Monday, March 20, 2006

Mainstream Media Mistakes and Biases

Near the end of last week, the mainstream media showed its colors once again and while I can't say I was surprised, I was once again angered.

First up was the coverage of the recently declassified documents that had been captured in Iraq. Blog commentary about the coverage can be found by Malkin. Malkin writes about an ABC News analysis of the documents (available here). The recovered documents clearly suggest a link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. (Remember, these are the findings of an Iraqi intelligence officer, not ABC News.)
  • That OBL and the Taliban are in contact with Iraq and that a group of Taliban and bin Laden group members visited Iraq.
  • That the U.S. has proof the Iraqi government and "bin Laden's group" agreed to cooperate to attack targets inside America.
  • That in case the Taliban and bin Laden's group turn out to be involved in "these destructive operations," the U.S. may strike Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • That the Afghani consul heard about the issue of Iraq's relationship with "bin Laden's group" while he was in Iran.
But the editor felt compelled to add the following note to the above findings.
Editor's Note: The controversial claim that Osama bin Laden was cooperating with Saddam Hussein is an ongoing matter of intense debate. While the assertions contained in this document clearly support the claim, the sourcing is questionable -- i.e. an unnamed Afghan "informant" reporting on a conversation with another Afghan "consul." The date of the document -- four days after 9/11 -- is worth noting but without further corroboration, this document is of limited evidentiary value.
Interesting, isn't it, that this time documents are of "limited evidentiary value" but when memos slandering Bush were released during the election they were found to be "fake but accurate?" This is a double standard of almost indescribable proportions.

Also in the news at the end of last week was a monumental misstep by a personal favorite of mine--the New York Times. The Times has interviewed a man who claimed to be the now infamous "man in the hood" from the Abu Ghraib prison photos. It turns out that the man is a liar and not in the picture. A retraction and editor's note has been published. The most laughable part of the excuse comes from them 2nd paragraph of the editor's note.
The Times did not adequately research Mr. Qaissi's insistence that he was the man in the photograph. Mr. Qaissi's account had already been broadcast and printed by other outlets, including PBS and Vanity Fair, without challenge. Lawyers for former prisoners at Abu Ghraib vouched for him. Human rights workers seemed to support his account. The Pentagon, asked for verification, declined to confirm or deny it.
To paraphrase the excuse: "We didn't do out job and fact check, but other's made the same mistake and the Pentagon didn't do our job for us, so isn't that OK?" Pathetic. A round of up other reactions can be found at Instapundit.

Just over a year ago, my first post posed the question, "Why Blog?" Political and news blogs provide an amazing fact-checking service for the mainstream media. And judging by the past and continuing behavior of the media, it is a service that is desperately needed.