The following is a transcription of the July 22, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch" that has been edited for clarity.
ERIC BURNS, HOST: There is so much violence in the Middle East these days that, at least on this program, it serves no purpose to list the individual incidents yet again. It is the sheer quantity of the violence that concerns us, and the quality of reporting on it.
Is what's happening in the Middle East today, at least potentially, the beginning of World War III? Or is the FOX News Channel, which is among those asking the question, going too far in asking that question, Rich?
RICH LOWRY, THE NATIONAL REVIEW: No, I think it's a good question to ask. I think as far as media-driven discussions go, this is as intelligent as it gets, and it's a good debate to have. I think the idea that it's World War III personally is a little hyperbolic. But it's a good debate.
JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: You know, the first time I saw it was a "super" on FOX before Newt Gingrich said it, with a question mark. World War III, question mark. And I thought, "Wow, that seems extreme." It has become accepted because Gingrich, who I think may have political aspirations, has been framing it that way.
GABLER: You think so?
LOWRY: News flash!
HALL: And it's being picked up, and he thinks we should be connecting the dots as a country. And I think it's getting a lot of play — for him.
BURNS: So do we connect them in such a way that it looks like a worldwide conflagration, Jim?
JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: Well, we also just might be content to report the news, and to say that if a major figure like Newt Gingrich says we're in World War III, that's -- we've just got to report it and think about it.
Thomas Friedman [ a New York Times columnist] wrote on September 13, 2001, almost five years ago, that 9/11 was the beginning of World War III. In 2002, Norman Podhoretz, a major figure, wrote in Commentary magazine it's World War IV. I think saw Sean Hannity this week say it's World War V.
So, I mean — I mean — there's — there's.
NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: Do I hear six?!
PINKERTON: There's plenty of reason to discuss this. But the one — I just caution everybody, that they say that journalism is the first draft of history. It is darn hard for historians or anybody to figure out where you are in an epoch while it's going on.
GABLER: You know, there's been some silliness, and I think this whole World War III thing is a bunch of silliness.
But I agree with Rich. This has been surprisingly thoughtful... Remarkably...
BURNS: This meaning?
BURNS: The coverage.
GABLER: The commentary, right? Let me make a separation between the commentary and the coverage.
First of all, the coverage I think has been excellent. And I bash the press every single week on this show. I think what we've seen is the same kind of coverage we got in Katrina. The media are at their worst when they travel in a pack in Washington. They're at their best when they separate and they're out in the field giving you immediate response. And we're seeing them at their best, in the reporting side.
And on the commentary side, we have had a plethora of opinion from all different sides. And it hasn't been pre-fab. You know, usually on the media, particularly on cable, it's all pre-fab. You push the button, a guy from the left says a predictable thing; a guy from the right says a predictable thing. But here is non-pre-fab discussion. And I commend the media for it.
HALL: I think that you're hearing from countries — you know, how many Americans even knew what the prime minister of Lebanon looked lik? Much less that he was eloquent in his defense of his country and his saying the country is being torn to shreds by this bombing. Whatever you think. We're getting an education.
I think we're not getting enough on what happens next. You know, you see the bombs dropping. You see the destruction. Is Israel's policy destroying Hezbollah or not? Is it impossible for the media to know? I think it probably is.
PINKERTON: There are some things that, Neal, actually, are predictable.
For example, you mentioned Katrina. I mean, redstate.org counted up all the reporters — Kate Snow, Anderson Cooper, Miles O'Brien — like 10 of them — all of them have said, "Well, this is like Katrina. The U.S. failure to evacuate Lebanon fast enough is like Katrina." I mean, it was the most predicate thing in the world. They were looking for some template they could use to bash the administration. They found one.
LOWRY: They were chomping at the bit to have this be a Katrina-like disaster that they could play up. And it wasn't.
But I'm going to return the favor and agree with Neal. I bash the media every time I'm on this show as well, but from a different perspective. And one thing that I think's been different here is usually Israel gets the short end of the stick on any of this kind of coverage. And because the provocation was so stark on the part of Hezbollah, I think the coverage, initially, has been amazingly fair.
BURNS: All right. I want to cut you short, because this is so disorienting when each of you agrees with the other.
Here's what I want: I would like all four of you to take a look at this picture. This picture has appeared in several newspapers. It is a picture of Israeli children who are autographing missiles which are on their way to enemy targets. It's a striking picture. And I wonder, Jane, if you believe it makes an editorial point? If it is a fair picture to you?
I mean, it's fair in the sense that it is unposed. It is real. But what about the message it delivers? What's your reaction to it?
HALL: Well, it purports to show Israeli children saying, you know, "here's a bomb coming to you, Hezbollah."
Soldiers did this during World War II. I've never seen a photograph like this. I don't think it's up to the media necessarily to go to try to find a similar image as "Hezbollah reverse." I mean, it is what it is. — I'm surprised the Israelis let the picture out. It's certainly bad PR.
PINKERTON: As Edward Luttwack at the Center for Strategic and International Studies always says, "Sometimes wars just yearn to be fought." This is a war between Jews and Arabs. They want to fight, and it's pretty obvious. And this picture supports that argument.
BURNS: But something about, Neal, it seems to me, children, in this shot, gives it an impact which may or may not be an editorial point.
GABLER: Yes. Well, I don't want to play up something, I think, disproportionately. — The word "disproportion" has been used a lot in this conflict. I think that's what we're doing here.
Here's one image out of thousands, maybe tens of thousands of images. To freight this image with any sort of importance, I think is misplaced.
LOWRY: It's an amazingly powerful picture. I mean, anyone would be foolish not to run with it. It's just an amazing photo.
But the fact is we don't have the photos of the Palestinians chanting on the streets, "Oh please, destroy Israel."
GABLER: But we do actually and we see them.
LOWRY: We see it in the text. I haven't seen pictures to that extent.
But look, it's a national conflict, and you're going to have these sort of sentiments on both sides.
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