Bozell & Graham Column: Afghanistan, Less Important Than Porn Stars

The “news” you see at night on broadcast television is defined by what “outrage” has been perpetrated by President Donald Trump. Last week, ABC, CBS, and NBC devoted an enormous chunk of their air time to illegal-immigrant parents being separated from their children by federal agents – 128 minutes, or almost half of their total nightly air time, not including commercials. 

By contrast, other parts of the nation’s business are nearly invisible. Take, for one example, America’s war in Afghanistan, which is obviously not a “new” topic, since it started in 2001 and is now the longest war in American history. If it doesn't feel like that, it's because it's out of sight, out of mind.  

Last week, U.S. Central Command said it had conducted 591 airstrikes in May, the most of any month this year. More bombs were dropped in April and May than over all of 2015.

But from January 1 through June 22, the networks have only mustered 32 minutes between them, barely 10 minutes each. 

ABC led the pack with a measly 12 minutes and 49 seconds, and CBS (11 and a half minutes) NBC (7 minutes, 11 seconds) were even worse.

One reason should be obvious: the number of dead Americans is very low. Only two American soldiers have died in combat in Afghanistan in 2018. Those men, Sgt. 1st Class Mihail Golin and Specialist Gabriel Conde, each drew about 20 seconds on each network when they were killed. 

A second reason is less obvious: the networks don’t have many reporters overseas any more, certainly not reporters covering “forgotten wars” with few casualties. The networks by nature are more likely to cover American military action when it goes wrong, as in, did any civilians die in the bombings? 

But neither reason is an excuse. This is not how war is meant to be covered -- when it's your country at war. 

The networks haven’t been any more interested in the war on terrorism in general. Trump can largely vanquish ISIS as a territorial power, and you can hear the crickets. 

Try this: on May 10, The New York Times to its credit reported a "complex cross-border sting carried out by Iraqi and American intelligence" concluded with the capture of five senior Islamic State officials. On CBS that night, this triumph drew 35 seconds. ABC and NBC did nothing. But all three offered full stories on the black student at Yale that was upset because someone called the police when she was found napping in a dormitory’s common room. 

So let’s go back to the big picture of 2018. What did the networks obsess over instead of the 32 minutes on Afghanistan? In the same time period, ABC, CBS, and NBC have offered 442 evening-news minutes on the still-unproven allegations of the Trump campaign colluding with the Russian government in 2016. (That’s in addition to the 1,234 minutes on this subject in 2017, now adding up to a whopping 1,676 minutes.) 

The hush-money scandal with porn star Stormy Daniels has received 107 minutes of evening-news attention. That’s not counting another 81 minutes devoted to the exploits of Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen (who wrote the check to Daniels) and whether the FBI raid on his office will uncover nefarious Trump-enabling secrets. 

An American army at war in Afghanistan is 30% as important as a two-bit prostitute. 

Whatever might cause the end of the Trump presidency is “news.” Whatever might cause the re-election of Donald Trump is treated like it belongs in a deep, dark cave like containers of radioactive waste.

Whatever is news is not news if it doesn't fit that narrative.


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Brent Bozell's picture


Tim Graham's picture