January 6, 2007

Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - iii

Hatched by Dafydd

Continued yet again from previous post...

The great mosaic

Boehlert wags his finger, pointing out that in the same week this "six burnt alive" story came out, hundreds more were killed:

Keep in mind that in the seven days surrounding the Burned Alive story, hundreds and hundreds of Iraqis were killed in sectarian violence.

To date, warbloggers have not raised serious questions about any of those slayings or the reporting surrounding them. Yet viewing Iraq through the soda straw that is the Burned Alive story, they insist the press, thanks to its pro-terrorist sympathies, is creating the illusion of "chaos" in Iraq.

This is simple misdirection. "Warbloggers" rightly focus on the particular source for this story, "Police Capt.Jamil Hussein," who has figured prominently in more than 60 AP articles in the last two years. It is not unfair to say that Jamil Hussein, who we have labeled Baghdad's own Lieutenant Kije, is AP's "go-to guy" whenever they need a story about innocent Sunni victims being brutalized and butchered by Shiite death squads, under the complacent eyes, if not direct orders, of the Iraqi government. That is, whenever AP needs to spread the meme that the new Iraqi government is just as bad -- nay, far worse! -- than the Baathist hell it replaces.

If he is not a reliable source -- or worse, if he does not actually exist (and despite AP's claim to have verified his existence, we still don't know for sure from independent reporters not employed by AP) -- then what are we to make of these 62 stories we have read during the last two years? Those stories are the only evidence we have of systematic, widespread slaughter of Sunnis by death squads.

Did they really happen? Did they happen the way Lt. Kije claimed? Did he make them all up? Even “warbloggers, who have virtually no serious journalism experience among” are allowed to wonder whether we can take seriously a source who gets wrong as many fundamental facts as Hussein did. At what point are we entitled, even duty bound, to say we will no longer believe a fellow who is extraordinarily reckless with the truth (or extraordinarily reckless with lies, take your pick).

But it's not just Lt. Kije; Boehlert also neglects to mention that another Iraqi “official,” Lt. Abdel-Razzaq, who has been featured in 23 AP articles, was held for questioning by the Iraqi government for unauthorized press contacts. (Hat tip Flopping Aces)

Now, Boehlert certainly has a point in one respect:

The AP also didn't think much of CENTCOM's suggestion that reporters only quote people found on the government's approved list of sources.

This is self-evident; reporters should never agree to accept only official sources, official stories, or get the approval of officials before publishing. But Boehlert seems oddly unconversant with the shameful (and admitted) history of "reporting" by his beloved mainstream media in Iraq. In 2003, after the Coalition invasion of Iraq and the fall of Saddam Hussein, Eason Jordan admitted in a New York Times editorial that CNN (and all other journalists) had deliberately reported Baathist propaganda during the Saddam era... because it was more urgent to keep their Baghdad bureaus than to tell the truth about that brutal regime.

Even by Boehlert's own standards, this should be even worse than chastising low-ranking police officers because they anointed themselves media sources, a task normally falling to higher-ranking official spokesmen. So... can we at least agree that Eason Jordan and Capt. Hussein and Lt. Abdel-Razzaq were perhaps not all honorable men?

As Boehlert never tires of reminding us (as if we should scuff our feet in shame), we are not professional journalists. We don't work on newspapers. Heck, we didn't even graduate from the Columbia School of Journalism (though Bill O'Reilly did; what does Eric Boehlert think of him?)

We cannot look into every story coming out of Iraq; we must, of necessity, pick and choose: We can spot check. The method is used all the time in a manufacturing; if the failure rate of sampling is too great, the entire batch is considered a failure.

It may seem like we are picking on a small stone of a big mosaic. But what the heck does Boehlert think makes up the big mosaic in the first place but the same small stones we're spot-checking? If too many stones turn out not to be true, then what can we conclude about the entire mosaic?

The bloodthirsty warbloggers

Eric Boehlert concludes that we have a secret motive for demanding on-the-ground reporting by American reporters, rather than simply taking the word of stringers, who could as easily be terrorist sympathizers as honest native journalists. Boehlert does not consider any of us to be honorable men. He believes that deep down, we're hoping to see journalists slain (yet Boehlert echoes the charge leveled earlier by Eason Jordan, and I thought we already agreed Jordan might not be an honorable man... oh, let it slide):

To watch warbloggers taunt journalists for being cowards is also unsettling. Curt at Flopping Aces wrote: "If the reporters would leave their comfy hotel rooms and actually go out and survey the scenes themselves then I am sure we would get a completely different picture." Honestly, is there any irony sharper than members of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists, blogging comfortably from their air-conditioned stateside offices while obsessively googling AP dispatches in search of phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that don't meet the right-wing standard of excellence, lecturing on-the-ground news reporters about the need to witness the Iraq conflict up close?… [Curt, the "fighting keyboardist," spent five years in the United States Marine Corps, followed by six years as a police officer. Just FYI.]

The notion is demented, but given their wild online rants, I don't think it's out of bounds to suggest that warbloggers want journalists to venture into exceedingly dangerous sections of Iraq because warbloggers want journalists to get killed. That's how deep their hatred for the press runs... Also, by publicly demanding the AP "produce" Capt. Hussein -- for him to hold some sort of a press conference and announce his presence at a time when Iraqi police officers are being targeted daily for assassination [Sunni police officers?] -- indicates that warbloggers don't much care whether Hussein lives or dies either, as long as they can peddle their anti-media rants.

Whew! Perhaps one of the multiple layers of mainstream-media editing at Media Matters could speak to Boehlert about the length of his paragraphs.

Putting aside his curt dismissal of Curt as a member of the "101st Fighting Keyboardists" (another unkindness from this honorable man?), Boehlert appears ignorant of such embedded bloggers such as Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, and Michael Fumento, who have each embedded with the military many times, traveling outside the Green Zone and into danger. Not to mention all the mil-bloggers who have actually fought in Iraq and currently fighting. (And also not to mention the upcoming embedding, if that's exactly the word I mean, of Michelle Malkin herself in Iraq.)

Where does Boehlert blog from, one wonders? As an honorable man, I am certain he spends quite a bit of time in the Iraq or Afghanistan war zone. If he has any military background, he certainly doesn't mention it in his presumably self-written bio over at the Huffington Post, where he also blogs (some posts may simply be crossposted with Media Matters, including this one).

The conspiracy of shared vision

There is indeed an elite "conspiracy" of a very particular sort, the kind enunciated in Thomas Sowell's seminal work the Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy... the conspiracy of shared vision.

Those who hold this shared vision (the "anointed") need not meet and decide in advance what they will write, what narrative will permeate their stories; they simply all believe the same things, a shared quasi-religious gestalt that bursts forth like Athena from Zeus's brow, full-formed and insistent. The gestalt colors everything the reporter says or writes, all he believes, every story he pursues.

Yesterday, the gestalt was that Iraq was a "quagmire" that would send "20,000" American soldiers home in "body bags." Today, the gestalt is that we only win in Iraq if it becomes violence free, a paradise on Earth; and since that is impossible, we can only prepare ourselves for the inevitable "emerging defeat." When enough agencies report the same message over and over again, the meme becomes 'the truth" in some grotesque, McLuhanesque sense.

"Warbloggers" are painfully aware of this dynamic. The Goliath media are much stronger than any number of blogging Davids. Their access to the people dwarfs ours. So what could cause Eric Boehlert, probably speaking for far more of the elites than he is willing to claim, to become annoyed enough (or scared enough) to post such a personalized attack against a handful of people?

Perhaps because Boehlert is aware that a meme need not be shouted from the rooftops (via the big-box media) in order to grow, thrive, and ultimately replace the standard media gestalt itself: it only needs to be more powerful than the memes it feeds upon... which, in the case of the vision of the anointed, is not particularly difficult: the standard media gestalt requires you to believe six impossible things before breakfast (such as that only white Europeans can handle democracy, that Shia and Sunni kill each other in Iraq because of Israel, that the more terrorists we kill the more there are, that Iraq was calm and peaceful under Saddam Hussein, and so forth).

Hence this frantic attempt to stamp it out, like a campfire spreading to the surrounding weeds. But I doubt it will work; "warbloggers" are unlikely to be cowed by Eric Boehlert. This is the only true sense in which "information wants to be free": not that books and CDs anthropomorphically "want" to be distributed for free to pimply faced teenagers who expect something for nothing -- but that truth will ultimately prevail; it cannot be suppressed forever.

Thus, this honorable men -- all these honorable men -- trying to hard to save us from ourselves, to use the vision-vaccine to innoculate us against free inquiry, are on a fool's errand; they're tilting at winos. The future looms; they know that every year, more of the population rejects them as the final arbiters of reality and seeks alternatives.

The Boehlerts know, deep down, that their hegemony won't last much longer. They just want a few more quiet years to publish their books (Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, by Eric Boehlert) and write their gestalt-stories... then get out while the getting's good.

Here was a Boehlert! when comes such another?

And that's the last word.

(Dafydd ab Hugh contributed to this post.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 6, 2007, at the time of 2:46 AM

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Continued from previous post... You put your left foot in... If the mainstream media has no agenda, and their misreporting can solely be blamed upon the fog of war, we should see the mistakes benefiting the both sides equally; half... [Read More]

Tracked on January 6, 2007 2:59 AM

» Corrections from Michelle Malkin
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Tracked on January 6, 2007 6:42 PM


The following hissed in response by: David

I admire your restrained commentary, what you refer to as "the conspiracy of shared vision". I simply call the phenomenon the Mass Media Podpeople Hivemind.

The above hissed in response by: David [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 6:57 AM

The following hissed in response by: Rovin

"101st Fighting Keyboardists"----where do I sign up!

There are still far too many unanswered questions for Capt Hussein and AP. Printing the truth is not exclusive to the "Boehlerts" of the world.

The above hissed in response by: Rovin [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 7:05 AM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

An excerpt from CENTCOM says AP's "Iraqi police source" isn't Iraqi police -- Part 31

Dafydd has an absolutely awesome series up: Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - 1, Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - B,Media Matters In the Meme Streets of Baghdad - iii. Gotta be honest and admit I simply don't have the attention span to write something like that and if I did I'd do something pedestrian like calling them Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Guess that's why he gets all the traffic.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 6, 2007 8:24 AM

The following hissed in response by: hunter

Your conspiracy of shared vision is an unfortunate artifact of human nature. These pieces on the Baghdad meme are some of the best writing I have seen on the internet. Keep up the great work.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 7, 2007 6:33 AM

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