Does the American public realize that a political figure has accused it of being incompetent to form intelligent opinions from factual news reports? This is the underlying theme in the well-intentioned column by the Rev. Jesse Jackson "Watchdog Wasn't Leashed; It Was Playing Cheerleader" (Op-Ed Page, Jan. 4). Jackson incorrectly charges the news media of misleading the public and not properly analyzing "the logic and lawfulness of the military invasion of Panama." Although the columnist raises valid points concerning the costs of the invasion, the gist of his article incorrectly demands that Americans should rely on journalists to formulate opinions about world events.
Factual errors lie in the accusation that the press has failed to report military blunders in the invasion.
Why Jackson feels he is the sole bearer of the facts raises further questions as to what his special sources of information might be. To give credit where it is due, he does briefly acknowledge news reports of civilian casualties during his castigation.
Jackson's underlying theme is that the news media have not properly analyzed the activities in Panama for the public. Are Americans who observe valid news reports unable to formulate educated opinions? According to Jackson, this is true. The freedom we give to the press does not hold it responsible to formulate opinions for the population. It is to prevent government censorship.
Valid questions do arise from Jackson's article concerning the costs of the Panamanian invasion. However, these questions, along with events explained in his opening paragraph, have already been addressed by the independent news media. The real fallacy of his article lies in Jackson's inability to believe in the public's competence to interpret newsworthy events.
DAVID G. KOTRADY