Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 23, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

IRAQ'S BIGGEST PROBLEM: MEDIA BIAS....Virginia Postrel says she doesn't know what the real situation in Iraq is, and Glenn Reynolds responds with this:

And neither do I, of course. But what has been obvious from here is that the bad news has been consistently overplayed and the good news consistently underplayed....

Really? From where I sit, Glenn opines rather endlessly about the situation in Iraq. You don't have to look far, either: just read the sentence right after "And neither do I."

The proximate cause of all this is a USA Today story about media coverage of Iraq, which actually says nothing about slanted coverage at all. What it says is that some reporters think things are better than reported while others think things are actually worse. And presumably everyone agrees with Time magazine's Brian Bennett that this really has nothing to do with bias: dramatic events are what the media reports everywhere, not just in Iraq. Their behavior in Baghdad is no different from their behavior in Los Angeles.

In any case, there's no way of knowing whether news from Iraq is slanted unless you yourself happen to know how things are going. And considering the fact that our soldiers continue to get killed, buildings and pipelines are being bombed, the president wants 87 billion additional dollars, and reserve tours have been extended well, how good can things be? We wouldn't be extending our troops' stay in Iraq and begging other countries for help if things were going better than planned, would we?

To update Samuel Johnson, media bias is the last refuge of a scoundrel. When the news is bad and you can't actually marshal any particular facts to prove otherwise aside from a few cherry picked positive reports and the descriptions of some casual visitors just yell "media bias" and pretend that "bad news has been consistently overplayed" even if most of the evidence belies that.

I have no doubt that there's good news in Iraq Saddam is gone, infrastructure is being slowly rebuilt, daily life may possibly be returning to something close to normal but it's pretty obvious that there's plenty of bad news too. That doesn't mean we have to give up, but the war party, which was so enthusiastic about this adventure beforehand, ought to be willing to face up to it. So quit shooting the messengers, guys, it's unbecoming.

Kevin Drum 9:46 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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