Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Operation Happy Talk rolls into the shore

US public opinion on military progress in Iraq has improved sharply since the troops "surge" started in February but a majority of Americans still want soldiers brought home, according to a new poll.
Some 48 per cent of Americans now believe that the US ­military effort in Iraq is going well, compared with 30 per cent in February, according to the latest poll by the Pew Research Center.
But the poll found that the "rosier view of the military situation in Iraq has not translated into increased support for maintaining US forces in Iraq". Some 54 per cent of Americans want the Pentagon to bring troops home, compared with 53 per cent in February.

The above is from Demetri Sevastopulo's "US public opinion shifts on Iraq 'surge'." That's the Financial Times of London via MSNBC and we're going with that link (instead of Financial Times which Gareth has e-mailed on) because a friend at NBC woke me with an early morning call saying Early Today would lead with it. It did. It's one poll and others may or may not follow. The results certainly seem true because opinion reflects what is covered and what isn't covered.

At Media Matters, Eric Boehlert examines ABC's Nightline and observes:

At first, Nightline tried to carry on the show's commitment to covering Iraq. In fact, during the first week of the new format, Moran broadcast from Baghdad for consecutive nights. But over time, it became clear that Nightline's interest in covering the war had waned. The program certainly was not alone. Most television news outlets, and the networks, in particular, have drastically cut back on the amount of airtime they now give to the war. Sometimes it appears as though the war doesn't even exist.
For instance, on October 21, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney appeared on CBS' Face the Nation for an extended interview. Host Bob Schieffer asked Romney 18 questions about his candidacy, his beliefs, and his political agenda. Not one was about the war in Iraq.
What's so distressing is that television's wholesale withdrawal from covering the war comes at a time when Americans, week after week and month after month, tell pollsters that the "situation in Iraq" is the story they follow most closely, according to the Pew Research Center's weekly News Interest Index.
According to Pew, for the week of September 16-21, nearly a third of the public (32 percent) followed news about the situation in Iraq very closely." That figure was virtually unchanged in Pew's most recent survey, for the week of November 11-16.

Media Matters' focus is the mainstream media (and Boehlert's article is more than worth reading) but let's not kid here that independent media hasn't dropped Iraq. Let's not pretend small media's hands are clean because magazines and radio programs have regularly wasted everyone's time with non-stories, lifestyle stories and fluff that they've passed off as "alternative media" while refusing to cover the illegal war. You can whine about small budgets all you want that really doesn't excuse the fact that stories from the 'homefront' have disappeared as much (if not more) than stories from the ground in Iraq.

It's really ironic how many of voices from the left go out of their way to attack the 9-11 truth movement (if you're new, we don't cover it, it's not our focus, if it's yours more power to you) and use terms such as "conspiracy" to dismiss them. What has the non-stop "War Coming In Iran!" been thus far but "conspiracy talk"? Since 2004 we've heard it's any day. A journalist who used to report on reality has bored everyone with years and years of 'coverage' on a war that hasn't happened. (For his career, he better pray it does happen.) Now he's mainstream media, but how many left outlets have bored everyone giving time to his "crackpot theories." To date, there is still no war with Iran. There may yet be. Bully Boy has a little more than a year left. But does that really excuse the failure to write about the rape of young boys in Abu Ghraib? If you're going to toss out that 'pearl' of information repeatedly in your public speeches, maybe you should have pulled yourself off the "Coming Attractions" beat long enough to write about what you appear to know happened. (I don't doubt that it happened. I am noting that the writer who trots that tidbit out in most public appearances never took the time to write about it despite writing non-stop "Iran War starts tomorrow!" proclamations for the last years.)

Things have not 'improved' in Iraq. But how many have even bothered to cover the fact that "The Great Return" is a trickle of Iraqi refugees from Syria who have been bussed in and bought? (Or the fact that the Syrian government is now cancelling visas -- forget about issuing them, cancelling them -- on Iraqi refugees in Syria?) They've had time since the illegal war to mock students and call them apathetic. Students aren't apathetic. It's a shame the 'left' 'leaders' can't say the same.

While I was on the phone earlier hearing about the poll, we joked about what this meant for small media? It means they'll go into a tizzy because all they see their purpose today as is electing Democrats and if this lie spreads further, OMG! Barack Obama might not be president!
We pictured them doing some more Hurricane Katrina "reports" despite the fact that the public has grown bored and the story was bungled so badly that today it plays out like the "Most Needy Cases." It wasn't just the leadership in Congress that spent this year trying to use Iraq to fuel their party's election chances, it was little media as well which enlisted in the Democratic Party to the point that they killed (The Nation) stories exposing Dianne Feinstein's get-rich efforts off the illegal war.

Instead of being concerned with truth, they focused on easy-access and refused to speak truths for fear of upsetting the 2008 elections. They refused to cover war resisters -- find one war resister who went public in 2007 and trace his or her coverage in domestic small media. Warning: You will be confronted with some sad realities. The Supreme Court of Canada's decision not to hear the appeals of war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey should have led to saturation coverage from small media. Instead they ignored it or tossed it out as an aside. (Uprising is one of the exceptions there. No links, I'm not in the mood.)

"War resisters" remains a term that The Nation refuses to use, let alone cover the topic. It's been a pathetic year for small media that started long before the Pacifica Radio Archives announced two one-hour broadcasts on war resistance only to announce Monday that the two-parter was killed and wouldn't be a part of Tuesday's multi-hour special.

In good news, Today's supposed to be obsessed today with a tale of a beauty queen and pepper spray. (It hasn't started airing yet.) But the poll only reflects the sorry coverage from All Things Media Big and Small. We're not hiding it. We're not pretending it didn't happen. It's one poll and it's an indictment of what passes for coverage from big media and from small media (if you're late to the party, we define small media here as print and broadcast).

Things have not 'improved' in Iraq. But lousy coverage allows people to buy into that lie and avoid reality.

From McClatchy Newspapers' Inside Iraq, an Iraqi correspondent contributes "False Sovereignty:"

Yesterday noon, an American squad from the United State Army (about ten to twelve) broke in Al-Mansour preparatory school for one reason or another. We don't have the right to ask them why they came to the school. The soldiers spread in different spots of the school walking towards the back yard which is used as a soccer field. Most of the students were in their classes when the squad came, but still there were many students in the yard who were terrified to see the American soldiers with their guns. One of the students was upset to see the soldiers and he threw a stone and hit one of them. Three soldiers surrounded him kicking him with their boots for some minutes on different parts of his body.

Distrubing. And if you've paid attention, this from Leila Fadel's "U.S. military kills civilians in Iraq, apologizes" (McClatchy Newspapers) shouldn't come as a shock either:

For the second day in a row, U.S. soldiers on Tuesday killed Iraqi civilians when they fired on a vehicle that they thought was a threat, the U.S. military said.
The U.S. military also reported that two soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Salah ad Din province. Two other soldiers were wounded. The military provided no further details on the incident and didn't release the names of the dead.
The shooting deaths of the civilians took place in the al Shaab neighborhood of northern Baghdad. Two people died and four were injured when an American soldier fired at a minibus that was transporting workers to a bank operated by the Iraqi Finance Ministry, the military said in a statement. But Iraqi police and employees at al Rasheed Bank said that four people were killed, including three women, and that two were injured.

Small media has earned negative criticism, but let's not pretend big media hasn't been any better than small media and if you doubt that, check out the opening of Richard Perez-Pena's "Grim View of Iraq Dangers in Survey of Journalists" in this morning's New York Times:

In a newly released survey, American journalists in Iraq give harrowing accounts of their work, with the great majority saying that colleagues have been kidnapped or killed and that most parts of Baghdad are too dangerous for them to visit.

Where in the news coverage of that paper have you seen that? Even today, you won't find the article in the news section, you'll find it buried on C5 (the business section).

The poll is one poll. Others may reflect the same mistaken beliefs. It goes to lousy media. It goes to big and small media and their failures. Spin only becomes 'received wisdom' when it's not challenged. We've had non-stop spin. Iraq fell off the radar some time ago. The poll only reflects what happens when an ongoing war is treated as less important than a possible one, less important than elections a year away, less important than other topic 'left' 'leaders' can gas bag over -- which this year have included American Idol and birthday parties for sixteen-year-olds. The problem is the media -- and it's not just big media.

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