Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 16, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

OUTRAGE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE....Yesterday Newsweek backed away from its story about guards at Guantanamo flushing a Koran down the toilet. It's not clear if the incident actually happened or not, and Newsweek's source now says he's not sure where he heard about it.

That's bad news for Newsweek, of course. But I note that the conservative blogosphere, usually not one for root causes and blame shifting, is pretty unanimously convinced that last week's riots in Afghanistan are Newsweek's fault, because they began shortly after the Koran flushing story made it into the Arabic language press. You might demur, thinking that the rioters themselves are to blame for their rioting, and the conservo-sphere would normally agree. They didn't blame Paul Bremer for last year's uprising in Najaf, after all. But not this time. The opportunity to bash the press is just too enticing.

But it gets worse. A recent poll showed that 43% of the American public thinks the press has too much freedom, a disturbing result that we've seen from many similar surveys in the past. Here is Instapundit's response:

I warned earlier that if Americans concluded that the press was on the other side, the consequences would be dire....I'm a big fan of freedom of the press. I think it's too bad that the journalistic profession is ruining things for everybody through the hubris, irresponsibility, sloppiness, and outright agenda-driven bias of its practitioners.

That's a staunch defense of the First Amendment, isn't it? Glenn can now join John Cornyn in the "perfectly understandable" hall of fame.

Anyway, let's get some things straight:

  • Newsweek's source blew it. But it was a source they had used before and they had no reason not to trust him.

  • Hundreds of items similar to Newsweek's story have been published in the past year, all of them true. The torture at Abu Ghraib was far worse than this, and other reports of Koran desecration have been published in the past year as well. They inspired no riots, and there was no special reason for Newsweek to think their report would inspire any riots either.

  • The Taliban stages a resurgence every spring, anti-Americanism has been on the rise for some time, and the rioters in Afghanistan are responsible for the riots in Afghanistan. The Newsweek story is clearly just a pretext, and another story would have done just as well given their obvious animosity toward America.

  • Under any other circumstances, conservatives would heartily agree. The phony outrage over this is just a cynical excuse for the usual press bashing. Newsweek should buck up.

As near as I can tell, the Pentagon has demonstrated more genuine outrage over this incident than they did over months and months of disclosures of similar (and worse) actions at Abu Ghraib. It's revolting.

Kevin Drum 1:03 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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