bitter sanity

Wake up and smell the grjklbrxwg, earth beings.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

[posted by jaed at 6:03 PM]
Press puzzle
I don't think the press is unbiased. I think that the culture of the world press is such that its members can generally be expected to oppose us in this war and to romanticize our enemies, and that media outlets express this bias in choice of stories, in level of coverage, in the wording of stories and headlines, and in all the things we refer to as "positioning".

However, I have never thought that they've been hiding information from us - at worst, I've thought that they've presented an overall picture that's out of touch with reality, burying certain stories and hypiing others. I've never thought that there were actual facts they were refusing to report at all.

I may have been wrong. (And I can't tell you how much I dread the implications.) Zeyad reports that there were anti-terrorism demonstrations in two major Iraqi cities last week:
Huge anti-terrorism demonstrations were held in Nassiriyah yesterday by students association condemning the attacks on the Italian force carrying signs such as 'No to terrorism. Yes to freedom and peace', and 'This cowardly act will unify us'. I have to add that there were similar demonstrations in Baghdad more than a week ago also by students against the bombings of police stations early this Ramadan.
I heard nothing of these demonstrations. And I follow the news on this matter more closely than most people do.

Had I simply missed the reports? Perhaps they weren't given prominence. I did a Google News search on Out of curiosity, I did a Google News search on "demonstration Nasiryah" (with a couple of variations on the spelling of "Nasiriyah") - but the only mention I found of anti-terrorist demonstrations was in the Telegraph, in a story datelined Baghdad:
A demonstration was planned at the blast site by local Iraqis to show support for the Italian presence but in the end only a handful of people turned up.
I tried a similar search for demonstrations in Baghdad, and got plenty of hits, but they all concerned anti-American demonstrations (in Baghdad and London).

Now remember, Zeyad lives in Baghdad. It's unlikely he'd think there were demonstrations if there weren't. I've got no reason to think he might be making this up. But there are no stories. As far as I and Google News can tell, there are none - not one mainstream English-speaking news organization picked up what is, if true, a significant event that can give us insight into the complexities of Iraqi opinion. Which, you'll admit, is an important story.

I don't know what to think of this. But the implications are making my blood run cold. As a polity, we are far, far too dependent on a few reporters living in Baghdad luxury hotels and on their willingness to report the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it is for them. If they're not willing to do that, this small group can effectively drop Iraq down the memory hole.

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