June 23, 2008

Network News: If We Can't Lose The War, We'll Act Like It Doesn't Exist

Someone please tell CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan that her reaction is precisely the reaction her peers are shooting for:

"If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts," Ms. Logan said.

Logan admits here a common complaint about the kind of news reported out of Iraq for the duration of the war, which is a macabre focus on blood-soaked sensationalism to the near exclusion of any other sort of story.

The newsworks (to perhaps coin a phrase) have never been interesting in reporting all the news, a fact that far predates television. News outlets—both state-controlled and private—have had a propaganda role throughout history. What may be unique among western news organizations is an often obvious desire to present only one side of the story, even when they have the option of objectivity. They are guilty of providing propaganda just as state-run media often are, but are often blind to this, confusing the biased views they advocate with "truth."

This bias is often wrongly blamed upon the political leanings of a news outlets ownership. In days past (and perhaps in the New York Times present), family control over an outlet may have strongly influenced the focus and bias of news organizations, but the modern reality of corporate news ownership, with organizations and divisions of news organizations being bought, sold, fragmented, consolidated, and always for sale, has rendered that argument laughably simplistic and out of date.

No, in the modern era where news is viewed by "suits" as another potential revenue stream and not a public service, "news" is pushed to be shallow infotainment providing immediate gratification. It is under this pressure-cooker environment that producers, editors and journalists are forced to drop even the pretense of objectivity and produce news quickly, cheaply and sensationally. This pressure brings personal biases out in sharp relief. Journalists, which have self-defined themselves time and again as being left-of-center in their world views and based in bias-reinforcing left-of-center urban enclaves, pushed by business-oriented ownership focused on ratings, have succumbed to their baser instincts, leading us into situation where news is reduced to little more than a veneer of political advocacy attempting to guide the public on how they should think about current events. From global cooling global warming global cooling climate change, to views of conflicts, the proper application of diplomacy, and even the kind of lightbulbs we use, the media attempts to shape how we think by presenting the news they deem newsworthy from a perspective they deem correct.

Reality, however, does not have a leftward bias (neither does it have a rightward bias). Reality, like nature, seeks equilibrium... balance.

The reaction of the newsworks is simple when reality intrudes on the narrative: they dispute it, then they ignore it, and if they can no longer ignore it, they pretend that they never held a contrary position.

Presently, the falloff in news coverage in Iraq is the result of media attempting to ignore that the "quagmire in a failed state" narrative they've been promoting has been failing for over a year.

According to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall, a television consultant who monitors the three network evening newscasts, coverage of Iraq has been "massively scaled back this year." Almost halfway into 2008, the three newscasts have shown 181 weekday minutes of Iraq coverage, compared with 1,157 minutes for all of 2007. The "CBS Evening News" has devoted the fewest minutes to Iraq, 51, versus 55 minutes on ABC's "World News" and 74 minutes on "NBC Nightly News." (The average evening newscast is 22 minutes long.)

CBS News no longer stations a single full-time correspondent in Iraq, where some 150,000 United States troops are deployed.

I'm sure that psychologists have more precise terms to describe this collective behavior, but it comes down to this: the situation in Iraq is far better than the media have predicted it would be, and they aren't sure what to do. They don't want to report success, as success means having to explain why they've been wrong. They also morbidly hope—no doubt subconsciously—that things will once again turn worse, and vindicate their years of predicting doom and failure.

So coverage withers away. The war becomes a non-event, and thankfully, a Presidential campaign between a far left shape-shifter and an occasional Republican provides a welcome distraction.

The War in Iraq is plenty interesting to Americans. That has never faded in five years, and most would be heartened to hear what independent reporters have been indicating for months; that real progress has been made economically, diplomatically, and militarily.

But the newsworks doesn't want to admit they may have been wrong, and so their interests have now focused eslewhere. They don't want to undermine a political party that long ago made abandoning Iraq a key part of their party platform. They don't want to expose a shameful candidate who has made defeating his own military and abandoning a fledgling democracy his signature issue.

From their perspective, it is better to provide only the bad news, and when the bad news fails to live up to expectations, to ignore the uncomfortable.

Damn the news. Send in the clowns.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at June 23, 2008 09:18 AM

War? What war? Obamamessiah has ended war. Did you not get the memo?

Posted by: twolaneflash at June 23, 2008 09:40 AM

Shucks da war iz ova, den Iz gess it b ok
2 say Otay!!!

Posted by: Gator at June 23, 2008 10:21 AM

Your essay is right on. Basically, objective reporting doesn't pay very well in the mass media.Today, only the vettings of MSM stories by right wing bloggers are worth reading (most of the time), if truth is what you're after. This process takes time and is not immediately available to most people. But it does get out there, sooner or later. Yours and other like minded blogs are doing a great service to the US and the world. Yes you are.

Posted by: mytralman at June 23, 2008 10:37 AM

"[news media] are as guilty of providing propaganda just as state-run media often are, but are often blind to this, confusing biased views they advocate with "truth."
Finally. I much prefer this description of news media's "bias." Comparing it to state-run propaganda is brilliant.

Posted by: DoorHold at June 23, 2008 10:41 AM

If the MSM is afraid to report on the stunning success in Iraq, then why is it that there's much less reporting on Iraq than in 2005, when levels of civil war violence were pretty much the same as they are now?

What seems to have actually happened was that the MSM bought the "surge is working" line, and has stuck to that mantra to the point of ignoring the horrors of Iraq. MSM coverage of Iraq started falling in early 2007, when the surge was causing more people to die. The MSM doesn't want to cover the news from Iraq, good or bad, and there's still a lot more bad news than "good."

Also, to be fair, the MSM lost interest in Iraq once the Democrats gave up on trying to end it. If the Democrats were not spineless wimps, the MSM would be covering the issue of how bad Iraq is, exactly, with "good news" and "bad news" a major focus. Since nobody really wants to pull out American troops (except most Americans and Iraqis, but who cares about them?), the MSM considers it a non-issue.

Posted by: T.B. at June 23, 2008 10:53 AM

The MSM's interest in Iraq peaked at the time of the surge, with dozens and dozens of stories of how "it won't work" and "the war is lost" (see Harry Reid). Once it became clear the surge was working, the Iraq stories began decreasing.

Now Iraq pops up only when there are U.S. casualties to report, or a particularly successful suicide bombing claims a number of lives. Even in these cases, the coverage is little more than a line or two on the evening news.

The reduced news coverage coincides with the shift from "Iraq = failure" to "Iraq = victory". Only none dare say the "V-word", as it might work to the disadvantage of the liberals who have hung their collective hats on defeat.

Posted by: Just Askin' at June 23, 2008 12:18 PM

You, T.B. help make the writer's point. It is not a "surge is working line." The surge is working. Iraqis are beginning to defend their own government, and they have handed Iran a stunning defeat.

Of course, the surge caused more people to die in 2007, because our forces were on the attack. Before the surge our enemies were causing people to die.

Victory is still in the future, but at least it is a possibility now. It is much better to be us than our enemies now. Before the surge the situation was reversed. We have shown ourselves to be the "strong horse" not Al Qaida.

Iraq was supposed to be the Democrats' main campaign issue, and when they were unable to engineer our defeat, their MSM handmaidens pretended it no longer existed.

Posted by: James at June 23, 2008 12:26 PM

Iraqis are beginning to defend their own government, and they have handed Iran a stunning defeat.

Ah, so you're not aware that Maliki is more pro-Iranian than Sadr and that we therefore helped Iran consolidate its influence in the area (with some help from Iran, which threw its weight behind its puppet Maliki against Sadr, who is less reliably pro-Iranian).

Of course, the surge caused more people to die in 2007, because our forces were on the attack. Before the surge our enemies were causing people to die.

But was it really worth all the extra Iraqis killed by the surge, just to help Iran gain influence in Iraq? And of course violence didn't fall to horrific 2005 levels due to the surge, but due to Sadr's cease-fire in late August 2007 (after which violence finally dropped after the surge failed to curb violence) and our appeasement of our former enemies in Anbar (proving once again that appeasement works).

Iraq was supposed to be the Democrats' main campaign issue, and when they were unable to engineer our defeat, their MSM handmaidens pretended it no longer existed.

Except that coverage of Iraq started falling in early 2007, when the surge was making Iraq much worse. So the chronology is wrong; the MSM was committed to pretending the surge was working, and has kept up the pretense no matter what the facts on the ground.

Posted by: T.B. at June 23, 2008 12:35 PM

The only problem is Iraq was supposed to be the 'golden ticket' for Democrat Marxists. Now that issue is becoming drill now and the no-drill Democrats, the fortunes has suffered a reversal.

The final straw is the sun, that is not cooperating with the global warming hoax script and has gone quiet. The best laid planes of Democrats often go awry.

Comrade Obaam is flailing about for a thought.

Posted by: bill-tb at June 23, 2008 12:58 PM

How many innocent Iraqis do you suppose would have died if the U.S. fled in defeat, as Reid, Obama, Kennedy, Murtha, and Pelosi had hoped?

Do you remember the MILLIONS of desperate So. Vietnamese boat people who died fleeing the communists. Or how about Khymr Rouge, Pol Pot nightmare in Cambodia?

You sound as bias, dis-loyal, and ignorant as the MSM tools. Sadr is living in Iran in exile, to be securely safe from Maliki's ISF. Where do you get your facts, from CBS or NBC or Daily Kos??

Posted by: bl at June 23, 2008 01:23 PM

"but due to Sadr's cease-fire in late August 2007"

And why did Sadr call for a cease-fire? Because he was getting his ass handed to him. Had we not have gone on the attack he would have continued pushing, and nothing would have changed.

Posted by: Matt at June 23, 2008 06:45 PM
Where do you get your facts, from CBS or NBC or Daily Kos??

More likely, straight from Baghdad Bob himself.

Posted by: C-C-G at June 23, 2008 06:49 PM

They don't want to report success, as success means having to explain why they've been wrong. That's a valid point, but there's a far more urgent reason for the abandonment of reporting on Iraq.

That is, since the 2000 election the prevalent lefty mindset of the MSM has been looking for a weapon to attack the President, and in their coverage of the Iraq war they've found one, driving his public approval down to nearly Congressional lows.

The Iraq invasion was launched with the overwhelming approval of both houses of Congress, and essentially created a national task for the US of regime change and a stable society for the new government. The media, in its savagely biased coverage, immediately set to work painting the effort as a horrible mistake, a quagmire, the fault of neocons and particularly the Bush administration. The painting worked, and cynical Democrats embraced defeatism as their road to power - at the expense of that national task, and at the expense of long-term future hopes of a civilized Middle East.

No matter. The generation at the helm of the MSM hoped, and hopes, to relive the lefty seizure of Congress after Vietnam, and the only flaw in the scheme is the current trend of success of the national task of stabilizing Iraq. Publicize that as if we're actually succeeding, and all those military casualties were not in vain?

Hell, no! The public might be reminded that we were united in 2003 in undertaking the task, and that by perseverance and some damn smart military work we might be united again in success, after surviving the best efforts of Al Qaeda AND the bulldozers of public opinion in the MSM. And that's why the reporting is diminishing like an icecube in the Mojave - folks might actually express appreciation to the Bush administration for succeeding. And hand the defeatist Obama with a well-deserved drubbing in the coming election.

Can't have that, can we. No we can't.

Posted by: Micropotamus at June 23, 2008 08:00 PM

Very good analysis, Micropotamus.

May I just add that in their zeal to cover up the good news from Iraq, they are signing their own death warrants, because the "alternative media" (talk radio, blogs, and to some extent Fox News) are getting the word out themselves. The people then look to the MoveOnMedia for similar stories, and don't see them, thereby losing trust in the MoveOnMedia.

It's a vicious cycle, too... because as the MoveOnMedia sees trust eroding, they scramble even more for what they see as their core customers, the rabid lefties (most of those in the MoveOnMedia live in the same lefty bubble that Obama comes from), and as part of that scramble, they bury the Iraq success stories even deeper. Thus they lose the trust of their audience even more, and are completely clueless about why.

Posted by: C-C-G at June 23, 2008 08:56 PM
“Ha ha hahaha! The Iraqis believed us then when we said American GIs just stood by, allowing everything in the Iraq National Museum to be looted. God, how our false reports infuriated them.

“Iraqis who might have welcomed the Americans, Iraqis who might have joined in the liberation, probably killed Americans instead, thanks to the rage we generated in that long-running story.

“Maybe we should set the record straight. Maybe we should apologize.”


“Ha ha hahaha!”

The room fills with an echoing laughter.

Posted by: Neo at June 24, 2008 08:01 AM

And now we understand a fundamental weakness of both terrorists and liberals: if you simply persist, both will flee.

Both are asymmetric engagement creatures, which may explain some of their closeness in behavior and ideology. Terrorist use an asymmetric engagement because of disparities in projected force: they'd be slaughtered in a full front-on engagement, lacking the personnel and resources. Instead, they hit and run.

The mainstream media also suffers an incapacity to stay engaged, though in their case it appears to be a problem staying with reality that doesn't fit their narrative. Throw in a population that is likely suffering disproportional levels of ADD and you've got a propensity to overreact and misrepresent when the narrative is sympathetic, and to disappear when it's not.

The most curious thing is the symbiosis of the terrorist/journalist connection is damaged simply by not giving up, and instead showing rigid persistence and commitment. Once that's done, the terrorist loses his audience, communicated by his journalistic parasite which feeds upon the terrorist's activities. Lacking an audience and realizing committed, unrelenting opposition, the terrorist leaves.

To the dismay of the mainstream media, they may inadvertently be partially to thank for the success of the surge.

Posted by: redherkey at June 24, 2008 09:03 AM

There are millions of American military family members and veterans who are living the "Changes" going on in Iraq and elsewhere. W has brought "Change" with a capital C to the Middle East. America has planted a Tree of Liberty in The Garden of Eden, fertilized it with the blood of Patriots and tyrannts, and nurtured it to life despite the best efforts of enemies at home and abroad. Nothing succeeds like success, and the best revenge is to live well. I pray for the good life for free Iraquis, and for the humiliation of those who endeavoured to prevent it. This should be the start of a period of renewed pride for liberty-loving Americans, but I know the usual suspects will make every attempt to steal the joy.

Posted by: twolaneflash at June 24, 2008 10:23 AM

CY, I hadn't actually noticed the decline in coverage since I don't watch TV news most days, but I trust the numbers you present are accurate. I think you were right on when you said that today's news is basically controlled by whatever the bosses think will sell. I feel that the rest of the post ignores this basic insight, however. The reason for the decline in coverage was simply that, after several years of war coverage, hearing about innocent people getting blown up -- still the most common daily news coming out of Iraq -- got boring and depressing. There's a term for this, "war fatigue," and I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner. Personally, I am pleased with the decline in violence in Iraq, and the apparently debilitating blows struck recently against both Sunni and Shiite opponents of the government. Correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I've read Maliki is going about confiscating guns from the citizenry (the guns that Saddam reportedly let them have), which should put a dent in the ability of insurgents to shoot government/US troops. Sadr's allies will likely be restricted or even barred from participating in government. The end result will probably be a semi-democratic regime that plays a balancing act between friendship with Iran and compliance with the USA. I'm not sure if that's what we went to Iraq to accomplish, but I suppose it's an improvement over Saddam. Most of the doctors left Iraq a couple of years ago; any word on whether they're coming back yet?

Posted by: Nate at June 24, 2008 11:10 AM

And when I say Maliki "is going about" confiscating guns, I mean of course that he is asking other people to do it for him. (Iraqi or US troops?)

Posted by: Nate at June 24, 2008 11:11 AM

Not since Benedict Arnold has someone so close to the height of power in American government invested so much in her defeat as the Democrats have in the present war in Iraq.

Posted by: twolaneflash at June 24, 2008 05:10 PM

There may be an alternate explanation ..

Photos: Lara Logan Sex Scandal, "Laura" & Michael Ware Make the Tabs .. h/t

.. I gues they had other "affairs" [pun intended] to mind.

Posted by: Neo at June 27, 2008 08:56 AM