Friday, November 25, 2005

Skewed news

At the Camp Katrina blog, Spc. Phil Van Treuren points out an "interesting omission" in the New York Times report on the latest suicide bombing in Iraq. (Hat tip: John Cole) The article says:

A suicide car bomb exploded Thursday near an American convoy at the entrance to the main hospital in the volatile town of Mahmudiya, killing at least 30 Iraqis and wounding dozens of others...

The omitted detail, supplied by the Associated Press, is that at the time of the bombing the U.S. soldiers were "handing out candy and food to children" (The Washington Post also mentions that nearly all the dead were women and children).

Was the omission an accident? Or was the Times downplaying, consciously or not, both the brutality of the "insurgents" ("freedom fighters" to some) and an instance of friendly rapport between the American soldiers and the Iraqi population?

Like John Cole, I'm generally very wary of assigning malign motives to such things and seeking out the minutest evidence of "liberal bias" (that way madness lies). But still, this kind of thing makes you wonder. I mean, the fact that the U.S. convoy was handing out candy and food to children at the time, and that one of Kurt Vonnegut's heroes plowed an explosive-laden car into a crowd of kids, is not exactly a minor detail.

Meanwhile, The Heretik points out something else: the version of the Associated Press story Camp Katrina links to, on the Fox News site, edits AP's copy to change "suicide bomber" to the idiotic "homicide bomber." This is right-wing newspeak at its most laughable. Any bombing that kills people is a "homicide bombing." The distinct feature of "suicide bombing" is that the bomber also kills himself (or herself). On at least one occasion -- the London bombings last July -- the insistence on referring to suicide bombings as "homicide bombings" already led Fox down the path of glaring stupidity. I'd like to know who first came up with the imbecilic idea that the phrase "suicide bombing" somehow makes the bomber sympathetic. I'd also like to know when someone at Fox is going to have enough sense to put an end to this ridiculous policy of rewriting wire copy to fit their propaganda slant.

Meanwhile, as The Heretik wisely says:

Do we just see in the “news” what we want to see? Our soldiers struggle to do their best, to be most human in the most inhumane circumstances. Those people are still dead. Damned media, damned blog. Damn us all. Oy.


mythago said...

I've seen more than one news story describing the fact that soldiers were helping out children when attacked, or that the insurgents killed innocent children. So yes, I think you are reading a bit much into this.

Cathy Young said...

Oh, I agree about the news stories in general. I'm talking specifically about The New York Times.

reader_iam said...

Re: Homicide bombings

Yes!!!! Any bombings that cause death of humans are by definition homicidal.

It's the "suicide" adjective that makes the point of either desperation or zealotry or both. It CERTAINLY doesn't, or shouldn't, make the perpetrator seem automatically more sympathetic.

I suspect that the acceptance, and popularity in some quarters, of homicide bomber, despite its inherent silliness, stems from the shocked reaction that many had to some post-9/11 rhetoric which held that the terrorists involved were "courageous" and so forth because they gave their lives for their cause. At least, that's how I remember the timeline.

And then, of course, Roger Ailes is a very shrewd promoter, who knew the time had come to tap into a different zeitgeist, one shared by a group of people who felt their worldview was not only not being addressed, but derided.

Re: Soldiers "handing out candy and food to children" being ommitted

I truly don't get why there actually seems to be a willful determination not to include this kind of detail; it just seems so petty that it actually almost gives credence to some of the more paranoid "MSM"-haters of the world. It's seems so sad, stupid, self-destructive and dishonest to me, and for what?

I was a newspaper journalist for a number of years and I treasure that part of my life. While I can be as sharply critical as anyone about various aspects of that profession as currently practiced, I'm no basher, and I'm deeply skeptical of the idea that the traditional system, as a whole, should be pitched altogether somehow and "replaced" by "citizenjournalists."

(Now, I DO like the idea of bringing more people to the party, and I DO believe that the blogosphere has been a wonderful force for accountability etc. etc. I think the presence of BOTH can be the most marvelous tonic for the body politic.)

How can the media, a group of mostly smart people, be so dumb about shooting its own profession in the foot this way? So sad.

Cathy Young said...

reader_iam: excellently said!

I also agree with you about the "MSM" vs the blogosphere.

William R. Barker said...

Two points:

First... Cathy, you're absolutely right about the sheer stupidity of attempting to replace the perfectly descriptive phrase "suicide bomber" with innane "homicide bomber."

Second... to reader_iam... where do you get the idea that the media is made up of mainly smart people? Do you have any evidence to back up this contention? One of the biggest problems with the media seems to me to be the general lack of education and knowledge on the part of many reporters.

colagirl said...

One of the biggest problems with the media seems to me to be the general lack of education and knowledge on the part of many reporters.

I agree with you here. The problem is that reporters simply are not very knowledgeable on many of the subjects they are called on to cover, and are not in a position to understand the complexities of what goes on. Unfortunately, it seems like they think they do.

Every newspaper story I've seen (although admittedly there haven't been many) that touches on my own area of expertise, for example, has gotten key information fundamentally wrong, in such a way that it distorts the meaning of the piece. And the really interesting thing is, in at least one instance, the information that was misreported seemed to play to liberal biases (it fit into liberal accepted wisdom on the prevalence of racism). Now I'm not suggesting that the author of the article deliberately misreported what he heard, but I do wonder if, once s/he heard something that seemed to fit the narrative, s/he didn't bother to check into it any further.

Anyway, experiences like those have caused me to look at what gets reported in the press with a much more skeptical eye.

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