Thursday, July 01, 2004

Iraq and the Media

In many of my posts on Iraq, I have been critical of the way events in that country have been covered by the elite media. One problem I have, and this has been expressed by numerous others, is what events the media chooses to report on. Terrorism and violence get the lion's share of coverage, while positive developments that occur in the background tend to be ignored or downplayed. Inevitably, the impression is conveyed that the violence is more widespread than it is, and that it is the only major development going on in the country.

The other concern regarding press coverage of Iraq involves how events are reported. All too often, the elite media tend to put the worst possible spin on things. For example, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, seemingly every Fedayeen ambush was portrayed as a major setback, our supply lines were described as imperiled, and the operational pause due to the sandstorm meant that we were bogged down in a "quagmire", at best. This practice has continued during the last 15 months. Thus, almost every problem or setback is reported as a disaster that dooms our entire effort in Iraq, and guarantees the country will crumble into chaos.

A good example of this is an article published last Sunday in the Los Angeles Times. The article discusses the Iraqi insurgency. Here is the first paragraph:

As this week's coordinated violence demonstrates, Iraq's insurgent movement is increasingly potent, riding a wave of anti-U.S. nationalism and religious extremism. Just days before an Iraqi government takes control of the country, experts and some commanders fear it may be too late to turn back the militant tide.

Clearly, the insurgency poses a serious challenge to the interim Iraqi government and to our efforts in that country. However, there's one problem with that paragraph. As both Mickey Kaus and Cori Dauber point out, it goes well beyond what is actually in the rest of the article. As Kaus puts it, nothing in the article "backs up the subhead's claim that 'some U.S. commanders say it could be too late to reverse the wave of violence.'"

Dauber, who is a communications professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, does a terrific job of analyzing how the media covers Iraq and other issues on her blog, Rantingprofs. I consider it a must read.

One of the sources I cite most frequently is the Washington Post. While they have produced a lot of interesting and provocative articles from Iraq, they are also among the worst offenders in terms of excessively negative spin. Via Instapundit, here is a first person account from a Marine reservist who was in Iraq, of how the Post spun a story in a ridiculously slanted manner:

The Untouchable Chief of Baghdad

It's pretty damning, in my view. Be sure to read it for yourself.


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