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Outrageous lack of outrage

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Issue: "Memorial Day 2004," May 29, 2004

AN AMERICAN'S last known words: "My name is Nick Berg. My father's name is Michael. My mother's name is Suzanne. I have a brother and a sister, David and Sarah. I live in Philadelphia."

Eleven hours later, Islamic militants hacked off the 26-year-old construction entrepreneur's head, videotaping their crime for global consumption. The story of Berg's murder broke on May 11. Less than a week later, only his hometown papers still carried news of his death.

The news within the news was outrage over the lack of outrage. Within two days of his beheading, most major media had shunted Berg's murder to second-tier status, while continuing splashy front-page coverage of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

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"What's shocking is that the killing of Nick Berg was a two-day story," said Media Research Center analyst Tim Graham. "The elite media seemed to look at it as an annoying speed bump on their way to more stories on prison abuse."

Not every news organization followed suit. Fox News Channel and conservative talk radio provided blanket coverage of the murdered American. On May 12, the Dallas Morning News ran a photo of a Berg killer holding up his victim's severed head. The headline: "This is the enemy: Vile image shows world why we fight."

Berg's father Michael disagreed, and laid blame for his son's death at George Bush's feet, as did anti-war bloggers and columnists. But other bloggers expressed "vein-popping rage" over both the American's brutal death, and the liberal media's using "Michael Berg's rage as yet another assault on President Bush."

Meanwhile, many parents responded with outrage after kids in Southern California's Grossmont High School District viewed, in class, grisly video- and audiotape of Mr. Berg's beheading. At El Capitan High School, a teacher allowed the class to watch the video after a student downloaded it from the Internet to a classroom computer. At Grossmont High School, a social-studies teacher worked the murder into an anti-war lesson plan.

First the teacher played for four classes of 30 students the audiotape of the beheading, on which Mr. Berg can be heard screaming as his head was chopped off. The teacher then showed each class photographs of Mr. Berg's executioners holding up his severed head. According to San Diego radio talk show host Rick Roberts, the teacher told students that Nick Berg's killing shows why it is wrong for America to be fighting the war in Iraq.

The school district put both teachers on paid leave pending an investigation. Meanwhile, the murder of Berg seems an open and shut case: Islamic terrorists murdered yet another innocent American, another who had gone to Iraq to offer help. On Memorial Day, remember that.

Lynn Vincent
Lynn Vincent

Lynn is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and the best-selling author of 10 non-fiction books.


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