OPED40 All The News....
The news media often comes in for a lot of criticism - folks on the right decry the media's 'liberal bias' while folks on the left denounce media concentration, arguing that most of the media is owned by a small number of large corporations and thus is cozy with those in power. The truth is far more prosaic. Rather than some vast, subterranean conspiracy to shade the news one way or the other, it is a sad fact that the majority of journalists are simply sloppy or lazy. Many content themselves with regurgitating the pap that is fed to them, are too lazy to do the work required to really dig into issues and to find the truth, stick with the conventional wisdom, and have a hard time separating fact from opinion and commentary. A few recent examples are illustrative:
In conclusion, the majority of news reporting is simplified, simplistic, and 'dumbed down'. Despite this sad state of affairs the number of news sources is so great that it is still possible to keep abreast of the reality. However it takes a determined effort, a significant investment of time, and the use of multiple information sources - newspapers, radio, television, magazines, the Web, etc.
- An example of sloppiness is the recent reporting on the agreement between Libya and the United States & Britain... On television and in print journalists have frequently used "weapons of mass destruction" and "weapons of mass destruction programs" as if these are equivalent and interchangeable terms. This even though there is a quantum leap of difference between Libya having programs that attempt to produce enriched uranium and Libya having actual atomic warheads! Additionally, most journalists simply parrot the conventional wisdom that this is a vindication of President Bush's 'get tough' policy and Iraq intervention. More useful would be an in-depth analysis of this issue - for example, what is the best evaluation of the extent of these programs, and how much is Libya actually giving up? Is it possible that Qadhafi has taken advantage of the administration's desire to declare victory and positive results for its Iraq intervention and "outhaggled" the administration (by gaining the eventual relaxation of U.S. sanctions and pressure in exchange for the abandonment of a number of unsuccessful or semi-successful attempts to produce WMD)??
- On Iraq, often the press just takes press releases and announcements by the CPA or military and report them as facts. So we hear of Operation Iron Hammer, Operation Ivy Blizzard, etc. that have resulted in a "crackdown on insurgents", numerous "arrests of extremists", and "getting tough on dead-enders", etc. Sounds very targeted and antiseptic, with only the 'bad guys' on the receiving end. The reality sometimes is broader and much more messy - sweeps that not only get insurgents but blow in the doors of 'ordinary' families, children injured by flying glass or killed by stray bullets, people arrested and dragged off in the middle of the night only to be released a couple of days later when it turns out that they are not insurgents, buildings riddled with holes from machine guns, villages completely surrounded with barbed wire whose inhabitants are not allowed to move around without permits (on pain of being shot), the First Armored Division sealing off a secondary school with tanks, Bradleys, and Hummers and arresting and carting off children between 12 and 18 for having been involved in a pro-Saddam demonstration, orchards being bulldozed and houses razed because someone shot at troops from their vicinity, etc. On the other (positive) side, one doesn't hear enough about what is going well, places where local government is functioning, American troops are welcomed, and there is a measure of law and order, etc. Most journalists are lazy - content to stick with the easy script, reports that will fit in a minute or two, or within a few columns, rather than educate the public on the intricacies of the issues.
- Recently when former Secretary of State James A. Baker III was making the rounds of European capitals seeking the forgiveness of Iraqi debt, listening to the news on television and reading the newspapers you would think that France and Germany had been the major lenders to Saddam Hussein. Unstated, but implied, was that this was additional proof that Chirac and Schroeder were 'soft' on Saddam and somehow in bed with this odious dictator. However, once again most reporting was shallow and greatly oversimplified the reality that estimates of Iraq's debt vary significantly - from approximately $80 billion to approximately $120 billion (if you count accrued interest on unpaid debt), plus an additional $200 billion in reparations owed to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from the first gulf war.
Thus France's debt of approximately $3 billion is a tiny fraction of the total, and not much more than the $2 billion owed to the United States (loans to Iraq to purchase grain from the U.S. back during the Iraq-Iran war). For additional information visit these sites:
© SNi 12/29/03