SHOOT THE MESSENGERS
Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.
What’s black and white and red all over?
The blood-soaked headlines, the negative news reports, and the pessimistic press coverage sprints ahead at full gallop. Live from Iraq: it’s the Meme of the Month. Didn’t you hear? The country is in the midst of a calamitous downward spiral into Civil War. (All things considered, it’s really not much of a war and it’s sure far from civil.) But Al Jazeera said so. Or was that CNN? Is there really even a difference anymore?
It's true that much is indeed still amiss in Mesopotamia. (Not at all like that flourishing human rights Babylon of yesteryear.) But the seemingly random violence persists -- local politicians quibble over minutiae and squabble over militias; public cynicism is steadily on the rise as foreigners stealthily infiltrate the porous borders with near impunity; and all while embattled authorities on the ground struggle day by day to maintain order amidst the chaos. Come to think of it, it sounds almost as bad as the Golden State.
Journalists in theater must come to acknowledge that they are participants in this conflict whether they choose to believe so or not. Far from omniscient observers, these regal noncombatants must necessarily interact with the Iraqi people if they wish to accurately relay facts home to the American public. Or in a perfect world, I should say. The messy Third World we're really living in is currently teeming with (O)J-school graduates whose investigative skills recall the Search For The Real Killers. If the narrative doesn’t fit, you mustn’t file it.
The lack of security is the story, they say. Frankly, I'd be feeling pretty insecure too if I were so lousy at my job. Do these Green Zone FOBgoblins ever emerge from their Baghdad belfries long or often enough to properly collate the Big Picture they lay such exclusive claim to? Or are they merely hunkering down and ordering in, passively relying on the local Iraqi stringers who are bylining around the block to feed them information and in the process dispensing freelancing blows to the other half of the truth that rarely bleeds but certainly never leads.
"Hello, room service? Yes, I’ll have the sectarian special, medium rare -- terrorist toast with insurgent jam -- a mosque bombing with a side of corruption, and a chilled can of diet hope. Oh, and hold the progress, please."
Am I being too hard on them? I’ll concede they volunteered for a dangerous line of work, just like their camouflaged compatriots. The rare few who dare ride along with us deal with the same dangers we face, and must learn to cope in roughly the same stoic manner we‘ve long since mastered. We just have differing yardsticks for what constitutes success, what amounts to failure, and especially what is newsworthy and what is just more of the same old story. Dog Bites Man has never before been so fit to print. But come now, let's face it. It's hard to blame someone for having no other real options in life than to join the press corps, travel all over the world, meet interesting people, and film them.
IED! Quick, who do you call first -- the wife and kids, or your editor? Okay, so perhaps not all of them are glory seeking war whores or care bearers of bad tidings who pretend to fret over the fate of average Iraqis while all but ensuring their quality of life will never improve. Take Mike Yon, for instance. Now there's a guy who tells all sides of the story -- and doesn't count Zarqawi as one of them. (Refresh my memory, which Big Media clique does he belong to again? Oh, right.)
Make no mistake -- Al Qaeda’s PR machine stands head and shoulders above our own precisely because they are so adept at using our own satellite feed bloodlust against us; our BOOM mikes recording every second of it in Dolby Surround. Terrorists target journalists because it is a sure-fire page one headline with a ripple effect guaranteed to reverberate throughout every newsroom in America. Telegraphed acts of violence beget televised recounts of violence in a vicious Circle of Death that feeds the impression that all is hopeless. Want more coverage of your handiwork on ABC? Blow up their messengers. (Drop anchor!) I’d like to see a poll taken on how many newsmen are familiar with Bob Woodruff’s ordeal, and then how many are familiar with Paul Ray Smith’s. (Paul Ray who?) The prosecution rests.
Back at the Gotham City Times, the race to the bottom to release the home team play book continues unimpeded by guilt and unburdened by conscience. Apparently, it wasn’t enough to merely undermine the war effort at every opportunity and underplay the elections at every turn. No, Al-Qaeda has now been given an above-the-fold heads up to switch their long distance call-a-friend-of-Osama plan to ATnT 10-10-2-20, which will bookend nicely with the nuclear launch codes I fully expect to find within the Arts & Leisure section any day now. Compounding their treachery, the Treason Times shamelessly highlighted the results of a "secret" Pentagon investigation identifying the vulnerable spots in individual body armor worn by every soldier and Marine currently under fire. [Note to the Gray Lady’s foreign correspondents: Your body armor likely exhibits the very same weak points]. What was it Darwin had to say about natural selection and the instinct for self-preservation? Species bound for extinction tend to lack it.
Anyone old enough to recall Mogadishu, Haiti, Bosnia, or Kosovo would be hard pressed to recall a similar level of vitriol in the press or the public for those prior haphazard military engagements that were far less relevant to the national interest than our current Middle Eastern campaigns. But at least they’re all now thriving examples of democra… oh, never mind!
Ah, the good old days. Back before Not In Our Name changed their organizational letterhead from Not On Our Radar. Can the higher cost in blood and treasure of the current conflict really explain away all of this disparity in tone? The casualty predictions made for the taking of Baghdad were breathlessly predicted by every last retired general and armchair admiral on record as being in the tens of thousands. Three years later, to still have endured less than were lost in the span of an hour in lower Manhattan is anything if not encouraging. Yet the news coverage countdown to catastrophe continues unabated, the ME-ME-MEdia quagmired in misery.
Is this what stands today as serious and sober analysis? Is it impossible to believe that incorrigible ideology is trumping age-old idealism in driving this drumbeat of BOOM and gloom? What will it take for the press to finally decide to become more enamored with the solution than with enabling the problem before their myopic defeatism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? Oh, how they all must long for eight more halcyon years of Billary.
Changing of the Drapes in the Ovum Office, World Peace Declared!
Picture a man witnessed running into a burning home after arriving on the scene to find it quietly smoldering. A crowd of onlookers has gathered outside to view the spectacle and wait meekly for the fire dept. to arrive on the scene. Moments later the roof catches fire and the heat drives the crowd back even further. By now, flame is shooting out of every window, ash and soot choking the air. The man never makes it back out. A few bystanders begin to wonder aloud: Why did he do it?
Was he a fool or a hero?
Can we see... 'accommodation?'
X X X
So who is it that desperately seeks our surrender while simultaneously campaigning for a war of incivility to bear fruit? I’ll offer two guesses. The first one's a gimme. The second I’ll leave to speculation. (Hint: it’s MSM spelled backwards.)