Accuracy in Media

It is interesting how quickly all the sniping and second-guessing about the military campaign plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom evaporated from the liberal media. Recall how reporters and commentators worked themselves into a frenzy over supposed flaws in the plan at the first sign of resistance to the coalition advance. Many claimed that the advance had stalled, that military planners had to go back to the drawing board and so on.

By the end of the second week of the war, however, it was clear that these reporters had been misled by their “sources” and their own anti-war biases. Coalition forces were in the outskirts of Baghdad and none of the dire predictions of quagmire or another Vietnam had come to pass. Two weeks into the war, the U.S. had suffered only fifty-one killed in action and British forces less than thirty.

That prompted one British military expert to wonder where all of Iraq’s soldiers were hiding. As he noted, people get killed in wars, but the casualty rate in Operation Iraqi Freedom is currently less then one tenth of one percent of those engaged. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld continued to warn of hard fighting ahead, but the progress of the war put the lie to the gloom and doom early predictions of much of the liberal media.

Meanwhile, Baghdad Pete Arnett managed to find yet another perch from which to purvey his pro-Iraqi, anti-coalition propaganda. He hired on with the fiercely anti-American UK tabloid, the Daily Mirror. But the Daily Mirror’s circulation numbers have been dropping like a rock recently. Readers seem turned off by the tabloid’s resolutely anti-war stance. An example: the front page recently depicted President Bush juxtaposed with the Baghdad bombing. The headline: “He loves it.” It’s not clear that Arnett will help the sagging fortunes of the Mirror.

Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Times fired a staff photographer after he was caught doctoring a picture from the war zone. The picture ran on the front page of the Times and also on a number of the company’s other outlets. The caption under the picture said a British soldier was warning the civilians to take cover from incoming Iraqi fire, but the photo appeared to depict the soldier menacing an Iraqi civilian with a child in his arms. The photographer later admitted he had used a computer to merge two photographs to “improve the composition.” But as one journalism professor said, “If you can’t believe what you see, everything is suspect.”

Speaking of which, the New York Times ran a rare correction. The Times and other media outlets had jumped on a quote from a general in the war zone to the effect that the Iraqi resistance being encountered was “different from the one we had war gamed against.” This was supposed to be proof that war planners had badly underestimated their enemy. Now it turns out that the Times and others left out two words from the quote. The general really said that the resistance was “a bit” different. Not an insignificant distinction, in our view. We would modify the journalism professor’s observation a bit: “everything in the liberal media is suspect.”




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