Car bombings and other musings
Tuesday’s car bomb rattled the windows here in our little campus around the Hamra, but that was about it. Obviously, there were a lot of people who were not so lucky.
But I don’t really want to talk too much about the car bomb, at least not as an event. Over the last week, as I’ve been running around for TIME, I’ve been wondering just where the distrust of the mainstream media regarding Iraq comes from.
For instance, this story from the _Washington Post_ is excellent. The scene is vivid, the reporting is fair, the anger of the Iraqis and the reactions of the Americans are all there. Edward Cody, who is NOT Arab as far as I know, reported this story at a pretty significant risk to himself (there’s no shirttail indicating that stringers contributed to the piece.) It even has historical context that I’ve seen nowhere else:
Although no bloodier, Monday’s blast in the capital carried significantly more political meaning than its predecessors. It erupted from the point where Saadoun Street flows into Liberation Square, a central Baghdad traffic circle laden with the history of modern Iraq, from heroic sculptures commissioned by the country’s former dictator, Gen. Abdul Karim Qassem, after he overthrew the British-imposed monarchy in 1958 to the spot where, one decade and several coups later, Saddam Hussein had 14 Iraqi Jews hanged on espionage charges.
U.S. soldiers, backed by Bradley Fighting Vehicles, had returned and closed off the area by midday, while forensics specialists combed through the charred wreckage. The cordon caused a giant traffic jam as cars spilled off Jumhuriyah Bridge into the square. And it presented passing Iraqis with the spectacle of four U.S. soldiers — kneeling in the unforgiving sun, their M-16s ready, concertina wire coiled in front of them — just under the looming panel of carvings that Qassem ordered up to depict Iraq’s emergence from foreign domination.
That’s some good stuff! And kudos to Edward and the _Post_ for running it.
So I guess my question is, why is there such a widespread feeling that _the media_, as it’s all lumped together sometimes, is worthless? Two recent comments brought this question to the fore for me:
“Good to read an impartial view of what’s afoot over there, as I don’t believe a word of the news most of the time. Thanks.” — kat
“Its good to see what is actually going on in iraq and not follow the spoon fed media of western sociaty.” — Solaris.M.K.A.
After reading stories like the _Post’s_, I have to ask these two commenters — who are just being used as examples only — well, why not?
I’m not trying to pick a fight, but this is a question that has puzzled me since the beginning. I mean, _I’m_ not impartial; I’ve revealed my anti-war feelings from the get-go. So why is B2I considered more credible than others? Other journalists are on the ground here, too, so it’s not just authority by way of location.
My suspicions are that the problem — as usual — is television news. I’m an unabashed print snob, the medium for this site notwithstanding, so I think the coverage from most television networks is inferior to the prose from the scribblers. (To be fair, the TV guys here are working under a lot of restrictions. Their home offices don’t want them going out and doing much, especially at night. They have to travel in large, conspicuous groups with expensive equipment, which makes them prime targets for bandits and other nasties. Also, the medium itself doesn’t lend itself naturally to in-depth stories in a 30-minuted newscast.)
I think maybe television’s omnipresence is somehow making people think _all_ media are somehow complicit in some truth-hiding conspiracy. But I don’t know how this dynamic works. That’s what I’m trying to find out.
I should also say at this point that the people who support the war and accuse me and other journalists of never reporting the good news are not really the target audience on this post. They seem convinced that _the media_ are all left-wing stooges there to make “our boys” look bad. Well, trust me, there isn’t that much good news to report, and our reporting of the violence that kills people and threatens the U.S. global standing is a bit more important than feel-good pieces based on dubious statistics put out on anonymous emails lists. Also, “our boys” can make themselves “look bad”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000778.php without our Commie help. No, my questions are mostly aimed at the people on the _left_ who feel they’re not getting the “real picture” somehow.
So here’s my honest question: Why do you think _the media_ are not telling you the truth out of Iraq? What do you think the truth is? Why do you believe that the truth is what you think it is? And who is _the media_ to you?
Feel free to either email me your responses or — better — leave them in the comments. I’m genuinely interested in knowing all y’all’s thoughts on this. (And yes, right-wingers and pro-war folks are more than welcome to take part!)
UPDATE 10:09 AM +0400 June 16 Hell, the questions are asked of pro-war and right-wing folks as well. The more the merrier.