July 05, 2007

When Does a Massacre Matter?

I just sent the following to Associated Press Director of Media Relations Jack Stokes and the Associated Press Board of Directors.

When does a massacre matter?

I ask this question, because on Thursday, June 28, The Associated Press—and to a lesser extent, Reuters, and a small independent Iraqi news agency—ran stories claiming that 20 decapitated bodies had been found on or near the banks of the Tigris River in Um al-Abeed, a village near Salman Pak, southeast of Baghdad, with sectarian violence strongly implicated.

There were no named sources from this story from any media outlet, and the two anonymous Iraq police officers cited in the widely-carried AP account were nowhere near the scene of the alleged massacre, with Um al-Abeed being roughly 12 miles from the southeast edges of Baghdad, and Kut being 75 miles away, respectively. Further, in the Associated Press story by Sinan Sallaheddin, the massacre claim itself was purposefully distanced for the dubious location of the anonymous police officers by an account of a bombing in Baghdad.

This claimed massacre never happened, and was formally repudiated by the U.S. military on Saturday, June 30, who ascribed the claims to insurgent propaganda. To date, the Associated Press has refused to print a retraction or a correction for this false story, just as it has failed to print a retraction for previous false beheading stories.

Apparently, correcting misinformation you've disseminated ranks low on the list of Associated Press priorities.

At the same time, the Associated Press has refused to run the story of a verified massacre in Iraq discovered on June 29 and supported by named sources, eyewitness statements, and photographic evidence provided by noted independent journalist Michael Yon in his dispatch, Bless the Beasts and Children.

I would like for the Associated Press to formally explain why they are willing to run thinly and falsely sourced insurgent propaganda as unquestioned fact without any independent verification, but refuses to publish a freely offered account by a noted combat corespondent that some consider this generation's Ernie Pyle.

Is it because the massacre documented by Yon was conducted by alleged al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists, and could not be ascribed to sectarian violence? It certainly could not be because of cost, as Yon has offered both his text and pictures to any and all media outlets free of charge. It could not be because of a question of validity, as his account was photographed, videotaped, and witnessed by dozens of American and Iraqi soldiers, some of them named, who could easily be contacted by the Associated Press for independent, on the record confirmation.

Why is the Associated Press willing to run the claimed of a false massacre on June 28, but unwilling to report a well-documented and freely-offered account of a massacre that was discovered just one day later?

I await your response with interest.

Actually, I don't expect a response at all, but if they should respond, I'll be sure to publish it.

Sadly, I think Glenn's source is correct.

07/06/2007 Update: Actually, it's a non-update: 24 hours after sending the letter above to various Associated Press directors and their director of media relations, the Associated Press has not responded in any way, shape, or form.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at July 5, 2007 09:12 AM

AP == AQ Propaganda

Posted by: Purple Avenger at July 5, 2007 09:54 AM

Glen's source is blunt, but frighteningly accurate. The media is like the husband who comes home and beats his wife because he gets picked on by his boss.

Displacement (psychology)- In psychology, displacement is a subconscious defense mechanism whereby the mind redirects affects from an object felt to be dangerous or unacceptable to an object felt to be safe or acceptable. For instance, some people punch cushions when angry at friends; a college student may snap at their roommate when upset about an exam grade.

Displacement operates subconsciously and involves emotions, ideas, or wishes being transferred from their original object to a more acceptable substitute. It is most often used to allay anxiety.

In scapegoating, aggression is displaced onto people with little political power such as minority-group members.

Displacement can act in a chain-reaction, with people unwittingly becoming both the victim and perpetrator of displacement. For example, a man is angry with his boss, but he cannot express this so he hits his wife. The wife hits one of the children, possibly disguising this as punishment (rationalization). The child kicks the dog.

Though displacement is usually used to refer to the displacement of aggressive impulses, it can also refer to the displacement of sexual impulses.

Posted by: BohicaTwentyTwo at July 5, 2007 10:40 AM

Very unusual -- I'll be looking for a reponse as well...

Posted by: Orlin at July 5, 2007 01:44 PM

I'd be more interested in discovering how much stock in AP is owned by Saudi Arabians. Also, how many of the upper management staff are of Middle Eastern origin.

Posted by: RebeccaH at July 5, 2007 01:51 PM

RebeccaH: I think you're confusing AP with Reuters.
The Associated Press, according to their own account "is a not-for-profit cooperative, which means it is owned by its 1,500 U.S. daily newspaper members. They elect a board of directors that directs the cooperative."

They are owned by their newspaper members, so they are owned by the people who own local newspapers: Dow Jones, Gannett, the Times Company, Times-Mirror, etc. etc.

Reuters on the other hand, is indeed owned by a private company in which stock can be purchased, and I think - but have no source to cite - that there is a strong Saudi connection.

Posted by: Ko Rection at July 5, 2007 02:05 PM

Don't hold your breath waiting for a response from those lying fools, unless you look good in blue. AP won't report anything they believe puts a positive light on the Bush administration and a negative one on the enemy. They obviously have chosen sides, and it ain't us, folks.

Posted by: MacCarroll at July 5, 2007 02:07 PM

Thanks for staying on top of this. The AP will eventually have to acknowledge the al Hamira massacre if people keep up the pressure. "This generation's Ernie Pyle"? Yes. I agree.

I hope the AP responds.


Posted by: MichaelB at July 5, 2007 02:25 PM

Why don't we ALL start emailing them about it?

Posted by: DaveS at July 5, 2007 02:33 PM


Posted by: Orson at July 5, 2007 02:43 PM

AP, Reuters... let 'em rot. No informed intelligence grants either one a grain of credibility. Whoever's interested can garner all relevent reporting, complete with links, directly off the Web. Old media --print and TV-- are worse than useless, incompetent propagandists for murderous Islamic terrorists, like Yeats' "Leda and the Swan" (qv).

Over decades now, insolent twerps miscalled "journalists" have devalued "network news" well below zero. How odd, that no competitor has arisen to provide integrity and talent... maybe Michael Yon could start an agency.

Posted by: John Blake at July 5, 2007 02:51 PM

I guess they figure that it evens out in the end: to them, one massacre is pretty much like another, so the one they wrongly reported makes up for the one they didn't report.

Posted by: John Rohan at July 5, 2007 02:54 PM

I just sent the following to Associated Press Director of Media Relations Jack Stokes and the Associated Press Board of Directors...

Would you care to share their email addresses (or did you go snail mail)? The only email on their site -- "For general questions and comments;or to contact a specific employee" -- is an 'info' address ... which, I strongly suspect, is deleted unread.

Posted by: Paul in NJ at July 5, 2007 03:13 PM

What about the simpler explanation that the decapitation stories are simply far more sensational than what appears to be just another terrorist attack in a country that has seen so many?

Posted by: jim at July 5, 2007 03:27 PM

What about the simpler explanation...

So fake sensationalism trumps actual news? Sweet.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at July 5, 2007 03:38 PM

As noted above, the AP is a co-op owned by media companies. These Media companies own your local newspapers.

I suggest we print the above letter, with permission of course, and forward it to the advertisers in our local papers. Advertisers like the car company that flys that huge American flag. Lets see if those flag waving companies will truly support America and boycott newspapers that use AP to dessiminate al Queda propaganda.

Posted by: Joel Mackey at July 5, 2007 03:57 PM

The real reason that AP does not retract their false stories is because there is no price to pay for spreading falsehoods. if papers refused to buy their product, if politicians kicked AP out of press conferences, and if consumers refused to buy their product until they cleaned up their act, then they would change so fast it would make your head spin.

Posted by: Harry at July 5, 2007 04:00 PM should try emailinging it to the A.P. hacks AND cc: as many members of congress as possible at the same time.

Maybe if twenty or thirty Reps and Senators, probably none of whom are the least aware of this pattern of deceit by the AP, contact them there will at least be some public acknowledgement by A.P. of it's indefensible misrepresentations and bias.

Posted by: bubba at July 5, 2007 04:42 PM

I'm asking this not as a taunt but as something I really don't understand, having been following events only loosely: why does the media fail to follow Yon's reliable report of a massacre, while at the same time reporting another, false, massacre story? It seems to contradict the notion that there is a basic interest to hide or report such stories.

Posted by: John at July 5, 2007 04:50 PM

"What about the simpler explanation that the decapitation stories are simply far more sensational than what appears to be just another terrorist attack in a country that has seen so many?
Posted by: jim at July 5, 2007 03:27 PM "

Mate, read Michael Yon's dispatch - many of the victims, including children, were beheaded. there is a gruesome photo just of the heads.

Posted by: pete m at July 5, 2007 05:08 PM

Ko Rection: I think, too, there might be some confusion between Reuters and UPI. UPI used to be owned by an Arab corporation which included some Saudis, but mostly Lebanese and, if I recall, some Libyans. But that was at least 10 years and probably five sales ago. I don't know who owns UPI these days but the organization has clearly seen better days. It seems to be shifting its operations to the provision of video imagery.

Reuters (and Agence France Press) make use of a large number of local stringers and full- and part-time local staffs in their operations outside the UK. This allows them to get far more placement for stories with bylined names that look familiar to local media (and therefore that media's readership). Whether this is direct cause/effect for the slant of some stories or represents a real difference in how the same story is seen from different vantage points is left to the student to determine....

Posted by: John Burgess at July 5, 2007 05:27 PM

why does the media fail to follow Yon's reliable report of a massacre, while at the same time reporting another, false, massacre story? It seems to contradict the notion that there is a basic interest to hide or report such stories.

Yon's story doesn't damage Bush, indeed it helps make his case.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at July 5, 2007 05:44 PM

Whats the difference between a catfish and AP?

One is a slimy, foul-smelling bottom feeder, and the other is a fish.

Posted by: Dave at July 5, 2007 07:34 PM

Er. . .actually, the mainstream media is more like the completely unharmed wife, who is not only allowed to make false accusations of abuse against her innocent husband and get away with it, but even profit from doing so.

The sadly ironic part is how that far superior analogy does not even appear on the radar of most commenters or readers directly because of years of exactly the same kind of biased propaganda by the same mainstream media. A similar lying favoritism is consistently shown towards wives and mothers in particular and females in general, in comparison to the near-universal blaming, condemnation and dehumanization of husbands and fathers in particular and males in general.

Even the conservative cartoonist team Cox & Forkum engaged in father-bashing this last Father's Day, characterizing fathers as being more interested in the tax write-off benefits their children provide than in being loving and caring fathers -- see , and

The mainstream media treats the troops, republicans, conservatives, and so on much as it consistently treats men in general, and just as graphically differently from how they treat the communist dupe protestors, democrats, liberals, and so on, and women in general.

I think that the less that people use examples straight out of that same mainstream media axis of bigotry -- against the troops, republicans, conservatives, and men in general -- to illustrate their points, the better off we'll all be.

At the very least, let's not further reinforce their influence over us by repeating their bigotry for them. Please.

Posted by: Acksiom at July 5, 2007 08:41 PM

Advertisers provide essentially all the income that news providers get. They choose the providers based on circulation figures.

AP sells news stories that may or may not be true. False news stories do not reduce circulation any more than true news stories raise circulation. They just need to be stories about whatever is in style this week. The newspaper doesn't even need to worry about being sued because that is AP's problem.

Retractions are a pain in the neck and embarrassing. So they don't happen. Or if they do, they are buried where they don't get noticed.

Think about the way western journalists work. They go to a different country and sit in a hotel. If they were to go to where things were happening, they might get shot. So they pay "stringers" to tell them things that the journalists don't check on. The journalists write it down, send it in and get paid. The editor,who may have never met the journalist, much less the stringer, rewrites the story so it looks better. He adds a picture and sends it to newspapers. Another editor makes sure that it fits in the paper between furniture, Frosted Sugar Breakfast Bombs and disposable diapers. This frequently involves cutting something crucial out.

So, the story goes from the stringer to the journalist to the editor to the other editor to the reader. What are the odds that it is accurate? The stringer never reads it, and he is the only one with who can judge. There is little evidence to suggest that these stringers are devoted to the truth, a lot of evidence to support the idea that they have agendas, and none at all that they are adverse to picking up a couple of bucks with a bogus story.

The hometown newspaper owned by Conglomerated Media has a staffer who thinks that the stringer is wrong. What can he do? The local management doesn't have the authority to fire AP or send his own correspondent overseas.

Nobody cares whether the stringers are correct except for news junkies like you and me.

Posted by: Yaakov Watkins at July 5, 2007 09:52 PM

Sinan Sallaheddin is responsible for another piece of fiction CLICK HERE

Seems to be a pattern here. Maybe some investigation is in order.

Posted by: Roguewarrior100 at July 5, 2007 10:46 PM

The AP's e-mail addressing protocol is "first initial""last name"@ap.оrg. So Jack Stokes' e-mail address is jstokes@ap.оrg and you can deduce the rest of them from that.

Posted by: Gaius Obvious at July 5, 2007 11:32 PM

Not to go too off-topic of this worthwhile letter and thread, but Acksiom, you make an excellent point, and I appreciate the consciousness-raising.

My heart goes out to all American men and boys in these emasculating times.

Posted by: Carol at July 6, 2007 12:21 AM

Most of the media make up a self selected elite in western societies. As such, they are separated from (and consider themselves above) ordinary folks and their opinions and experiences.

urthermore, too many are "professionals" - meaning people who take journalism courses from leftists and "progressives"/transnationalists and then, without even experiencing the real world, proceed to tell us everything from their "enlightened" perspective.

All too often, they develop what they call a "narrative" about an event and then stick with it in the face of all evidence. Naturally, a narrative which satisfies their inborn biases is chosen - one which casts conservatives and especially Bush in a bad light.

Try to imagine what America would be like with a balanced and responsible media. It wouldn't remotely resemble what we have today.

Posted by: John Moore at July 6, 2007 12:41 AM

Of course one could copy some of AP subscribers' advertizers with CY's post, supra.

Posted by: BigGeorge at July 6, 2007 01:27 AM

Linked and dugg.

Posted by: K T Cat at July 6, 2007 08:38 AM

I'm going to bring down all manner of verbal abuse on myself by observing two points:

1. The AP report is not demonstrated to be false by the evidence given here. That evidence consists of a) a challenge to the reliability of the sources; and b) a denial by the US military. This suggests to me that the report is unreliable -- but not false. I looked up the AP report and it is difficult to ascribe any political motive to it. The report states: "Sporadic clashes had been under way in the Salman Pak area for several days, between Interior Ministry commandos and suspected insurgents, the Kut officer said. It was unclear whether the discovery of the bodies was related to the recent fighting."

2. The report by Mr. Yon is equally unreliable in its attribution of the massacre to al-Qaeda. While the massacre itself is undeniable, the attribution to al-Qaeda comes from anonymous sources.

The only strong conclusions we can draw here are that a) there was definitely a massacre as reported by Mr. Yon, but we don't know who did it; and b) there might have been a massacre as reported by the AP, but that report is unreliable.

I note that the Web has lots of chatter about this story, but it strikes me as a tempest in a teapot. There's no evidence here to support any conspiracy theories.

I apologize for using a false email address, but until I have established that there aren't any dangerous wingnuts here, I'd rather play it safe.

Posted by: Erasmussimo at July 6, 2007 09:29 AM

I think it is because Yon is not inside the MSM network. To give credit to Yon would be giving credit to the NSM [New Stream Media] and they say the MSM always does the heavy lifting in news. Also the NSM has become the place to get accurate news and it along with radio have become very powerful. Witness the Illegal Alien bill in the House. This is part of the culture wars that have been going on. Yon does not fit the agenda of the MSM and it's "reporting".
Also this New Media needs it's own acronym. I just thought NSM because it was quick, easy and a slam on MSN :) so how about a contest?

Posted by: Darrold at July 6, 2007 10:50 AM

Erasmussimo seem to want to know how we can know that the AP-recorded massacre was fake, and how we know the massacre Michael Yon wrote about in "Bless the Beasts and Children" at al Ahamir was real.

The first is rather easy to answer: we know that the Associated Press account of 20 decapitated bodies on the banks of the Tigris is false because--hang on to your hat--there was not so much as a single decapitated body on the banks of the Tigris river where the massacre allegedly took place. Local Iraqi police couldn't find them, not could their American advisors. Nor could helicopter search teams that swept the area repeatedly.

It simply never took place, just like previous stories of mass decapitations that never occurred.

As for whether or not al Qaeda committed the massacre Yon documented, I'll like Mike answer that himself:

Like many things in Iraq, the question of whether or not the murderers were al Qaeda is flawed from beginning. Al Qaeda is not a union, it doesn’t issue passports. What is al Qaeda but the collection of people who claim to be al Qaeda? Those responsible for murdering and burying those bodies in al Ahamir (or al Hamira) had the markers of al Qaeda, the same al Qaeda that had boastfully installed itself as the shadow government of Baqubah. The al Qaeda who committed atrocities in Afghanistan, New York…the list is long. As for al Ahamir, the massacre “walks like a duck.” It happened in duck headquarters. The people here say the duck did it. The duck laughs.

The Associated Press ran a poorly-sourced story because it fits their conception of what we should expect in Iraq, and helps to refresh the narrative with which they are most comfortable. Likewise, the massacre Yon uncovered eats into their preferred story of a war where we're only in the way of sectarian violence, and al Qaeda largely doesn't exist except because we are there.

We weren't in al Ahamir, and yet, al Qaeda struck anyway.

That is a reality they'd much rather avoid.

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at July 6, 2007 11:37 AM

Confederate Yankee, thanks for filling in additional information on the search efforts. Where did you get that information? It seems to me that, inasmuch as the date of the massacre is indefinite, the discoverers of the bodies would most likely have buried them immediately, in which case a perfunctory search would have found nothing. I'm not claiming that this is what in fact happened; we just don't have enough information on this to draw any conclusions. Perhaps AP should have written more uncertainty into their story. Again, I see no reason to impute dark motivations to their story.

As to the role of al-Qaeda in the other massacre, the only evidence presented is that the massacre "looks like" an al-Qaeda operation. That's pretty slim evidence. How does an al-Qaeda massacre differ from a Shia massacre or Sunni massacre? What are the "marks" to which Mike refers? Like the Um al-Abeed massacre, we just don't have enough information to draw any solid conclusions.

Posted by: Erasmussimo at July 6, 2007 11:50 AM

the discoverers of the bodies would most likely have buried them immediately

And then promptly forgot they did it, failed to note an identifying marks or ID so relatives might be subsequently found, carefully disguised the fresh graves so nobody would notice them, and then faded into the woodwork, right?

Sure, I can buy that.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at July 6, 2007 11:53 AM

I repeat myself:

I'm not claiming that this is what in fact happened; we just don't have enough information on this to draw any conclusions.

Posted by: Erasmussimo at July 6, 2007 12:12 PM


The sources are really, really bad. Let's just say they are very clearly rumor-based. It's a friend of a friend story if there ever was one.

Also, the body burying objection falls apart on examination. Bodies decompose and begin to reek quickly in hot weather. Have you seen the Mythbusters episode about Jimmy Hoffa? They buried two pigs in concrete, and the smell rose up extremely fast despite the thick concrete. Only a layer of silicone sealer kept the odor down.

If the bodies were taken elsewhere, there would have been some other record or evidence. (Decapitation creates a large bloodstain)

The AP was careful not to lie or omit the sources, but I think the reporter must not have wanted to wait for more verification or to run with an uncertain headline

Posted by: OmegaPaladin at July 6, 2007 01:34 PM

Let's just say they are very clearly rumor-based. It's a friend of a friend story if there ever was one.

Most definitely! This one is just too vague to draw any strong conclusions from.

Posted by: Erasmussimo at July 6, 2007 07:15 PM