What Did You Do When the First Amendment Died?

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The Issy Hissy, right on schedule, has already produced several fully formed mountains of armchair bullshit. My favorite part so far is how people who are pounding Newsweek for attributing information to an anonymous government source who was either misconstrued or changed his story post-facto, have reckoned that the best way to respond to this mistake is by blatantly mischaracterizing it as a deliberate "lie." We may yet come to discover that the Newsweek reporters knowingly misstated the truth, but I've seen no evidence so far. Also, I've heard rumors before that government officials have been known to lie in the name of National Security.

Rather than deal with any of that, I would like to zero in on an arcane side-argument from Glenn Reynolds:

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.

There are three things to respond to here. 1) If Americans conclude that "the press was on the other side," I am utterly, 100 percent convinced that Americans would be wrong, a point I tried to make last July, when Reynolds was praising a Mort Kondracke column that claimed "The American establishment, led by the media and politicians, is in danger of talking the United States into defeat in Iraq." Why do I think it's wrong? Because I've known maybe 300 American journalists fairly well in my life, and not one—really, 0 out of 300—could accurately be described as being "on the other side," actively rooting for the United States to lose wars. There's a selection bias, I'll grant you, and I'm not the sharpest cookie in the barnyard, but realize also that the majority of those people are on the political left, and quite a few on the Progressive Naderite end. If the press was indeed on the other side, wouldn't at least, I dunno 100 of those people be rooting against the home team? Or are they all just sleeper agents? (Reynolds also knows scores of journalists; I wonder how many he considers to be Benedict Arnolds….) 2) If "Americans concluded that the press was on the other side," not only would Americans be wrong, but it would be their own damned fault, and not because "the journalistic profession is ruining things for everybody." Why? Firstly because the journalistic profession, as we are reminded daily by people like Glenn Reynolds, has less and less power to do anything, let alone ruin things for everybody. But mostly it's because people are responsible for their own behavior, especially in a society blessed with as much information and freedom as ours. If they choose to form their opinions based on those who are too quick with the Treason card … that's on them. If I choose to support the shredding of the Second Amendment, is it my fault, or the fault of the NRA, or of legal gun owners who commit crimes, or of a media that feeds me anti-gun messages? I vote me. 3) Without question, there will continue to be more, not less, "outright agenda-driven bias" in journalism, as the market becomes richer with choice. And much of that output will continue coming from the right side of the political spectrum, as a corrective to the fish-don't-feel-the-water bias of the dreaded MSM. If that's a key factor in undermining public support for the First Amendment, then we're in for some rough seas ahead.

Reynolds has written on this theme many many times before, usually asking leading questions like, "What happens if the public comes to regard the press as untrustworthy and un-American?" Well, the legal climate for speech may continue to contract (even as the practical climate expands), and each and every person who actively participates in the de-liberalization should be called very nasty names from a distance of 10 paces. And yes, I can see where journalists would have some soul-searching to do about their own unwitting contribution to the process (though my beef is more with their fair-weathered support of the First Amendment, their enthusiasm for McCain-Feingold, and their eagerness to expand police power). But if we're to ladle out blame for the pending First Amendment collapse on journalists who have a dispute with one source, let's save a drop or two for commentators who have encouraged their readers to believe the falsehood that professional reporters have been showing up to work all these years to carry out a specific agenda to undermine America.

NEXT: A Raspberry for Sowell and Dyson

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  1. if Americans concluded that the press was on the other side

    It appears that Glenn Reynolds has unmasked the identity of my final sleeper cell: The American press. Now everybody knows what I had planned for the season finale of 24.

    This just forces me to move up the time table for my attacks.

  2. Wow, I wish Reynolds got this worked up when he found out the source of much of our prewar intel was on the Iranian dime. It’s not like Newsweek sent it to the Pentagon first or anything.

    From the Corner: “They sent the story to two Pentagon officials. One declined to respond. The other challenged one aspect but did not dispute the Koran-flushing charge.”

  3. Well said. I stopped taking Reynolds’ media criticism seriously in March of 2002, when he commented on an editorial from a Pittsburgh paper that praised the Army’s performance in Afghanistan and suggested that the military wasn’t as badly gutted as Bush had said in the 2000 campaign. Reynolds somehow interpreted this as a call to assassinate the president. No joke. Even Patrick Ruffini told him to chill out.

  4. The press is on the other side. Ranting doesn’t change that.

  5. Excellent, excellent post.

    Like Brian, I long ago stopped taking Reynolds’ media criticism seriously, but for a different reason: His motivation now is not to serve as a watchdog or even a corrective, but to see that the “MSM” be neutered and destroyed so that The Blog Revolution can do its thang. How convenient for Reynolds, of course, that he happens to run a well-known blog.

    I know that language sounds hyperbolic, but I truly have arrived at the conclusion that Reynolds is salivating at the idea of someday stomping on the charred remains of big newspapers and networks.

    When he was just some unknown schlub obsessed with posting on the message boards at Slate, his media commentary was probably acceptable. Today, though, he is far from a disinterested observer. Oh, he sprinkles his posts with all sorts of little disclaimers — he’s a lawyer, after all, and understands how to create preemptive defenses for himself (“No, I have clearly stated I don’t believe such-and-such. See Parenthetical #2 in Paragraph #4 of Post #452818.”) But when you see proclamations like the one Matt excerpted here, it’s hard not to get the impression he’s got an agenda.

    Funniest is that he actually dared to use the word “hubris.”

  6. The media refused to show pictures of Americans jumping out of the trade towers because they were afraid that the American people were too stupid and hateful not to take things out on Muslims. The press often refuses to give the race of a criminal suspect because of fears of racial reprisal. Newsweek gets this story. A story which anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the situation in the middle-east knew would be a propaganda jackpot for Al-Quada. Rather than at least trying to verify it with the military or perhaps seeing if the military is investigating the story, ala Abu Garib, they just print it with apparently no efforts to at least give the military a chance to give its side of the story. Low and behold the story is both completely unbelieveable on its face but completely false and people died as a result. How could Newsweek have not realized the tremendous damage that it would do and not at least tried at least to make 100% sure that it was true before printing it? No one is even saying they should not have printed it had it been true, although I think they should not have. Either Newsweek is completely ignorent and imcompetent or has an agenda.

    If the MSM ever made a mistake that wasn’t slanted in one particular way, i.e. anti government, republican and especially the military, perhaps, the ignorence defense might work, but of course the mistakes are always one way whether it be fake memos from 1973 or flushing the Koran down the toilet. I don’t think that any of the media get up every morning hoping that the American military looses or that another 9-11 happens. On the other hand, they clearly have a loathing of the military and use of American power and consider finding any story tarnished the military or U.S. efforts in a war overwelming disaprove of to be a career enhancing acomplishment. Newsweek’s willingness to publish this story, one that they had to have known would immensely damage American efforts shows that not only do they desparately want to publish these types of stories, but also they have no concern or regard for the consuqences of publishing them. That may not technically fit Mat Welch’s definitiion of being on the other side, but it sure looks that way to me.

  7. John —

    Rather than at least trying to verify it with the military or perhaps seeing if the military is investigating the story, ala Abu Garib, they just print it with apparently no efforts to at least give the military a chance to give its side of the story.

    From the Newsweek editor’s account:

    Their information came from a knowledgeable U.S. government source, and before deciding whether to publish it we approached two separate Defense Department officials for comment. One declined to give us a response; the other challenged another aspect of the story but did not dispute the Qur’an charge.

  8. You honestly believe the press in not cheering for a Vietnam like outcome? Abu Ghraib was A1 material in the NYT for over 30 days. I don’t think even 9/11 lasted that long. The press would dearly love to put another Vietnam like notch on it’s belt. I believe that it is trying to hurt Bush more than the war and if a Dem was president there would be a whole different take by many. There are still those that hate the military no matter who is president. No matter what the motive we ascribe to them, the press has handled the wars irresponsibly.

    This is just my opinion of course.

    It is interesting to me that when big people in the mutual fund market act irresponsibly there is call for more legislation and regulation. When accounting companies don’t keep the books right laws are passed and companies go out of business. Ken Lay only lost people money and he’s going to jail for a good long time. I don’t support restictions on speach and most bloggers and blog readers have a libertarian point of view. But that does not mean that when a large segment of the press(this goes beyond Isikoff and the NW ed board) acts irresponsibly and people die you shouldn’t EXPECT stupid laws or attempts to pass them to result. We expect stupid laws to result in the other cases, why not this one? That is all that Glenn is saying.

  9. “Did not dispute” is a far cry from “verified.”

  10. Justin — Not only is my “defen[se]” of the press “weak,” it’s non-existent. I am not, in this post, defending the press.

    Nor did I “imply” in any way that Glenn’s “trying to figure out how to destroy freedom of the press in America,” although that does sound intriguingly dramatic.

  11. Adam — True, but “they just print it with apparently no efforts to at least give the military a chance to give its side of the story” is even *further* away from “we approached two separate Defense Department officials for comment.”

  12. Collin —

    You honestly believe the press in not cheering for a Vietnam like outcome?

    Yes. I honestly believe that the U.S. press is not cheering for a decade-long war that kills 58,000 Americans.

  13. Matt,

    Do you really think they tried to verify that story? Honestly? There is a test that you could try!

    Try to flush a book down a toilet. The Koran is not a small book. Anyone with an IQ of 75+ would figure out that the story is crap at face value. People between 50-75 would try to flush a koran and find it is not possible. Illiterate retards and biased reporters out to hurt the administration/military would print the story. Seeing that the story is written we can conclude the editors of newsweek and Isikoff aren’t illiterate. That leaves one mentioned possibility.

    Honestly, that argument is crap. He didn’t deny it! doesn’t tread water when you are about to print something that will likely get people killed. I find it amazing that people who claim to be objective would try to say there is no bias in the media. This defense is weak.

  14. Collin — Don’t they have Turkish-style toilets at Abu Ghraib? Also, my copy of the Koran, for what it’s worth, is trade-paperback size, and would fit nicely in my loo. Say, that gives me a great idea!

    And who exactly was saying that there’s no bias in the media?

    Amazing yet routine, that pointing out hyperbole, and making counter-arguments about stuff that has nothing to do with Newsweek’s reporting, is construed as a “defense.”

  15. Cripes–all they would have to do is put the book in the toilet and pull the handle and even if it didn’t go down, it could still be witnessed as and described as a flushing down the toilet.

    I can’t believe I’m arguing about this.

  16. Abu Ghraib was A1 material in the NYT for over 30 days. I don’t think even 9/11 lasted that long.

    I assume that either you are exaggerating for effect, or went on a year long camping trip in the outback starting 30 days after 9/11.

    “The Press” is not one big monolithic entity. If a pattern is seen in “The Press” it’s only because a thousand individuals happen to think the same story will sell well.

    And how that guy can think that freedom of the press is somehow tied to accuracy, professionalism and lack of bias is waaaaay beyond me.

  17. Wasn’t Newsweek the organization that had a bunch of info on the Clinton-Lewinsky story and was further developing/sitting on it? If I remember correctly, they had to be flushed out by Drudge. Seems to me that they’ve sped up the verification process since the late 90s…

  18. Greg T. — Same reporter, too, unless my memory just tanked.

  19. The press in this country is free but is biased due to training mostly to the left or liberal. Key thing about it is that lots of them,if not most of the reporters & their editors run on the idea that whoever gets a story printed is the winner. They do not care who is hurt and in many stories the article story line is the winner. Thanks to the internet, we are getting the other side now. The over-sight role of the various BLOGS makes the MSM people a bit more honest and cautious and that is a good thing for all of us, including the press.

  20. Matt: Yeah, it’s the same reporter. Every time I see someone attack Isikoff as a liberal stooge, I wonder what they were doing during the Lewinsky scandal.

  21. “There is some strategy to it [bashing the ?liberal? media]. If you watch any great coach, what they try to do is ?work the refs.? Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack next time.”

    ?Then-Republican Party chair Rich Bond (Washington Post, 8/20/92)

    “I admit it. The liberal media were never that powerful, and the whole thing was often used as an excuse by conservatives for conservative failures.”

    ?Republican strategist William Kristol (The New Yorker, 5/22/95)

    “I?ve gotten balanced coverage, broad coverage?all we could have asked. For heaven sakes, we kid about the liberal media, but every Republican on Earth does that.”

    ?Republican presidential hopeful Patrick Buchanan (Los Angeles Times, 3/14/96)

  22. Whatever “enemy” the esteemed Professor is implying the Press is fighting for, that’s the side I want to join.

  23. Christ, I had no idea Newsweek was so powerful. These stories of Qu’ran in toilets have been going around for over a year and yet it took Newsweek printing a story to set off riots. Except the riots were happening before the story was released. So, the only logical explanation is that Newsweek is *so* powerful that the very act of their deciding to print a few lines is enough to warp the past to cause unrest. Verily, is there any villainy from whence these knaves in the Liberal Media will retreat?

  24. Yeah, I googled a bit and Isikoff is the guy who was sitting on the Lewinsky story. I guess we’ll see how his verification process of each story compares. He was digging around pretty hard on the Lewinsky stuff even when he had substantial information on what was happening with the legal proceedings at that time. If it turns out he went to press on the loo story with mere hints and innuendo…

    Both my initial and sustained reaction to this whole thing has been one of dismay that there are cultures that will riot and kill over the mistreatment of one copy of a book. If it turns out Newsweek has been caught practicing yellow journalism, we’ll then y’all just excuse me as I slip into an even deeper funk (and not the groovy kind). Of course, I’m sure any investigation into the matter will not turn up any evidence of political bias either.

  25. Matt,

    So what if they contacted the military, the fact is they got it wrong. It was an explosive and damaging story. Tell me with a straight face that if this story had involved a liberal baliwick like race relations they would not have thought long and hard about publishing it and probably would not have published it or if they had it would have been after absolute proof of its truth. The fact is that it wasn’t a liberal balywick, it was the military and they didn’t care if printing it got a few people killed. They were wrong and people died as a result of it. I don’t care if Michael Isakof was taking pictures of Monica giving falacio to Bill Clinton and was a card carrying member of the vast right wing conspiracy. He went with a story on flimsy evidence that wasn’t true and people died for it and the United States was imeasurably damaged. He ought to loose his job and Newsweek should no longer be a trusted source of news. Actions ought to have consiquences. Why should anyone believe Newsweek from now on and why should it still be in business? Perhaps if a major publication actually went backrupt and ceased to exist and some MSM types actually faced some hardship because of their constant fuck ups, we might get a better MSM for it.

  26. John,

    Even if it turns out that Isikoff and Newsweek are guilty of rushing a story to press with minimal supporting evidence, I don’t see how you (and others) jump to blaming them for the deaths that resulted from the reaction to said story. This isn’t the equivalent of yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater – it’s a story about flushing a copy of a religous book down the toilet. The people that take that provocation and go on a rampage are the ones to blame for the rioting and murders. And, IMHO, the culture that actively promotes that type of behavior has a greater degree of culpability than the axe-wielders who printed the story.

    FWIW: I’m also keeping in mind that it’s not really clear yet how much solid evidence Isikoff and company had before moving on the story. If they took echoes in an empty chamber as corraboration it’s a black eye for the the lot of them no doubt. But let’s not lose sight of the specimens who took a magazine article as a good reason to go medieval.

  27. John — “So what if they contacted the military”? The “so what” is that it directly contradicts your previous statement of: “they just print[ed] it with apparently no efforts to at least give the military a chance to give its side of the story.” I thought that might be a relevant observation.

    As for “the fact is they got it wrong,” my question to you is: How could you possibly know? Beyond the wrongness of calling a single source “sources,” that is. Have you seen the report in question, and can confirm there is no Koran-flushing in it? This is not a defense of their story; if the story was reported better, we wouldn’t be here. But we still don’t know whether the allegation is true or false, and I don’t know if we will any time soon.

    Tell me with a straight face that if this story had involved a liberal baliwick like race relations they would not have thought long and hard about publishing it and probably would not have published it or if they had it would have been after absolute proof of its truth.

    As a matter of fact, the story *did* involve race relations & clashing cultural differences, so I don’t think my face’s straightness is required.

    The fact is that it wasn’t a liberal balywick, it was the military and they didn’t care if printing it got a few people killed.

    If you’re that omniscient, I hope for your family’s sake that you live in Las Vegas, and bet heavily…. I would bet you three donuts that Michael Isikoff cares pretty damned deeply that people have been killed in something called “the Newsweek riots.” I’d be devastated, personally, though he likely has much thicker skin, what with being a longtime high-profile investigative reporter & all.

    You say “Actions ought to have consquences,” and I basically agree, though not in any command-economy type of way. So let me ask you this — when you yourself create the “action” of stating, falsely and publicly, that the reporters made “no efforts to at least give the military a chance to give its side of the story,” what should be the consequence? From the way you’ve responded, the answer would seem to be you saying “So what?” At least some in the dreaded MSM have the habit of correcting and apologizing promptly, even if in this case I am not precisely sure yet what they are apologizing for.

  28. look at

    http://corrente.blogspot.com/2005/05/flushing-newsweek.html

    and

    http://www.juancole.com

    Both about other evidence to support Newsweek’s claim about how they treated the Koran.

    The right wingnuts and the Bush administration are really going after anybody in the corporate press that does not toe the line… CBS, CNN, now Newsweek. However, it is hard to come to their defense when they have not been doing their jobs anyway.

    Susan

  29. The reason this story has legs, and will continue to have legs, is because there are hundreds of pairs of eyes now back in Afghanistan who saw it happen.

  30. A “liberal baliwick like race relations“? Why, thank you…liberals get treated sensitively on civil rights, while conservatives are given greater tolerance for stories about torture and war crimes. Seems like a fair trade.

    Lets extend that analogy out a little further. If Newsweek were to publish an article about an investigation into police brutality, and included a throwaway line about how a Justice Department source had informed them that the inquiry had concluded that the FBI, say, had conducted racial profiling, only to decide a few days later that it might have been in a different report, and then simulaneously, a riot had occurred in Compton, could anyone say with a straight face that such an article caused the rioting? Or even that it proved that racism was actually the fault of the lib’rul media?

  31. You wanna know why there’s a liberal slant to the media? Because people who are generally smart enough to do well in law or business school enter the profession knowing well that they’ll likely be making shit money well into adulthood. Even if they do very well in their career they’re unlikely to pass $65k-year in today’s dollars. It’s a profession that attracts those that want to give voices to the powerless. Of course you’re going to get liberals.

    My conservative friends aren’t jumping at small-town newspaper jobs that pay $22k a year. They’re plotting their real estate fortunes.

  32. If the MSM ever made a mistake that wasn’t slanted in one particular way, i.e. anti government, republican and especially the military, perhaps, the ignorence defense might work, but of course the mistakes are always one way whether it be fake memos from 1973 or flushing the Koran down the toilet.

    Huh? Seriously. The fuck?

    Our pernicious liberal media sure did a great job getting to the truth of WMD, didn’t it.

    Tell me again how they slanted that against the government, republicans and military?

  33. Of course it’s impossible to blame Newsweek solely for 19 deaths. However, if useless anecdotes mean anything:

    In the last month or so I’ve gotten more than 30 emails/review submissions complaining about one of the free copies of the Koran on my site.

    It’s not the best translation; I admit that. It is by far the best public domain translation that Project Gutenberg has digitized (and I’ve reformatted.)

    I’ve gotten emails about it fairly routinely in the past, but more on the lines of 3-5 a year. Were I something other than a pulp site who happens to have most of the Gutenberg Project reformatted into PDFs and Mobipockets, etc., I’d probably beg and cajole one of the copyrighted translation sites to let me mirror… daily. But I’ve got other things to do.

    I do think, since the time of that Newsweek article, things have been stirred up; though it’s simplistic to blame anything so complicated solely on them (and for that matter… there was more to the Indian Mutiny… but this post is long enough already.)

  34. Collin: “You honestly believe the press in not cheering for a Vietnam like outcome?”

    Matt: “Yes. I honestly believe that the U.S. press is not cheering for a decade-long war that kills 58,000 Americans.”

    Matt, I think you are evading Collin’s question. He asked about a Vietnam-like *outcome* – eg, US military retreating, coming home with tail between legs, with no honor, with nothing approaching anything that can be described as “victory”, a black eye for the Bush admin, etc., etc. I’m not a gambling man but I’d bet a high percentage of your “300 American journalists” would have been thrilled with that outcome as early as the summer of 2003, never mind after a decade.

    Addendum: The story has been retracted.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=aSz0b2unbOik&refer=us

  35. Matt,
    Hobson nailed it, a frequent pattern in your modes of argumentation. Like substituting your own particularly narrow interpretation of a shorthand term widely used in many contexts, having in general usage a broader connotation.

    Of course much of the mainstream press wants a Vietnam-type outcome (NOT 58,000 dead) or a Watergate-type outcome (NOT presidential resignation on an August afternoon, turning over the office to an un-elected VP former Congressman from Michigan).

    The history of using journalism as a means of leveraging public opinion and perceptions of history in ways that makes the military look bad, the exercise of American power throughout the world in ways they disagree with, proving that those in power are corrupt or deceitful, etc. Poorly worded here because of haste, but many practicioners of journalism get their thrills playing gotcha and pushing their agendas.

    I have known many journalists, a few household names, and there is no doubt about their motivations and proclivities.

    Oh yeah, and the speaking truth to power thrill kind of gets softened when a Democrat is in the White House. Clinton, what corruption, nothing to see here. Looky, what a bunch of nasty enemies he has, looky over there!

    In your narrow definition they are not motivated by a primal desire to see America fail. But the effect of their desires is to see the some elements of the American power structure fail in ways that do harm to certain American interests and the general public. Simply collateral damage, not their fault. Pity the poor, imperfect republic that occasionally elects people with agendas that do not conform to the media party line.

  36. “let’s save a drop or two for commentators who have encouraged their readers to believe the falsehood that professional reporters have been showing up to work all these years to carry out a specific agenda to undermine America.”

    Is that really the yardstick we should be judging by? Or is having an agenda to damage the Administration, and a reckless disregard for whether their actions have the effect of undermining America’s war effort, enough to prove the case? Because if it’s the latter standard, I suspect many journalists meet it.

    I’m having a hard time believing those in the fourth estate don’t understand the basics of propaganda. Hence, most probably understand the enemy’s primary propaganda themes are designed to delegitimize the war effort, sap public support, and invite international condemnation of US actions. The main points are:

    • America is fighting an illegitmate war;
    • US leadership is incompetent and corrupt;
    • US military is despicable and weak;
    • US military regularly commits war crimes;
    • The American people should not support the war; and,
    • the US should quit.

    The war coverage suggests many reporters think any story that reinforces one of those memes is a “scoop” and newsworthy. The Newsweek incident clearly points up the relatively low standard needed to publish anti-American stories, despite the fact that those making the allegations have a motive to lie, a history of similar assertions, and captured AQ manuals show they’re trained to make false claims of abuse.

    Is eagerness to help America’s enemies make their propaganda points “a specific agenda to undermine America”? I don’t know . . . but it sure seems to qualify as “useful idiocy” at least.

  37. If the MSM ever made a mistake that wasn’t slanted in one particular way, i.e. anti government, republican and especially the military, perhaps, the ignorence defense might work, but of course the mistakes are always one way whether it be fake memos from 1973 or flushing the Koran down the toilet.

    Right. How far and how fast did the dreaded “MSM” run with the Saving Private Jessica Lynch story, vomiting back the most heroic accounts available, however wrong they might have been? How closely did the NYT vet Judith Miller’s pre-war reporting? (It was so bad that now they’ve finally had to back away from it.) Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such obvious cases of confirmation bias.

  38. The lefty MSM seems to thrive off problems for the US. Example: I watched PBS newshour last night and the reporter who was/is embedded with the US military in the western Iraq operation was interviewed (and wrote the death of a squad bit). It was billed as an explaination/recap of what happened in that operation. If I had only listened to her report this is what I would have learned about the operation:

    US failed to set up its bridging operation and delayed its attack. US took fire from mortors.

    US squad faced better equipped (‘outgunned’) foes that killed 2 and wounded many others in house to house combat. No mention of any enemy death, wounded or captured.

    That squad was then ‘destroyed’ by a mine. All killed or wounded. No mention of any sucessess.

    US found no terrorists nor any weapons after the combat in any of the other towns or villages.

    Terrorists in open control of other towns. US too weak to move against them.

    That was it. No mention of anyone captured/killed. It sounded like a complete failure of the US.

    Does that sound unbaised to anyone?

    The MSM serves the Terrorists. If they does this unwilliningly or not it does not matter. The MSM rushes to report in gory detail any bombing or killng the terrorist do (even though they know that this is the whole point of the bombing is to get media attention) and drag their feet to report anything that puts the US military or gov’t in a decent light.

    Bah, why not delay the bombing report for a day or two? Why not try some real reporting that does not directly aid the terrorists?

    Maybe then the public would start to trust the media once again.

    As of today they appear to be short-sighted self-serving slimes who are interested in only tearing down those who are actually trying to do good in the world.

  39. If the media wanted to undermine the war effort, they could do a much, much, much better job of it. Both my local newspapers and all of my local TV coverage is filled with soft-focus shots of “noble heroes” fighting evildoers with one hand and caressing Iraqi babies with the other. Not to mention the “inspirational” stories about wounded soldiers returning to the frontlines….

  40. Hi, SR.

    Just want you to know you’re the reason I’m reverting to my previous handle.

    Well, you and the poster “spd.”

  41. “Bah, why not delay the bombing report for a day or two? Why not try some real reporting that does not directly aid the terrorists?”

    duh. because this would go against the entire point of having a fifth column, silly!

    “the public” is about as amorphous as “the media” – and about as meaningless.

  42. Matt writes: “if the story was reported better, we wouldn’t be here.”

    Well, actually, we probably would, except Newsweek’s sin would be framed differently.

    People would be complaining that they ran the story *at all*, instead of ignoring it. Similarly, these people would have preferred that the Abu Ghraib scandal be swept under the rug.

    As for the flushing of a Koran, I’d think that in the context of an interrogation, it’d make more sense to tear chunks out and flush it incrementally, to make the process take longer, and create an incentive to cooperate to save the intact portion.

    And I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘toilet’ referred to something significantly more primitive than a designer potty from Kohler.

  43. “Bah, why not delay the bombing report for a day or two? Why not try some real reporting that does not directly aid the terrorists?”

    Probably because “real reporting” would require leaving the Green Zone, which they cannot safely do.

  44. Isikoff is the guy who was sitting on the Lewinsky story.

    Isikoff was the guy who uncovered the Lewinsky story. I was under the impression that it was his editors who were sitting on it — did I misremember that?

  45. Matt,

    I don’t mean the government should shut down Newsweek, I mean people should stop reading it and the market should take care of it. The fact remains that, even by your account, they made at most a couple of phone calls and a cursory check of the story’s veracity and ran it. They would have never done that had it involved a story they did not want to print, like a race crime or a hate crime. The media will take what amounts to a local murder story in Matthew Shepard and cover it to death because it tells the story they want to hear and makes them feel like they are showing the poor dumb masses the right leasons. The media will then ignore stories that don’t fit their pre-conceptions; hate crimes committed by the wrong groups, shells with nerve gas being used by the insurgency in Iraq, ect… This story fit their pre-concieved notions, military bad, U.S. oppresive, so they ran it with no regard for the consiquences. In fact, the story was ran percisly becuase it would have bad consiquences for the U.S. and in the world of the MSM, that is a good thing, not a cause for any pause or reflection.

    I don’t know what media you people watch, but in the lead up to the war MSM was anything but supportive of the WMD claims. Sceptics got huge play. Its some pretty interesting rewritting of history going on here. The whole focus leading up to the war was on WMD, with the media hardly endorsing the veracity of the claims and ignoring the other justifications given for the war, human rights, violations of numorous security council resolutions.

  46. Susan’s post tells one thing, once you tell a lie, you can’t retract it. Islamists and their left wing sympathizers in the West will be claiming that this was story was true and only retracted after government pressure from now on and nothing is going to convince them otherwise or get them to stop using it as propaganda. It might as well be true. But I guess Matt Welch is right, Newsweek has nothing to answer for and a quiet we are sorry is good enough.

  47. Jesse,

    Yeah, you’re right. Isikoff was the one gathering the information; his editors were the ones responsible for the decision to print that information. So I guess the comparison I’m hoping to see is how the processes the Newsweek editors used in these two instances (Lewinsky vs. Loo) stack up.

    Of course, with all the heat being generated by this story now it will probably take some time to find this out. Both sides are spinning at a furious rate. Time to hunker down and wait this storm out…

  48. Hi, SR.

    Just want you to know you’re the reason I’m reverting to my previous handle.

    Well, you and the poster “spd.”

    If you’re attached to “SP,” I’d be willing change my signature. For a small fee, of course. After all, we are not Communists. 😉

  49. “I don’t know what media you people watch, but in the lead up to the war MSM was anything but supportive of the WMD claims.”

    maybe not supportive…how would you turn “fellatio” into an adjective? or an adverb? i get those confused.

    fellatively?

  50. I should point out that I’ve been posting here almost daily for 7 months or more, so I’m not sure why there’s suddenly confusion about handles.

  51. The media will take what amounts to a local murder story in Matthew Shepard and cover it to death because it tells the story they want to hear and makes them feel like they are showing the poor dumb masses the right leasons.

    Explain the excessive coverage of Terri Schaivo, that damn runaway bride or Laci Peterson. None of those fit into any typical liberal agenda and were covered to death.

  52. I don’t think the media is ‘hoping for America to fail’. Bias is more insidious than that. If you believe in your heart of hearts that the war is wrong, doomed to failure, and if your biases run to thinking that the military is full of thugs and rednecks and people that make you feel icky, then when a source comes along that confirms things you already believe, your natural skepticism drops and you tend to be more credulous.

    The right wing press did it will some of the WMD stories, and the left does it with stories critical of the administration, the military, and the war.

    A good example is the media reaction to the SwiftVets (without getting into the merits of their arguments), compared to their treatment of people who came forward to claim that Bush was a draft dodger. The Swiftvets said something that most in the media really, really didn’t want to believe. So they went into full-on investigative mode, trying to find anyone to discredit them, refusing to run stories until they had ‘balance’ and numerous corroborating accounts, etc. A reporter from the Boston Globe went on the News Hour and snottily informed the guests that the story wasn’t being reported because it didn’t meet the lofty confirmation requirements of the mainstream media. Maybe those silly bloggers could run it because they didn’t fact-check anything, but the serious media never reports anything unless they have indisputable evidence.

    But hell, when Dan Rather has a shady source produce a questionable document, by God they had to run with it, because they already knew it was true. The document was just confirmation of what everyone in the news room already believed. And when this story came to Newsweek, they ran it because it confirms their own prejudices about how the military behaves.

    As for whether they actually want the war to be lost, I’m sure some on the extreme ends do. I’ve been following this controversy on some left-wing message boards, and the comments there run the gamut from “fake but accurate” (this source may have been wrong, but everyone knows the military does stuff like this all the time), to outright glee that America has had its nose rubbed, and now maybe everyone would see the true colors of this imperialistic administration. Plus a smattering of people who have been hoping for a military disaster because it will teach America not to meddle in the world and prevent future military adventures. I’m sure there are at least some in the media who share these sentiments, given the overwhelmingly liberal makeup of most reporters.

  53. dhex,

    Try “blowjobvious”.

  54. I have it on good authority that Newsweek did, in fact, cause the riots. Except it wasn’t the koran story.

    The problem was that South Asian subscribers were upset when their free clock-radios turned out to be cheap pieces of crap.

  55. I can’t take charges of bias seriously from someone who complains that the media are on the wrong side. Note the Reynold’s doesn’t complain that the media has taken a side. Merely that they’ve, allegedly, taken the wrong side.

    Yeah, he’s deeply concerned about media bias.

  56. Fritz, Hobson — I wasn’t trying to evade the “outcome” issue; it actually didn’t occur to me that the focus on the term was “pullout.” Is there a significant portion of the U.S. media that backs a pullout from Iraq, at least in their hearts? Probably; guessing wildly I’d put it at 35% or something. But I don’t know if you could put Isikoff in that camp; he’s always come across as a hard ass.

    And Fritz — I never said Newsweek has nothing to answer for.

    As for this:

    The Newsweek incident clearly points up the relatively low standard needed to publish anti-American stories, despite the fact that those making the allegations have a motive to lie, a history of similar assertions, and captured AQ manuals show they’re trained to make false claims of abuse.

    The allegations in the Newsweek story, unless there have been developments today I haven’t seen yet, originally came from a U.S. government official, not enemy propagandits.

  57. The allegations in the Newsweek story, unless there have been developments today I haven’t seen yet, originally came from a U.S. government official, not enemy propagandits.

    See, the 5th column is even more entrenched than we realized! The terrorists have infiltrated the government as well as the media!

    OK, to be serious, let me pose this question: The MSM is being bashed for allegedly not doing enough fact-checking before going public. Fair enough, but let me ask the bloggers this question: How would a blogger handle it?

    Since most bloggers don’t have the same extensive contacts and army of reporters and interns and fact checkers as a typical major news magazine, I always understood that the blogosphere relies on “distributed expertise”: A story starts to circulate, and as it circulates more and more people with different backgrounds and areas of expertise weigh in on it.

    That’s certainly how Dan Rather’s memos were revealed as fakes. It wasn’t any single source that persuaded me (indeed, there were a few supposedly knowledgeable people who initially said that the right kinds of typewriters were available in the 1970’s). It was the sheer volume of evidence: Such typewriters, though available, were rare; no typewriter had the same combination of features; it was a perfect match to Microsoft Word; it didn’t use appropriate military jargon; etc.

    So my understanding is that the blogosphere’s way of operating is not to sit on stories. Rather, it’s to let information circulate and be exposed to analysis by many different people.

    Anyway, the point in all of this is that, as I understand, the blogosphere’s approach to this story would have been to let it circulate just as Newsweek did. The provocative nature of the claim suggests that it would have circulated quite widely in some circles. Some angry guy in South Asia still could have picked up on the story and started telling people, local newspapers could have then run with it, and the whole sordid affair could have unfolded in the same way.

    I don’t know that the blogosphere approach to reporting would be any more responsible than the approach of consulting a few government sources to verify. It would still get out.

  58. Thoreau, that’s one of the sharpest comments I’ve seen on this affair.

  59. To those people out there who keep repeating the “People Died” or “Riots happened” because of this article, maybe you should check with Gen Richard Myers who said :

    “It’s the — it’s a judgment of our commander in Afghanistan, General Eikenberry, that in fact the violence that we saw in Jalalabad was not necessarily the result of the allegations about disrespect for the Koran — and I’ll get to that in just a minute — but more tied up in the political process and the reconciliation process that President Karzai and his Cabinet is conducting in Afghanistan. So that’s — that was his judgment today in an after- action of that violence. He didn’t — he thought it was not at all tied to the article in the magazine.”

    Lecturing others about integrity! Please!

    This is just another example of this administration attacking any detractors. The only story here is that a source changed his/her story after it went to print. I’d wager that someone leaned pretty heavily on someone to change their tune.

    And now the Bush admin is going to lecture the media about using sources that aren’t top notch?? Maybe tomorrow I we can get the President of Uzbekistan to lecture us on human rights?

  60. Thoreau,

    That’s why (as I commented much earlier in this thread) the thing that’s depressed me about this whole affair is the reaction to a story about a book being flushed down a toilet. Regardless of how the Newsweek vetting and publishing process plays out, we’re still left to deal with a world with cultures that will riot and murder if they believe someone disrespects their holy book. Improving Newsweek’s accuracy won’t do all that much to address the much deeper problem of a culture that lashes out violently over symbolic provocations.

  61. Greg, &al.:

    Whatever you may believe, the Qur’an is not merely “a book” — not to me, nor to 1.3 billion other people on this planet. It is the Word of God, as revealed through His Prophet [pbuh]. Your disagreement with that belief, whatever sense of intellectual superiority it may afford you, is not going to change our minds, nor will it lessen the violation we feel when we hear of its desecration. I find your callous disregard for our faith and its signifiers nearly as insulting as any overt act of sacrilege to the Qur’an itself — and far more condescending.

  62. Yusef,

    My comments are not meant to denigrate your beliefs. I recognize that that millions of people look upon the desecration of Islam’s holy book as a serious affront. What I am pointing out is the sad fact that when confronted with an upsetting report on the descrecration of a copy of the the Koran, the reaction is to riot and murdered. I would have the same reaction if Christians responded similarly to a symbolic descration of the bible – or Americans to the burning of a U.S. flag.

    Again, my dismay does not stem from a feeling of intellectual superiority – and I acknowledge the understandable offense taken when peoples’ deeply held beliefs are insulted. But understanding that people are offended doesn’t mean I will condone a violent reaction to that offense. There are hundreds of millions of copies of the Koran in the world. If people are going to riot any time a copy is abused, then I think there is a real problem in how they are reacting. If your belief system requires that kind of response – and I’m not saying that it does – then I think that is a serious problem since the level of provocation necessary to achieve a violent response is very easy to achieve…

  63. Yusuf AbdulHakijme:

    It is the Word of God, as revealed through His Prophet [pbuh]. Your disagreement with that belief, whatever sense of intellectual superiority it may afford you, is not going to change our minds, nor will it lessen the violation we feel when we hear of its desecration.

    Actually, it may not be a matter of self-defined “intellectual superiority” (I presume you’re implying everyone appalled by the riots is an atheist?) as much as simply having a different holy book. With all due respect to your beliefs, the Koran is not the Word of God to myself or 4.7 billion other people on this planet.

    It is not “callous disregard” for anyone here to condemn murderous riots by Muslims because of a supposed sacrilege (assuming that to be the real cause, which is shaky at best). One wouldn’t expect any less disgust in this forum at mass Christian violence, mass Jewish violence, or mass violence by members of any other religion in response to an accusation of sacrilege.

    In fact, the real condescension is among those who simply don’t expect any better of Muslims – and that response is admittedly out there.

  64. “The allegations in the Newsweek story, unless there have been developments today I haven’t seen yet, originally came from a U.S. government official, not enemy propagandits.”

    Nonsense. There’s no doubt the initial allegations came from detainees (and weren’t new). The “government official” supposedly saw a government investigation report that corroborated some of those stories. The “government official” wasn’t claiming to be the initial source, nor to have any particular knowledge of the event.

  65. Its so sad to see all the All-american types being duped into fighting a war to make the middle east safe for Israel. See this to start to understand what has happened.

    I have no beef with Israel per se. I just don’t like a small group of fanatics with a strong pro-Israel bias controlling our foreign policy.

    Start thinking like a patriot, not as a “hero” for someone elses cause.

  66. “Its so sad to see all the All-american types being duped into fighting a war to make the middle east safe for Israel.”

    More nonsense. Israel isn’t the driver and never was . . . 9/11 is. And it’s a lot more plausible that the day after the attack, those in charge of war planning started flipping through the latest Patterns of Global Terrorism report, thumbed to the section entitled “Overview of State-Sponsored Terrorism,” and found the following:

    Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan continue to be the seven governments that the US Secretary of State has designated as state sponsors of international terrorism.

    At that point, those with ties to Islamic fundamentalist groups were singled out for special treatment, with predictable results. Arguing about whether the chosen course of action is reasonable is perfectly legitimate . . . trying to float a latter-day version of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is not.

  67. On the reaction to “Koran Abuse”:

    As I understand it, the Koran holds an even loftier place in Muslim theology than the Bible does in Chritianity. While the Bible is the word of God, in many ways the Koran IS God. In Christianity, Jesus was God Become Flesh, while in Islam, the Koran is God become Word.

    So the appropriate question to ask is not “Would Christians go nutso if someone was accused of abusing a Bible,” but “Would Christians go nutso if someone was accused of abusing Jesus?”

    Which is a question that’s been pretty conclusively answered at this point.

  68. “Would Christians go nutso if someone was accused of abusing Jesus?”…Which is a question that’s been pretty conclusively answered at this point.

    I’ll double-check Google News, but I haven’t heard of any violent Christian riots over claims Jesus-abuse, lately.

    But if there have been some that I’ve missed, well, there you go. I’m no more going to respect, excuse, or condone Christians for that sort of immoral idiocy than I would Muslims. I respect the faiths of others, but that respect stops well short of justifying savagery.

  69. the most important thing in my view is not whether it is really true or not, but rather the fact that it sure SOUNDS credible.
    in short, all the official denials can’t help in defusing the fundamental fact that it’s all too believable. after Abu Ghraib, after the lies that brought us the war in the first place (latest revelation the Downing Street memo on the meeting where ‘fixing the intelligence around the policy’ was discussed), who’s going to believe the denials? i know i don’t believe them…i think far worse things are likely to have been done at Gitmo. and ‘inflaming Muslim passions’ is really such a big concern? is everybody REALLY REALLY SURE about that one?
    but it’s true that there’s a lot worth critizicing about the US press…its uncritical support of the pre-war lies for one thing, and its meek , downright shameful, silence about the most damning revelations having come down the pike ever since.
    oh yeah, they don’t report all the ‘good news’ from Iraq, right? the problem there seems to be that no journalist in ‘free Iraq’ dares to venture one inch out of the ‘green zone’ anymore, for fear of getting shot or kidnapped. travelling the 5 mile stretch from Baghdad to the airport sets you back a cool 35 grand these days! so much for how ‘good’ the news from the place are.
    the scandalous Downing Street memo meanwhile should be front page news if the US press really did its work. the fact that it isn’t, says a lot more about the press than the Newsweek report on ‘Koran flushing’ not having been properly ‘vetted’ with the ministry of war propaganda.

  70. “but it’s true that there’s a lot worth critizicing about the US press…its uncritical support of the pre-war lies for one thing, and its meek , downright shameful, silence about the most damning revelations having come down the pike ever since”

    Puh-leeze. Go read some of the actual source documents (e.g., the Duelfer report) and tell me how the MSM is soft-peddling it. The shameful truth is that Saddam was flouting the UNSC resolutions, dabbling with WMDs (complete with experiments on human guinea pigs), and maintained secret laboratories and cover-up operations to the end . . . just like the pre-war “lies” suggested. The admittedly erroneous intelligence estimates of Iraqi stockpiles that has dominated the media coverage does not change those basic facts, nor does it negate Iraq’s abject failure to abide by its international agreements. And the fact that you can’t learn any of that by reading the NY Times treatment of the subject is further evidence of biased coverage by US media.

  71. “the most important thing in my view is not whether it is really true or not, but rather the fact that it sure SOUNDS credible.
    in short, all the official denials can’t help in defusing the fundamental fact that it’s all too believable.”

    The truth is irrelevant – it’s how it SOUNDS. It’s a “fundamental fact” is it? Please post some more gems like that, Pater…

  72. thoreau,

    But good bloggers, with their habit of transparency, would have been more honest about how little they knew. Rather than making the story sound bulletproof, a good blogger would have said:

    An anonymous source with whom we have spoken has claimed that the Koran flushing incident was coming out in an upcoming report. We were not able to see the report, so we asked two other anonymous officials about this allegation. One had no idea what we were talking about. The other was silent on the allegation. When we asked him why [something Newsweek hadn’t bothered to do], he said he just didn’t know anything about the report. We went back to our original source and asked him if he had actually seen the report. He said that he thought he had seen this allegation somewhere, but he was not sure it was actually from the upcoming report.

    Not very impressive verification. By the time the blogger got through writing this, with all the caveats, he’d probably hit the delete button before ever publishing. Which is what Newsweek should have done.

    But if the blogger had published the allegation this way, it would at least have been honest and forthright.

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