Accuracy in Media

After the fall of Baghdad, Accuracy in Media was one of the first to question coverage of the supposed plundering of the National Museum of Iraq. The leftist media had whipped itself into a feeding frenzy over the alleged failure of the U.S. military to prevent the looting of thousands artifacts from museums in Iraq. The claims varied from 170,000 missing artifacts to as many as 270,000.

All the usual suspects from the liberal media seemed to be vying with each other to lodge the most serious charges against the U.S. The BBC and the New York Times and Times columnist Maureen Dowd competed with the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times to levy the most outrageous allegations against our military. Comparisons were made to the looting of Baghdad in the Mongol invasion of 1258. labeled the looting “the lobotomy of an entire culture” and the “end of civilization.”

To the liberal media, all the fault lies with the failure of our military to adequately guard the treasures, not with the Iraqi mobs doing the looting. The media dredged up a Duke University professor alleging that coalition forces may have violated the Geneva Convention by failing to safeguard cultural property. The Washington Post aired allegations that the U.S. military was more interested in protecting oil than Iraq’s cultural heritage.

The media’s looting stories are now known to have been wildly exaggerated. Instead of 200,000 missing artifacts, the number seems to be more like 33. A museum reportedly destroyed during the looting frenzy is set to reopen. Most of the so-called missing artifacts have been found, stored in secret vaults to protect them from harm. Museum officials did their job, which was to hide the most important treasures at the first indication of war.

After the initial hysterical stories, a few media outlets, including the BBC, began to reduce their estimates of the losses. The BBC and the Los Angeles Times pegged the final losses at about 3,000. Some wires put the number closer to 50 and the Washington Post finally reported the missing artifacts numbered only 33. The Post’s media critic Howard Kurtz devoted a column to the media’s exaggerations and the media’s glee at bashing the Bush administration. He also lamented the media’s unwillingness to correct the mistaken impression created by the hyped stories. He said “The news business has just sort of moved on without even murmuring an apology.”

Kurtz is correct, but he avoided the most likely explanation for the media’s distortions. Roger Kimball, writing on the Wall Street Journal’s Web site, got it right when he attributed them to “the great patches of anti-American sentiment” that has infected much of the media. He cites one reporter from The Guardian, a leftist U.K. daily, as saying: “You cannot say anything too bad about the Yanks and not be believed.” Recall that as you read stories about the missing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

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