The media traditionally have demonstrated a keen ability to sense blood and swarm toward it. American blood, that is. Instead of courageously standing up recently to the threats of radical Islam by printing a few innocuous cartoons, they went after Dick Cheney’s jugular.

That story — a Pulitzer-Prize winner, no doubt — was about a hunting accident Cheney didn’t report in time for the press’s deadline. And President Bush’s head, of course, remains on the media chopping block as the cartoons continue to be ignored.

American officials are easy game, a turkey shoot for journalists. That’s because the First Amendment — incessantly being bought and paid for with American blood — guarantees journalists, and all U.S. citizens, that right. American troops, God bless them all, are bravely sacrificing themselves today in Iraq and Afghanistan for our rights and to avenge years of terrorism waged in the name of Muhammad.

But the prophet gets a free pass from almost all of the media. That’s because, journalists say, it would be “offensive” to Muslims to print a cartoon depicting the prophet. Of course, all of us know how touchy-feely the media have been over the years about depicting Christian icons. “Art” of the Crucifix in a bottle of urine and a statue of the Virgin Mary smeared with excrement evoked tears of sadness in many a journalist’s eye.

Page One photos of protesters burning the Stars and Stripes here and abroad also pass the journalistic smell test. But that’s not considered offensive to patriotic Americans, especially those whose loved ones died protecting the grand old flag and their nation.

There’s a different set of journalistic standards, as well, when it comes to separation of church and state in America. It’s abhorrent to the press that Christians continually try to meddle in the affairs of state. But it’s OK, the media say, for Muhammad to lead Middle Eastern governments and to wage “jihad.” It would be offensive, I suppose, to have it any other way.

This might offend many of my former colleagues in the media, but I think there are other forces at play in the decision not to publish the cartoon. My years of experience in the mainstream media tell me that there are three main reasons why the press lay down:

• Liberal Philosophy. The debate over whether liberals dominate journalism is long over. Their philosophy is entrenched from coast to coast, from corporation to corporation, from university to university, and from trade association to trade association. It has given us political correctness and the multicultural/diversity movement. Their version of diversity includes Muslims, regardless of whether many of them condone violence.

• Publishers and Corporate Bosses. Even though the public thinks otherwise, editors don’t make the really big decisions at newspapers and at TV networks. Publishers and corporate bosses do, because they hire the editors — and they can fire them at will. Publishers and corporate bigwigs don’t want the bottom line to suffer. A messy encounter with Muslims, such as a boycott, protest, or perhaps a riot, would dampen profits. And, for heaven’s sake, it would trigger a public-relations nightmare.

• Naked Fear. Mainstream journalists themselves suffer nightmares that should they offend any Muslim they will be kidnapped and beheaded post-haste. Failing that, at least the offended Muslim(s) might make the journalists’ lives uncomfortable. Icy stares from their liberal colleagues and ostracism from the journalistic community, too, serve to keep any would-be mavericks in the corral.

I am sorry that I might have offended my former colleagues by revealing these ugly truths. But I am even sorrier that journalists, en masse, failed their duty, disgraced their profession, abandoned their nation, defiled the victims of Sept. 11, and scorned American troops as the radical Muslim conspiracy spreads from continent to continent.

As Winston Churchill III trumpeted in the Q & A after his speech in Raleigh a couple of weeks ago, I hope American journalists, like their European counterparts did, some day find enough backbone to join the rest of us fighting for rights — and for our lives.

Richard Wagner is the editor of Carolina Journal.