald Trump said. “No one was talking about homeland security and radical Islamic terrorism until I started talking about it. When I am president, we are going to win again, I can tell you that. I built a terrific company, so I know something about controlling news coverage. Obama is an amateur and a lame duck. And he’s weak. Look what he did. He had his attorney general and the homeland security secretary carry this out. As president, I’ll be strong. I wrote the bestselling The Art of the Deal, my second-favorite book after The Bible. I’ll just get the network chiefs on the phone and tell them what I want. That’s all I’ll have to do, believe me. We’re gonna start winning again.”
Jeb Bush was critical, saying Trump was a whiner. When reminded that he was being asked about the Obama administration’s gagging of TV news, not Trump, Bush referred reporters to his mother. Barbara Bush said her son is a good son and best qualified to be president.
Asked to comment, Dr. Ben Carson said that as a pediatric neurosurgeon he often had to make life-and-death decisions. He said something else, but it wasn’t audible to reporters standing close by.
John Kasich also commented, but no on can remember what he said.
Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton said she paved the way for this action when she was secretary of state. “Some people will say this is a violation of free speech. Others will say it is a violation of the free press. I say, at this point what difference does it make?”
Her rival, Bernie Sanders, expressed misgivings, asking, “How does this address rampant economic inequality and corrupt campaign finance?”
“Here’s the bottom line,” Sen. Marco Rubio said when asked about the administration’s action, “This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing is just not true. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”