Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Strawmen are fun to attack!

Stephen Green, berating the dreaded news media, quotes a phantom headline:

It's not fair to run headlines like "Battle Deaths Continue to Mount"

And then riffs on it thus:

It's not fair to run headlines like "Battle Deaths Continue to Mount." No shit, Sherlock? A real story would be, "Battle Deaths Decline as Fallen Soldiers Miraculously Resurrected." It's fair to question Bush's policies. It's not fair to act as a conduit for enemy propaganda. It's fair to ask if Iraq is draining resources from our efforts in Afghanistan. It's not fair to complain that Afghanistan isn't perfect yet. It's fair to complain about indecencies at Abu Ghraib. It's not fair to virtually ignore atrocities committed by the other side everywhere else in Iraq.

But our media, aware of their power but ignorant as to its uses, would rather play "gotcha" than provide critical perspective.

Aside from the utter silliness of these strawmen arguments (who, exactly, is arguing that Afghanistan is not perfect and is thus a failure? How does noting that barbarians are barbarians add "critical perspective" to the atrocities at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo, and -- God knows -- elsewhere?) there's the very minor point of the headline. In a very long blog post with footnotes (!) Green somehow can't manage a link to a story entitled "Battle Deaths Continue to Mount."

I wonder why? Is it because the headline does not exist?

Here's a Google search. Nada.

Then I did a Lexis-Nexis search for past two years on that phrase appearing in any newspaper, or magazine or anywhere, ever. Nil.

You're doing a helluva job attacking the non-existent press, Stephen. Keep up the good work.

P.S. This doesn't mean I don't think there are legitimate complaints about coverage of terror and the war. Let's just be honest about it, OK?

Which leads to Stephen's stab-in-the-back conclusion, which is about as low as you can get.

When a nation loses a war, it looks to punish the people it believes are to blame. After Vietnam, neither Washington nor our Armed Forces were ever the same again. But if we lose this Terror War, our media will be seen as largely to blame. They'll suffer blame for their ignorance and for their petulance. They'll suffer blame for seeing al Jazeera as comrades closer than the privates and NCOs and officers fighting to protect the First Amendment. They'll suffer blame for putting their hatred of a Republican President before their love of country. Whether that assessment is fair or not, it is how the public will see things.

Then the public would demand changes. And they'd probably get them, courtesy of a government looking for scapegoats, real or imagined. Should that day come, we'd lose our free press, and we'd lose our freedoms. We'd lose our country.

You could write a thesis debunking this crocodile-teared assertion. I suppose we'll lose Iraq not because Bush and Cheney and Wofowitz and Rumsfeld and Bremer and everyone else involved in the non-planning for postwar Iraq are to blame. No, no. We'll lose because the press had the temerity to point it out.

UPDATE: Excellent thoughts from Matt Welch:

So, if I'm getting the general vibe of the pro-Pushback crowd right, it's "fair" to declare that the U.S. media (and those who have the temerity, or should I say derangement, to believe that the White House manipulated pre-war intelligence), are deliberately (and again, monolithically) trying to lose the war by siding with America's enemies ... but it's "not fair" to print the headline "Battle Deaths Continue to Mount."

Or maybe it boils down to this -- it's OK to say that "Newsweek lied, people died," but don't you dare say such a thing about the guy who actually commands the world's most powerful military.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 12:50 PM

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