Lying Media Bastards

July 8, 2007

Accountability


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Earlier in the week, I mentioned how both the Bush administration and the media were acting as though every person killed by US forces in Iraq was a member of Al Qaeda, a sping that was clearly favorable to the pro-war crowd. But surprisingly, the NY Times, one of the papers which printed some of this misleading coverage, just printed an article by their “public editor” which both notes and critiques the phenomenon, and even criticizes the Times’ participation in it:

“Why Bush and the military are emphasizing Al Qaeda to the virtual exclusion of other sources of violence in Iraq is an important story. So is the question of how well their version of events squares with the facts of a murky and rapidly changing situation on the ground.

But these are stories you haven’t been reading in The Times in recent weeks as the newspaper has slipped into a routine of quoting the president and the military uncritically about Al Qaeda’s role in Iraq — and sometimes citing the group itself without attribution.

And in using the language of the administration, the newspaper has also failed at times to distinguish between Al Qaeda, the group that attacked the United States on Sept. 11, and Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, an Iraqi group that didn’t even exist until after the American invasion.

There is plenty of evidence that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is but one of the challenges facing the United States military and that overemphasizing it distorts the true picture of what is happening there. While a president running out of time and policy options may want to talk about a single enemy that Americans hate and fear in the hope of uniting the country behind him, journalists have the obligation to ask tough questions about the accuracy of his statements.”

The author then goes on to consult with a number of Middle East experts to try to put Al Qaeda’s role in the Iraq war and in greater Middle East conflict into context. Which is good. But given that the paper printed front-page stories with misleading government propaganda, and then put a sort of correction/apology on the opinion page days later, well, that still falls a bit short.

What this ends up being, sadly, is another “thanks for doing what you should have been doing anyway” posts. The media knows damn well that reprinting government propaganda is not exactly the same thing as “journalism.” Well, it didn’t used to be, anyhow.

Posted by Jake on July 8, 2007 6:08 pm

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