Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 15, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

THE MEDIA AND IRAQ....It's not very often that I agree with both Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan, but if New York Times reporter John Burns' account of the media in Iraq before the war is accurate, it certainly paints a pretty disturbing portrait:

Terror, totalitarian states, and their ways are nothing new to me, but I felt from the start that this was in a category by itself, with the possible exception in the present world of North Korea. I felt that that was the central truth that has to be told about this place. It was also the essential truth that was untold by the vast majority of correspondents here. Why? Because they judged that the only way they could keep themselves in play here was to pretend that it was okay.

There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

....In February I was denied a visa. Then I found there were visas available. I was in Amman. Some of my rivals who had omitted to notice that Iraq was a terror state were busy here sucking up. They were very pleased with themselves....

When the whole Eason Jordan thing erupted a few months ago I wondered if CNN's coverage of Iraq was really very different from anyone else's, or if they were just the only ones to admit the compromises they had made. If Burns is right, it was apparently the latter.

So I guess I'll ask again: I wonder how long it's going to be if ever before anyone else is honest enough to print a mea culpa like Jordan's?

Kevin Drum 6:14 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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