Media Ignore the Big Story

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Two stories dominated the news last week. One is extremely important. The other is frivolous. The news media focused more attention on the frivolous story.

Hackers stole sensitive information from government databases on an estimated 4.2 million federal employees and contractors, past and present, who now could have their identities stolen, or worse. One hack began last December and was discovered in April by a private contractor. Another, larger hack apparently began in March of last year.

The hackers are believed to be Chinese, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said after a classified briefing. This was a cyber Pearl Harbor which “wrecked American espionage,” said John Schindler, a former counterintelligence officer for the National Security Council.

Of foremost concern is the filching of SF86s, 120-page forms in which those seeking security clearances list sensitive information such as arrests, drug and alcohol problems, etc.

Covers of intelligence officers have been blown, making those who confessed sins on their SF86 subject to blackmail. Armed with info from the filched files, terrorists could target military personnel and their families.

Worse, the OPM hack “offers our adversaries the opportunity to penetrate our government and use that information to deceive it at a strategic level,” Mr. Schindler said.

The news media gave more attention to Rachel Dolezal, who was president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Wash., and a part-time professor of Afro-American Studies at Eastern Washington University until her parents outed her as being 100 percent white.

She’s black because she feels black, Ms. Dolezal insists. Bizarre things she’s said suggest she isn’t playing with a full deck. Conservatives chortle as liberals who said Bruce/​Caitlyn Jenner is a woman because he/​she thinks he/​she is a woman do verbal somersaults to make distinctions between him/​her and Ms. Dolezal.

Nature makes mistakes. A few babies are born with crippling or disfiguring birth defects, a few with the psyche of one gender and the genitalia of the other. It’s (sort of) possible now for surgeons to fix what nature screwed up. But Mr./​Ms. Jenner has yet to have a sex-change operation.

We’re entitled to our own opinions. But our opinions are worthless if they aren’t grounded in fact. Ethnicity and gender are biological facts that are not altered by our whims.

The news media devoted more attention to the trivial Dolezal story in part because we, the people, found it easier to follow and more amusing.

Once, journalists told us what we needed to know as well as what we liked to hear. That doesn’t happen much these days, in part because many journalists have difficulty following complex stories, too. It’s easier to write about Rachel Dolezal than about the implications of a cyber Pearl Harbor.

There’s a more sinister reason.

The hacks were facilitated by mind-boggling negligence. OPM’s management was warned repeatedly over the last eight years of glaring weaknesses in its information-security programs. Last November, OPM’s inspector general urged that a particularly vulnerable system be shut down. Had it been, a breach would have been prevented.

But nothing was done. The gross negligence of OPM’s managers — and the president’s unwillingness to hold them accountable — reflect poorly on the Obama administration. Which is why his aides are downplaying the incident — and is one reason reporting on the hack has been inadequate.

Many in the media think it more important to protect Democrats than to inform Americans of what’s going on. They spin, downplay or ignore news that makes Democrats look bad.

Most Americans are blissfully unaware that Homeland Security released thousands of illegal immigrant violent felons into our communities, of dysfunction in most federal agencies, of alarm over mounting debt — and of the causes and catastrophic consequences of the massive cyber blow we’ve just suffered.

It isn’t reality that matters, liberals think. It’s how we feel about things. Eventually, reality stomps on such childish notions. When it does, it’s the job of journalists to tell us about it. 

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio.

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