On The 'Zionist Conspiracy'

Over at Newsbusters, Tim Graham has used David Duke's recent appearance on CNN to make a point. (Here's the video of the appearance, which I can't recommend enough.) Writes Graham: "Conservatives have often been outraged that liberals would suggest Duke was one of them, when he always appears in the liberal media, and not on conservative talk radio." Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and Louisiana state representative, recently appeared at a "two-day gathering of Holocaust deniers and white supremacists" in Tehran.

Graham is somewhat overreaching by tying his point to the Blitzer interview, as CNN did not link Duke to Republicans, opting instead to focus largely on his KKK past. But there are legitimate questions to be asked about news organizations propping up polarizing extremists who could be seen to represent people far more in the mainstream. Graham has given us an example from the right, so here's one from the left: Ward Churchill, an obscure, far-left University of Colorado professor who, as I noted in May of last year, was covered 25 times in a four-month period on "The O'Reilly Factor."

Neither Ward Churchill or David Duke can be said to represent anyone other than themselves and a small, fringe group of people of negligible importance. The question for news outlets is to what degree these people should be given a platform. They undeniably make for good television, which is why even folks like Fred Phelps get on the air. But they do not articulate views that represent the views of more than a small sliver of Americans. There's no question that it's important to pay attention to extremists if their ranks start growing or if there are other reasons we need to take them seriously. (It's important to cover people like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for example, because of their political power.) But it's hard to see a justification for grabbing the loudest wacko from off the street corner and putting him in front of a camera.