....LMB: "Regime Death"....

April 09, 2003

Of course, the news of the day is that Saddam Hussein's regime seems to have up and left Baghdad. U.S. troops led an effort to tear down statues of Saddam and many Iraqis rejoiced.

As always, I am the skeptic.

Is Saddam Hussein dead? Has he fled? Or most importantly, is he going to stay gone? My concern there is that Saddam might have some loyal troops yet and be planning a counter-offensive.

As for the cheers, I am reminded of the U.S. "liberation" of Panama. TV news footage showed thousands of happy Panamanians cheering the Americans. But it turns out that the TV cameras only went to the richer, whiter, more English-speaking sections of town, not the poor areas that U.S. bombs incinerated, where the population might have had a different opinion.

I am also reminded of the U.S. "liberation" of Kuwait, where hundreds of happy Kuwaitis cheering the Americans. Then it turned out that the pro-America rally was orchestrated by shadowy American PR guru John Rendon.

Don't confuse my skepticism with conspiracy theory. Things are always complicated, that's all. I imagine that many Iraqis are overjoyed at the overthrow. I imagine many others are afraid of the Americans. Excitement, fear, gratitude, uncertainty, anger, sorrow, probably whopping doses of all these emotions are smeared all over that nation. Those feelings might hold steady, or they might change over time. To think that today's celebration means that all Iraqis love America and will let us do whatever we want to their country, is folly.

My fear and grim prediction is that the U.S. plan is to ethrone a U.S.-friendly government to replace Saddam's regime. The U.S. has a poor track record with this sort of thing, and most of the enthronees tend to be corrupt and/or dictatorial. Might the new leader be more humane and democratic than Saddam Hussein? Quite possibly. Is it morally inexcusable to wage war on a people so that you can replace one oppressor with another? Definitely.

I also fear that the strife and bloodshed might prevent the U.S. plans from even getting that far. I think that the possibility that the Iraqi people might quickly tire of the American presence in their country, and at that point things could get ugly.

One quick comment on today's media coverage. The TV news broadcast the images of Iraqi celebration and Saddam desecration non-stop. This is "the war is over" type of imagery. The Bush administration was quick to warn America that the war was not yet over. But images speak louder than words, and I think the images may have convinced Americans that the war is indeed over, despite the White House's disclaimer. How long can the war last once Americans start wondering why the hell troops are fighting even though the war is "over"?


There is a bit of evidence that perhaps the media images of the celebration in Baghdad over the toppling of the Saddam statue may have been exaggerated. This is allegedly* a photo of the toppling from the BBC website, taken from a distance. Compare it to the close-ups. The tight shots imply that all of Baghdad is crowded with such raucous action, but the wide angle shot shows a fairly small group of people surrounded by, well, nobody.

*I can't verify too much about the distance photo. But you can see some of the same buildings in the close-up photos, and the presence of the tanks arguably proves that the photo was taken sometime today. I believe that the photo is accurate, but you should probably keep your skeptical guard up.


Posted by Jake at 09:56 PM | TrackBack (0)

I share your skepticism, but there appears to be legs to this story. Check out Robert Fisk's report from Baghdad today:


The widely-played statue scene, though, had a very surreal quality to it. Although commentators compared it to the falling of the Berlin Wall, it was just strange. Only a couple hundred men, and only a few of those actively engaged in the activity, the rest just mulling about. It looked a lot like one of Saddam's staged rallied ... no real festivity, people just waiting for direction. Given the hundreds of US special forces that CentCom has said were running around Baghdad with bribe money, I have to feel this was staged. There are many statues of Saddam in Baghdad, but this one was conveniently next to the hotel with the journalists.

Posted by: Z at April 9, 2003 10:36 PM

Or maybe he "escaped" to Syria on the Iraqi highway mysteriously "overlooked" by the coalition.

On to Damascus!

Posted by: Beerzie Boy at April 10, 2003 12:22 PM

Strange how an anti-war march of 5,000 people gets no TV coverage but a few hundred Iraqi's toppling a statue gets hours and hours of airtime.

Sure i'm happy that a by-product of the war is freeing the Iraqi people from Sadam, but what happens once the media circus moves-on (when the dramtic military photo-opportunities stop) how long is the public's attention spa...

Posted by: Diom at April 10, 2003 03:33 PM

I am so pleased to find there are other sceptics about this. I watched the whole event unfold on BBC News 24, from about 13.00 (British Summer Time) to 15.00 when I turned off in disgust because what I was *seeing* just didn't match up with what I was *hearing* from the reporters.

The story started with tanks rolling up in front of the Palestine Hotel where the media were housed. They stopped and the troops got out. There were absolutely no Iraqi civilians anywhere in shot - it looked like a well off residential area and we were told that the nearby flats housed Iraqi secret service and were empty. The reporters and the troops chatted - there were maybe about 50 people around, reporters, some Iraqis who I assume were linked with the press, and the troops. It was like they were waiting for something - the coverage on News24 continued with the anchors talking about 'amazing scenes'. Looked very boring to me! At one point a family walked across the square, father and kids I think - they were wearing shorts which struck me as unlikely for Iraqis. Were they westerners?

Then about a dozen young Iraqis suddenly appeared, looking a bit like football (soccer) supporters, twirling their shirts round their heads. The BBC bloke who was speaking said something like 'And I think we know what's going to happen now. That statue's not going to be there for long'. I just laughed. The reporters 'on the ground' in the square really started hyping things up, but it was still clear that there was absolutely *no* crowd. If you'd been listening on the radio you would have thought there were hundreds. The young blokes produced a ladder (from where?) and ropes, but it was all a bit 'playing to the cameras'. This went on for a while. At one point people started drifting off, which was when the soldiers took over and I stopped watching.

My guess at the time was that the event was staged for two reasons. First was for the audience 'back home'. Second was to 'encourage the others' - to get the message out to Iraqis that others were 'on the streets' and supporting the invasion. I think some at least of the media had been tipped off and were there for the 'easy' good story. If this was their first day without minders, why weren't they out on the streets getting the story somewehre other than right outside their hotel?

I would really like some independent reporters to take this up and try and find out what happened

Posted by: Pat Oddy at April 13, 2003 12:39 PM
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Media News

December 01, 2004

Media Mambo

The Great Indecency Hoax- last week, we wrote about how the "massive outcry" to the FCC about a racy Fox TV segment amounted to letters from 20 people. This week, we look at the newest media scandal, the infamous "naked back" commercial. On Monday Night Football, last week, ABC aired an ad for it's popular "Desperate Housewives" TV show, in which one of the actresses from the show attempted to seduce a football player by removing the towel she was wearing to bare her body to him. All the audience saw, however, was her back. No tits, no ass, no crotch, just her back.

No one complained.

The next Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his shocked viewers how the woman had appeard in the commercial "buck naked".

Then, the FCC received 50,000 complaints. How many of them actually saw this commercial is anyone's guess.

The article also shows the amazing statistics that although the Right is pretending that the "22% of Americans voted based on 'moral values'" statistic shows the return of the Moral Majority, this is actually a huge drop from the 35% who said that in the 2000 election or the 40% who said that in 1996 (when alleged pervert Bill Clinton was re-elected). This fact is so important I'm going to mention it over in the main news section too.

Brian Williams may surprise America- Tom Brokaw's replacement anchor, Brian Williams, dismissed the impact of blogs by saying that bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem." Which is really funny, coming out of the mouth of a dude who's idea of journalism is to read words out loud off a teleprompter. Seriously, if parrots were literate, Brian Williams would be reporting live from the line outside the soup kitchen.

In related news, Tom Brokaw has quit NBC Nightly News, and it appears that unlike his predecessor, the new guy can speak without slurring words like a drunk.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror- in February of 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence, a new department that would fight the war on terror through misinformation, especially by lying to journalists. Journalists were so up in arms about this that the Pentagon agreed to scrap the program.

Don't you think that an agency designed to lie to the public might lie about being shut down, too?

This article gives some examples about the US military lying to the press for propaganda and disinformation purposes.

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December- African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley is opting to not renew his daily talk show on National Public Radio. He criticized his former employers for failing to: "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply donít know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future." He's 100% correct. NPR is white. Polar bear eating a marshmallow at the mayonaise factory white. And the reason it's so white is that it is trying to maintain an affluent listener base (premoniantly older white folks) who will donate money to their stations. This is a great paradox of American public broadcasting, that they have a mandate to express neglected viewpoints and serve marginalized communities, but those folks can't donate money in the amounts that the stations would like to see.

U.S. Muslim Cable TV Channel Aims to Build Bridges- it sounds more positive than it is "Bridges TV" seems to simultaneously be a cable channel pursuing an affluent American Muslim demographic, and a way of building understanding and tolerance among American non-Muslims who might happen to watch the channel's programming. I was hoping it would be aimed more at Muslim's worldwide, but it ain't. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how their news programs cover the issues.

Every Damned Weblog Post Ever- it's funny cuz it's true.

Wikipedia Creators Move Into News- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created collectively by thousands of contributors. It's one of those non-profit, decentralized, collective, public projects that show how good the internet can be. Now, the Wikipedia founders are working on a similar project to create a collaborative news portal, with original content. Honestly, it's quite similar to IndyMedia sites (which reminds me, happy 5th birthday, IndyMedia!). I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical about the Wikinews project, though. IndyMedia sites work because they're local, focused on certain lefty issues, and they're run by activists invested in their beliefs. I'm not sure what would drive Wikinews or how it would hang together.

CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays- the United Church of Christ created a TV ad which touts the church's inclusion, even implying that they accept homosexuals into their congregation. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to air the ad. This is not too surprising, as many Americans are uncomfortable about homosexuality, and because TV networks are utter cowards. But CBS' explanation for the ban was odd:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast."

Whoa, what? First of all, the ad does not mention marriage at all. Second, since when do positions opposite of the Executive Branch constitute "unacceptable"? This doesn't sound like "we're not airing this because it's controversial", this sounds like "we're afraid of what the President might say."

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