Jamail Hussein and Karen Toshima

In the thread to my first Jamail Hussein post below, commenter Andrew Lazarus says:

A.L., you seem to be seizing on this fire incident as an indication that the MSM coverage of Iraq is way off. But at the same time, neither you nor anyone else is suggesting that the counts of maimed corpses, or dead soldiers, or explosions is in any way exaggerated. The impression of Iraq as some sort of hell on earth really doesn’t depend on this one gruesome story…any more than our perception of the Holocaust depends on the discredited story of Jews turned into soap.

I happen to think that this particular story – and the other stories – coming out of Iraq matter a lot because our policies on the war will be driven by our perceptions which are in turn driven by – the stories we read.

My reply to Andrew started this way (with some amendations):

The problem, Andrew, is [we don’t know] whether [Iraq is] hell on earth or heck (or Beaumont, Texas); that’s the point I keep trying to raise and that keeps getting slapped aside.

I spoke with Greg Sergeant today about all this, and we had a friendly chat in which I tried to explain why it is that one reported tragedy like this matters so much (and why the aggregation of small tragedies matters so much) and I asked if he’d ever heard of Karen Toshima.

He hadn’t so let me explain here.

I did a fast experiment – someone with Lexis-Nexis could do better – and searched the LA Times website archive (which has stories searchable since 1/1/1985) and looked for some word combinations…Mentions of ‘gang murder’ in the L.A. Times in 1987: 297
Mentions of ‘gang killing’ in the L.A. Times in 1987: 192

Mentions of ‘gang murder’ in the L.A. Times in 1989: 649
Mentions of ‘gang killing’ in the L.A. Times in 1989: 435

Annual increase (both terms summed) from 1987 to 1989: 121.68%

Mentions of ‘murder’ in 1987: 3,893
Mentions of ‘killing’ in 1987: 3,585

Mentions of ‘murder’ in 1989: 5,686
Mentions of ‘killing’ in 1989: 5,117

Annual increase (terms summed): 44.46%

The underlying numbers look like this:

Overall Homicides in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County in 1987: 975

Overall Homicides in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County in 1989: 1,053

Annual Increase: 4.0%

Gang Homicides in Los Angeles County in 1987: 387

Gang Homicides in Los Angeles County in 1989: 554

Annual Increase: 21.5%

Note that the increase in gang homicides – 167 – is greater than the increase in the number of total homicides – 78. This suggests the possibility that some homicides that would otherwise have been classified as ‘normal’ were instead classified as ‘gang’ – something I’ll take up with my law-enforcement friends.

What changed? Why did the coverage go up so much more than the underlying numbers?

Karen Toshima was murdered, that’s what changed.

In 1988 in Westwood Village, then the ‘Third Street’ of Los Angeles, where young upper middle class people went to dine and catch a movie or listen to some music or dance, two gangs opened fire on each other and Long Beach resident Karen Toshima died.

Suddenly in the consciousness of the upper-middle-class of Los Angeles – the class that produces TV news and newspaper columns – gang murders, which had been confined to streetcorners and alleys in South Central and East Los Angeles were vividly real.

And if you lived in Los Angeles then, you locked your doors and bought guns. I must have taken half a dozen friends to the shooting range and then the gun store that year.

For most of the next decade, as gang crime rose, peaked in 1995, and then fell dramatically, the narrative of life in Los Angeles was the omnipresent fear of gang violence.

That fear was fed by sensational media – first news, then movies and television – and it defined and limited life in Los Angeles.

Was gang violence a real issue in Los Angeles before 1988? Of course. Was it something worth spending significant resources on and attempting to suppress? Yes.

But the monomaniacal focus on Los Angeles as the “Gang Capital of the World” created a false impression that Crips and Bloods ruled the streets. Where did that perception come from? From reporting the, like a hip-hop drumbeat, regularly pounded home the point

In a few small pockets, for a few years, yes. But the vast majority of people in Los Angeles – people like me – drove throughout the city, ate in restaurants throughout the city (three of my favorites are in South Central and two in East LA).

But the perception of the city changed. Policies changed as a result – policies that may or may not have been good ones.

In Iraq the stakes are much higher. But the mechanisms we’re using to sort them out really are no different. Wouldn’t it be nice if they were?

73 thoughts on “Jamail Hussein and Karen Toshima”

  1. There’s a Newsweek article that says the economy in Iraq is growing fast. http://www.rojname.com/index.kurd?nuce=154628. Still, I don’t think any once can claim things there are good or that Maliki has been anything other than a dismal failure.
    No, Iraq is a problem. The questions are can it be fixed and has the media reporting been designed to make an all ready bad situation appear worse?
    We don’t know the answer to either question. But we may be closer to finding the answer to the second. If it turns out that the AP is simply a hapless dupe they will rightly be the subject of much derision, but the story will die. If it’s something more than that (and that hasn’t been proved yet) then maybe it’s a bombshell. Either way this case needs to be looked into very thoroughly.

  2. “I happen to think that this particular story – and the other stories – coming out of Iraq matter a lot because our policies on the war will be driven by our perceptions which are in turn driven by – the stories we read.”

    I agree with everything you’re saying, except change “coming out of Iraq” to “coming out of the White House” and apply this to the steady stream of unsubstantiated, unverified, uncorroborated, and untrue utterrances reported dutifully by the MSM in the months prior to the US invasion of Iraq.

    I find it ironic that the same alleged structural flaws that you believe yourself to be discovering with regards to the MSM reporting in Iraq are also those that enabled the invasion to begin with.

    You should be thanking, rather than condemning, them.

    Perhaps the link is that reporters find themselves in similar threatening situations and hostile enviroments in both cases, making unbiased reporting difficult or subsidiary to “survival”?

  3. Andy,

    You honestly believe that the white House has hit squads following David Gregory and Helen Thomas about? Good lord, and to think in another thread I bothered responding to you.

  4. I think Andy has a point. Our media is disfunctional on a deep level. Sometimes it favors one side, sometimes the other, but never the concept of objective truth. And if the Nation is ever better off for it, it is by sheer accident.

  5. This is an excellent point that really can’t be repeated enough — the media devotes proportionally far more attention to anything that effects upper middle class (and upper class) people than it does to anything that effects people with less money.

    Of course, what this suggests it that things are likely much worse in Iraq than is portrayed in the media, given that most of the victims are not just poor but poor foreigners. If everyone dying were blond white daughters of American doctors, we’d have to add several more cable channels just to make space for the collective 24 hour-a-day freakout.

  6. Andy thinks the Black helicopters are after Chris Matthews and Jon figures that absent a Natalee Hollowell look alike in Rhamadi he’ll never get the coverage he wants out of Iraq. Honestly, I just threw up in my mouth a little.

  7. “_I find it ironic that the same alleged structural flaws that you believe yourself to be discovering with regards to the MSM reporting in Iraq are also those that enabled the invasion to begin with.

    You should be thanking, rather than condemning, them_.”

    See that, A.L.? You should be *thanking* the MSM for misreporting the story, you ingrate.

    (rolls eyes)

  8. I was reading an article about some former Iraqi official that escaped from prison recently. I had several reactions to it. First, that I wasn’t particularly surprised. Money and connections will do a lot in most of the world to get a person out of prison into the arms of his friends or else into the arms of his enemies. (Without money and connections you’re stuck there.) Secondly, that they were trying in Iraq. Trying to enforce a standard of public service rather than self-service among those in power. I found that encouraging. In too much of the world there is an expectation and assumption that enriching one’s self is a natural and just benny connected to gaining any post, from local beat cop to the highest government official. And if you don’t spread the cheer your family and frends get surly because they feel entitled as well. So I was glad to hear that they were at least trying for a higher standard.

    Then, tacked to the end of the article was a seemingly entirely unrelated grocery list of violent incidents that had happened in Iraq.

    (Which is a bit like over-reporting on gang murders in Los Angeles, which is why I mentioned it.)

    Why? To pile on an already negative, but unrelated story? They do the same thing with any reporting of progress in Iraq. Why not a laundry list of infrastructure construction or retail sales? Tack that onto the end of any story from Iraq no matter what it is about and people’s perceptions would be entirely different. The building there is just as true as the deaths, after all.

    Add to that the idea that it’s just fine and dandy to report events and horrific deaths that never happened because the “truth” is that someone somewhere really *did* suffer a horrific death and how is anyone supposed to understand the situation in Iraq at all? It’s like a policeman planting a packet of pot on someone they “know” is a dealer. It’s not okay to bear false witness just because we “know” that a person is guilty.

    What totally blows my mind is that so many people actually seem to think there is nothing wrong with false reporting… just so long as it’s true.

  9. You missed an important point. Unlike LA, the violence that propels the slanted reporting in Iraq is itself motivated by a concerted terorist strategy which views such reporting as a propaganda victory. So, beyond merely wallowing in sensationalism, the aptly named “drive-by” media has become the “useful idoits” of our mortal enemies and entices even more and worse violence through their biased reporting.

  10. Very good point, AL. And also, what would happen if the LA Times had relied on a non-existent or extremely sketchy source in reporting a lot of that information to boot, including whether Karen Toshima actually died or not?

    That’s why getting to the bottom of Jamil Hussein is important.

  11. I think edh makes an important point. The analogy would be closer, AL, if the gangs in LA had had a vested interest in exaggerated news reports of gang violence that led citizens to be afraid to leave their homes or cross the city. The gangs in Iraq certainly have that interest. In other words, the situation in LA reflected merely MSM incompetence. The situation in Iraq reflects MSM incompetence and strategic use of that incompetence by our enemies.

  12. Back when Yelsin held his coup my ex-husband was in Moscow, Russia and I was in Athens, Greece I experienced the manipulative forces of America’s media. I could not reach my ex by phone, no internet at the time, and had to rely on CNN news coverage to see what was going on. CNN’s reports were teeming with catastropic, out-of-control, everything’s-falling-apart news stories and watching them made it feel like all of Russia was about to implode.

    When I finally reached my ex via the phone, he couldn’t understand what I was talking about when I relayed all of the stuff I heard and saw from CNN. It turns out that CNN had been reporting only from the Red Square and focused on only one small aspect of what was happening in all of Moscow and the rest of Russia. My ex said the rest of life in Moscow went about its business

    CNN had driven a narrative that was distorted and warped from reality yet at the time because there was no internet, there was no perspective.

    At this point in my life, I do believe that those who perceive Iraq to be a hopeless failure do so because they’ve been purposefull programmed to believe such perception.

  13. Currently undergoing Blogger Interruptus, so cannot hand a flurry of links out, but more than willing to hand out the articles for anyone wishing to contact me on same via my Blogger profile under my name here.

    There is a total lack of the real ‘police blotter reporting’ going on in Iraq. I looked at this in late AUG 06 during the ‘worse’ things had been in Iraq for some time. Just using the daily reports from MNF-Iraq:http://www.mnf-iraq.com/ demonstrated a different Nation than that which is depicted in the MSM. The entire police blotter, which anyone who has read the back page police blotter reports of the local circulars and dailies for communities, actually gets into a different perspective upon society. For most locales this is a long recounting of crimes which are then cast against the given population size and seen in that perspective. From this perspective *any* community taken at its ‘headline value’ can properly seen as dangerous and nasty as that is what grabs headlines. Headlines do *not* tell the story of the community, however.

    From Iraq the reading of the ‘dailies’, what various forces did and when and what the results were, leads to a different form and type of conflict far different in type, tone and tenor than that of the daily headline grabbers. The entire standing up of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, run by Iraqis for Iraqis, is unreported. Period. Full Stop.

    The tens of people sentenced for the criminal acts against the population goes unreported beyond a singular, celebrity case of the ex-dictator. Day in and day out justice gets you continual, slow convictions and some number of people found NOT GUILTY as a matter of course. This is not ‘kangaroo court justice’, but that of prosecutors and defendants having their day in court. This goes unreported in Iraq.

    The entire economic turnaround of the Nation was apparent in 2004, with the standing up of a Central Banking System where NONE had been in its place, save as a personal treasury to loot by the dictator. Also, unremarked upon, is the stand up and running of a Stock Exchange. In Baghdad. By Iraqis. It started off with the old fashioned lined chalkboard, chalk and erasers and has since moved on from there. Zero reporting on *that* when it happened.

    How about Iraq turning into a net agricultural exporter when it had been an importer when the dictator ruined that segment of society and made the entire society dependent upon Government handouts? That remains so little reported as to be gross negligence.

    The entire regulation of used cars drove Iraq into fuel shortages and had to be one of the first things the Interim Government had to address. People earning money wanted cars and cars need gasoline and the Iraqi production and refining industry needed to be rebuilt from its Soviet equipment days. Thus shortages, typical of that sort of equipment and lack of maintenance of same. This year may finally see the actual full utilization of that older equipment and mark the turnaround of *new* industrial capacity.

    The humanitarian recover of the Marsh Arabs and their entire society and way of life? Unreported.

    How about something as simple as ‘Route Irish’ becoming safe under Iraqi Armed Forces control? Unreported.

    While I did discount the early reports of the Central Bank on unemployment figures, those, too, are dropping from the dictatorial era levels of 30%+ down into the 20% range and then into the teens for next year. The goal is an IMF set amount of 15% and parts of Iraq are already at that and lower.

    These are things that *are* reported by local organizations, multi-variate progress reports by different organizations, and by the slowly evolving Iraqi Government Directors that are standing up websites to get information out to the public. This goes through the Iraqi press and media, which is quite diverse and reports on these things known as ‘local events’. Of which ZERO of the MSM have actually bothered to contact or work out exchange contracts for information. By snubbing the local, home-grown media, the MSM is imposing a view from ‘top-down’ and not letting it filter from the ‘bottom-up’. And the thoroughly disingenuous media reaction that they cannot GET local news flies in the face of tens of newspapers, magazines and periodicals made by Iraqis, some number of whom were taught this strange language known as English.

    Perhaps the MSM can investigate *that*.

    Might be something worth reporting on.

    If they were interested in the *news*, not “the story”. And sometimes neither of those are fully represented by the basic, factual reporting of the dull drudgery of the full police blotter. The economy. The recovery of entire sectors of the Nation of Iraq. And the first, ever, attempt to break the hold of tribal-based corruption (from below and above) upon the Nation, so as to give it something common to all of the People.

    And, maybe, just maybe, that can some day be reported upon in the United States, too. It just might be a “story”, even if it is *not* ‘news’.

  14. This is an excellent point that really can’t be repeated enough — the media devotes proportionally far more attention to anything that effects upper middle class (and upper class) people than it does to anything that effects people with less money.

    excellent point. There was gang violence before the middle class woman’s murder — but nobody cared about it until a white woman died.

    …and at that point the reporting became exaggerated.

    What this has to do with the situation in Iraq, however, is approximately zero. Its not the media who is saying the situation is “grave and deteriorating”, its 10 people who supported this war from jump street. Its not the media telling us we are losing the war, its Colin Powell. And the media isn’t making up the number of dead americans, the number of attacks on americans, the number of dead iraqis, etc.

    (But, of course, all those attacks and deaths are far less about killing the enemy than influencing American public opinion…. its not a war, its a Pepsi Commercial!)

    What this really has to do with is denial — denial that there is no way to win in Iraq — and the pathetic hope that if we can keep troops in Iraq for another two years, someone else can be blamed for the loss.

    It doesn’t matter how many more billions of dollars are wasted in Iraq — its not like the people who support the war are willing to pay for it. It doesn’t matter how many american lives are lost, or how many american families are destroyed — after all, these guys aren’t rushing to enlist and don’t have to deal with the problem. And it certainly doesn’t matter how many Iraqis get murdered, or starve, or suffer …. they’re TRULY irrelevant, and have been since even before the war began.

    But lets keep on “blaming the media”… because its all the media’ fault. And lets obsess over one story that may, or may not, be true — or may be exaggerated, but really has no bearing on the overall situation in Iraq. Because obsessing over that one story means that we can ignore all the indisputable bad news coming from Iraq…..

  15. Then, tacked to the end of the article was a seemingly entirely unrelated grocery list of violent incidents that had happened in Iraq.

    Reporting has been that way for at least two years. Since then, I haven’t read mainstream articles unfiltered by reliable alternative media sources.

  16. Not an apt comparison.

    In Baghadad, where it’s all too common to find 50-60 Iraqis dead on the streets each day and instances of car bombings and mass kidnappings—the murder of a handful of Iraqis outside a mosque is relatively insignificant.

    And let’s not forget who inflated this story and for what purpose.

  17. No doubt when Democrats assume power in January and Hillary begins her presidential campaign, the ‘news’ from Iraq will be chocked full of ‘feel-good’ reporting.

    Newspeak is already reporting Hillary is beloved by the majority of Americans, Big Brother is re-tooling it programming.

  18. Jade,

    I haven’t forgotten. It was NBC who used it as a basis to claim Iraq was in civil war. Look, I’m not inclined to go as far as AL on this point. The AP’s conduct whether malfeasance or misfeasance isn’t necessarily indicative of the situation in Iraq. And as I’ve said before the situation is bad.
    I’m just totally flummoxed at the insistence from you and Andy and Luka that any one who has noticed that this story is on its face wrong is an evil mouth breather out to destroy all that is good in the world. All of you claim you want the media to report accurately then you roundly condemn all those who are actually attempting to find the facts in this story.
    At this point I can only suspect that your ravings, and they have become ravings, (If you don’t believe me look back at you posts in other threads) are motivated by a desire to obscure the truth on this matter rather than pursue it. That doesn’t speak well of you.

  19. “but nobody cared about it until a white woman died.”

    Typical and revealing. Karen Toshima was Japanese-American. Therefore “White” to Libs. Complex and status-driven caste hierarchies are typical of Lib thinking. “White” people’s lives are worth less than others, self-evidently. Unless they are celebrities like the Kennedys etc.

    Luka misses the whole point of Iraq. The attacks are (as Wretchard at Belmont Club points out) the whole reason. Aimed at creating a surrender (as Luka is only too willing to do) not only in Iraq but Afghanistan and in America. The Chicago Jihadi who wanted to blow up a mall and kill Jews was a Nation of Islam adherent (African American) who was stirred up by the propaganda efforts on the internet.

    Jihadis are waging war against the US globally, and using the attacks, the whole point of which is to collect video, to generate a global army. When the media (Time Magazine lionized Ahmadinejad as “global everyman” and “champion of the dispossessed”) overtly, sides with Al Qaeda and Iran, we have a problem.

    Yes the Media is by all definitions PART of Al Qaeda. PART of Iran and the Holocaust denial. Part of defeatism (Luka can’t wait to surrender in Iraq, Afghanistan and of course here in the US). Mostly IMHO because the media has nothing but hostility to the average person, fearful of their minor nobility privilege. Anderson Cooper (son of Gloria Vanderbilt) or David Gregory have good reasons to want the average person to not be a competitive threat to them. Hence their instinctive siding with the enemy of average Americans.

    THAT is the Media problem. There are no Ed Murrows (hated communism, co-hosted a special on it with John Wayne, was always pro-American). The Media would sell out the US troops in a heartbeat the way the late Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace said in a Fred Friendly symposium.

  20. Yes the Media is by all definitions PART of Al Qaeda.

    Ah Jim, you were much more realistic when you did that reverse spin around move in your Firebird.

    This is beyond idiocy.

  21. I see the “fake but accurate” defense is alive and well. And I hear Rather and Mapes are even working together again!

    This time, though, the media aren’t just trying to swing a Presidential election. They’re actually giving aid to the enemy at a time of war, and undermining the ability of Iraqis to build a liberal democratic society.

    In both cases, it’s a combination of ideological bias and incompetence. I guess that gets them off the hook for treason (not that its prosecuted anymore anyway), but it’s still despicable. No wonder our soldiers hate the media.

  22. A.L.

    There is another way to interpret the data in L.A. that you so excellently reported. And it is the different possible interpretations of facts that, I believe, lie at the heart of the disagreements expressed here.

    It is very possible to see the lack of reporting about the murders in LA prior to what you call sensationalizing by the media as an earlier failure. It took an event that was able to penetrate its collective conscious to get the media to subsequently give the story of LA violence its due, which in this interpretation, the media should have been doing all along.

    The reporting increased after a parrticular point. Why call the second wave over-reporting; why not call the first wave under-reporting? Who is to determine the proper proportions? And on what basis?

    The same is true of reporting out of Iraq. How you see it depends on your intitial point of view.

    You have to first believe that the US ought to be in Iraq in order to make the claim that over-reporting of violence in Iraq is a fault because it will result in decreased support for the war.

    Further, the violence level in Iraq is legitimate subject for media coverage because the level of violence in Iraq is the most commonly used measure to determine the effectiveness of the US policy & progress. Because American taxpayer funds and American lives are lost, the effectiveness of US policy in Iraq is a legitimate concern. Only those who believe we must win at all costs would believe that we shouldn’t bother to examine those costs. The rest of us would like to see some hint of progress being made in reducing the violence if we are to keep spending lives and dollars.

  23. AL,
    I totally understand your point and it’s really a case of people reporting things that they only have a superficial knowledge of.

    Particularly, many of those in Iraq who don’t have a background covering wars or the Middle East or have any background on Saddam’s regime and thus report stories such as “Deadliest month EVER in Iraq” as the AP recently did, totally ignoring some of Saddam’s hits on entire villages.

    It’s good that these peoples work is being scrutinized but they still aren’t hurting ENOUGH in readership and moneywise to be smart enough to invite knowledgable critics in to balance and correct stories like this that are asking and answering the wrong questions.

  24. Dont bother. Im as of now opening a branch in Baghdad of the “Flying Spaghetti Monster”:http://www.venganza.org/ News Agency. As long as some of you folks are so happy to accept everything the AP feeds you without a shred of credulity, you might as well go all the way make a religion out of it. Never question his noodley appendages.

  25. The analogy would be closer, AL, if the gangs in LA had had a vested interest in exaggerated news reports of gang violence that led citizens to be afraid to leave their homes or cross the city.

    They did. I lived in LA at the time and both the Crips and the Bloods became adept at using the MSM to posture and swagger. I remember one Friday evening when they moved into Westwood on alternate sides of the main shopping/dining street, to ‘mau mau’ whities and count coup on each other. Huge column about it the next day in the LAT.

    The media have been tools since Vietnam.

  26. Davebo,

    Calling for transparency is perfectly legitimate, no one can argue with that. I hope that’s all your doing here. You’re not intimating that AL’s reporters aren’t telling the truth are you? If you are you would cite some evidence for that proposition wouldn’t you?
    Your conduct so far in other threads forces one to ask those questions. Because frankly, your reactions have been thick on froth and thin on reason. Seeing you in action thus far one would fear that is a permanent feature of your commentary.

  27. Mark….

    Only those who believe we must win at all costs would believe that we shouldn’t bother to examine those costs.

    Very well said.

    You would think that business oriented right-wingers would be looking at risk-benefit and cost-benefit analyses… but you would be wrong.

    To the “win at all costs” group, there is no such thing as bad news because costs have become irrelevant. And since only the “objectively pro-terrorists” don’t want us to win, those who want to know what’s actually going on are rooting for a terrorist victory.

  28. It was NBC who used it as a basis to claim Iraq was in civil war.

    Nonsense. A civil war–a subjective term–isn’t based on one incident; it’s based on a prolonged period of continuous and mounting violence. No, this story was inflated by the rightwing blogosphere because the events in Iraq have spiraled beyond their ability to spin it. So they must attempt to neutralize it by discrediting the messenger.

    And I strongly encourage everyone to find out the facts. What I don’t encourage are the baseless claims and conspiracy theories. That’s irresponsible and smells of desperation.

  29. *Sigh*. the forever debate.

    AL, I agree that news agencies have a serious problem. That problem (as beleived by me) is that profit is now seen as the highest goal of most news agencies. This is unlike 50 years ago, when many news agencies saw their primary goal as to report, and often made little or no profit. Now, most media markets have cut reporters, editors, fact-checkers to save costs, and report stories as given by their sources with little sunstantiation that they are correct. This leads towards stories that are sensationalized, misleading or blatantly false. It also causes stories to appear that should appear on gossip rags because they grab audience attention (one morning on CNN and Fox I saw more coverage of Britney Spears divorce papers than on Iraq). This is as much true of Fox (war on christmas/Aruba/Hannity/O’Reilly) as NBC (everybody on the morning show/Savage etc), and has also led to the celebrity status of right wing and left wing nutjobs.

    So it’s no suprise that things exploding in Iraq are always going to grab the cover page. An Iraqi stock market is a good story, but it’s not sexy. A growing iraqi industry is not sexy, most people aren’t going to buy a newspaper to read about the iraqi stockmarket. It’s junked. Iraqi prime minister says he is in midst of “Civil war”. You just sold a million papers. Yes, it’s a severe problem, but I would argue that newspapers are not allocated to the liberal cause as much as the financial line.

    These same errors also caused the hype of the Iraq war. Problems with WMD evidence were ignored by the press until work of ‘scandal’ broke. The whole idea of what we do AFTER invasion, was again ignored because rebuilding sounds boring. Meanwhile, impressive soundbites like “I don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud” were repeated over and over again. The media is stupid, but it is predicatbly stupid, and weilds that supidity with the bias of the specific writer.

    “Then, tacked to the end of the article was a seemingly entirely unrelated grocery list of violent incidents that had happened in Iraq.”
    Newspapers do this when they have a bunch of small stories that are linked to the above story, but aren’t worth they’re time to print. The idea is to give a ‘broader view of events passably linked to the above article’ without wasting anymore space. However, I doubt little effort is made to validate the exact information in this addendums.

    Media accuracy should be investigated, discredited and put under the microscope. For that AL, I strongly agree. For those of you who beleive that Iraq is “the media’s fault”, I guess it helps you sleep at night.

  30. Sensationalizing a liberal conspiracy in newspapers is also a great way to encourage me to waste an hour on your website. LOL

  31. Corvan

    Because frankly, your reactions have been thick on froth and thin on reason.

    Gee, and to think just yesterday you were claiming I thought our service members were the “root of all evil” based on…. well, I can only assume based on your fervent hope I felt that way.

    I’m crushed I tell ya.

  32. Jade,

    I think you’re just wrong on this one. Here is an article that presented the burning Sunis story as very big news, indeed. ttp://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15873863/. Additionally I believe, and I could be mistaken on this, that Matt Lauer himself mentioned this story parenthetically as playing a role (though not a huge role) in his view of Iraq as a civil war. Like i said, I could be mistaken regarding Luaer I’m working in memory there. But I’m not mistaken regarding the size of this story. It was presented as big news, and it was presented by every news outlet.
    And Alchemist, I was inclined to agree with you until you decided to take a cheap shot at all those who happened to support American aims in Iraq and the promotion of democracy.
    Allow me to reciprocate. I hope you can sleep at night knowing that your quiet, though valuable, support for the Saddam Hussein regime led to the murder of hundred of thousands, the rapes of thousands upon thousand more, the torture of innumerable innocent people and the gassing of defenseless Kurds with, guess what? WMD. Your continued disgust for people that are trying to correct those atrocities and bring their perpetrator to justice is a reflection upon of your judgement, the state of your conscience and your worth as human being. And the reflection is very, very bad…almost criminal. See how good that feels? Enjoy.
    For the record I’m not convinced at all that this story is indicative of the conditions in Iraq. They are bad that this story as fallen apart does not make them good. However I’m beginning to suspect that his is a story that was intended to make conditions in Iraq look worse…truth be damned. That sort of journalism is something a free people cannot tolerate, not and remain informed.
    I also respect your call for accuracy in journalism, Alchemist, next time i hope you can do it without implying that folks who oppose saddma Hussein are Islamic facism are somehow his equal.

  33. Davebo,

    If you recall. You began that exchange by minimizing the AP’s behaviour and implying that the US military was stonewalling the daily insurgency attack figures.
    I responded that you had attempted to change the subject to the military’s misfeasance (which you had) and observed you must see the military as the root of all evil, an unfortunately broad characterization, I admit.
    You disabused me of the notion, even informing me that you had been in the military. After that I told you I believed you, commended you for your service and commented that it would be nice if we paid more attention to the military’s opinion on what should be done in Iraq.
    You responded with personal invective and attempted to switch the subject from the AP’s conduct once more. I pointed that out and asked you if you thought the media should be accurate in its reporting. You agreed they should be accurate but oddly minimized their conduct once more and heaped on more personal invective.
    I’m sorry, but in light of all that, I believe your conduct bears out the comment. You have frothed more than you have reasoned. Sadly your memory seems a bit faulty as well. Still it’s nice hearing from you.

  34. f you recall. You began that exchange by minimizing the AP’s behaviour and implying that the US military was stonewalling the daily insurgency attack figures.

    Not implying. I was stating a fact. The military has classified daily attack figures.

    I responded that you had attempted to change the subject to the military’s misfeasance (which you had) and observed you must see the military as the root of all evil, an unfortunately broad characterization, I admit.

    No, I don’t believe for a second that the decision to classify the data came from the Pentagon.

    Sadly your memory seems a bit faulty as well.

    Ya think? Again, I can’t tell you how horrible that makes me feel.

    Additionally, I have no idea what you mean when you refer to misfeasance by the military.

  35. Davebo,
    Once again you change the subject. You said I claimed you thought that the military was the root of all evil. I reply, that if you remember, I had retracted that statement and commended you for your service. Instead of addressing that issue you once again respond with a statement that seems to indicate that the military, because of shadowy orders from on high, are somehow engaged in a cover-up regarding conditions in Iraq. I don’t argue that those weekly numbers have been classified. I just wonder do you consider this a nefarious scheme to hide the true nature of things in Iraq? If you do do you believe the military complicit in the cover up?
    And oddly, I seem to remember CNN, Wolf Blitzer’s show in particular, discussing the attack figures for the last three months very prominently. Did they receive those figures as the result of a leak?

  36. Sorry corvan,

    the attack was abit out of line, but I get annoyed when I hear people blaming the media on the situation at hand. The attack wasn’t aimed at those who supported Iraq, it was aimed at those who choose to blame the situation in Iraq on ‘propaganda news coverage’, although I understand how that could be read differently. Obviously, the media coverage has been jaded, but at this point the situation on the ground is horrible and getting worse. I understand that it is difficult to see in “the fog of war”, but at this point you can already smell putrification.

    “…the torture of innumerable innocent people and the gassing of defenseless Kurds with, guess what? WMD.”

    The question is not wether he has ever had WMD, it’s wether he had them currently. Weapon-quality chemicals and bactera don’t last. They degrade over time, and unless they’re is a facility to constantly produce these kinds of bugs, they’re worthless. We now know that he did not have these facilities, despite evidence suggesting he did. Although proper media reporting probably may not have uncovered such evidence, they may have realized how shaky the white house argument has been. Although, many people here disagree with my line of reasoning.

    “Your continued disgust for people that are trying to correct those atrocities and bring their perpetrator to justice is a reflection upon of your judgement, the state of your conscience and your worth as human being.”

    And I should feel guilty, because those WMD’s were produced with American help, and ignored by Americans for 20 years because he was ‘our guy’, that is until he invaded Kuwait. I completely understand the act of wanting to go after Saddam Hussein, I just strongly disagree with the politicalization of war, the rush to attack instead of planning effectively and the trumping of debate with hyperbole. Guess what? I believe that the media is largely responsible for creating the enviroment that led us to this point.

  37. Davebo, I just downloaded the last quarters attack figures as a part of the quarterly assessment of conditions in Iraq from the “defenselink.mil website”:http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/pdfs/9010Quarterly-Report-20061216.pdf

    So either a) it’s not classified; b) someone screwed up bigtime; or c) the security clearance I haven’t applied for – as a civilian not employed by DoD or a DoD contractor – just got granted. BTW the doc is a good read – very frank.

    Can you point me to someplace that explans the classification issue?


  38. And by fair enough I mean, you’re right the situation in Iraq is bad, and would be bad media or no. Maliki is a joke. Trying to bring Al Sadr into the process was a horrible mistake. Allowing the looting that occured after the fall of Baghdad was a huge good, both from a civil order sense and from an intelligence sense. No, things in in Iraq are bad. The current adminstration cannot hide from that nor pretend its decisions played no role in it. But the AP can’t hide behind the adminstration, either. Their conduct has led to this story going south, no one else’s. And it remains to be seen just how egregious their conduct was.

  39. AL… here is a source about the classification of attack data…


    I called Joseph A. Christoff, the GAO official who produced the document. “I have all [the Pentagon’s] data” for those months, he told me. But the military stamped it classified, he said. And despite making weeks of phone calls, he can’t convince anyone there to declassify the numbers.

    keep in mind that this was the GAO — a non-partisan creature of Congress — that the information was being withheld from.

    We still don’t have the actual “monthly numbers” of attacks that were being sought….all that the link you provided gave us was cumulative data of the “average weekly attacks from “12 Aug 06 to 10 Nov O6″. But the purpose of the GAO report was to show monthly totals, not “weekly averages” that incorporated multiple months.

    Thus, it would appear that the information regarding monthly totals remains classified…

  40. Davebo,

    Do you consider this classification a nefarious scheme desgined to hide the true goings on in Iraq? If so, is the military complicit in this cover-up?

  41. um, alchemist when you say “those WMD were produced with American help” do you have backup for that? AFAIK we did sell some bio materials in the early 80’s, but other than that it was Russia, Germany and France.


  42. Corvan,

    I respectfully decline to enter the discussion at this time. I just can’t see an upside to engaging you on the subject.

  43. I don’t have the time to read through all of the links, but here is the webpage on the “Riegle Report”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riegle_Report/

    On February 9th, 1994, Donald W. Riegle, Jr. delivered a report, commonly referred to as “The Riegle Report” to the U.S. Senate regarding the health of Gulf War veterans. In the report, Senator Riegle cites evidence that biological and chemical weapons were used against American and Czechoslovakian troops, and that some of the bacteriological agents developed and used by Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War in Iraq originated from within the United States.

    Sure, many other nations played a role here: France, Germany etc, but we have our share of the blame.

  44. AL,

    I’m not sure exactly what your wanting looked at. And as Luka pointed out, it would appear to be an exercise of comparing apples to oranges. (sort of).

    Regardless, I’d love to help, but it’s an extremely busy week for me.

  45. The Iraq Study Group is not the media, and they said the Pentagon, not the media, is UNDERREPORTING the casualties in Iraq.
    What do you have to say about that, Dezinger?

  46. Davebo –

    I’m interested in whether the data in the GAO report tracks the similar data in the DoD report. I’ll have time to get to it – this weekend, maybe. Still dinking around with trans-Atlantic phone calls…



    The current “terrorist” war is really a war with various Muslim fascists, which started with Iraq in 1991. It now resembles the cold war, with containment as the main objective – isolating Iran, Syria, South Lebanon, Palestine, other hot spots, and fighting wars only when necessary, limiting goals, and limiting duration. Concurrently, we promote democratization, and political solutions, again slowly and painfully, but it is the best way to do it. The Iraq war has had 6 phases so far: 1991 Iraq invasion of Kuwait (ultimately unsuccessful for Iraq), 1991 allied counterattack on Kuwait (successful), 91-03 containment of Iraq (mainly successful, but unsustainable), 03 invasion (successful), 03-06 peacemaking, defeating insurgents attacking US and allies (successful), 06-07 peacekeeping, attenuating effects of civil war (so far at least partly successful). The next stage will be gradual withdrawal leading to full Iraqi self-sufficiency (dates unspecified, but about 08-11). This will be successful if Iraq does not harbor terrorists which attack western allies. Containment (or re-invasion) may be necessary. Remember, the US is STILL in Japan, South Korea, and Japan (why, by the way?). You may declare Iraq as defeat, or victory, if you like, but marshal evidence to prove your point. It is not enough to shout from some headline, “WE LOST!” It makes no sense.

    Wars are magnificent punctuation marks of history, with lots of social upheaval, hate, death, genocide, and geopolitical change, all concentrated into a definite time period. Peacekeeping bores the MSM, because it’s mainly about minimizing social upheaval, hate, death, genocide, and geopolitical change, while spreading the whole process over long, ill-defined time periods until an insufferably bored populace give up their hate and desire for conflict. Peacekeepers cannot replace the will of a populace – they can only attenuate atrocities, while politicians, diplomats, and NGO’s work to rekindle the desire for peace and stability.

    So far the allies are winning the war with Muslim fascism — no attacks on US soil since 9/11, only small ones elsewhere, Taliban on the run, Iran increasingly pushed against the wall — we just have to stick with it. There may be no single clear “win”, when walls fall, and borders collapse, but “success” occurs when human suffering declines. This is all lost on the MSM — they have no idea.

  48. I certainly do prefer accurate reporting to inaccurate reporting. Reporting in general is subject to a number of biases: our media operate in a free market for viewers and advertisers. The result is a herd mentality with particular attention to not afflicting the comforted of the upper-middle-class. In Iraq, this is overlaid on a situation that has claimed a record number of journalists’ lives.

    What I still don’t understand is the claim that the burning story is some sort of keystone in the loss of the support of the American public. You seem to be placing the story in an analogous historical role to the exaggerated and fabricated stories of German atrocities against Belgian civilians in World War One, effective propaganda. I’m saying it’s like the discredited story of Germans’ turning Jews into soap from World War Two, one exaggerated story completely meaningless in the overall scheme of the Holocaust. As far as I can tell, the claim is that the burning story can be used as an example of widespread poor reporting that has sapped American morale.

    Well, A.L., that’s just crazy. Seeing troops’ in-country rotations extended and leaves canceled, that saps morale. To see more attacks of one Iraqi against another, that saps morale. When the ISG strongly hinted that we weren’t getting a lot of results on the ground, that sapped morale. And through it all, your great leader George W. Bush bloviated, with his senile SecDef, that the mission was accomplished, that we were winning, and so on. George Bush’s mission is indeed accomplished: he wants to show that even if only Laura and Barney support him, he doesn’t have to change his mind. (In particular, he gets to tell Poppy and his advisers who staffed the ISG to take a leap at a rolling doughnut.) BFD. Mark Buehner and I certainly have very different perspectives on this war, but we agree that nothing about the Bush Administration’s performance suggests that they were serious about reconstructing Iraq.

    The media didn’t make up the dismal performance of our strategery in Iraq. We have accomplished little or nothing past removing Saddam and replacing him with even bloodier anarchy. This isn’t because of the softness and weakness of the American People. If there’s a way, there’s a will. If there’s self-serving, self-satisfied, delusional fools in charge, don’t expect a queue of eager support.

    Pat Oliphant groks the boy king.

    Rich Lowry repents of his unhatched-chicken count.

  49. Heh. Rants that use terms like ‘senile’ and ‘boy king’ just drip with credibility and class.

    This AP story has now been proven false. The AP has used the non-existent Jamil as a source in 61 stories. Those stories are probably also false.

    How many other AP stories were false, or the anti-U.S. aspects highlighted, or were just plain enemy propaganda directly published by the AP?

    Support for the war would be higher if we had less false stories that hurt the war effort.

  50. This AP story has now been proven false.

    I missed this proof. Would you supply a link?

    Incidentally, “not substantiated to my satisfaction” and “proven false” don’t mean the same thing.

    I was able to locate a false story that hurt the war effort. It’s about Mission Accomplished. Unfortunately, the war effort is seen as a failure not because of false stories, but because of true stories.

  51. Fortunately, it is up to the AP to provide the proof that it *did* happen, it is not up to me to prove that it did not happen. Absent any proof that it did happen, we should assume the story is false. That is the universally accepted way these things work.

    Generally, though, we allow a little shorthand with respected news agencies; otherwise each column of story would have to be accompanied by severeral columns of facts, figures, testimonials, links to videotaped ddepostions, etc. We usually bypass much of that if the news agency is respected, has a good track record, has a code of ethics and is able to investigate itself if there are questions about a story.

    That’s why these false stories should be deadly serious to the AP. They are in danger of losing their credibility; if they lose that, they are toast.

    So far, they have done an extremely poor job proving themselves. If they keep it up, they will go down the drain.


    –They will simply DROP the story, as when they dropped Qana, the Red Cross bus ambulance “bombings”, Israeli attacks on UNIFIL, or Paliwood
    – Stunningly, after proof appeared that Saddam had 500 tons of yellowcake Uranium Oxide in storage when he was invaded (enough for 148 nuclear bombs), the MSM simply DROPPED the “Iraq Had No WMD” stories, with no corrections, no clarifications, apologies, nothing
    – They are now hammering on the “We’re Losing” theme
    – When they drop a particular story, that means you WON – it’s all you get
    – I have not seen them admit to any significant falsehood, no matter how egregious
    – E.G., Waiting for the MSM retract their inverted reporting of the US victory in the Vietnam Tet offensive, which they still describe as a defeat
    – (Tet 1968, was key because the US and South Vietnam DESTROYED the Viet Cong, leaving the war to the invading regular North Vietnam army. Thereafter, there were no significant populist socialist Vietnamese “resistance freedom fighters” left – only millions of Communist invaders, dying rapidly as the US and South Vietnamese won every significant battle)
    – No one nailed the MSM hard enough, then or now, and they continue simplistically falsifying Vietnam as a defeat, with Tet as a “turning point”

    Footnote: Ever wonder what happened to MSM catastrophizing about Acid Rain? Same story: proven false, dropped

  53. Les, can’t you see a difference between “proven false”—your previous language—and not nearly proven true by AP?

    I think you’re having a hard time sorting out “proof” from “evidence”. They don’t mean the same thing. There is a reasonable argument that the AP has not presented sufficiently reliable evidence of the story to make it credible. There is a strong argument that if you believe that the AP has not presented sufficiently reliable evidence, given the extraordinary claims in the story, it should be presumed false. You have not presented any argument that the story has been proven false, which would require eyewitness evidence, or at least clear evidence of fabrication, which neither you nor, AFAIK, anyone else has adduced. I suggest Michelle Malkin was going in search of such evidence, but isn’t sure that Baghdad is enough safer than Philadelphia to try.

  54. “_You have not presented any argument that the story has been proven false,.._”

    You want me to prove that something did not happen? You want me to prove a negative?

    “_..which would require eyewitness evidence,.._”

    You want people to say ‘I hearby swear that I was an eyewitness to …nothing.’ or ‘I hearby testify that I did not see any mosque burn.’ How can there be eyewitness evidence to something that did not happen?

    “_..or at least clear evidence of fabrication, which neither you nor, AFAIK, anyone else has adduced._”

    Luckily, _I_ don’t have to. It is up to ‘the accuser’ or ‘the one making the assertion’ to provide proof.

    The AP says ‘x’ happened.

    I say, prove it.

    The AP says ‘we can’t prove it, just trust us.’

    I say, bullshit, not good enough.

    The AP has been caught in one of the most embarrassing journalistic blunders in the last 40 years; and I am being generous in calling it a blunder.

  55. The AP story indeed hasnt been proven false, and it _is_ possible to ‘prove’ it false without proving a negative, at least in a journalistic sense. The preponderence of the evidence is an adequate threshold, you don’t need metaphysical certainty like you do in a logic game.

    But that evidence is quickly building. There are now multiple media sources reporting contacts saying that no-one by that name works where the AP said he works. There is movement on this thing, and I think we will know to every reasonable persons satisfaction what happened in this case at the end of the day. But it will take time.

    The AP story hasnt floundered completely- yet. But it is certainly swaying hazardously and large chunks are starting to fall off.

  56. I was, also, stunned to see how the Iraq war was covered by the most important news channels. There were things much more important to cover like Leno’s last bike, Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie’s divorce (than, after a while their marriages) and tons of crap like this. I would want to see something about “who gain the fattest contract” and stuff like that. Anyway, thanks to Michael Moore I did find interesting thing about this war.

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