Monday, June 12, 2006

NYT: Still covering Zarqawi

Mr. Zarqawi's death did not appear to slow the pace of mayhem in the country. Nearly 40 people were killed in violence on Sunday, including 7 Iraqi soldiers and a civilian who died when a suicide car bomber attacked a checkpoint near Baquba, The Associated Press reported.

The above is from Richard A. Oppel Jr.'s "U.S. General Rebuts Account on Zarqawi Beating" in this morning's New York Times. As others have noted, including Laura Flanders on RadioNation with Laura Flanders Sunday, the survival of the Weds. airstrike by anyone -- Zarqaiw (or "Zarqawi") -- does seem surprising. Oppel writes another Zarqawi article today. The excerpt's about all that I feel is useful. To summarize the rest of the article there are two Iraqis. One states that he saw American forces attempt to give first aid, the other states that he saw American forces beat Zarqawi (or "Zarqawi"). (This is after the two 500-pound bombs have fallen. When whomever it was was loaded into an ambulance.) George W. Casey Jr. may be popular on Fox "News" but he needs to grasp that the "alleged" would be the comments of one Iraqi witness and not the face that the Iraqi is indeed Iraqi.

That was Wednesday. It's Monday today. How great it is that nothing else is happening in Iraq -- a "turned corner" must have finally come, right? Wrong. And maybe someone's interested in focusing on one person (whomever he was) and maybe it will pan out into a story that provided more than a distraction. But there's Ramadi, there's the incident which may have killed civilians (American forces may have) that was buried in a Saturday story, and there's a lot more going on.

As Riverbend stated in "Zarqawi..." (Baghdad Burning):

I've been listening to reactions- mostly from pro-war politicians and the naïveté they reveal is astounding. Maliki (the current Iraqi PM) was almost giddy as he made the news public (he had even gone the extra mile and shaved!). Do they really believe it will end the resistance against occupation? As long as foreign troops are in Iraq, resistance or 'insurgency' will continue- why is that SO difficult to understand? How is that concept a foreign one?

I guess the focus on the death of one allows the press to avoid dealing with the realities. (Riverbend: "And no- Iraqis aren't celebrating in the streets- worries over electricity, water, death squads, tests, corpses and extremists in high places prevail right now.")

I'm not sure we're learning anything from Oppel or anyone else's reporting (continued reporting). We do learn that Fox "News" is readily available in the Green Zone (Oppel's comments from the general come from a Fox "News" appearance).

There's a highlight, in the e-mails, of someone attempting to make sense of it and what the death . . . whatever. It's not being highlighted. I read the thing in the full and my first thought was, "Michael Berg is quoted and his comments to Fox 'News,' CNN, the Associated Press, Reuters, and some newspaper are noted but not Democracy Now?" While I appreciate the effort that was obviously taken on the piece, I'm still where I was a month ago -- wondering why some on the left will note every outlet in the world . . . except Democracy Now? (Michael Berg, father of Nick Berg, spoke with Amy Goodman last week for "Zarqawi's Death 'Another Step in the Endless Cycle of Violence' -- Father of Beheaded Iraq Hostage.") It just seems counterproductive, to me, to cite even Fox "News" as an apparently reliable source of news when you leave out Goodman and company.

Another highlight we won't be noting is Ralph Nader on the Dixie Chicks. That's nothing against Nader (as three e-mails wondered). It is something against false reality. I know the media script is that dee jays are the big bad on this. It's a nice little tale. It's not true, but whatever.
The reality is that not since the days of Wolfman Jack has commercial radio (which is what FM became long, long ago, had to break it to the ones hitting their sixties now) allowed dee jays to figure out what to play, when to play or anything else really.

If the song's on the corporation's supposed "tested" playlist, it gets played. It gets played based on the number of times that some 'analyst' has decided it will be played. The dee jay's power isn't what the script has made it out to be. (This is especially true of Clear Channel. And if you doubt that, call your local station -- and nearly everyone has a local Clear Channel station -- and ask them of a song, any song by any artist, and why they're not playing it. Press and most of them will explain that you have to call management, that they're not even allowed to have these conversations -- which they aren't.)

That's not a slam against Nader. He's not the first to write this and it's a very popular myth that got added into the script early on (60 Minutes did their part). If people are still confused, they might try to flashback to what happened to two dee jays who did try to play the Dixie Chicks in 2003 and the reaction from the radio station (it wasn't the reaction from listeners who were actually supportive of the dee jay -- though some papers that ran a heavily edited version of the original AP story dropped that detail out). The story, the real one, is that corporate radio hurts the Dixie Chicks (and others) because it's not about listeners in a local area.

If I seem less than inclined to hop on the "More! More! I must have more about the Zarqawi story," Eddie's a bit more vocal on the topic. He notes Danny Schechter's analysis in "The 'Elimination' of Zargawi: A New Episode of the Media War" ( and suggests if others add nothing in the way Danny is, we don't highlight on this topic. Which sounds like a good suggestion to me. From Danny:

New York, June 9, 2006 -- Timing is everything. To the managers of the Iraq War, perception has always trumped reality. From the beginning it was a war of media stunts--the attempt to assassinate Saddam with 50 cruise missiles before the invasion, the Shock and Awe, the bringing down of the statues, Jessica Lynch, Saddam in the hole, purple fingered Iraqi voters and many other events staged for media consumption.
The essence of information/media warfare is to seize the advantage, frame the story, and capture the audiences' imagination. It's been a key part of modern warfare from the set-up flags of Iwo Jima in World War 2 to that not so safe house in Baquba in Iraq.
And now, we have the bloodied head of the feared Zarqawi displayed on TV by the very military that will not allow us to see the American dead coming home. He was brought down by not one, but two, 500 pound bombs, in an operation that CNN tells us cost $500,000 and has been underway for months.
What a coup! What a show! And what an event for Iraqi "leaders" to show-off with using terms like he has been "eliminated." Within hours, the more polished US military spinmeisters were showing the airstrikes at a press conference, declaring a "major victory" and pronouncing another "turning point."
Think also of the timing, yes, they think about timing all the time. Timing is, as I have said, everything. A day earlier the NY Times had the defeat of the CIA backed warlords in Somalia on page one. The day and week before, it was All Haditha, All The Time with many commentators like Paul Rodgers, to cite one example, arguing that responsibility for the crimes and the cover-up goes way up the chain of command.
At the Pentagon, this was seen as not good. Not good at all. In fact, a very public opinion conscious Administration was aware, had to be aware, that a new AP poll was coming out reporting that well over 50% of the American public was sick of the war.
"The poll, taken Monday through Wednesday before news broke that U.S. forces had killed al-Zarqawi, found that 59 percent of adults say the United States made a mistake in going to war in Iraq -- the highest level yet in AP-Ipsos polling."
How do you get those folks back on the proverbial reservation? How do you turn around such a public relations disaster?
The answer: Feed the public a very public miracle, something to wave the flag about again.

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