June 15, 2004

Car bombings and other musings

Tuesday’s car bomb rattled the windows here in our little campus around the Hamra, but that was about it. Obviously, there were a lot of people who were not so lucky.

But I don’t really want to talk too much about the car bomb, at least not as an event. Over the last week, as I’ve been running around for TIME, I‘ve been wondering just where the distrust of the mainstream media regarding Iraq comes from.

For instance, this story from the Washington Post is excellent. The scene is vivid, the reporting is fair, the anger of the Iraqis and the reactions of the Americans are all there. Edward Cody, who is NOT Arab as far as I know, reported this story at a pretty significant risk to himself (there’s no shirttail indicating that stringers contributed to the piece.) It even has historical context that I’ve seen nowhere else:

Although no bloodier, Monday’s blast in the capital carried significantly more political meaning than its predecessors. It erupted from the point where Saadoun Street flows into Liberation Square, a central Baghdad traffic circle laden with the history of modern Iraq, from heroic sculptures commissioned by the country’s former dictator, Gen. Abdul Karim Qassem, after he overthrew the British-imposed monarchy in 1958 to the spot where, one decade and several coups later, Saddam Hussein had 14 Iraqi Jews hanged on espionage charges.

U.S. soldiers, backed by Bradley Fighting Vehicles, had returned and closed off the area by midday, while forensics specialists combed through the charred wreckage. The cordon caused a giant traffic jam as cars spilled off Jumhuriyah Bridge into the square. And it presented passing Iraqis with the spectacle of four U.S. soldiers — kneeling in the unforgiving sun, their M-16s ready, concertina wire coiled in front of them — just under the looming panel of carvings that Qassem ordered up to depict Iraq’s emergence from foreign domination.

That’s some good stuff! And kudos to Edward and the Post for running it.

So I guess my question is, why is there such a widespread feeling that the media, as it’s all lumped together sometimes, is worthless? Two recent comments brought this question to the fore for me:

“Good to read an impartial view of what’s afoot over there, as I don’t believe a word of the news most of the time. Thanks.” — kat

“Its good to see what is actually going on in iraq and not follow the spoon fed media of western sociaty.” — Solaris.M.K.A.

After reading stories like the Post’s, I have to ask these two commenters — who are just being used as examples only — well, why not?

I’m not trying to pick a fight, but this is a question that has puzzled me since the beginning. I mean, I’m not impartial; I’ve revealed my anti-war feelings from the get-go. So why is B2I considered more credible than others? Other journalists are on the ground here, too, so it’s not just authority by way of location.

My suspicions are that the problem — as usual — is television news. I’m an unabashed print snob, the medium for this site notwithstanding, so I think the coverage from most television networks is inferior to the prose from the scribblers. (To be fair, the TV guys here are working under a lot of restrictions. Their home offices don’t want them going out and doing much, especially at night. They have to travel in large, conspicuous groups with expensive equipment, which makes them prime targets for bandits and other nasties. Also, the medium itself doesn’t lend itself naturally to in-depth stories in a 30-minuted newscast.)

I think maybe television’s omnipresence is somehow making people think all media are somehow complicit in some truth-hiding conspiracy. But I don’t know how this dynamic works. That’s what I’m trying to find out.

I should also say at this point that the people who support the war and accuse me and other journalists of never reporting the good news are not really the target audience on this post. They seem convinced that the media are all left-wing stooges there to make “our boys” look bad. Well, trust me, there isn’t that much good news to report, and our reporting of the violence that kills people and threatens the U.S. global standing is a bit more important than feel-good pieces based on dubious statistics put out on anonymous emails lists. Also, “our boys” can make themselves look bad without our Commie help. No, my questions are mostly aimed at the people on the left who feel they’re not getting the “real picture” somehow.

So here’s my honest question: Why do you think the media are not telling you the truth out of Iraq? What do you think the truth is? Why do you believe that the truth is what you think it is? And who is the media to you?

Feel free to either email me your responses or — better — leave them in the comments. I’m genuinely interested in knowing all y’all’s thoughts on this. (And yes, right-wingers and pro-war folks are more than welcome to take part!)

UPDATE 10:09 AM +0400 June 16 Hell, the questions are asked of pro-war and right-wing folks as well. The more the merrier.

Posted by Christopher at June 15, 2004 08:58 AM

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I'm a supporter of Chris Allbritton and his adventures in Iraq. I gave him money and I read his site. Here's his latest: Car bombings and other musings So here’s my honest question: Why do you think the media are not telling you the tr... [Read More]

Tracked on June 16, 2004 10:43 PM


One problem that I have with a great deal of the ‘mainstream’ reporting from Iraq is that it is presented to me (here in the U.S.) as part-and-parcel of the whole Presidential contest and Bush Administration scandal-du-jour; it’s extremely difficult to think critically about events in Iraq when I’m not only sitting comfortably in the U.S. but being force-fed sound, video and text bites about the craziness and ‘this-is-not-America’ that my own nation is sliding into. To be fair, I have a great deal of pent-up disappointment and rage at the media in general for the complete and utter failure to press not only the Bush administration and its cronies but the left as well on issues that, at the time, would have been important.

I, for one, actually find that my trust in the media to report events ‘on the ground’ in Iraq, outside the Coalition spincycle and the home front’s endless spokesmen, spindoctors and anchorthings is rising slightly. I don’t watch television news; I rely on print and the web, and in those media I’ve been not-too-unhappy.

sorry for the long-winded response; it’s late and I’m procrastinating. :-/

Posted by: phantom_analyst at June 16, 2004 10:00 AM

Well your comments on TV are more or les spot on. However your view of print media is perhaps a bit biased.

Lets take TV first. All their journalists were embedded and their coverage was obviously tilted by thier experience of being part of the boys. Thier actual access was strictly controled and this resulted in them all essentially working for the Pentagon. This does not build trust.

Now about print media. First you have the Judith Miller mea culpa. Then you have the obviousness of the WaPo backing Chabalid early on. Lets face it, they are dependent upon those who leak to them and, for the most part, the admin leaks to the major US print meida and not to the indys and foriegn press.

Larger than that, however, is the fact that anyone who really cared read the blogs, the indys, and the foriegn print media during the run up to the war and, consequently, nothing (NOTHING!) that has happened in Iraq, the lack of WMD, the failure to rebuild the infrastructure, the complete political aboortion, is the least bit supprising to those readers. Now we have been faced with the major US media trying to cover their ass for having been worng about jsut about every major issue they covered during the pre-war months.

All I really had to do was read Salam early on and then Riverbend. I knew what would happen, read about it as it happened and its been completely accurate. Riverbend was ahead of Abu Gahrib by about 3 months. That is only one tiny example.

The main stream media (until the last few months) has been either wrong, or way behind on everything that matters.

Even now, when they are fianally starting to break some important details, those details are mearly supporting the blogs and the indys views that the mainstream media, 6 months ago, was poo-pooing.

Need I say more?

By the way, Heart of Darkness was a nice piece.
Keep it up.


Posted by: Kim Hanson at June 16, 2004 10:07 AM

Hi Chris.

In response to your queries - I think the TV media is more to blame for this perception. Like you said, short reports aren’t really enough to get accross the meaning behind the images. There’s 1 minute of report and a bunch of powerful images. The images can be spun any way the station chooses. It may be a situation where we’re all very cynical towards some TV stations because the medium itself is so saturated with advertising and spin that we assume the same of the news programs.

I figure the difference with web/print journalism is that we can come to know more about the reporter. We can track a bit of their writing and history. People accept you because your blog is your space and you report consistently, honestly and with the stated disclosure of your own bias. It is a matter of trust to a large extent. You have the ability to mislead a bunch of regular readers, but we trust that you don’t and I guess we subconsciously assess your work and it’s value to us.

Anyway, keep up what I see to be the good work. And if you lie to me I’ll hunt you down and give you many chinese burns!!

Posted by: Swade at June 16, 2004 10:22 AM


I think there are a couple of factors leading to mistrust of the media. Of course, as a career military officer, I was trained to mistrust the media - a fall out from Vietnam. But I think on the whole the media has been doing their best to make lemonade out of crap, which is the situation in Iraq. It is ridiculous that many on the right want to hear about nothing but the lights being on and schools being repainted and think reporting bad news is tantamount to treason. On the other side, there are some who want to see conspiracy in everything that goes wrong in Iraq, while I expect the real problem is frequently just good old-fashioned American incompetence.

I think the problem is the bias in much of the television news (and the lack of depth that you mentioned) and the difficulty in finding full coverage in any of the media. I frequently find out about the major news stories in Iraq through blog links. If my local paper has the story at all, it is usually buried deep in the first section of the paper and is far too often a biased or abbreviated story. The polarization of this nation is like nothing I’ve ever seen in my lifetime and I suspect contributes greatly to the mistrust of any news source regardless of whether you’re on the left, right, or in the middle.

Posted by: Dan Stormont at June 16, 2004 10:22 AM

The major reason why I treat the media’s Iraq reporting with deep skepticism is the fact that so many major outlets were so inaccurate for so long in their reporting. For several months in the run up to the war and until information from the Kay Report began to leak out, all the major TV and print media that I follow regurgitated claims made by the Bush administration that could have been rigorously contradicted by information known publically at the time. Anyone with any knowledge whatsoever of Iraq and Iraqi Bathism knows that no alliance between Iraq and Al-Qaeda or between Iraq and Syria was possible. (To this day, I know of no major media outlet that has explored the long, intense rivalry that existed between the Iraqi and Syrian Bath parties.) Anyone who spent a moment to contemplate the distinction between state and non-state actors knows that for Iraq to attack the US with WMD was a near impossibility. Regimes are frequently both evil and stupid, but they are not suicidal.

Posted by: borealis [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 10:28 AM

The other Western media (e.g. the British) operate under the same constraints. Compare coverage in UK newspapers like The Guardian or The Independent, or even the BBC for that matter, with what gets posted on the New York Times.

Not many people in the US subscribe to the print edition of The Guardian. But it is now a mere click away, unlike the situation during the last Gulf War. People can and will compare, and draw their own conclusions.

The only possible conclusion - “The Media”, as you put it, indulged in deliberate self-censorship until Abu Ghraib came out, and treated official statements from the likes of Gen. Mark Kimmitt with a deference than ought not have been granted to someone who has as thoroughly discredited himself as “Comical Ali” Al-Sahaf.

Whether this stems from a misplaced sense of patriotism, unwillingness to risk ratings, fear of reprisals from the Bush administration or the mindless hordes of Fox know-nothings, I cannot say.

Posted by: I'd rather not have John Ashcroft or his minions knocking on my door, thanks. at June 16, 2004 10:30 AM

My mistrust of network television and newsprint media reached new depths in ‘92 after an accidental run-in with Da Feds [long story]. I learned that what’s reported may bear little resemblance to what happened, and what happened may have little similarity with most folks’ idea of law and reality.

But when the mainstream media parroted what the White House fed them in the runup to Shock & Awe, seemingly without question and as if every word were handed down by the Great Cosmic Cupcake, I decided it must be damn near impossible to be mainstream and retain any level of integrity.

When I see a news item I research it from as many online search links as I can find AND submit it to an email list for journalists/reporters for comment, then watch for further followup in the weeks afterward.

~ with the exception of this blog and a very few other sources. If B2I reports that Baghdad received 30 inches of snow last night I might question it; otherwise you, Christopher, have more than proven your veracity. Your opinions are not framed as fact, and your agenda not hidden, so it requires no leap of faith to extend some trust.

Too bad the same cannot be said for our government.

Posted by: jan [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 10:43 AM

The problem is U.S. TV News. They need to get reporters out there risking their lives with small cameras if the old equipment is too heavy. They need to show us the stuff Michael Moore is about to unleash. They package things for us as if it’s Sesame Street.

You missed the Reagan whitewash week. It was a complete disgrace. The U.S. TV news has been strategically intimidated into being stenographers, movie directors, for the powerful. They all think they used to be biased and now they think they’re ‘leaning the other way’, when in fact this very pendulum swing is manufactured. See the latest www.liberaloasis.com for a great piece on just how awful William Kristol is on the mendacity issue.

They need to show us the blood and interview angry Iraqis. We get nothing in the U.S. on TV of any value. And there’s Fox, which seems like a closed-circuit corporate video conferencing feed.

Posted by: Jonathan at June 16, 2004 10:47 AM

I rarely watch TV news, so my comments will mostly apply to print media. Here are some of the reasons I don’t trust the media:

Every time I see a report in the mainstream media about a subject that I’m particularly familiar with, it’s obvious that the author either knew nothing about the subject or was outright lying (or sometimes both). Naturally that makes me suspicious of reports on subjects I’m not personally familiar with.

The mainstream media often regurgitates press releases and speeches, especially from the Feds, without bothering to do even the most trivial investigation. For example, during the run-up to the conquest of Iraq, the White House kept saying that Saddam had thrown out the weapons inspectors in 1998. All the mainstream media coverage repeated that as if it were fact. Problem is, it never happened! If those reporters had even bothered to do a search on their own websites, they could have read the articles that were still there from 1998 explaining what really happened.

Other times the mainstream media will fail to report important facts; whether it’s out of ignorance or to further an agenda is not always clear. For example, did you know that in April of 2001 the Taliban appointed Osama bin Laden Minister of Defense? If you did, you sure didn’t learn about it from the US media. It was reported at the time on the English-language versions of Pakistani and Russian news sites, but I’ve never seen it mentioned anywhere else. That seems to me like a pretty darn important piece of information.

Posted by: Ken Hagler at June 16, 2004 11:20 AM

I can hardly comment on US media. I live in Europe.

But what is different in Iraqi blogs, and in the first hand information I gain from my relatives in Baghdad, is that it’s about the details. Print media, in Europe or US, may offer good stories, but they are about the grander scheme of things. Putting things in political context and all. I’m not saying that’s not important. It is very much important.

But I cannot relate to the US administration and the Shia Sunni relations. Those are too grand for me. However, I can relate to the hot roof on Riverbends house. I can relate to the lack of electricity in Salam’s house. I can relate to the flowers that get dusted over by the dirt that comes with bombing, in the garden of my father-in-law in Baghdad. I can relate to you, Christoffer, when a bomb explodes on one of your first days in Baghdad.
To a degree I can relate to your and their frustrations, their problems and their hopes, and therefor have some feeling for what happens over there.

That’s what you basicly offer me, Christoffer: you make it more personal than it allready was.

Perhaps war should be made as personal as it gets. Perhaps that’s the way to stop it, eventually.….

So get out there and find out what Iraqis think about the government handover. I’d very much appreciate some personal views from the streets of Baghdad.

Kodia, Amsterdam

Posted by: kodia at June 16, 2004 11:21 AM

well how about the fact that GE owns lots of media outlets?
profit share anyone?
anyway how many people are rooting for boeing stock?
money is driving this one all the way, blame greed and religion, and throw in the fact america hasn’t won a war in awhile and we need to set into motion the army of the 21st century: the private contractor

Posted by: anon donor at June 16, 2004 11:42 AM

Others have stated my views, especially Kim. I will add that more Americans get their news from television, mostly mainstream television, than they do from print (plenty of Americans don’t bother to read much). And way too many of them think FOX news is unbiased!

Continually, the Bush administration has kept the press away from Bush, not allowing direct interaction and free exchange, so that all Bush presents to the public is scripted bull crap. The press has not made a huge issue out of this, which they should have. This administration publically chastises the press for asking questions it is their job to ask, and reporters remain silent about it. This administration tells protestors where they may gather (about two blocks from the whitehouse, so the president doesn’t even have to see them). The press remains largely silent and certainly uncritical.

It is not the job of the press to be buddies with the whitehouse so they can be allowed to ask questions. It is not the job of the press to be embedded with our military, which means controlled by our government in large part.

Americans should not have to read how our president has humiliated us (as he did in Brazil, as just one example..oh and there was France, and.…) in the international press. Our own press should be reporting it.

The press did not do their job in asking hard questions before our children were sent to die in Iraq. They do not make that much of an issue about how the reason for our invading Iraq keeps changing, as if that is at all acceptable. They are not asking hard questions, now, about how well our government has protected our dams, our nuclear plants, our computer infrastructure. They are not reporting broadly about what the add-ons to the patriot act really means in regard to our civil rights, or how much those roll backs to our civil rights accomplish when compared to the vulnerability of our infractructure.

Our mainstream press does not remind us that Ashcroft, Cheney, and Rumsfeld all said, right after 9/11, that the US had been too nice and now the “gloves were going to have to come off” because we are playing with the real evil bad boys. As another poster pointed out, anyone who has been doing extensive reading all along is not surprised by any of the so-called scandals that are supposedly shocking Congress. During testimony, Rumsfeld said multiple times that “we are being forced to follow peacetime rules while fighting a war.” Why didn’t the press jump on those statements and pursue them?

When Bush and his administration people misrepresent our founding fathers (for example, Rumsfeld saying that our founding fathers saw it as our moral imperative to spread democracy throughout the world, which is absolutely not what our founding fathers thought or said), why doesn’t the press do a little educating the public with actual quotes and historical information about our founders? Instead, the press, for the most part, lets the propaganda and rhetoric go without challenge.

When Bush ads out and out lie and misrepresent opponents’ records, why does our press not set the record straight so our people can be knowledgable voters?

When Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, or Bush chastise Congress people, why does our press not pursue the fact that is it is the job of our elected Congress people to question the administrative body and even to say no to the administrative body because this is not a dictatorship. Our Congress people are doing their jobs and it is the Bush administration who is showing contempt for Congress, and therefore contempt for our Constitution. I don’t read anything much about that in the mainstream press, and I certainly don’t see anything about it on television news.

Why does the press not report much more about all of the battles Ashcroft is having with the States as he continues to attempt to impose Federal will upon State laws? So much for “less government intrusion into our lives.”

Why doesn’t the press write about how Ashcroft lied to the nomination hearing committee that he would not let his personal religious beliefs influence his job as our Attorney General, but he did exactly that from day one?

Why is the press not ringing the bell about the legislation the Bush administration is quietly trying to get through that will allow for our children to be drafted after the election? This is of vital concern to our citizens! Baby boomers were ravaged by the war in Vietnam, so now we are going to be ravaged again by the cynical use of our children, and the press is largely silent about discussing it?
The list goes on and on.…

Posted by: Barb at June 16, 2004 01:36 PM

I agree with much of what is said above. In particular, let me second Kim Hanson in praising Salam Pax and Riverbend, who provide on-the-ground perspectives that foreign journalists have little access to. I’m a little surprised that no one mentioned Juan Cole, whose running commentary is informed by tremendous historical and linguistic background, as well as great intelligence.

My sense of the coverage (written, since I almost never watch TV) has been that American journalists in Iraq are trying very hard to do the best job they can. Although a few may bring a right wing bias with them, certainly many do not . In addition to the factors mentioned earlier, three points have been painfully evident for the last year.

First, they are selling their product to a market that is primarily interested in the condition and fate of US soldiers stationed in Iraq. Probably everybody who posted above is fascinated by what we all hope will (in spite of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bremer, Negroponte,…) be the birthpains of a multiethnic Islamic democracy. But the biggest headlines always go to US combat deaths. One can argue that it is “safe” (no political viewpoint is offended) and cheap (like the weather, once the system is established, it is 100% cookie cutter) but it is also undeniable that there are a lot of people out there who know someone in Iraq, and a lot more who find it easy to empathize with people in the services. Reading Salam or Riverbend, one quickly learns that they know American political dynamics about as well as the most knowledgable Americans, and that is just the beginning of their political sophistication. Iraqi politics is dynamic, slippery, nebulous, with enormously high stakes and no immediate prospect of the kind of stability (i.e., stalemate) we “enjoy” in America. Is there anyone who could tell this story, and could they possibly hope to get a significant portion of the American market to listen?

The second point is that reporters are, for the most part, generalists. Most of the people assigned to Iraq do not know Arabic, or have any special education in Iraqi or Islamic history. These are smart people, and they certainly learn well whatever one can get from reading a 200 page “Brief History” on the plane, but after a little of Salam Pax or Juan Cole, you begin to understand how much of a disadvantage they start with.

The third point is mobility and access. Foreign journalists in Iraq take their lives in their hands every day. Mostly they seem to reside in Baghdad hotels (not the Green Zone, thank God!) and they consider every move before they venture forth. My impression is that they are usually willing to make a trip if they believe in advance that the destination has value, but already this is an enormous truncation of their potential experience. Salam Pax and Riverbend know what (at least some segment of) Iraqis think because they are themselves Iraqis who talk, every day, to family and friends. Foreign reporters talk to government officials and US service men and women. If they talk to an Iraqi, it is first of all one of the elite who knows English, and that person is naturally both nervous about potential consequences and genuinely pretty clueless about how to get a foreign journalist to understand what s/he really thinks.

So, Christopher, how much of this hits home? (I am certainly convinced that you are sincerely trying as hard as you can!)

All these points pertain, vulnerable and redoubled (I am a bridge player) to the coverage of the World’s Most Undercovered Story, namely the wars in West Africa, which (possibly you haven’t heard; I myself was completely ignorant until about a year ago) have resulted in around 4-5 million deaths over the last few years. In case you need any further evidence that I am stark raving mad, I’ll mention that this story seems to me to be about 1000 times as important as 9/11. But it gets almost no coverage in the US press. My suspicion is that the major reasons for this are not that the US press corp is, in any sense, corrupt, but rather that: (a) no US citizens are involved; (b) the situation is extremely complex, because it is extremely dynamic with deep roots in the region’s history; © getting anywhere near the “facts” of the story is a suicide mission for a European journalist.

But, really, what the hell do I know about West Africa? Christopher?

Posted by: Andy McLennan at June 16, 2004 01:44 PM

So here’s my honest question: Why do you think the media are not telling you the truth out of Iraq? What do you think the truth is? Why do you believe that the truth is what you think it is? And who is the media to you?

Yes, and why shouldn’t Fox news guard the neo-con hen house (aka Enronland) of Iraq?

When the “paper of record” purges it’s sole black asset for make-believe journalism and later fails to mention Judith WMD! Miller in its recent page A10 bleeding-heart record keeping, you get a sense of the accountability, and equally the sense of proportion, that accompanies corporate media reporting. No need to repeat the scope of that introduction.

Robert Fisk summarized much of what you ask quite well in a recent lengthy interview: where’s the passion and conviction, the opinions, in modern journalism, he asked.

He dismissed the fair and balanced trademarking of objectivity (made a mockery of by Fox, of course) as a bogus and damaging pretext that currently haunts many of those with credentials in the field. Ditch the monotone observer with the pitched voice of a sports commentator (except they don’t even keep scores) and go for the fact-checking and investigative approach that is not afraid to personally opine on or provide selective context for findings.

(Journalism must be the only intellectual pursuit still stuck in the pomo hinterlands of the early 80s when reality was so confused and multifaceted that no one could even attempt to grasp it, let alone comment. Theory pundits were left arguing the abstract merits of reality itself, much like “news” is a separate sphere wound up in its own cycles of tangible events. These are, however, aptly named “stories,” but that’s yet another wobbly wheel on the derailed pomo bandwagon.)

I have, to offer one observation, noticed that the main media players tend to introduce plenty of quotation marks when the assertions of Senor and Kimmit are so far from any supporting facts on the ground that some journos even have to ask if the same incident is being discussed. Like in “wedding party.” That seems to be the extent of opinion in much reporting; put an extra set of quotation marks in to disassociate yourself from the words used, make them disembodied concept holders (Iraqis say, Kimmit says, “wedding party”) ready to be filled in by your readers. One can see how this mechanism fits neatly with the fair and balanced idea of detached objectivity. Yet it’s merely the function of a dictaphone.

One can however, in getting at that or this “truth,” quite justly distill certain premises from the overall situation in Iraq that should basically preclude most discussions that involve the US bringing liberation, freedom and democracy to the country. By doing so, you’ve already ditched most of what is written in the main media outlets, even the less hawkish ones. The rest of the coverage basically plays with semantics around those terms in some rather obscene binary pole dancing performed in kindergarten: are too, so not so. Time to grow up here; let’s not debate endings to fairytales. Or, in another version of the same game, when is a broomstick up your ass not torture. The answer: when it is abuse. Great for vocabulary, but the public discourse should perhaps be more than tantrums around a thesaurus.

Time for the wordsmiths to write something with an edge.

Chances are that it would be two-edged anyway.

Point is that it may cut both ways.

Posted by: at June 16, 2004 01:47 PM

I agree with Kim. Nor do I think the (print) media has cleaned up its act, rather it has modified its line as events have rendered the previous line untenable. This is not a criticism of reporters on the ground, but certainly of their editors, who always sacrifice truth to spin.
It is interesting to compare two foreign sources, Reuters and Agence France-Press. Same facts, except for minor inclusions or deletions. Reuters is almost always more favorable to the Coalition than AFP. Why is that?
But then we go to AP, which is often in strong contrast to both of them. Sometimes unpleasant facts just disappear.
Back to my original complaint: The days when the media reported the truth—as they understood it—are gone. It’s not a question of bias—bias was always part of life, but bias was honest: There was no intent to deceive. But spin: The storyline is written in advance and then the facts are massaged to fit. Honesty is at a discount. Actually, it ’s just propaganda.
To the extent that bloggers are taking us back to the old days, it’s good.

Posted by: Gaianne at June 16, 2004 02:01 PM

Chris, from my perspective it would appear that television, as the more powerful media medium would have to stand accused of misdirection in the reporting of what is and isn’t happening in Iraq. That said, print media can in some cases be just as guilty, as per the Murdoch press in Australia. Insofar as visual media is concerned, you’d have to agree, I dare say, that the Murdoch visual mediums in the States, Fox for example, are as guilty as sin of pumping the Administrations line, so I’d not immediately tar all television media outlets with the same brush.

I think it’s a matter of being circumspect when selecting ones desired source of news & opinions, which is why I choose to take my news and current affairs solely from the public broadcaster here in Oz, because I have a much greater faith in it’s reporting of the facts, rather than the fiction.

Posted by: Niall [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 02:10 PM

At least from my personal perspective, a lot of the wash out comes from TV… our society in general is into that “instantaneous gratification” that a TV soundbite provides better than print. To me, though, reading a piece in print gives me a better understanding of what the person was trying to write.

Posted by: amber [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 03:52 PM

TV news is obviously something we can disregard, if what we want is substantive reporting.

As for the print media, what I find frustrating are, for example, the official presidential press conferences in which the reporters ask either scripted questions or else extremely, extremely softball questions. I recognize that they may be afraid of losing their access to their sources if they push too hard. But the problem here is that either they figure out a way to ask the hard questions or else they become part of the problem—dare I say “complicit.” Normally such passive complicity doesn’t matter too much. When you start a war in which possibly thousands of innocents may be killed—then it matters.

What we don’t have, or at least didn’t have, in this country before the war and in the first stages of the war, and which we may be beginning to see the first stages of, is a truly critical and investigative news force. The paragraphs from the WaPo that you quote above certainly represent good reporting, as you say, but nothing in there is very controversial, is it? I would be more impressed if the WaPo reported something like “90 percent of the soldiers think the war is unwinnable and morale is dismally poor” (AN EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING CONTROVERSIAL, NOT MEANT TO REPRESENT FACT ‘CAUSE I JUST DON‘T KNOW).

Let’s face it. Over the years the number of news outlets and their ownership have dwindled down to just a few owners. These owners (e.g., Richard Mellon Scaife) have political agendas that are bound to influence the end reportage that the public sees.

I have seen some increased critical reportage in the past few months, but it’s still too little, and its far too late for me to feel anything but disgust and anger when I think back on it. I don’t have the resources to investigate shady machinations of government, all by my lonesome. I depend on the journalists to do that (and note that the term “journalist” conveys something a bit more complex, responsible, and thus honorable than the term “reporter”). Well, journalists haven’t been doing that lately.

Remember when John Chancellor got kicked off the floor of the (I think it was) Republican Convention ‘way back in . . . well, it was before my time. He took a risk of sorts, paid for the risk in a way, but that was journalism.

Remember when Bob Woodward met secretly with some guy or woman named Deep Throat to . . . well, you know that story. (Er, it was Bob, wasn’t it?)

Remember when Christopher Allbritton collected some money in populist fashion and up ‘n took off to Iraq to report the way he saw things, unfettered (in theory) to any larger corporate or political interests (except his own)? That was journalism.

Please disabuse me if I’m wrong! That’s what the picture looks like from here.

Posted by: defib [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 04:34 PM

I don’t think it is necessarily specific to reporting from Bagdad. I suspect the root of the prevelent and pursasive beliefs stem from an individual’s attempt to process into their systems a reality which is sufficiently different from their past experiences that they have difficulty in integrating it into their welt bild. (Phew.. don’t have time to parse that out and rephrase…)

People feel they have gotten to know you as an individual. This is a community. This is the part of the blog experience.

Those that ‘trust’ you when faced with a difficult set of events are more likely to see you as a good source because of that existing relationship.

(Those that don’t trust you aren’t here, generally ’-)

These folks are subseqently more likely to develop a derisive view of other sources. I’m less sure why, maybe because they cause dissonance.

Ultimately these situations develop and you get to ask your question. :-)

I don’t have any research or citations to support any to that. Tomorrow I may not believe it myself. But it seems true now.

Take care. Stay Safe. Come home safe… all of you…

Posted by: Jim Ebright [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 04:42 PM

One example to cite my unhappiness with print media:

I don’t know if everyone will remember this, but in the days that followed Richard Clarke’s testimony before the 9/11 commission, there was a week-long media frenzy over a “trapped” senior Al Qaeda operative in Pakistan. TV was nuts—they were covering this as a “breaking story” for several days.

At the same time, foreign media was reporting that whoever was supposed to be there had more than likely escaped several days before the media frenzy began.

In particular, the Chicago Tribune jumped all over this story, and I was very disappointed that there was no mention whatsoever of the reports of a possible escape. I’d dare say that no American media, TV or print, bothered to mention this little tidbit. I sent the following message to the Tribune’s subscription/e-mail news editor:

I have to wonder if it was Daywatch or Daywatch’s editors that chose not to cite stories by Reuters and AFP :::last week::: that reported a car leaving the compound at a high rate of speed and escaping?


The article from 19 March 2004 quotes an unnamed senior Pakistani security official as saying an individual holed up in the Wana compound may have escaped LAST TUESDAY the 16th!

Should I not trust Reuters and the AFP? Why has this report not been cited by American media outlets? Can someone please explain to me why?

I would like to get complete coverage from the Tribune, not just the popular take on the news.

That message was sent on March 22nd. I got a reply later that day that because the Tribune did not carry Reuters or AFP news, they did not bother to report the story.

An excuse. Lame, to me. And what of those American media outlets that COULD use Reuters and AFP? I didn’t see this story anywhere.

The exclusion of this tidbit that would have crushed this “breaking” news story, paired with the obvious timing of the coverage to steal Clarke’s thunder, is a pattern that has been repeated all too often over the course of the past two and a half years.

American media has tended to run with administration “propaganda” and neglected to give prominence to the real stories.

I am glad to see that the media is finally starting to admit that they all too gladly ate up the junk fed to them by the Bush administration. This change in attitude on behalf of major news outlets is fairly recent so I am not surprised to hear of stories like the one you cited in the WP.

The Bush administration is still doing the “watch my left hand and don’t pay attention to what’s in my right hand” magic act, though. John Ashcroft’s contempt of Congress at the end of last week was followed by Monday’s hype over Justice’s arrest of some guy who supposedly wanted to “blow up” a shopping mall (he must have had a hell of a lot of explosives and strategy to hide them all) in Columbus, Ohio. I have read that the charges don’t even mention his plans to blow up a mall, specifically, just that he was arrested as a person of interest.

The timing follows the pattern of distraction by the administration.

How many times have we learned of the Bush administration’s questionable actions, only to be followed almost immediately by a spike in our terror level? I am sure this is what happened last year when Joseph Wilson outed Bush on the phony yellowcake citation in the SOTU.

Bully for the American media if they have finally woken up, but for the past two and half years they have been sucked in by the Bush Reich.

Posted by: wanderindiana [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 05:16 PM


I think “the Media” is looked at now in the same way that we all looked at “the media” in the former Soviet Union. The assumption, is that the media is controlled by the government.

It is not a fair accusation. But I think the perception of many.

Posted by: Gary at June 16, 2004 05:36 PM

Ultimately, I feel that I have been able to piece together a lot of
the media coverage I see. While I agree that Television’s situation
can lend to a watered-down version, but I just can’t accept that
because there are shows like The Daily Show that spend the real time
on the real issues, but its on Comedy Central!

I have a friend at work that will not watch the show because the
subjects are simply too serious to him… He wonders why their can’t
be a show with the same topics, but with serious attitudes.

I have been impressed with Meet The Press — Tim Russert seems to be
going pretty tough for television in the most important ways here in
the US.

NPR has been better. The BBC and the Guardian seem sensationalist at
best. The BBC special (which I had to download off the Internet) about
behind-the-scenes at Central Command seemed pretty revealing if not

Print media has been harder to come by. I do have the opportunity to
get NYT, but I usually wind up skimming that on the web.

The web has becomed increasingly complex, while at the same time
increasingly easy to keep up with the advent of Web Feeds. In fact,
subscribing to many blogs and websites has been a great way to try and
find the details I’m looking for. For instance, in-depth analysis of
the DOJ’s memos that they’re trying to keep from Congress which
basically absolve the US from any legal culpability from torture
overseas, even against foreign treaties.……

There are other things, like how ironically John Kerry was in
Columbus, Ohio yesterday, and for some reason Ashcroft (the same guy
who’s holding those memos, for no aparent reason that he can readily
explain) decided to release info about a bomb attack plot in Columbus

Seems political, and it seems like almost a crime in the sense of
inducing a panic! No one… I mean no one here in Columbus… talked
about how long ago the guy had been captured. Only after Kerry left
did I hear the TV news say that there “had been no immediate threat.”

It seems just like very simple media manipulation. Those that don’t
have the luxury of good resources would’ve been distracted from Kerry
by the “threat” … The local Fox News (in Bush’s Pocket…) … had
an exclusive interview with the wife of the suspect.. on the very same
day as Kerry’s visit.

The other networks showed the usual stuff we’re used to… Kerry
Kissing babies and saying things that could sound good if they only
made sense.… just like any previous presidential race at about this
time of year into it. The Republican response?

“John Kerry talks a lot of pessimism and pessimism never created a job…”

Bush later said on the national news (the only soundbit we heard that
day of the president) that “Oh I’m sure there’s a lot of pessimism if
you go looking for it, but I’m an optimist!”

This stuff just sounds manufactured.

The burden is that if I went casually through my day, I wouldn’t have
seen this. Not to say I wouldn’t trust a damn thing I saw on TV, but
just that I wouldn’t know just how secretive they are, and how they
are able to cripple television from asking hard questions and
reporting on the media manipulation.

The media, unfortunately, is not their audience.

Thanks for asking, and thanks for reading,


Posted by: th0m at June 16, 2004 05:47 PM

Dear chris
I don’t know from where to start so I can tell you how the media bias the facts in their reporting.
As an Iraqi lived in the US I always found two versions for the same story. My sources in Baghdad who are regular people lived every moment of the invasion and what’s after it tell me that things are different from what the media show to us here in America, for example one of the known facts that Washington post missed (and you thought that it is a good historical stuffs) about abdul kareem qasim that he may seem to the west as a dictator but he was not. He loved the Iraqis and he was loved in a way that there was a myth after his death that people saw his face on the moon!!!! Does that seem like a dictator? When the ba’ath party, who got the power by force in 1963, killed him. The ba’ath party secretary general Ali Salih Al-Saadi came with a famous speech to the people (we came to you by an American train!!!!). the man was the most loved president in Iraq’s history. Tell me where can you find such kind of significant historical information in the western media? I don’t believe you will.
If you spend more time with the regular Iraqis they will tell you all these stories about that great man. That the baath party was so scared of him even after his death, and they didn’t let him to have a grave!!!
So as you can tell even the part of the media that you thought that is if fair and not biased it was for me depending on different other facts that I know
Another thing here, why the writer in that article of the Washington post wrote about the 14 Iraqi Jews and forgot about many other Iraqis who were hanged in Baghdad at many other locations that saw explosions in the past days? Does that seem right? I don’t think so!!!
You are doing a great job chris and may god keep you safe and well

Posted by: iraqprince [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 05:56 PM

The big problem that I have with the reporting from Iraq is that it’s too big a country or too complicated of a political situation for one reporter to sum up in one article, especially if the audience doesn’t have a good sense of the history behind the current events. There are so many stories out there that it’s hard to fit them into the mental space usually required to understand one country or conflict. It seems like each city has its own conflicts, each region has its own majorities and minorities, and each faction has its own allies and enemies. It’s a huge amount of information to keep track of, and it’s a full time job to keep track of it.

The level of daily news consumption that I have (not limited to Iraq), reading two or three newspaper articles, a couple of blogs, and watching an hour of TV news does not provide enough information for me to make useful or accurate generalizations to “sum up” the situation. Every week I’m suprised by some new piece of information that doesn’t fit what I thought before, so I can never trust that I have a good idea of whats going on, even by reading individually trustworthy reports.

It seems like nobody has a clear idea of what’s going on in Iraq, and anyone who does claim to know what’s happening sounds like they are trying to bend the facts to meet their own bias.

Maybe what I’m looking for is more like history than reporting, but the article that you quoted is definitely going in the right direction.

Posted by: Nick [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 06:10 PM

See the author of Feedster talking about blogs in relationship to Media Distrust today:


Posted by: th0m at June 16, 2004 06:14 PM

Now that the war is less popular- the print media is more free with thier criticism. Remember the scandal of the New York Times reporter who wrote how wrong the war was last year? How anti-patriotic! There is also a not so subtle context that the media is contained within with ads and insincere reports that do not make the reader care about the subjects. Most of the print media has a slant too -even TIME. It is impossible for you to see from outside the U.S. bubble.
Thanks for your insight- take care chris- it is sad to see your office just cleared out here at PM. Wendy

Posted by: Wendy at June 16, 2004 07:01 PM

You might find your answer in this article:

The People’s Media Reaches More People Than FOX Does
by Jim Hightower

While Big Media is “simply in the business of selling products, the people’s media reaches more people than FOX does.

Democratic reformer Henry Adams, who decried the decline in democracy as the robber barons rose to power in the nineteenth century, did not mince words about the failure of the news media of his day: “The press is the hired agent of a monied system,” he wrote, “and set up for no other purpose than to tell lies where the interests are involved.”

Imagine the verbal scorching Henry would give to today’s media barons, who are not merely hired agents of monied interests‹they have become the interests, fully corporatized, conglomerated and well-practiced in the art of journalistic lying to perpetuate the power and profits of the elites.

A handful of self-serving corporate fiefdoms now controls practically all of America’s mass-market sources of news and information. GE now owns NBC, Disney owns ABC, Viacom owns CBS, News Corp. owns Fox, and Time Warner owns CNN; these five have a lock on TV news. Of the 1,500 daily newspapers, only 281 are independently owned - three companies control 25 percent of the daily news circulated in the entire world.

These aloof giants openly assert that meeting their own profit needs is the media’s reason for existence - as opposed to meeting the larger public’s need for a vigorous, democratic discourse. Lowry Mays, honcho of Clear Channel Inc. (which owns more than 1,200 radio stations - a third of all the stations in America), opines that: “We’re not in the business of providing news and information We’re simply in the business of selling our customers’ products.” (more…)

You might have seen this already: Poll of Iraqis Angry at Americans:

Please be safe. We still love you and God bless.

Posted by: bamboo at June 16, 2004 07:15 PM

I also thought the Post article yesterday was excellent, and commented at the time that is was more like a blog post from Iraq. I felt I was there, and I felt the despair, the anger. the dust sweat and bloood. It was extremely well written, one of the best so far, and I glad to see it get noticed I don’t tend to lump all the media together, how can you compare Fox news to the Wapost? I do think, especially regarding all things Iraq, that there is a pervasive sence of mistrust, and that begins at the top with this administrations secretiveness. The WMD issue, and the softness of much of the press on this administration leading upto the war, (admittedly so by the NYT), has made it seem that there is a great deal of untrustworthiness out there in general. That both sides don’t trust “the media”, is interesting. I really think that because the country is so deeply devided, and both sides now seem to truly dislike each other, the outlets for information are caught in the crosshairs. Each side thinks the other is out to screw them and the “media” is working for the other side. This divide within our country is very harmfull and until we truly have strong leadership at the top this will continue to fester. I don’t know yet if that could be John Kerry, but it’s not George Bush.

Posted by: kateinva [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 07:46 PM

I have a degree in journalism myself, and have been a journalist off and on (mostly off). My feeling on this is that you’re right about TV news, most of it does suck. I watch PBS News Hour and the weekend talk shows, which are far superior to the national nightly news, which are worlds better than local news.

I like a lot of what NBC Nightly News does, but there’s so much they do that just blows, that I can’t bear to watch. Most of that is related to their lack of time: they provide simplistic and inaccurate explanations because they don’t have the time to be thorough.

However, I think some of the problem is also related to just a general distrust of any unfamiliar source of information, which really picked up after Watergate, and then again in the 90s with the “liberal media.” So now CNN is liberal, Fox News is right-wing, and you can’t trust anything either one says. I don’t buy it — although I do treat everything both say with a critical lens — but most people I run into do.

And last, but certainly not least, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the use of anonymous sources for even routine stories, and an accompanying rise in journalists — and mostly print journalists, sorry — being irresponsible, or flat-out lying.

Hell, that reason alone is reason enough to distrust an unfamiliar reporter, because we’ve seen so many lies, from two NY Times reporters, from a USA Today reporter … of course, I don’t believe that is what most people are talking about when they talk of distrust. I think it is mostly the first two things, bad TV news and the overemphasis of perceived bias.

Posted by: pudge at June 16, 2004 08:08 PM

You’ve got some smart readers here, Chris. What they said.

It’s not that I mistrust the press, but that they’ve been so damn deferential to the party line in omitting or downplaying so many stories. The WaPo has done pretty well but supplemental local info like yours and Riverbend’s (who hasn’t posted for 2 weeks—anyone here know if she’s OK?), and Juan Cole’s expertise, make for a much more complete picture.

Since nobody’s offered this analogy on this blog yet, the media are like sharks. Most of the time you (or the Bushies) can swim in water with sharks and not be attacked. But if you’ve been paying attention to even the “mainstream” media like CNN in response to Cheney’s latest outright lies and misdeeds, then I think you might agree that there’s blood in the water now.…

Posted by: Duncan Idaho [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 08:34 PM

1) “Why do you think the media are not telling you the truth out of Iraq?” The goal of mass media corporations is no longer to inform, if it ever was. In the ancient past, networks took pride in their news departments, and did good work. But the principle goal of mass media is to get your eyeballs and earholes and neurons aimed at their sponsors’ products. The more successful they are at doing that, the more money they make. Money is the force driving them, not information. Don’t count on mass media to do much for you beyond creating a galvanic skin response. The Abu Ghraib photos created outstanding GSR’s, so we saw a lot of them.

2) “What do you think the truth is?” re Iraq? Good things and bad things are coming about as a result of the invasion. The US policy which produced it is flat-out wrong, IMHO. Dislodging Saddam was right. Promising a liberation, then establishing an occupation, while the policy promises to use bases in Iraq to destabilize much of the Middle East, is insane.

3) “Why do you believe that the truth is what you think it is?” I read the policy. I also read this, this, and this. Among other things.

Maintaining your proficiency as an informed citizen requires time and effort. Most people have only a limited amount of time to gather their news. We’re a busy people. TV news is the equivalent of fast food.

4) “And who is the media to you?” Obviously, my responses to 1 and 3 are aimed at TV in particular. The principle goal of magazines and newspapers is also making money, but as you have to work harder to absorb their information (move your eyeballs systematically rather than have the moving picture jerk them around for you), they can’t do that without producing something worth reading. Even then, though, lazy readers will move on to the next article if they get bored, so provocation is a useful tool to keep the lazy reader reading.

This medium we’re all dabbling in here, the www, has expanded the availability of print sources enormously, as well as video sources for those with access to broadband. However, we have to avoid the traps such as Pierre Salinger found, and to resist is the temptation to visit only sites that simply reinforce our prejudices.

Obviously, I have some disdain for the visual medium. It is generally shallow, and too many “stories” are written by marketers and are aimed at promoting consumption for its own sake. I have more respect for print media, maybe because I can skip right over that sort of nonsense. But what bothers me most is the bad habits of the consumers of any medium. We’re lazy (or busy, a valid excuse), easily led, and too willing to believe what we want to believe.

Posted by: at June 16, 2004 09:00 PM

1) “Why do you think the media are not telling you the truth out of Iraq?” The goal of mass media corporations is no longer to inform, if it ever was. In the ancient past, networks took pride in their news departments, and did good work. But the principle goal of mass media is to get your eyeballs and earholes and neurons aimed at their sponsors’ products. The more successful they are at doing that, the more money they make. Money is the force driving them, not information. Don’t count on mass media to do much for you beyond creating a galvanic skin response. The Abu Ghraib photos created outstanding GSR’s, so we saw a lot of them.

2) “What do you think the truth is?” re Iraq? Good things and bad things are coming about as a result of the invasion. The US policy which produced it is flat-out wrong, IMHO. Dislodging Saddam was right. Promising a liberation, then establishing an occupation, while the policy promises to use bases in Iraq to destabilize much of the Middle East, is insane.

3) “Why do you believe that the truth is what you think it is?” I read the policy. I also read this, this, and this. Among other things.

Maintaining your proficiency as an informed citizen requires time and effort. Most people have only a limited amount of time to gather their news. We’re a busy people. TV news is the equivalent of fast food.

4) “And who is the media to you?” Obviously, my responses to 1 and 3 are aimed at TV in particular. The principle goal of magazines and newspapers is also making money, but as you have to work harder to absorb their information (move your eyeballs systematically rather than have the moving picture jerk them around for you), they can’t do that without producing something worth reading. Even then, though, lazy readers will move on to the next article if they get bored, so provocation is a useful tool to keep the lazy reader reading.

This medium we’re all dabbling in here, the www, has expanded the availability of print sources enormously, as well as video sources for those with access to broadband. However, we have to avoid the traps such as Pierre Salinger found, and to resist is the temptation to visit only sites that simply reinforce our prejudices.

Obviously, I have some disdain for the visual medium. It is generally shallow, and too many “stories” are written by marketers and are aimed at promoting consumption for its own sake. I have more respect for print media, maybe because I can skip right over that sort of nonsense. But what bothers me most is the bad habits of the consumers of any medium. We’re lazy (or busy, a valid excuse), easily led, and too willing to believe what we want to believe.

(Well, bugger all. I’m still figgering out the TypeKey thing, Christopher. Must have gotten timed out…)

Posted by: Steve Jones [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 16, 2004 09:04 PM

Everyone has a bias. They all want the news that is reported to support their own beliefs. They want verification that they are right. If they don’t like Bush then the news is all propaganda from a right leaning press. if they support Bush then the left leaning press doesn’t show what good is coming from the war. Even when they read blogs from Iraq they only quote (read,believe) the bloogers that reinforce their own (negitive) beliefs

I think that the issues are too big for most people to really understand. The press is a commercial operation that reports on the 3rd grade level because most people don’t want the whole story, it might make them think or face the fact that they may be wrong. The “best seller” (and therefore the safest) is the blood and guts stories, so that is what they show.

I would like to see some insightful reporting on what is really happening to the people of Iraq. Are they seeing any improvment? Is improvement in their lives possible? Are the great sacrifices being made by everyone involved really making any differences? What would the naysayers suggest we do about the threat of terrorism, or is terrorism just a big Conspiracy by the right wing? What are the Iraqi people doing to help themselves? Do most Iraqi’s want a free and democratic Iraq? Are free elections occuring now in Iraq? Is it possible to have free elections? Will tribal politics doom Iraq to a future of hate and murder and crime? Who really is resposible for the car bombs, assassinations , and explosions?

If a bias reporter such as yourself could get the answers to these questions out in front of the public you will be a great journalist.

Inquiring minds want to know!!

Posted by: Lee in houston at June 16, 2004 09:12 PM

I personally feel i’m not getting a full report from the main-stream media for the following reasons:
1) No one has really talked about accountablity, if there was no 911 link, bring all those to justice who still claim there is.
2) If there was no WMD found, bring those to justice too.
3) We don’t see any sufferring of the US solders, on their opinions, and if they still believe in the lies of their leaders.
4) There is a big uproar about iraqis killing each other now, but no one wants to talk about our missiles that killed hundreds of innocent people.

There are a lot of one-sided stories on both fronts( the western and the mid-eastern), but i can only speak for what we see here in news in the US; as long as our conservative fellow citizens are showing blind allegance to their leaders, not much will change.

Posted by: Jack Anderson at June 16, 2004 09:41 PM

You’re right on all.The network tv new sucks!

Posted by: larry at June 16, 2004 09:42 PM

I think the main problem is that the media spends so little time talking about the lives of the Iraqis. If a bomb goes off, the first line is one westerner was killed, and somewhere later 15 iraqis dead and 47 wounded, or whatever. As if our lives are more important the lives of an Iraqi man, woman, or child.

No one likes to look at the realities of war. But, it is what it is. I want to know the whole truth, not just our side of it. But, how the international community sees it.

Posted by: Marcos at June 16, 2004 10:45 PM

Two thoughts on this interesting discussion. One, there are some very good reporters doing some excellent journalism, Chris being among the toughest. Edward Wong at the NYT is among “main stream” reporters trying to cover wide range of issues and events in Iraq. I’ve been impressed by his range of interests.
Two, to my mind, the press has done a horrific job in its role as public educator. Every time the phrase “war on terror”, for example, is used, someone is misleading their readers. “Terror”, by which I presume they mean political violence, is not an enemy, it is a tactic. I don’t believe I’ve read a single instance in which a journalist has tried to explain the roots of modern political violence in the American or French Revolutions. The press has done an equally awful job of conflating ethnicities, religious factions and nationalities, further confusing American readers. A journalist might distinguish between Sunni and Shia, for example, but they never explain the distinction. They love generalizations about Arabs and Muslims, perhaps because they’re easy. But they do a disservice to their readers by ignoring history and failing to explain how real differences between peoples affect what might be alternatives to current policies. Until they regain their spine and remember that they have a duty to educate as well as report, the media will remain a tool of corporate and political power.

Posted by: carl p. at June 16, 2004 11:18 PM

The internet and cable/satellite TV allow increasing numbers of us focus all or most of our news gathering on sources that reenforce our particular beliefs and feelings.

Its not nefarious; human nature leads us to seek community. And news sources have an interest (again, not necessarily venal) to aggregate their readers/viewers into a community. Suc communities of shared values are one basis of trust.

The problem is that when technolgy limited the sources of international news (e.g., only three US TV networks), both the sources and people at large were forced to aggregate into relatively large groups. These encompassed a wider (though certainly not universal) range of beliefs, and also a broader sense of trust.

Now that we can, and do, segregate ourselves into ever more specific (and pleasingly self-reinforcing) communities of news sources, we are forced to consider (and trust) the other guy less and less.

Now consider for a moment why, despite Christopher’s invitation, almost no commentors here elaborate on the roots of conservative distrust of Big Media.

Posted by: Shimodaira at June 16, 2004 11:50 PM

Excellent stories require in-depth research. In-depth research takes time. The reporters who travel to Iraq must justify the expense of their trip, and generally follow “breaking news”. In general, the stories I see from WaPo, nytimes, latimes, are of better quality but rely on the accuracy of the reports from the Pentagon, NGOs, etc. If these reports are inaccurate then the news is inaccurate. Therefore, as a reader, I can only rely on first-hand information, since reporters no longer bother to verify their source information. Case in point, WMD and the Nytimes (fed by bad information from the CIA).

It has gotten so bad, that when I read an article, I must search down the source information to verify it’s accuracy. The majority of the time, the research has been done too quickly, and so the articles are inaccurate. It takes a lot of work to be correctly informed, and so the American public becomes fatigued, and only listens to first hand reports, so they don’t have to waste time learning false information.


PS: PBS tends to be the best, but must still be researched. I found a new site: http://www.iraqfoundation.org that points to articles that contain stronger research than most, and gives a better holistic picture.

Posted by: julia at June 17, 2004 12:56 AM

The distrust of the mainstream media comes from their reporting on the Bush administration. The Bush message on Iraq was wrong. Were they dupes or liars?

The mainstream media reported the Bush position uncritically. Were the mainstream media dupes or liars?

No Cakewalk
No greeting troops with flowers
No rapid drawdown of US troops
No oil financing all the costs
Many causualties after war declared over, etc.

Why should we trust dupes? or liars?

Posted by: bakho at June 17, 2004 01:05 AM

I get most of my news from the web. Both from main stream news sites such as CNN and MSNBC as well as a large number of blogs. The blogs I read fall into two main categories. Ones that analyze the news (such as Intel Dump, Juan Cole and Iraq Now) and ones that are first person perspectives (such as Riverbend and some US soldier blogs). I read my local paper as well but I find myself skipping almost every Iraq article, mainly because I’ve read about it already. I also read the Atlantic Monthly, but I consider it more analytical and in-depth rather than the fast paced, here’s whats going on right now nature of the NYT.

I think the print media has a tough problem, especial weeklies such as Time. The news I read on the web has very fast publishing time, it also has a quick feedback loop to make corrections and incorporate new information and angles. It also provides an easy method to acquire differing viewpoints in a quick fashion. The other print media (dailies and weeklies) have a much slower publishing time and do not have a methodology to link corrections or incorporate new information to an article like the online world can. So what I can read in the print media is a snapshot of data that I’ve read about already and might (probably) miss some facts that are found post final draft which might alter or clarify the story. Monthlies, such as the Atlantic don’t attempt to be completely on top of the news, they know their limitations and their strengths. (One of my favorite sections of the Atlantic is the reader feedback, because the writers respond to the feedback.)

Is it a matter of me not trusting the print media, or is a case of me thinking I have BETTER information sources?

The other problem that I have is that I think the people who spin stories are working overdrive in this divisive election year. I think there are more biased stories (not necessarily biased reporters and writers mind you but more biased stories) because the people who spin for effect are filling the air waves and print media with huge amounts of their product. It’s hard to wade through whether I agree with the spin or not. The other problem I have is the polarization of Bush. I don’t like him, I think he’s set back the country in a myriad of ways. But when all you every read is either an article full of support for him or an article full of derision for him, you start to wonder if anyone is objective (including myself). I may agree with most of the derisive articles, but does it make me trust the media more? Not if I have already accepted the fact I can’t trust myself to be objective when it comes to Bush.

Posted by: dave higley at June 17, 2004 01:26 AM

Here are the problems with many forms of mainstream media as I see them:

They rely too heavily on quick attention grabbing clips, many times worded to emphasize something they believe the public wants to see (i.e., Death, destruction, violence, hardship). The worst culprits for this are TV networks, each one trying desperately for ratings and to grab the publics attention. Politicians are another great culprit for this buzzword/topic media pollution.

Some mainstream media formats also like to find a common denominator that links news items together, so they can somehow make a “Large” story out of little ones. This often creates references to news happenings that have little to nothing to do with the current item, thus the reporter is leading the reader into a conclusion of their own, instead of creating a factual account of what happened.

There are also times the facts are not double-checked before the article gets posted, so large institutions like the New York Times release information that everyone supposes as TRUTH, so they reprint, and someone else reprints, repeat ad nauseum.

Slanted reporting seems to be the worst though, when flag-waving nationalists impose their own perception on a story, but don’t mark it as editorial, that’s unfair news reporting. In my eyes, it’s completely unacceptable.


Posted by: Oorgo at June 17, 2004 02:19 AM

What’s also strange is that no one(at least not the republicans or fox news) were complaining about news bias when we had embedded soldiers and only ‘good’ filtered news was allowed to be shown in the media.

Now that the Press has taken some criticism and is turning up the heat and is asking questions, everyone yells partisonship.

A large majority of Americans still believe the War was justified, since when did occupation of another country become justified? Where is the press now to question it?
Wanting badly to have faith in our system of government the people support Bush blindly; rather than admit their bad(unelected) choice in leadership.
The cost of war somehow is not phasing anyone.

No one in press has taken these issues, so yes, they’re biased because we’re a country that asks for some accountablity, from our leaders and from the news media, but they’ve sold themselve’s out.

Posted by: Jack Anderson at June 17, 2004 02:48 AM

I don’t find mainstream media trustworthy because it doesn’t report what is the obvious root cause of the Iraq war and occupation. As we approach peak oil, the point of maximum oil production, nations will compete desperately for the single resource which powers the modern world. It’s an energy war, but who calls it that?

Posted by: Aaron at June 17, 2004 02:50 AM

Hello!? TV is a problem?!

60 Minutes broke the Abu Ghraib story.

ABC’s Nightline consistently covers Iraq from a considered, in-depth, perspective. so does the PBS News Hour and Frontline.

CNN’s breaking news is unparalleled; they broadcast longer, often internationally-produced, documentaries.

All the TV reporters I’ve seen at CPIC briefings ask the hard questions that need to be asked.

If people wonder why so many media, often say the same thing — well its not bias — its because objective reporting will produce similar results.

If the car is blue — objective journalists would all have same report: the car is blue. If iraq’s is gettign more dangerous, well… that’s what is being reported.

If people don’t believe the press, I’d argue to has more to do with the audience’s own bias, than with tough, fair, comprehensive coverage.

Posted by: at June 17, 2004 02:55 AM

Very good discussion here. I would have to side with those who think the real loss of confidence with the US print media lies with he run-up to war, particularly the NYT, which is usually the standard by which US print media is judged. the Judith Miller sstuff is just a case in point. A lot of us just tuned out the US media, both print and television, at this stage and sought to get factual coverage from the foreign press. Although some good work has been done in the print media since, it has been difficult to recover any credibility.

By the way, kudos for the Heart of Darkness piece.

Posted by: Kaput at June 17, 2004 04:12 AM

Imagine if we listened to all media with a baseless faith — propaganda is a dormant memory, but the legacy it left behind will always be a part of our collective consciousness.

Scrutiny is hard earned, but rewarding.

Posted by: iconoclasm at June 17, 2004 04:43 AM

Chris, you were right, that was a great piece of reporting by Ed Cody. And no, he’s not “Arab”—though what on earth difference would it make if he were? (What kind of point were you trying to make there, anyway?) He’s just a darned good reporter from the immense stable of veterans that the WaPo has. I knew him when we both worked in Beirut in the ‘70s…

My own distrust of/ disgust with the WaPo grew immensely in the lead-up to the war when the paper’s editorial line of strong support for the war effort—w/ Jim Hoagland being one of the main cheerloaders for it there— seeped over into affecting their news coverage very badly. Very badly indeed.
Since the war started, the coverage has improved in leaps and bounds, w/ Anthony (yeah he got the Pulitzer but where the heck is he now?) Shadid leading the way, but Ed Cody and many other reporters also finally being allowed to do the job they know so well.

How come the WaPo never did any kind of a mea culpa re their totally let’s brown-nose the administration performance pre-March 2003, of the level of the two parallel ones that the NYT has now done? All I recall seeing in the WaPo was a slightly shamefaced recounting of how they got totally taken for a ride over the Jessica Lynch so-called “story”.… Nothing more than that.

I guess the answer’s “politics”. There are many, many people at the WaPo (Hoagie being far from the only one) who see their role as being “players” in the power game in DC rather than sticking to the essential role of all great journos everywhere which is to be skeptical of all parties—but especially skeptical of people who wield power!

Posted by: Helena at June 17, 2004 04:44 AM

The prewar performance of the media was horrible. The postwar performance that you highlight is primarily only an effect of the fact that the resistance has been so effective through acts of violence. Were it not for the resistance’s ‘surprising’ effectiveness, the media would generally support the occupation.
It is rare, very rare, to hear on TV or the radio a voice from those who have consistently opposed the invasion and occupation in the US, when it comes to analysis.
As for the reports like abu ghraib, they are too little too late. independent media watchers knew about these kinds of torture and the huge numbers of innocent prisoners of the US well before the media finally decided it was safe to report on it due to the spectacular photos, and mind you the most appalling photos are still being withheld from the American people. To this day EVERY major news organization parrots the Bush spin calling the torture “Abuse”.

In a nutshell, the media are not reliable, though they often do provide glimpses into the mess that can be useful. Unfortunately the bulk of the reporters and their editors support the occupation and at most think it should be ‘done better’. in such circumstances, it’s not surprising that many are wary of the media’s role in reporting only bits and pieces of reality and timidly not presenting the real extent of the horror of this illegal occupation.

Posted by: steve at June 17, 2004 05:32 AM

When I was 17 my father worked as a news director for a major radio station in Detroit. At that time there was a lot of controversy over mercury in the water & everyone was told not to eat fish until testing could be done. Then the report came out that the levels were ‘not at a level harmful for human consumption’ and it was ‘o.k.’ to eat fish. My father informed me that the media was ordered by the government not to report the actual levels because they were so high. He said no one wanted to deal with the questions of who would be held accountable, since pollution was occuring on both sides of the border & many American companies had factories in Ontario. If any of the stations had reported the acutal levels, they would have had their licenses revoked, so they all went along with the fictional report…ever since then I’ve taken what I read/hear/see from ‘mainstream media’ with a grain of salt. And when I hear ‘not at a level harmful for human consumption’, I figure it’s actually the opposite.

I agree that there are some reporters getting the word out on what is happening in Iraq, but they have been few and far between. Now that the ‘rose colored glasses’ have been taken off (in some circles) we are hearing more about the atrocities, but in the initial stages of reporters with flag pins, hardly anyone was critical of the war effort.

I read a story last week about an incident at a cafe in Baghdad: “Last Wednesday night, some students were there, studying, around 10 p.m., and there was a American tank standing in the street near the café’. There are some large gardens, with heavy shrubs and palm trees on the opposite side, from which a missile was fired upon the tank. The soldier turned around, and opened fire on the café’, killing some students, and wounding some more. A part of the café’ was destroyed.” Not a word about it that I’ve seen anywhere in the media, only in Faiza’s blog, A Family in Baghdad.

There is information that I read here that I don’t find anywhere else, as well. You may consider yourself ‘biased’, yet you bring a balance to your reporting that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Posted by: Allison at June 17, 2004 08:11 AM


The only point I was making about Edward not being Arab was that a westerner wading into a mob scene like he described was an act of courage. Anyone who doesn’t “look” Iraqi in the situation he described is placing himself at risk these days.

Posted by: Christopher Allbritton [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 17, 2004 08:41 AM

Someone mentioned being surprised by the “political sophistication” of Riverbend and Salam and suggested that it could be because of the “dynamic, slippery, nebulous” nature of Iraqi politics. Well, speaking as an Asian, I’m sometimes surprised by the political naivity of Americans (I’m not talking about the readers here, of course).

Asian media have often (justly) been denigrated for, amongst other things, being the mouthpiece of the government and other agencies. Well, educated Asians (just like Westerners) actually KNOW this. As such, the media is expected to “report” but not really “investigate”. To get more “details” or “analyses”, we would have to do some actual “investigation” — as the readers here seem to be doing. So Asians can be sometimes be sophisticated in the sense that we trust what we see for ourselves more than what the media says, and we KNOW what we DON‘T KNOW.

And one of the means of “investigation” is the “People’s Media” mentioned in bamboo’s post above. Like any media, this kind of “personal media” will have bias and credibility issues, but that is part and parcel of the “investigation” process — i.e. building up the whole picture for oneself from various sources instead of relying any “model answer”.

In my opinion, this and other blogs on the war in Iraqi have fulfilled the function of being the “People’s Media” for Iraq (since I can’t speak to any Iraqi). Since I can make my own assessment of bias and credibility of Chris and the other bloggers based on his past blogs (and other media reports), reading B2I is more like talking to a person who is in Iraq than reading a media report — which are always subject to “invisible” and changing editorial/censorship policies).

I haven’t figure out the type key thing, but I’m glad to see the trolls (pardon the name-calling) are gone. I’m most delighted to find that I can understand (if not agree) with most of the posts here!

Posted by: Sing at June 17, 2004 09:47 AM

Actually, I have thought quite a bit of the onsite reporting from Iraq by reporters who were NOT embedded (that is just whoring) has been surprisingly good. At worst it has come across as wide-eyed confusion and I can’t blame US reporters for that. The San Francisco Chronicle, no model of enlightened journalism, has consistantly had first hand reports with substance from Iraq and Afghanistan.

As someone who was deeply involved in the movements for popular justice in Central America in the 80s (and who worked with the anti-apartheid press in South Africa), it seems to me that some print journalists are actually doing a little better at reporting on “official enemies” of the United States. The 80s press seemed far more credulous and linguistically handicapped in a situation in which information was more accessible and more veriable than you have in Iraq. Yet they usually confined their sources to euphemistically identified US officials (never named) and the taxi drivers who moved them from airport to hotel.

Those of us who have made the effort to try to understand events in these faraway places where the US is throwing its weight around are almost never surprised when the US media makes a new “discovery” — such as the current ones that “most Iraqis think the US forces are occupiers” or “US forces torture prisoners.” What makes us hostile to the press is the fact we already knew these “discoveries”, had known them for months — the information was there for the looking as soon as we peeked outside official sources.

BTW, note I say “US forces” — the “coalition” stuff is a lie — this is a US war, US soldiers dying, US taxpayers paying for it. Any other foreigners in Iraq are opportunists or props or both.

That example leads to the other source of intense frustration with the press: it grants credibility to official sources and official framing of stories simply because they are official. Frankly, most of what I’ve seen reported that Kimmitt tells us has been nonsense; his job is to try to feed the press crap. So why do journalists feel obligated to report evident nonsense just because it comes from official sources? Doing so isn’t objectivity — it is a way of keeping you from doing your job while you look for quotes to refute or add nuance to “information” which was wrong to begin with.

I could rant on — just wanted you to know you are appreciated enough so that it seemed the least this armchair critic could do was answer your question.

Posted by: janinsanfran at June 17, 2004 10:22 AM

Well, I have to agree with a lot of the earlier comment writers that it’s mostly the TV news people are talking about.
But even they have gotten better over the last year or so. Some of them are going out and getting the stories and footage on their own, rather than just broadcasting the pictures the pentagon gives them, like they did the last time around.
Better, but not perfect. All the TV stations covered the Iraqis toppling the statue of Saddam, and Bush’s photo-op landing on the aircraft carrier, but only online and in print ever pointed out that the statue toppling was purely staged, with only about a dozen people in the square, which had been secured and cordoned off by the U.S. military before the camera crews were invited in, or that the White House finally admitted that they printed the “mission accomplished” banner, delivered it to the aircraft carrier days earlier, and that Bush never touched the controls of the plane they all originally reported he had landed himself.
But even the print media is not exactly clear of bias. A great example is the recent Supreme Court ruling regarding the Pledge of Allegiance. All the papers I’ve seen are reporting that the Supreme Court ruled the current pledge to be constitutionally sound, when in reality they did no such thing. All they ruled is that the guy bringing the suit had no grounds to do so as his ex-wife, not him, is the legal custodian of their daughter. (At least in the headlines and first couple of paragraphs. If you read the entire story, the truth comes out, but most people never get past the first couple of paragraphs unless it’s a story of particular interest to them.)

Posted by: Pat Luther at June 17, 2004 10:26 AM

You’re more credible to us because we interact with you as a person, whereas most individual journalists blur into the corporate matrix. You also talk to us - you read our comments and sometimes respond - and that gives you credibility.

And history and background matter - someone like Robert Fisk has credibility because he’s been reporting on the Middle East for so long (and can speak Arabic).

Posted by: Danny Yee at June 17, 2004 10:33 AM

If you guys are critic about the pre war US (and only US) media, you should not forget how people that at that time were telling that Bush is an idiot and the war has no relation to 9/11 or terror at all got treated by the society. Remember the crap: either you are with us or you are with the terrorists!?
Now the 9/11 commission says clearly there was no relation between al Kaida and Iraq. Except of the US everybody knew that 2 years back already.
What are the consequences ? What happened to Clinton for having an affair with a intern ?
Its not only the media its also the society, that should make people worry a lot, no ?

Posted by: APA at June 17, 2004 12:49 PM

I’m Canadian (I did live stateside as a teen for a while) and unabashedly skeptical of the American media in general. It may have something to do with having read Bagdikians The Media Monopoly more than once, or perhaps having a somewhat unique perspective being “on the sidelines” here in Canada. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that as the corporatization of American media grows, so to does any agenda that befits the bottom line. Those political parties that assist that process will find themselves rewarded in turn. I’ve found so very very often that ‘experts’ (whether presented in print or television) are shills for some corporation or other third party - but naturally, they don’t disclose that. One look at the hacks telling people to get in on various stocks during the bubble of the 90’s will make that evident enough. It’s endemic.
Judging by the dominance of the Gannett chain and the Clear Channels, it would seem “erring” on the side of any pro corporate party would be in order, so people end up getting the same tired ‘analysis’, from the same people, at the same “Institute” over and over and over. It’s the famous conservative ‘echo chamber’ in which you get some half baked (or perhaps ahem… “cooked up”) information which is repeated ad nauseum by the same politically oriented group (or NGO or whatever) until it starts sounding like gospel.
I get nearly all my news off the web now. Whats great is that it allows me to pursue more (and alternative) sources (no Lexus Nexis sadly). What’s bad is that not everybody has the Internet, or the time to look deeper.
For example… I’m not a bright guy or a journalist, (not that they’re necessarily separate :) but I know the Council on Foreign Relations is loaded with Republican cronies like James Baker - who more or less got George in. Look at this pdf file (550k) produced by the “Council” and The James Baker Institute in April 2001 - a full 6 months before 9/11. Check out page 39 section (e). I can’t find a more telling document on why you’re in Iraq right now than this. It’s right there. And it has been for a long, long time. Instead, Judith Miller takes the word of a convicted swindler named Chalabi, because apparently its easier to get to the “truth”.
As an aside here, I’d like to point out something I read by Neil Postman, in which he pointed out that the fastest way to get the ‘why’ of a story is to seek an authorities version. (like the police chief or the fire chief…) And if speed is the essential behind the news; well, guess who’s version hits the pages (or the screen) first?
Look no further than the race to ‘file it first’ for one of the reasons behind the failure of mass media. Though that doesn’t account for the absolute disgrace of where American “journalists” were when Bush & Harris dumped 50,000 people off the voters rolls. That that wasn’t a major news story tells the world at large that you have very DEEP problems in America - and that the media is part of that. I’ve gone on too too long here (and probably a too far afield), but what has happened to America in the last 20 years (since Reagan) is very, very sad. And the saddest thing is that Americans get their backs up when someone from “somewhere else” takes note. Here’s a tip for Americans (from someone who genuinely wishes it will “Get Better Soon”) - if you like the world watching what you do (and I know America certainly does like being the centre of attention), then you should very closely watch what you’re doing too.

Posted by: at June 17, 2004 03:03 PM

Chris, Lee from Houston says that everyone has a bias and that they want their media accounts to reflect that bias and prove them right.

While I agree that we all have bias, my great mistrust of the media is because I can READ and HEAR the “reporter’s” bias in their reporting - print or TV. I never feel that I am being presented with all sides of a story — that very little of the reporting is independent or fair or balanced (let alone all three). Every news report and the reporters seem to want to shove THEIR personal conclusions and bias down my throat and in my face, rather than simply stating the facts (as is supposed to be the case) so that based upon the presentation I may form my OWN opinion.

And this is certainly becoming the case with many of the blogs, as well — Riverbend, yours, Kurdo’s… It all must be someone’s fault rather than just this the problem (facts), these are or may be the possible causes (and here are the facts in support), this is/these are the possible solutions (and here are the facts in support).

I find that many people share this mistrust of the media (whether it’s “Western” media, the “Arab media”, print, TV, radio, internet…) because it has become OPINION. But it is certainly NOT the news.

Posted by: Cjean at June 17, 2004 04:57 PM

In part, I distrust the media because it fails to report on important news like the plan to draft 20 year old men and women after the November elections.

The draft bills are being pushed through. The draft boards are filling the vacancies. The borders are already closed to draft dodgers and, while every person who reads Indy media already knows that today’s 19 year-olds will be tomorrows soldiers, our corporate news is silent.

Posted by: Susan Strubbe at June 17, 2004 05:06 PM

One more comment that problematizes the question at hand:

The very nature of mass media, TV or print, is to garner readers and earn a profit. Look at the Chicago Sun-Times’ 25% overstatement of circulation as evidence of the need to get readers in order to charge more for advertisements in order to make more money.

As consolidation in the industry limits ownership of most news sources to a handful of corporations, the bottom line—money, or shareholder profit—becomes the driving force.

Knowing this, one must question whether the news that is published or broadcast is done so with the public’s best interests in mind, or the shareholders’ best interests.

On top of all the problems in our own lives, how many of us really want to know about the problems in the lives of individuals a half a world away? Wouldn’t we rather hear a skimming of news from Iraq rather than gory details, so as to keep our lives from becoming even more complicated? Can our psyches handle the moral and ethical consequences of actions from which we have insulated ourselves?

Will we tune in to, log onto, or buy a copy of someone’s news reports that drag us down to the level of someone else’s grim reality?

Maybe that is why so many of us who are here at BTI ARE here—maybe we can carry that weight. Maybe we want to carry that weight. Maybe our trust of the source is boosted exponentially by the fact that profiteering and corporate interests are not an issue in deciding what gets reported.

Thanks for listening.

Posted by: wanderindiana [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 17, 2004 06:21 PM

Hi Chris,

I believe the printed media and even some of the television media has improved substantially in the quality of their reporting on multiple issues associated with the Bush administration. But for at least a year after 9/11 it was horrible. I had quit reading American journals with the exception of the editorials at the NY Times. The propaganda that the Bush administration was spreading throughout 2002 and into 2003 was hardly challenged by anyone. I think much of the sour feelings today about the American press stem from that period. I agree, things are much better now. Unfortunately, the debate about Iraq and Saddam which should have happened leading up to the war just didn’t happen, as was true for many other questionable policies and laws - the patriot act being among the most important of those.

I really enjoy this site. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Dan Hafeman at June 17, 2004 06:58 PM

Sure, the press is brave now that the occupation has failed. But where were they doing in the runup to the war, at a time when there were achingly obvious objections to this illegal, insane invasion? Broadcasting the administration’s talking points, that’s what. That was true of print as well as broadcast media. There were variations - the LA Times was better than the other prestige dailies. But in general the press from NPR through Fox spent their time cheerleading for the war. Their enthusiastic support was crucial. Don’t try to tell me it was different. I was there, reading, watching, and listening. The harm they did to this country can hardly be undone.

Posted by: No Preference at June 17, 2004 07:18 PM

When the US administration avoids answering direct questions, follows strict talking points, and uses language to obstruct the dissemination of accurate information, the media does not react. Rather, the media communicates the half truths, non-answers and outright propoganda as if it were truth.

When have you heard the US media repond to a presidential response with: “you did not answer my question.” When is there analysis alongside an answer saying: “The president avoided answering the question and instead made a somewhat unrelated statement about…”

The media is absolutely complicit as it places the half-truths and obfuscation as the leading story, and provides no analysis outlining the use of language to obstruct rather than encourage the disseminatation of information.

To your questions - why do I think the media is not telling the truth? Because it is clear that the media is better at providing a megaphone for celebrities, and provides little if any critique of the content. In fact, it seems that the media does not even question the messages it transmits. For example, Saddam’s links to Al-qaeda are nonsense to any student of the culture, yet the accusation has been repeated by the US administration to the point that US citizens believe it. This example is so clear as a failing of an objective media, and as proof positive that the administration can use its celebrity power to create a popular truth out of absolute fiction.

Posted by: stephen at June 17, 2004 07:51 PM

BTW, the press is still a huge part of the problem. The basic national neurosis of “America rules” is still the underlying melody. There is no interest in exploring where this ultimately might lead us, not to mention the rest of the world.

Posted by: No Preference at June 17, 2004 07:56 PM

A lot has been written here about the authencity of blogs by local Iraqis.

Here’s the address of one such blog which expresses opinion about the US media ___ not just in her recent post but earlier on as well.

You have to then click on the link ‘Faiza (my shia mom)’

Posted by: RS at June 17, 2004 10:05 PM

your average american cannot point out the united states on a blank globe, cannot recognize irony in a written sentence, and genuinely believe (contrary to our nation’s actual history) that what we consider freedom was gotten for us by soldiers.

the rest of us are a minority. period.

to quote r. crumb (paraphrase actually): “it’s pathetic that more americans don’t have some kind of intellectual curiosity about what’s behind all this jive bullshi*”

look, print pieces are great, but the percentage of americans who read any current events is miniscule, much less the infentesimal number that read from a variety of sources.

the only solution to this madness, as i see it in my humble opinion, is this: GENUINE HUMILITY FROM THE MOUTHES OF POWER. It’s what we teach our kids. but we are pathologically incapable of doing it on a national basis when it really matters.

but really, the toughest nut to crack is the fact that the u.s. is made of up a few hundred million people, all with their own pasts, prejudices, abilities. and coordinating a critical mass of rational opinions in a free society as anomolous as the u.s. is, well, it’s not an easy task. so far it’s proven impossible.

as for the pro-war crowd, i hate to say it, but from the plethora i’ve talked to, critical thought as vital self-criticism are as far from them as the moon.

fight the power.

Posted by: Dadler [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 17, 2004 10:18 PM


Perhaps it is less what the media, especially in the USA, shows us of world events and politics during a 30 minute broadcast shortened by 15 minutes of commercials, but our own unwillingness to go find sources of independent information and use our own brains to evaluate what we see and hear.

It takes time, some effort, and an ability for rational thought. to sort through mountains of often conflicting reports. Perhaps that’s the problem. We’d rather, most of us, have our information in predigested form, and are often willing to suspend disbelief because some celebrity (and politicians are celebrities) said something was true.

It seems to me that this has always been the case. The comments here though, point out the obvious fact that many of us look for balance against the onslaughts of Fox, CNN, and the truth twisters of the Bush administration, and have found alternatives like PBS, NPR, Juan Cole, this blog, and many Iraqi blogs that make the far away seem all too real, near, and personal.

Democracy requires that its citizens be informed or it ceases to be, but that has never been an easy task. Rather than blaming the media for its failures to educate us, what have we been doing to educate ourselves? Why should the media be shouldered with all of the burden?

Be careful and stay safe, Chris. Thank you for your courage and persistence.

Posted by: maclib at June 17, 2004 10:21 PM

Yesterday, Wednesday, June 16, there was a startling press story that 27 retired diplomats and military commanders put forth a statement that the Bush Administration was responsible for drastically lowering U.S. security and prestige.

Today where is that (one would think major) story? Gone. Vanished. Internet users have to seek it out using Google News Search.

Now, do I have to explain why I don’t trust the press? Of course, what I mean is the managerial part of the press, not reporters.

Posted by: Sue at June 17, 2004 11:36 PM

Once NASA figured out what was wrong with the Hubble Space Telescope and how it was distorting its images, they were able to insert corrective optics and extract usable pictures. Not as good as they could have been without distortion, but still closer to the ‘truth’.

Same thing occurs in the print and in TV media. You can watch Fox, and you can read the WaPo and the waTimes, and get two different sides, and sort of figure out what really happened. But in order to do this you have to know how things are getting distorted.

This is where the media falls short. They suppress expressing their own opinions openly, making it hard to “correct the optics”. I read Juan Cole, and really gained the ability to read and understand what he writes (what is bathwater and what is baby)once I knew he was rabidly anti-Bush, along with his other leanings. Lord knows Al Jazeera has a slant.

It becomes important to not just read an article (I don’t even watch TV) but to also note who wrote it, and check on their baggage they are bringing to the table.

With the car bombing the other day where Sadr fans came out and pelted the cars, I saw that on TV, and was just dying to get a wide angle shot of the whole scene, to see just how big the mob really was. Probably they were stooges pre-programmed to be there. Did any reporter ask? I’d like to see a hidden camera follow around the real camera, so I can see how people react. The camera crew modifies the scene by their presence.

You’ve made your views known, so I can read your writing and “de-spin” it. Not so with others.

Posted by: Mike Y at June 18, 2004 12:03 AM

While TV news has been and continues to be lacking in content and integrity, for whatever set of reasons one wants to list, print media is hardly above reproach. My local newspaper’s (The Oregonian) banner headline today (6/17) is “Link between Al Qaida and Iraq Discounted” which refers to the 9/11 panel in the article but the headline itself paints a late-to-the-table picture — as if the veracity of the link being just now investigated. On the “national” print media front we’ve had the opportunity to see how often the venerable New York Times finds it necessary to backtrack and apologize (on the run-up to war reporting, on the anti-war protests, and on the war itself).

It doesn’t really matter if the problem is intentional slanting of articles, bad editing, lazy reporting, or impossible expectations as a result of cost-cutting; lack of accuracy ends of being equated with lack of integrity.

Posted by: at June 18, 2004 12:14 AM

Even if I were to accept your premise that print media coverage is better, how many americans get how much of their news from the print media? I wish I could cite a source, but this whole venture is entirely off the cuff. My memory is that very few people in this country get their news from print. Most of them get most of it from TV.

Posted by: David at June 18, 2004 12:19 AM

Greetings Chris,

I agree with quit a few of the comments here. My thoughts:

Americans in general have grown lazy and the major news outlets are curtailing their stories to that for profit. We don’t read anymore or if we do read its short snippets that require our attention to be stretched a good 2 minutes. There is very little REAL reading that requires first off, a little research to dig up articles and secondly, the attention span of an adult to take in more then a few paragraphs. Because of this I think most americans resort to tv, the local nightly news, something that is essentially crap as far as news goes. Something they can watch easily in between their favorite tv programs, mainly becase they are nearly FORCED to watch it at 10 o’clock because nothing else is on and it makes them feel like they are somehow in touch with what is going on. Anyone who has seen these local news programs and a good quality news show (like those on PBS) knows the difference, its like a home cooked meal from scratch compared to McDonald’s Nuggets, sure its food, but is it really food? Same with the majority of CNN and MSN articles I read, its mostly a re-hash of the articles they wrote weeks ago with a few lines of new info, essentially junk. Every now and then a gem pops up, but my god they are hard to find, it seems the major junk food news outlets refuse to do any hard hitting journalism that really shows an effort to get below the “surface” of whats easily seen, and as several comments elude to they simply report the lies as truths without looking into whethor the truths are really true. But they are curtailing to the general public who would rather see the movie then read the book. In fact, I am going to go out on a limb here, lol, once Faranheit 9/11 comes out we will see a major decline in Bush’s support, not because it is anything new but the fact that american’s can get a healthy dose of hopefully truthfull news in 2 hour movie that they can watch with buttered popcorn and package of chocalot mints by their side.

As far as being too “left”, I disagree completely. Sure there is left and right wing propoganda, but you can easily sift through these by looking at the majority middle.

I really think the news media, ultimately, has grown soft, not dishonest. At the time Bush made his infamous speech detailing Iraq attempting to buy yellow cake, or the tubes that could be used in a nuclear reactor, very few news outlets rebuffed these claims though they were obvious lies and stretches. Same thing with the Saddam statue incident, I remember the coverage on that clearly, small 30 second snippets, not one remarking how many few Iraqis were actually there. Abu Ghraib, like one comment remarks most of the real readers knew that these atrocities were going on, close to no reporting on it, then bam, they have pictures and all of the sudden you can’t visit the restroom without someone talking about it like its new news. The list goes on and on, you have to be extremely diligent to get anything out of our media outlets that goes beyond what is the absolute surface and the “craze” at the time, ie the Lakers and the Pistons last week. I mean, with all this Iraqi reporting now, what ever happen to that afghani country we “liberated” a few years back?

Posted by: Kyle at June 18, 2004 02:27 AM

Barb is full of conspiracy theories: there is no plan to draft anyone after the election. And can you tell me where you see Bush, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft “chastise” Congress? Because you see, all I ever see is Congress doing the chastising, and I’m tired of it.

I have a deep mistrust for most of the press; the agenda is centered on getting Bush defeated. About 85% of the media—print and broadcast—is biased to the left. Don’t even try and convince me otherwise…

Posted by: keith at June 18, 2004 05:22 AM

Chris -

Distrust for the media has roots here in the States, its not just about Iraq, but lets talk about Iraq :

You could have linked to a story about Abu Ghraib to give an example of “our guys behaving badly” instead you link to your own post. To be honest, when I read this it made me angry at you.

Didn’t you see, they were stressed, busy, some of their own had been injured, one had been KILLED….forget that they had been told not to discuss the events with you, had one of my comrades just been killed I doubt that I would have been able to brusquely wave you away, I would have screamed at you from the start.

You use this example to show soldiers behaving badly, but really, it was you behaving badly wasn’t it? It was about you going after your story, not about the soldiers doing their jobs, about their grief at losing a comrade.

I’ve been feeling like reporters are holier-than-thou, and feel their jobs are more important than us non-press folks. Maybe you have to believe that to put yourself in harms way.

I respect you Chris, and I think you’re doing a good job, but when I read stories like that it makes me edgy. It makes me think of all the Abu Gharaib prison scandal articles that never mention that although we did bad, at least we acknowledge it, at least we try to do something about it. The perspective of so many reporters is just the story at hand…in other words, there is no perspective.

Posted by: Carolynn at June 18, 2004 06:29 AM

Susan Strubbe: You obviously have been confused and duped by the blather being put out by a website called “congress.ORG” — which is not “congress.GOV” — the official site of the US congress.

the ”.org” site is a site officially sponsored by “Capital Advantage LLC”
a “politics information and advocacy” group… (and possibly associated with a conscientous objector religion).

The ”.org” site issued a “press release” claiming reinstitution of the draft was imminent — when in fact, the two pieces of proposed legislation regarding the draft (track them at the ”.gov” site)have been in committee since introduction in January 2003 and are not scheduled for hearings, let alone conference or passage. The enactment of the legislation would require the adoption by both houses of Congress and signature by the President. Not happening.

The US has had an all volunteer military for more than 20 years. It does not need — nor do service members or the brass — support or want the draft.

Posted by: Cjean at June 18, 2004 06:45 AM

Christopher: This is a good piece you’ve put together and I admit that I have felt some resentment toward the media over the last few years. I think that your observation about television news is a good one too. At any rate, the beef I have with the media is that for the most part it gave the Bush administration a pass on the lead-up to the war. Publications like the NY Times and Washington Post pretty much accepted the shite that was dished on WMD, Al Qaeda-Iraq and the general assertion that Saddam and Co. were a clear and present danger to the US. I expect the Murdoch media to be an administration mouthpiece, but some important news organizations got the whole thing wrong (along with the administration). It is almost as though the press was collectively willing itself to believe crap that was being spouted from the Whitehouse. And Iraq isn’t the only place where the press has fallen down on the job. Very few people have asked the hard questions about tax cuts, the Federal deficit and the consolidation of the news media. Some of this has changed recently with the “wounding” of the administration as the Iraq project goes south. But tough questions and coverage should been asked (and done) during the lead-up to Operation Iraqi Quagmire.

One thing that I will confess as well, I felt deeply ambivelent about going into Iraq. I have detested Saddam since I first saw images ( in 1979) of some his opponents swinging by their necks from lamposts in Baghdad. There is a bit of liberal gloating going on these days at the travails of Bush and crew, but there is one question that occurred to me before the invasion. What does the world do about a Saddam Hussein? He would still be a bad actor; in power; the west lined up to do busniness with him. Liberals still can’t answer that question. And I have a hard time believing that just leaving Saddam alone was necessarily a good thing.

Oh yeah, the press. TV news is hopeless, BBC, Bill Moyers excepted. There is also a lot of good things happening on radio. But at the end of the day you scribblers have the edge. People need to read more. Kudos for your work.

Stay safe. Regards, JB in Brooklyn

Posted by: John B at June 18, 2004 07:34 AM

Since I am mentioned as one of the “questioners”, I thought I would lend my answer although it has been expressed here many times over.

First, I agree with CJean. It is all opinion. You even indicate that in your own writings (anti-war). I also agree with your opinion that our current news cycles do not allow for “indepth” reporting. Even 24 hour news cycles only regurgitate the same information over and over, until the new “sensation” appears on “breaking news”.

Another commentor pointed out the “catchy” tabloid style titles that often lose their meaning once you start reading the actual story. Once I thought it was a product of “dumbing down” for general consumption, but now I realize, this is a product of our culture. All the busy people, going through out their day, only stop to catch the news when something catches their interest. Catchy titles are obviously OUR requirement, not the media’s.

I find it interesting how 99% of the people posting here are anti-war or anti-government or anti-Bush or whatever the current “anti” fashion is. I will now agree with another commentor that people like to feel they are part of a community, get the news from a source that complies with their own feelings on a subject as apparent by the posting here.

Other interesting point no one else has made here is that, depending on their own politics or views, each side, whether left or right, anti-war or pro-war, has decided that the media is slanted in favor of the other side. I know, not only from reading the 99% posts here that insist that the media is the mouthpiece of the Bush administration or some evil form of corporate America out to steal our souls, but I can go to a whole other site and hear people saying that the news is “liberal”, ready to sale our constitution to the UN and trying to get Kerry elected.

So…after all debates aside, I will now change my stance on the subject. The media (TV in particular) is obviously not slanted either way. WE are slanted and interpret the news as we want. If the media was really slanted, how then could it be making both sides angry?

Other commentator indicated that they “research” all the stories and don’t take everything they hear as the “gospel”. The truth is, I do, too. And that is a bit of sad irony for journalism these days, that the people who hear the news actually have to “investigate” it themselves simply because the information you hear or read has been boiled down (editorialized) to sound bites which do not give you the whole stroy instead of “indepth” reporting based on the validation of 2 or more sources (that is the golden rule, right?) If the AP or UPI put it out, then it is cut and pasted in every media source available (TV, written, etc).

I don’t exactly blame the media so much as our new “fast food” culture that requires that we get our news and we get it now! So of course, every station is looking to draw the most viewers. Anyone that thinks that CNN, MSN, Fox, etc do not have a drive to get the most ratings, would be confused. And to blame the “corporate” media for this “outrage”, is nearly as ludicrous as all other claims. If we don’t like it, we can stop watching it. Unless someone wants to debate the conspiracy theory of subliminal messages?

The other issue here is “holistic” news. When I say that I don’t trust it, I mean that I don’t trust I am getting ALL the news. That goes for Chris here as well. Having applied his anti-war leanings (whatever they are for whatever reasons) you (Chris) have stated that there is “nothing good” to report and it’s “all bad”.

Based on my “simple” ability for reasoning and deduction, I must assume from experience that it is not “all bad”. Because I can go to Faiza’s blog (which is this side of pessimistic in general) and see pictures of her well manicured yard, her lovely garden, the cakes and pastries of amazing assortment and quantity in the bakery, the two story mall full of goods of every variety (including cell phones, towels, food, etc), a picture of her in her office at the family business working, a busy market with many cars, vendors and products, etc, etc, etc, I can deduct that there are more things than “car bombs” going off in Iraq. (only using her as an example, not as my only method of deduction)

The same way that, as I travel across the US, I can go to Atlantic City and see the ghetto juxtapositioned against the glittering lights of the casinos on the board walk. Or go to downtown LA, breath the smog and see the 100’s of homeless people and at the same time, drive out to Simi Valley and see beautiful landscapes with nice houses and people barbacueing in their backyards with their families and friends. Is either all “bad” or all “good”? I would say no, they just are.

I guess the reality here is, that we will continue to get our news, disect it, keep what we want and discard the rest as we see fit.

We all have our fears and we project them regularly on to our interpretation of events. Same for Chris. He see’s the bad things that happen, knows a bomb could go off any minute and take his life, therefore, there must be nothing but bombs and bad things that can happen. (No offense Chris. Risking your life in Iraq for a job, is a hard row to hoe and certainly commendable, but this can be a strong influence on your writing and is).

So…in essence, if I implied any “distrust” in the media as a left wing tool of the anti-christ (or commies), then I withdraw it and simply state that I do not believe I am getting the whole story.

My only advise to myself and all others is to go out, read and educate yourself on all sides of the story or you will surely be blind for eternity.

Posted by: Kat-Missouri/USA [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 18, 2004 08:20 AM

Chris asks: “So here’s my honest question: Why do you think the media are not telling you the truth out of Iraq?”

1. Judith Miller
2. Jeff Gerth
3. Jayson Blair
4. Joseph Lelyveld
5. Howell Raines
6. Bill Keller

Until The Times comes squeaky clean about Miller, Wen Ho Lee and “Whitewater”, one can only assume that it is a culture of lies. This is not to detract from the many good reporters at The Times. But the monkeys are running the zoo.

Chris asks, “What do you think the truth is?”

The truth is most Arab Iraqis want to be able to live their lives. They feel they have suffered enough under Saddam and the sanctions. They feel their impotence is being ground into them by the occupation. They don’t want their country run by stooges and, although extremists are a minority, they are increasingly being seen as the only ones with the moral courage to face down the Americans. Iraqis will, regrettably, accept a strongman as an alternative to being humiliated.

The Kurds feel differently. They have enjoyed unprecedented freedoms and national pride. Now they are being told to surrender it. They may very well refuse to go along. This is dangerous, because Turkey and Iran will never accept an independent Kurdistan. And without US support… the independence of the Kurds is measured in weeks.

Chris asks, “Why do you believe that the truth is what you think it is?”

I integrate information from all around the world into a coherent whole. Even if the American media lie, one can infer certain things from the lies they tell. Those who experienced the old Soviet press can attest to this.

But I integrate, using everything from blogs to alternative radio to foreign sources to The Gray Lady. The test is whether news coverage is predictive. If your news source is telling you that “weapons of mass destruction will be found,” and they aren’t, one can infer that the source is not reliable.

And Chris finally asks, “And who is the media to you?”

The media are everyone who reports on or comments on current events in a public manner. But the corporate media are a much narrower group.

Posted by: Charles at June 18, 2004 09:11 AM

Has everyone seen the results of the latest CPA- Bush Administration poll of Iraqis? It was conducted in May, but the above folk who commissioned the study chose not to release it to the American public. The AP got hold of a copy and reported it today, June 17:
Iraqis with ‘Confidence’ in CPA - 11%
U.S. Forces support among Iraqis - 10%
Iraqis i.d.-ing U.S. as ‘Occupiers’ - 92%
Iraqis i.d.-ing U.S. as ‘Liberators’ - 2%
(not typo)
Iraqis who believe all Americans are like
the abusive guards @ Abu Gharaib - 54%
Iraqis with improved opinion of al-Sadr, from
three months earlier - 81%
Iraqis who believe the acts of al-Sadr’s
militia have helped make Iraq more unified
- 64%
Iraqis who believe they would be safer if the
U.S. left immediately - 55%

Where did YOU get the info? I pulled it off the headlines of my ISP, and less ithan an hour later it was gone and has not reappeared.

This seems like a fairly significant collection of information, to me. Not somebody’s gut feelings,
wishful thinking, anecdotal ‘evidence’ or even the limited and subjective views of people on the ground. It is not congruent with the WORST perceptions I’ve been given elsewhere. It is wildly
disparate from our government’s official line (although THEY have had it at least 3 weeks).

No matter how compelling and eye-opening reports
like Chris’ and this WP fellow’s might be, they have been scattered and have reached limited numbers, and have not been placed in the broader context of the study. I won’t be holding my breath for it to happen, either. No one has strung together the whole, ugly trail of misrepresentations, blockheaded blunders, wildly-swinging ‘policy’ and ‘direction’ tacks, hydra-like positions and claims spouted by different top administration officials - and the endless prevarication about all of it.

I’m not expecting that anytime soon, either.

Plus, I saw a news conference today in which Donald Rumsfeld declared that the preident had told
“everyone” he wanted all prisoners treated “humanely” - and “that’s what we have done.” He declared that there were no orders or action taken by anyone, to the contrary - and then chatised the media for misleading the American people, our troops and “people in the region (Middle East)” with headlines that had ‘TORTURE’ in them - when there had BEEN NO TORTURE. This is what I thought I heard, although I recognize it seems so outrageous that I may have been having an acid flashback, so if I’m wrong, please help me.

No reporter asked what, to me, seemed an obvious question: “So zipping someone up in a sleeping bag
and sitting on their chest, and repeating until they are dead…would not meet your ‘torture’ threshhold?
Will you share with us, what does?”

I had to turn the set off, so I don’t know what else came out of that, but I wasn’t encouraged.

Posted by: at June 18, 2004 09:53 AM

This “war” would not be happening were it not for the approval of the corporate media. The lies are relentless and overt and getting bolder by the day.

It’s probably fairly simple to start believing that there is some reason for all the killing and destruction when you’re over there caught up in it, or maybe it’s just the buzz of keeping alive, the drama of murder. But remember: This whole situation has been manufactured. And it’s all about rich people making more money.

And what’s with the laughing and clapping at Bush’s jokes about not being able to find the “weapons of mass destruction”, in March at his appearance before the Radio and Television Correspondent’s Association? Disgusting. You, Chris, now employed by TIME, are suggesting that perhaps your readers ought to be less skeptical? Great conversation starter!

Posted by: sue at June 18, 2004 10:58 AM

I believe Americans biggest problem with media reporting and international relations is that understanding other cultures is not our strong suit. In spite of coming from every nation and background we lose our comprehension of others as we gain our “Americanness”. As long as this is a part of the American character we shall stumble and stutter around the world, never quite getting it.

Posted by: Bec De Corbin [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 18, 2004 06:44 PM

Look at Julius Blog for June 14th: http://juliusblog.blogspot.com/

It describes how CNN, confronted with a guest who explained how the media distort news, pulled the plug on the interview to go to “Breaking News” that could hardly have been classified as breaking news. The host, Bill Hemmer, was obviously hostile to the guest.

Let’s just admit that cable is propaganda and be done.

Posted by: Charles [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 18, 2004 09:51 PM

Why do you think the media are not telling you the truth out of Iraq?
I do not think, I know the media are most of the time not telling the truth out of Iraq. I am an Iraqi woman living outside Iraq today. I have contact with friends and family inside Iraq and what they tell me is most of the time very VERY different from what the western media is reporting. I chose to believe my relatives and friends.

Sometimes when the media choose to report from the years when I lived in Iraq, then I have my self as a reference and there are so many mistakes in these reports that it is almost impossible to believe anything they say anymore.

Posted by: Nadia [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2004 01:50 AM

As a Brit, I have never had the feeling that the media has not been telling the truth. I have suspected certain parts of the media have got things wrong in the past (e.g., Judith Miller) but I think most of that was due to ignorance or stupidity on the part of the reporter. Perhaps this is because of the wide range of sources available on the Internet. Some one above mentions the Guardian and Independent (both of which post most of their content online). There are also the Telegraph and Times (subscription required outside the UK) which are right-wing by British standards (Murdoch owns the Times as well as Fox News). I tend to ignore most of the opinion pieces in these last two but their reporting seems good. There is also the BBC which has extensive coverage of the news.and there are the large News agencies such as Reuters, AP, AFP, IPS, etc.

Finally, there is Al Jazeera which while what it reports may be ‘hostile’ to the US, certainly seems to be accurate in much of what it reports - I have never seen what I think are serious suggestions that it is lying

The sources are out there and it is not difficult to find them.

I have also noticed in the last few months that reporting in the US is now getting better and far more extensive. Perhaps, the problem with the US is the lack of a national press and America’s natural parochialism. In the UK the reporting is broken down to national and international. For most US papers it broken down to local, regional, national and international. Given most Americans total lack of interest in what goes on in the rest of the world, maybe it is not surprising that the coverage on Iraq has tended to focus on the local impact of it.

ps. I think that much good might come out of the war on Iraq. I am encouraged that many Iraqis do not want to go back to a dictatorship but then I am skeptical that the US government will actually allow a democratically elected government that it disapproves of into power. Hopefully, Americans have also realised that there are limits to military power but I wish they would question why they need to spend so much on defense (now, probably more than the rest of the world combined so most of it is really for offense). Given their geographic location, most conventional threats are non-existant so just why are they so insecure.

Posted by: blowback at June 19, 2004 04:34 AM

Wanted to make a couple more comments…

First, in general, when you set out to do something that is going to be hard and difficult, you do all of the hard decision making ahead of time, and then when you are in the thick of it, you stick to the plan, or amend as necessary, and fight your way through.

We’ve got it exactly bassackwards here. We didn’t ask the hard questions about the war beforehand; we just sort of plunged in on less than solid rationale. Now that the heat is on, our hands are all aflutter and everyone’s second-guessing. Exactly opposite what should be done. 180 degrees out. It’s crippling. A bunch of people running around saying “I told you so,” which is less tha worthless. Media is a big contributor to this, as the prime shaper of public opinion.

Second, there is much news that I’d like to read about, and it just isn’t getting its share of newsprint real estate. What’s going on in Falluja? Are there foreigners there or not? How are the Iraqi courts doing? What do the folks who are actually doing the heavy lifting in Iraq, the military, think of all this? What’s going on in the black hole that is western Iraq?

Instead, it’s Abu Ghraib, 24/7. Critically important story, but it doesn’t move fast enough to warrant front page every day on every paper.

Third is how a story is pitched. On terrorist’s efforts to shut down oil pipeline, headline was “In spite of coalition efforts, insurgents continue to restrict oil flow”. It could have been “In spite of insurgent efforts, coalition continues to pump oil.” Bias creep in from all directions.

Thanks for blogging. Convince more Iraqis to blog, good, bad and other.

Posted by: Mike Y at June 19, 2004 08:04 AM

Kat-Missouri/USA: First, I agree with CJean. It is all opinion.

Kat, I believe you might have misunderstood Cjean — what Cjean (correct me if I’m wrong) meant was that too many opinions* have been passed off as *fact*. I just want to point this out because some people use *that* argument to discount certain media reports altogether (especially when it doesn’t confirm their beliefs) and then start citing media *commentaries and op-ed pieces as sources of “fact”.

As other commentators have pointed out, it is possible to discern the facts from the opinions/spin with some practice and form one’s own opinions solely from the facts. Facts are stated positively/affirmatively: e.g. either Chris is in Iraq or not — it can be proved or disproved and is not a matter of anyone’s opinion. Opinions are normative evaluations, i.e. made with respect to certain (often unstated) norms or values: e.g. Chris’ statement that it’s “all bad”. Facts (if you can discern them) are facts whoever does the reporting; opinions are only useful if the reasoning is sound — but that doesn’t change an opinion into a fact.

However, Kat is right about the difficulty of getting all* the news. So in addition to Kat’s very good advice about trying to get all sides of the story, I would like to add that it is important *not* to indulge in inferences and deductions, however satisfying that is. Ignorance can be embarassing, but not admitting *that leads to the greater sin of pride.

Posted by: Sing at June 19, 2004 08:58 AM

We’ve been lied to consistently, that’s why we don’t trust the media. They all went along for the ride, from the NY Times on down. Plus, their lies are always are always biased in the same direction: the corporate status quo. Now of course they’re running around like chickenhawks with their heads cut off trying to get on the right side of this debacle. But it’s obvious whose interests they serve. And you know this quite well, even if you happen to be writing for Time right now.

Posted by: Ben Bochner at June 19, 2004 09:45 AM

Since I have seen repeated comments about the “evil” corporate media, I have to ask a serious questions to the posters here..and Chris if he will answer:

We have schools of journalism that, if I am not mistaken, teach journalists “ethics” along with how to get and write a story. I believe this is mandatory? (didn’t major in journalism myself, so not totally sure…*belief*)

1) Do you believe that most people who want to “grow up” to be a journalist believe they are going to make big money?
2) Or, do they believe that they want to tell the truth and “make a difference” in the world?

When Chris went to work for TIME, even if as a free lance, is he now part of the corporate media

3) Did he sell his soul to the devil?
4) Can we no longer trust anything he writes?
5) Can we expect that he will write want TIME wants for TIME and only tell the “truth” on this blog?
6) Do you believe that he will retain his ethics as long as he can, but eventually it will be sucked away by the “evil empire” of corporate media? (maybe without him knowing it…he just wakes up one day, a soulless automaton?)
9) Is it ok for Chris to write what “corporate media” wants in order to get paid and make a living (like he has no choice)?

Let me appeal to some of the conspiracy theorists here:

TIME is “corporate media”. TIME is owned by Ted Turner. Ted Turner was married to Jane Fonda (affectionately known as Hanoi Jane). Jane obviously has some “left” leanings. Because Jane is “left” or “anit-establishment”, when she married Ted (extremely wealthy owner of a media outlet), did that make Ted alright? And since Ted is alright, does that make TIME alright? And if TIME is alright, since Chris work’s for them, Chris is alright?

Sorry if this argument seems a little circular to you, but honestly, I think some here need to lay off the coffee or hashish or something. Conspiracy theories everywhere. Have any of you seen aliens lately? Had men in black suits knocked at your door and zapped you with a neutralizer? Maybe our parents conspired to bring us into a world that just sucks and they’re still laughing about it now?

Please explain to me how normal people can start acting like cast members of the “X-Files”.

Posted by: Kat-Missouri/USA [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2004 12:18 PM

Mulder here.

Ted Turner controls 35,180,411 shares of TWX. The total shares outstanding are 4.56 billion. That works out Mr. Turner owning between 7-8% of the company. Sure, he’s on the Board of Directors, but he doesn’t have day-to-day control of Time Magazine.

Even if he did, he has a greater obligation to his shareholders than he does to the general public. It’s a business. It exists to make money.

Lay off the coffee? Never.

Posted by: wanderindiana [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 19, 2004 07:44 PM

Kat/Missouri-USA regrettably uses a strawman argument to try to persuade us that the corporate nature of the media is irrelevant (also, her link on that score doesn’t work for me). In fact, since this seems to be directed toward me, I should point out that I specifically stated that there are many good reporters at The NY Times, which was the media outlet I focused on. Any sales of souls to the devil that are occurring are in her head, not in any identifiable post. She might be interested to learn that accusing people one disagrees with of being on drugs or seeing aliens is a variant of the old Soviet tactic of labeling dissenters mentally ill.

Let us state the obvious about the media today:

(1) ownership is in a very small number of hands. This results in decreasing diversity. The extreme is Clear Channel, which owns hundreds of radio stations that simply transmit a taped message. If there’s a local disaster, there’s no live human being to help guide the public. In the broader sense, there is a lower diversity of viewpoints to help serve as a check and balance.

(2) modern corporatization involves maximization of profit at the expense of long-term goals. It may have been forgotten that a generation ago, the news organizations of the major networks were expected to lose money. They were given resources because they gave prestige to the money-making entertainment side of the business. As a practical matter, profit maximization means the amount of news coverage is constantly being slashed. Reporters are under deadline pressure to produce more. Many, like Jayson Blair, cut corners. Everyone else is very sensitive— too sensitive?— to doing what the boss wants.

(3) it’s a general rule of business that you do what the boss wants if you want to keep your job. If the boss is Rupert Murdoch, you produce ridiculously slanted coverage and intone that it’s Fair and Balanced as if that didn’t make you look like a total tool. Now, while in most organizations, the agenda is not as monochrome as at FOX, ownership of media extends from center-right to far right and that has itseffect. At the LA Times, editor Jon Carroll announced his determination to “purge” liberal slant as though the LAT were a Stalinist state organ. Ironically, he did so regarding a news article that accurately reported the prevailing scientific opinion that there is no link between abortion and breast cancer. In rushing to “purge” bias, there is not a corresponding determination to preserve accuracy. At any rate, since ownership is much more conservative than the nation as a whole, there is a pressure to slant news. Whether organizations do it or not depends on the character of reporters or editors, but the system is slanted.

(4) no matter what the viewpoint of the reporters or even of the publisher, advertisers impact news. We know this. Roughly half of reporters, if memory serves, say they have experienced this. In Florida, there was a famous case in which Monsanto successfully got reporters fired for reporting on the bovine growth hormone controversy.

(5) whatever the cause, the media are not accurately informing the American people. This is exemplified by (this is from memory, please forgive any defects) the statistics from the PIPA report that half of Americans think Iraq was involved in 911. The chairman of Shell recently stated that global warming is a more serious threat than terrorism— how many Americans know that?

The facts are worrying enough without getting into conspiracy theories. The Founders of this country would never have permitted a situation in which perhaps a hundred men and women, sitting on corporate boards, could so deeply influence what an entire nation understands about the reality of the world we live in. Concentration of media ownership is just plain un-American.

Posted by: Charles [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 20, 2004 12:33 AM

.… John Ashcroft’s contempt of Congress at the end of last week was followed by Monday’s hype over Justice’s arrest of some guy who supposedly wanted to “blow up” a shopping mall (he must have had a hell of a lot of explosives and strategy to hide them all) in Columbus, Ohio.

Posted by wanderindiana at June 16, 2004 05:16 PM

One other interesting tid-bit that hasn’t hit the news about this “terror suspect” is that he was arrested LAST NOVEMBER.

It wasn’t important enough to report a plot to bomb a mall just before Christmas at the time when it was actually relevant (say, just before Christmas), but boy is it important now, when it has no relevance whatsoever. Phew, I feel safer already. Thank’s Mr. Ashcroft!

The REAL story should have been about the administration’s attempt to manipulate Americans by distracting them with old news, dressed up as fresh news. Some very basic investigative reporting would have turned up the truth immediately.

Some of the media may be awakening, but their mea culpas mean nothing unless they are followed by a change in behavior. Continuing to peddle, unquestioned, the administration’s propaganda is not a change in behavior.

I draw one of three conclusions whenever one of these bait and switch tricks gets such broad coverage: either those parroting the line are fools, they are complicit in the trick (either voluntarily or under duress), or they don’t care enough to determine and report the truth. None inspires trust.

Posted by: at June 20, 2004 08:07 AM

Mulder…you got at least one part of what I was getting at in my very first post…

Big Media Outlets work for profit. Yep, they need to please their shareholders by making profit so they can pay their dividends.

Any idea how many of those 4.6 billion shares are held in mutual funds invested in by common folks like me and you (?).

How do media outlets that don’t sell anything make money? They sell advertising space. Why does anybody buy advertising space in any particular time of the day or night? to reach an audience that is watching. Yep…somebody actually watches these shows. Who could that be? You and me?

PS...need more caffeine myself.

Charles…you seriously missed the sarcasm of my “selling his soul to the devil” comment, but you did get my point (even though you did your own version of spinning). The “devil” is in our heads.

I would like to say that I was not implying “insanity” on the parts of some people’s conspiracy theories, but that would not be true. Although, I do take offense at the “Stalinest” remark. :) I prefer to think of it as the Socratic method of reasoning: asking questions.

Side note here…I find it interesting how many times both the right and the left seem to revert to calling someone a communist whenever they don’t agree with somebodies remarks.

Obviously, you missed my original post when I mentioned that both the left and the right continue to insist that the media is slanted towards the other sides view. Also, media coverage is boiled down to a few minutes or a few inches of space. Generally for the convenience of covering as many stories as possible as well as working within our way of life (36 hours of life squeezed into 24 hours a day).

The “evil” media knows that we have short attention spans because our way of life demands it. In which case, they must present a few pertinent points in a very short time period. This means somethings are left out. Who’s fault is that? Some “right wing, mouth of the government” editor? Or do you think maybe he/she is pandering to us, the public?

The problem with the “corporate media” conspiracy is that there are many, many different sources of information today. Including, internet, other cable news (if I paid extra on my cable I could get Al-jazerra, Russian, French and Mexican news with subtitles), independent as well as incorporated papers, etc, etc, etc. What then is the motivation for showing “propaganda” if somebody else can show you a different story?

Also..how do these giant news agencies keep their stories straight on the conspiracy? Do all of the editors and owners get together on a conference call every morning and decide what they will present as “propaganda”? Maybe the US government’s information agency compiles all the stories and emails them every morning to all the news agencies? And nobody tells anybody about this conspiracy? How do the independents get their news? Same way? They just spin it different? They don’t tell anybody they get briefs from the government? Wouldn’t that be a story? Or maybe they are really just underground mouthpieces of the government?

You see, the problem with conspiracy theories is that, for any conspiracy of this size to work, too many people would have to be in on it. Further, if this is a conspiracy, based on the posts here, it obviously didn’t work. LOL

Funny you are now accusing me of using “strawman” tactics, when I am asking feasible questions about how this conspiracy works and why we still listen to these evil media outlets.

It’s a general rule of business that you do what the boss wants you to do if you want to keep your job

Now you are saying that journalists have no ethics or are too weak to go against the establishment so they just “go along”? Chris, too? (that was the point of my question)

Let’s talk about general rules of business since I am a “middle manager”. Your right, if I have an idea that I think is good, I present it to the boss and say, “I think we should do this”. He looks at it and either disagrees or wants more info. If I think it is really good, I keep pressing for it. If the boss tells me “no” again and presents me with a good reason not to do it, I shut up and go about my job, doing what the boss said to do ‘cause I like my paycheck.

However, if I think what the boss wants me to do is unethical or is harmful to the business, then I go to someone above him. If that person won’t listen and I am sure that this is unethical or harmful, I keep going. If no one listen’s to me, do you know what I’d do? Quit! I wouldn’t sell my ethics for the gold in fort knox.

While I am saying this, I don’t have a cushy savings account or golden parachute to save me. But I would go work at 3 minimum pay jobs before I “sold my soul to the devil”. I would then tell everybody and anybody I could think of that this was going on.

I believe if someone was a good journalist, they would do the same. You, on the otherhand, tend to paint all journalist with the wide brush of cowardice or collusion, whichever suits your fancy. Maybe the journalism schools have classes on how to work under “big brother” instead of ethics? I will have to check into that.

My point…WE take from the media what WE want. The media gives us what WE want. If WE want something else, WE should write letters to the editors or participate in polls to tell them what WE want.

If we want to share examples of stories from the media, let me tell you what I saw on the news in the last 3 days:

Murder trials/Death
Political blah, blah, blah (death of a democracy)

If the news wanted to slant things towards, let’s say the optimistic side (or government), how come I didn’t see any report on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, FOX about the new Water Sanitation Plant in Iraq when one hasn’t existed for over 10 years?

How do I know about this? I looked it up on the internet. Why didn’t the “media” tell me about this since this would obviously be a kudos for them? Because the average viewer (WE) don’t really give two flying monkies about it? Do you know the only paper that covered it was the Washington Post? Of course, they are out of Washington DC so maybe I should check and see if it is government owned. LOL

The problem with the news is not the slant. We slant it the way we want it. the problem with the news is that the format leaves something out. It is not holistic. The problem with the news is the masses it serves, not the masters. WE want a few points of information to squeeze into our busy day. That’s what WE get.

Advice again…if you want all the news, find as many information resources that you can. Get as many different view points as you can. Then make your decisions on the good or bad of a situation.

Of course, if you are already disposed to think it is all a conspiracy or all bad, I am sure you can figure out how to slant it all you want on your own without the assistance of evil media.

Posted by: Kat-Missouri/USA [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 20, 2004 01:19 PM

It’s about oil. Why we have to steal the oil is a complicated issue, but steal it we must, and the media can’t go there because doing so means that what we did was COVET oil, LIE to get to war for oil, MURDER to serve our need for oil, and STEAL the oil.

What do you suppose German radio and newspapers had to say about the rape of Poland? Did they tell the truth? Of course not.

You can’t be allowed to tell the truth when you are on the wrong side of history.

Last night on CNN’s Capitol Gangbang Mark Shields asked, “well if it wasn’t to go after al Qaeda, and there were no WMDs, then why did we invade Iraq?”

Stunned silence.

You can’t tell me that those smart people don’t know why we invaded Iraq; but they also know quite well why they can’t discuss it.

Admitting what we are doing and why would likely precipitate such a “run on the bank” situation that no amount of oil thievery could stem the tide, and not just America, but most of the world would suffer a financial setback which could take a hundred years to overcome. It has to happen eventually—-Enron could still be up and running, you know . . . it wasn’t until their basic shakiness was revealed that the public confidence was shattered, and of course we know now that the confidence was misplaced.

(Incidentally, “TypeKey” doesn’t work.)

Posted by: SamSnedegar at June 20, 2004 02:07 PM

KatMO, let me pour your next cup. . .

You say the media gives us the news WE want. . .

. . .but most of US don’t know or care about what WE want. As a result, WE are given, for the most part, what sells. The conspiracy is economic.

I am selling the majority of Americans short on this issue, of course. What percentage of us actually take time to seek out multiple, varied news sources? Not too many.

I’ve just had a similar discussion on the NYT Editorials Forum about Michael Moore’s documentary, Fahrenheit 911.


There are regular pro-Bush neocon types on that board who resort to name-calling and bashing when presented with the fact that the anti-Bush, anti-invasion side of the story is now actually going to reach the people who normally don’t pay attention to news or seek out independent, varied sources. And it will reach them, only because the story is being presented in a medium that they can absorb.

I seem to recall that a certain mousey media giant—that happens to be headquartered in an orangey, pro-Bush [ad Bush governed] state—refused to distribute this film. It took a couple of wealthy filmmakers and a couple of Canadian distributors to make this possible.

The point here is that American mass media attempted to squash a HUGE story that ran contrary to its political and economic existence.

If you are saying that the reporters and some editors out there are fighting the good fight for ethical journalism, I agree with that.

But I still believe that when push comes to shove, money talks and insisting upon the truth walks.

Posted by: wanderindiana [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 20, 2004 07:59 PM

We all agree the media doesn’t tell the truth; we mostly agree that some degree of corruption informs what we see.

Maybe what we’re watching is the death throes of dying media.

There is no real reason to believe that television is a good way to get news. As an experiment, getting news from television seems to have failed.

Like movie theaters, television may survive the success of a new (Internet) alternate media, but be changed by the experience.

There can be little doubt that print-on-paper journalism is dead- it just ain’t lied down yet. Printing the Sunday paper on 40 tons of newsprint and delivering it with 10,000 trucks to 2 million potential kittyboxes doesn’t make sense- especially when you consider that the paper is COMPOSED ON COMPUTERS.

So these are two huge industries that probably shouldn’t exit at all. Just basically wormholes of confusion and money sucking in whoever gets too close.

Or if you, as a journalist, wonder why we don’t ‘trust’ you, just view it as an immune response we don’t wish to genetically modify. Nothin’ personal, mind you.

Posted by: serial catowner at June 20, 2004 08:11 PM

Professional ‘Group Think’: a phenomenon common to militaries, financial markets, the medical, technical and scientific establishments…is the overwhelming reason for the bias of the Collective Narrative spewing from the main stream media on any topic at any point in history.

Group Think is an outgrowth of the natural reluctance of all to be ridiculed/ rejected. Public speaking is tough for just this reason, (try it some time ) and TV news is maximum impact public speaking. Any professional holding a microphone will have a very short career if they make a fool out of themselves. ( Mr. Geraldo Rivera being the exception that proves this rule. )

Group Think in action can be witnessed the next time you are in a committee setting and opinions or creativity are requested. Typically only non-confrontation positions are presented. Most would rather sit in silence. The impassioned advocate is a rarity.

As for military or governmental spin: truth is ALWAYS the first casualty of war. Is there any adult who expects ANY military official to turn over the cards while at war ? Ever ? To reveal the truth is to be surely defeated. The first objective in war is deception.

If any military official were to actually start telling the truth, I would press for his court martial.

The press should be pursuing stories of strategic/ grand tactical scope. Instead, they are obsessed with detonations, bodies, fatalities; the random sufferings of pure psycho-war.. This is as helpful as covering the weather: it can’t be changed. It operates as pure spectacle/ horror show.

Why not cover:

US Army failure to secure and destroy vast, vast munitions stores…commitment to…updates…?

Iranian Shi’ite Islamist connection to Fallujah … mentioned by IP, others,

Fallujah as bomb factory central, the Ba’athist M14 under-story…flesh it out…

Failure of the Marines to embargo munitions traffic through Fallujah,

Has anyone established stringers to get stories at the Syrian or Iranian borders?

Why not get some knowledgeable analysis on Sarin binary shell technology…( All commentary that I have seen is pure hack – ignorant, stupid, obtuse in the extreme. ) That one shell deserves countless threads/ stories…

Posted by: blert at June 21, 2004 12:42 AM

I think worldwide there’s immense scepticism about journalism in general regardless of the media. There are so many semi-truths out there. Many people have learned to read between the lines.

The criticism of the American press being biasly left-wing is due to the fact that many journalists fail to understand that their country is at war and wars cannot be won when one side can basically do whatever they feel like and get away with it and the side, have to toe the moral line. Imagine if this has happened in WWII with the Allied press constantly condemning their soldiers and leaders! The outcome of the war would have been different a la Vietnam where tree huggers were demoralising their own troops and undermining the morale of their army through their radio propaganda and appeals.

As a Malaysian where censorship and news suppression is prevalent, I can only shake my head when I read news presented by CNN and Washington Post and all the other American media. If the journalists were anywhere but America they would have been:

First, fired.
Second, condemned to rot in jail.

Pity that the American media continue to push for another Vietnam failure for their country. Despite all the criticism and the hatred people feel for America the one thing that they will trade their jihad for is a green card plus a jump start to achieving their american dream for themselves and their family.

Oh well! I guess if we cannot have a slice of the American pie, noone else should too. With the full gung-ho support of American journalists and reporters we promise you that we will continue to bomb, nuke, kill and slaughter Americans with impunity. We will make the news interesting and profitable for you and you will help us bring your country to its knee. In a tit for tat world, we I must say have a great partnership thing going.

Posted by: geez at June 21, 2004 02:00 PM

I think the main problem with television news is the urgency in which it is presented. No matter how big or small the story, it comes with the heading “BREAKING NEWS”, in red type. The cable news outlets have become the boy who cried wolf. Their credibility has further been hindered by the news commentary shows that favor shouting and bickering over well informed debate and reasoned argument.

I have a hard time sticking around long enough to trust anything they say.

Posted by: Dan McCormick at June 21, 2004 05:54 PM

Kat-Missouri/USA says “I would like to say that I was not implying “insanity” on the parts of some people’s conspiracy theories, but that would not be true. Although, I do take offense at the “Stalinest” remark. :) I prefer to think of it as the Socratic method of reasoning: asking questions.”

Thanks for your admission that you were using ad hominem rather than logic and facts to make your case.

You may be interested to learn that Socrates did not ask questions that impugned the sanity of his students. Indeed, he was painstakingly self-effacing for a man who was a celebrated military hero. Also, please don’t use quotes around a misspelling of what a term I used to apply to a memo from the Los Angeles Times. My spelling is adequate, thank you.

As for your statement that “I find it interesting how many times both the right and the left seem to revert to calling someone a communist whenever they don’t agree with somebodies remarks.” In reality, I called the rhetorical method you used reminiscent of the Soviet method of discrediting opponents. I made no ad hominem slur, as you falsely claim.

In the single substantive point of your post, you say that “The problem with the “corporate media” conspiracy is that there are many, many different sources of information today.…What then is the motivation for showing “propaganda” if somebody else can show you a different story?”

What you fail to understand how few are those lucky among us who are able to access alternate sources of media. The number of people who read beyong the three networks, AM radio and their local newspaper is vanishingly small. The actual number of major US media corporations is between 5 and 20, depending on what one wants to call major. There is very little diversity in US news. This is not my idea. It’s the result of research that has appeared, among other places, on PBS (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/smoke/interviews/bagdikian1.html) Wise people will read and heed what Bagdikian has to say.

Also, people want to believe that they have a free press, forgiving many defects. The thought that we are being manipulated is unpleasant, though strongly established by the fact that roughly half of Americans still believe that Iraq was behind the attacks of 9/11. Thus, just as in the Soviet Union in the 1950s, propaganda works. But as the system falls apart, as it will if we continue to run massive deficits and invade countries without cause, people will begin to understand the magnitude of the lies they are being told.

As for your regrettably silly comments on conspiracy, the very best conspiracies are those that are open knowledge. How did the royal houses know what to say to keep the peasants in line? No one had to instruct each duke and baron. They had their class interests and they talked with one another. That successful conspiracy, of ruling by divine right, lasted almost unbroken for well over a millennium of recorded history. That despite numerous internecine squabbles and struggles.

Thus when you claim that you are”asking feasible questions about how this conspiracy works and why we still listen to these evil media outlets,” it’s simply clear that you have a melodramatic idea of what conspiracies are, rather than a realistic notion of how they operate in the real world.

Rather than seriously address my point that people try to please the boss, you make the strawman implication that “Now you are saying that journalists have no ethics or are too weak to go against the establishment so they just “go along”? Chris, too?”

While I envy you for your naivete, you’ve obviously missed a few things. Enron, Worldcom, and Global Crossing, to name a few. How many employees stood up to these dastardly deeds? The sad answer is, “One or two, maybe.” The vast mass of humanity will do just about anything as long as the bank cashes the paycheck.

Also, notice that Chris is going freelance. You might ask him why. Many of the best journalists are being squeezed out of the profession. One of the most interesting case studies is that of Robert Parry, who was persecuted by the Reagan Administration for daring to report about massacres conducted by US Allies in Central America. Ray Bonner was similarly treated. The journalists fired over their reporting of bovine growth hormone was another example. Most cases aren’t that dramatic. It’s more of a matter of who gets promotions or tasty assignments. If you were seriously interested in how journalism works or doesn’t, you might want to read up on the cases of Jayson Blair and Jack Kelly.

You state that “You, on the otherhand, tend to paint all journalist with the wide brush of cowardice or collusion, whichever suits your fancy.”

This is an outright falsehood. I specifically said that there are many good journalists at the New York Times (among other outlets). I reiterated that point when you distorted my words. I have simply stated the obvious, and documented it with examples and facts, items that are notoriously missing from your argument. There are* pressures on journalists to tailor their coverage. The media *are* controlled by a few hundred people on corporate boards. Statistically measured, the American people *are badly informed.

You state that “If the news wanted to slant things towards, let’s say the optimistic side (or government), how come I didn’t see any report on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, FOX about the new Water Sanitation Plant in Iraq when one hasn’t existed for over 10 years?”

If you think there have been no water treatment facilities in Iraq for 10 years, you’re misinformed (http://electroniciraq.net/news/1518.shtml). What is correct is that decades of sanctions have reduced the functionality of those facilities.

As for slanting, you assume that reporting progress in Iraq is an objective of the corporate media. Well, for Sinclair Media, putting out exclusively good news has been a corporate objective. They have intimidated their staff. But for most media, why do you assume that good news is an objective? I didn’t say that the media are government-controlled. The media do tend to present the government viewpoint, but that’s another story— and one that is well-documented, I might point out.

You’ve taken one tiny story, which you admit inter alia you learned from the corporate media and then because other corporate media didn’t report it, you present it as evidence that there is no slanting of the news. This a weak and internally contradictory argument. It deserves no refutation, because there is no ideation to refute.


Posted by: Charles [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 21, 2004 08:30 PM

You want a reason why.… read this http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,123247,00.html

Posted by: Faruny at June 21, 2004 10:35 PM

Where’s Chris? This blog has becoming nothing more than a springboard for random rants about the war from anybody but Chris.

Chris persuaded people to give $$$ for his blog, and visitors write more than he does. There’s so much news from Iraq, Chris is there, but he’s not reporting on any of it. What a shame.

Excuse me while I roll over in my grave.

Posted by: David Brinkley at June 22, 2004 12:12 AM

Kat- Missouri:
did you know the Iraq is known as “the cradel of civilization”? http://www.medievalhistory.net/islamica.htm


Posted by: bamboo at June 22, 2004 12:22 AM

I’m a journalism and political science student. My focus is on middle east issues, so the situation in Iraq and it’s media coverage is foremost on my study agenda.

I am also a print snob, but feel like TV does have a role in media, just not the one it’s forced to play.

I have been consistently suprised by my fellow political science students who constantly rail against the media’s poor coverage. When I dig deeper, I discover it’s the TV coverage, not the print coverage. Usually the people complaining about TV news ingest online and print news without a second thought.

In a perfect world, TV would not be the sole source of news for as many as it is. But reality bites, and TV (and radio news people) news people are forced to focus on things that fit in small segments.

While that satisfies the same news consumers that only read headlines, it is irritating to those who are taking the time to learn the issues.

I just got back from Germany, and they say our media is waaaaay to the right. I call my mom, and she says the media to far left. “It’s almost like Clinton is still telling them what to do,” she says.

Perception is everything. Unfortunately TV news must be everything to its audience. Hence, it does nothing well.

Posted by: Sojowannabe at June 22, 2004 02:12 AM

The following quote is presumably the result of at least one person’s exposure to the media: “I agree the War on Terror isn’t a “war”
in the traditional sense. It is an ideological
conflict, and no matter what Osama bin Laden or the
Administration may think, in the end it cannot and will
not be ENTIRELY resolved through violence or force of
arms. However, there is also no cotton-picking way it
CAN be won WITHOUT a lot of fighting by the Uniformed
Forces of the United States —- and other countries —-
using real bullets and spilling real red blood. People
should be aware that GalloPinto’s recent small look at
the Koran would look prophetic if we let ourselves lose
this war and a study of that book became mandatory —-
with all of facing toward Mecca five times each day
between six in the morning and ten at night.”

Posted by: Georg at June 22, 2004 05:37 AM

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