Thursday, March 17, 2005

Hyman Wrong on "Media Bias" in Iraq

Mark Hyman approvingly summarizes an opinion piece by Lieutenant Colonel Tim Ryan, a First Cavalry Division officer in Iraq, in which the colonel complains that press coverage of Iraq is skews negative. Hyman says:

For example, Ryan asks why the media spent so much time reporting on a handful of rogues [sic] soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison yet were silent when MugtadaAl Sadr's Sharia law court sentenced 200 Iraqis to beheadings and

Hyman ends his commentary with the following nugget:

Ryan's comments have merit. When I was in Iraq, good news no great news events didn't attract the media. No New York Times, no Washington Post, no network television, no CNN or Fox News Channel. They skipped the positive stories and remained in Baghdad waiting for the next car bomb to go off. And they were giving you a skewed view of the reality of what was actually going on in Iraq.

To begin with, Ryan’s ethos is a bit undercut when you read his essay in its entirety. Here’s the colonel describing a pleasant evening in Iraq, invoking the positive imagery the media is ignoring:

In the distance, I can hear the repeated impacts of heavy artillery and
five-hundred-pound bombs hitting their targets. The occasional tank main gun
report and the staccato rhythm of a Marine Corps LAV or Army Bradley Fighting
Vehicle's 25-millimeter cannon provide the bass line for a symphony of

Yikes. He probably likes the smell of napalm in the morning as well.

More to the point, both Ryan and Hyman miss the point about what’s newsworthy. “Islamic Militants Kill Innocent People” is not much of a headline. There’s nothing “new” there. “U.S. Soldiers Torture Prisoners” is (thankfully) unusual, and hence, newsworthy. To suggest otherwise is to imply that we should have the same ethical expectations of U.S. servicemen and women as we do for fanatical terrorists. If I were feeling Hymanesqe, I’d have to wonder why Mark hates the troops so much that he would suggest they are no better than the evildoers they’re fighting.

(Note also, by the way, how Hyman slips in the idea that it was only “a handful of rogue soldiers” responsible for the torture, ignoring the evidence that torture is condoned from much higher up, both in Iraq and elsewhere).

But the premise that the media has focused on the negative in Iraq is obviously valid, even if the rhetoric here is a bit overblown, right?

Nope. At least, not according to’s annual report on the state of the news media for 2004. The report breaks down the media into classifications (broadcast news, cable news, magazines, newspapers) and does a detailed content analysis of how each type of media covered selected stories. For Iraq, the study noted that despite claims by the administration and some conservative pundits, there was no evidence of systematic distortion of the news. Stories that were neutral or of indeterminate tone far outweighed stories that were either positive or negative. While in some cases, negative stories did outnumber positive ones (e.g., in nightly news broadcasts), in others, there was a significant lead in positive stories (e.g., morning broadcast news and cable news—although in the case of cable, to be fair, Fox News by its lonesome skewed the results considerably).

But Hyman is right in suggesting that we shouldn’t simply accept what the media gives us concerning Iraq, if for no other reason than the media is operating under Pentagon restrictions that keep it from reporting the true cost of the war. And it’s clear the media isn’t doing a terribly great job since over 50% of Americans still think there were WMDs in Iraq and that Iraq was tied to the al-Qaeda terrorists who staged the September 11 attacks.

So, yes—let’s get a soldier’s eye view of the war. I suggest starting at Operation Truth, an organization started by veterans of Iraq as a means of showcasing the voices of actual troops on the ground and letting them have their say. The voices are many and varied. There isn’t a single point of view on the war that emerges. What you quickly understand, however, is the profound affect the war has had on the young men and women sent to fight it, and a healthy skepticism that the brass in the Pentagon or their commander in chief truly have the ordinary soldier’s best interest at heart.

A couple of excerpts from the site:

From Staff Sergeant Charlie Carlson--

Our government needs to be more forthcoming and truthful about what is going on in Iraq. We, soldiers, know what the truth is but the media needs to report thetruth without the government trying to bend or cover up what really is going on.

From Corporal Sean Huze--

So, here I am. I'm left with pride in my own service and the men I served with, but the sickening feeling that it was avoidable. I would gladly lay down my life for our country. Like every other man who wears this uniform, our commitment is not at issue. Call it naivety, but it never occurred to me that my country was less committed to us than we are to it. Sending us in harm's way for a lie amounts to a betrayal that may prove to be criminal. It's unfortunate that on November 2nd 59,000,000 Americans failed to do their duty and hold the administration accountable for this betrayal of the troops. A dishonorable discharge was never more warranted.

I’m just wondering, Mark: do these guys “hate our military” too?

And that’s The Counterpoint.


At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hyman said of the media, "And they were giving you a skewed view of the reality of what was actually going on in Iraq." Let's take a little closer look at the media role before and during the Iraq war.

The unbelievably traumatic events and images of 9/11 pervaded the thoughts and minds of the American people with simultaneous feelings of grief, anger, fear, helplessness, anxiety, sympathy, patriotism and confusion. Bush and the Republicans exploited this vulnerability of Americans to their advantage with a great deal of help from the media.

They made it unpatriotic in America to be anything other than Republican. No voice of dissent was tolerated as evidenced by what happened to Bill Maher, The Dixie Chicks and a host of others who dared to speak out. Hell, they even scared Madonna into canceling her music video that was critical of this administrations rush to war!

They stood behind the Bible wrapped in the American Flag and fanned the flames of anger and patriotism, whipped the American People into a frenzy of nationalism and pointed them in the direction of bin Laden, and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

No one could question that we had every right to bring bin Laden to justice or to take justice to bin Laden. All of America was behind the war in Afghanistan and catching Osama, but it turned out to be a giant bait-and-switch scheme from getting Osama, to a war for oil, money and regional influence in Iraq.

They enlisted their own media machine including Sinclair and the semi-legitimate media to sell America and the world two big lies. The first big lie was that there was a link between Saddam's Iraq and the events of 9/11 when no link existed. The second lie was that Saddam had arsenals of chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction ready to deploy, including huge stockpiles of anthrax and soon they would have nuclear weapons as well.

Shortly after 9/11we were suffering deadly anthrax attacks through the mail in multiple locations here in the United States. Who wasn't looking at their mail a little more carefully then? What logical conclusions can be drawn from this? Who really benefited from the anthrax scare? Was it those who wanted the support of a frightened people for a war against a mad man known to be hoarding tons of anthrax, and for unquestioned passage of the Patriot Act?

And what was later determined to be the source of that anthrax? Did it come from Saddam's anthrax stockpiles? No, it was home-grown anthrax! Genetic testing showed that it came from our own government labs! AND NO ONE HAS BEEN ARRESTED! Visit

The effectiveness of their media machine at getting out their message and shaping the peoples perspective is demonstrated by the polls that show that a majority of the people actually believed that Saddam was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

While the Americans were preoccupied with our military chasing Bin Laden through Afghanistan, the President misappropriated nearly a billion dollars and military resources from that war effort to secretly plan and prepare for the big-money war in Iraq. This war would provide a huge payoff to the industry supplying and supporting our military, the corporations involved in rebuilding Iraq, and to the energy and oil companies.

The Bush administration with the help of the CIA gathered together any and all scraps of supporting information and then knowingly misrepresented the facts to Congress, the American people and the United Nations. They made it appear that the threat from Saddam was grave and immediate, when actually, no real threat existed.

The United Nations refused to accept Bush's attempt to sell them on this war with false evidence, but with a great deal of help from the massive Republican media spin machine, Bush and Cheney were able to sell it to most of the Congress and to the American people.

Bush ignored all the voices calling for restraint, and for allowing the weapons inspectors on the ground to do their job, and for the UN and the international community to join us. He ignored the best advise of his own Generals and others regarding troop strength and the perils that we would surely encounter in trying to establish a government acceptable to all the Iraqi people in the wake of the invasion. With the help of the media they nudged, pushed, prodded and shoved this country into an immoral, ill-conceived and unjust pre-emptive war in Iraq.

Once they started the war they conducted it as if it were one huge photo-op with hundreds of imbedded (muzzled and controlled) reporters that were never really allowed to show the true face of the war to the American people. It was no secret that any journalists trying to work independently could be targeted by our forces. On the other hand, the Iraqi people and the entire Arab world were seeing the horrors of this war up close and in bloody graphic detail every day on the Arab satellite television networks.

Well, I guess Hyman was right when he said, "And they were giving you a skewed view of the reality of what was actually going on in Iraq." He and his ilk have been very busy inventing their new reality and selling it to us for years now, and it's way past time that we call them on it!

Thanks ted, and keep on bustin' Hyman!

Mike B. in SC


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