Monday, May 23, 2005

No "Honest Mistake" on Newsweek's Part

Why was Newsweek so ready to believe the story was true?

asks the Wall Street Journal.

Our own answer is that this is part of a basic media mistrust of the military that goes back to Vietnam and has shown itself with a vengeance during the Iraq conflict and the war on terror. Long gone are the days when AP's Ernie Pyle--an ace reporter by the standards of any era--could use the pronoun "we" in describing the Allied struggle against the Axis. In its place is a kind of permanent adversary media culture that goes beyond reporting the war news--good or bad as it should--and tends to suspect the worst about the military and American purposes.

The best example of this mentality has been the coverage of Abu Ghraib, which quickly morphed from one disgusting episode into media suspicion of the motives and morals of the entire military chain of command. Certainly the photos of sick behavior on the nightshift by a unit from the Maryland Army Reserve were news. But they were first exposed by the Army itself, through the Taguba investigation that was commissioned months before the photos were leaked.

The press corps nonetheless spent weeks developing a "torture narrative" that has since been thoroughly discredited, both by the independent panel headed by former Defense Secretary Jim Schlesinger and by every court martial to look at the matter. But rather than acknowledge that perhaps the coverage had been wrong, the media reaction has been to declare the many probes to be part of a wildly improbable cover-up.

As we say, much of this media pose goes back to Vietnam, and the betrayal that the press corps felt about body counts and the "five o'clock follies." Reporters like Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam made their careers by turning into the war's fiercest critics and creating a culture of suspicion that the government always lies. Mr. Sheehan's Vietnam memoir is titled, "A Bright Shining Lie." And for many of today's young reporters it is a kind of moral template.

We aren't saying that reporters shouldn't be skeptical, and they certainly have a duty to report when a war is going badly. Where the press corps goes wrong is in always assuming the worst about military and government motives. Thus U.S. intelligence wasn't merely wrong about Saddam Hussein's WMD, it intentionally "lied" about it to sell an illegitimate war. Thus, too, an antiwar partisan named Joe Wilson with a basically unimportant story about uranium and Niger is hailed as a truth-telling whistle-blower. And reports from Seymour Hersh in late 2001 that the U.S was losing in Afghanistan set off a "quagmire" theme only days before the fall of the Taliban. The readiness of Newsweek to believe a thinly sourced allegation about the Koran at Guantanamo is part of the same mindset.

As for myself, I call that mindset, simply, double standards. (Read L. Brent Bozell, III's list of "eerie" parallels with CBS's National Guard story.)

More double standards here.

In an article about liberal predictions, meanwhile, Ann Coulter (who also has this double standards tale) writes:

When [liberals] weren't claiming the Iraq elections would not take place at all—and, even if they did, the people wouldn't participate—liberals were telling us that if we let those crazy Arabs vote, the Iraqi people would elect extremist Islamic mullahs hostile to the United States.
Read how one critic's
feeble litany of harebrained predictions reads like a haiku of bum steers
and Ann's response to the Nation's female editor:
Hey!  Wait a minute!  How can rogue terrorists in Iraq detonate bombs?  They're all too busy flying kites with their children!  Hasn't she seen Fahrenheit 9/11?

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