A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Classic Case of Detachment From Reality

The foolishness started over on Open Source Media. Not that anyone will be taking Open Source Media very seriously for a while. Immediately after their "grand opening"--with immense fanfare about how citizen journalism, spearheaded by blogs with sharp noses for facts, will keep the "Mainstream Media" honest--OSM was forced to resume its former name of Pajamas Media. It seems that the hearty citizen journalists of the new, well capitalized, venture, hadn't bothered to check to see if someone else was using the name on the web. They were.

My heart goes out to Alexandra over at All Things Beautiful. Word on the street is that she was the designer of the very spiffy OSM logo that currently sits, with a big cancellation mark on it, atop the spiffy new webpage. I just went over to offer her my condolences. I had this to say about her excellent post on the exuberance of the OSM kickoff:

I hope they spend the venture capital wisely and make OSM into a site that I will be both flattered and proud to disagree with completely.

I still do hope this, but it seems a rather pallid hope at the moment.

Be that as it may, I want to call to your attention a classic case of the Conservative Blogosphere's detachment from reality. It's not very big thing, really. But it does indicate how totally insular, circular, and completely self-isolated from common facts all my fine wingnut friends have gotten now that the bloom has come off the Bush Administration.

It occurred last Saturday immediately after the big OSM party and OSM started the whole thing. There was a news story the Friday before, widely covered, on Al Zaquawi's audiotape on the Internet threatening the King of Jordan. In that story was a sidebar about a Jordanian anti-Zaquawi protest called March Of The Nation, in Amman. Keep that name in mind for later.

The Washington Times, as you might expect, flipped the story to feature the "anti-terrorist" protest and treat Zaquawi and the King of Jordan as the sidebar. Then the fun began. OSM read it, and came to the conclusion that the "MSM" were not even covering the protest despite the supposed number of demonstrators being an extraordinary 200,000+. Well, of course, it was immediately picked up by Astute Blogger, Roger L. Simon, Sister Toldjah, Desert Rat Ramblings, and Little Green Footballs. As well as Mark Steyn in the Daily Telegraph across the pond in Albion's fair isle.

The Anchoress, as always, put the case against the MSM the most elegantly and vividly in one of her wonderful, more-pity-than-anger, posts:

If 200,000 people had gathered to call out President Bush, it would have been news all over the world - the pictures would have been everywhere - the story would have lived for days. Hell, this summer 2 to 3,000 gathered in Washington for a Bush hate-fest and it got all day coverage on C-span.

But if 200,000 Arabs take to the streets to call out a chief terrorist it gets no coverage, it is not a story, and there are no pictures.

Think about that for a second. 200,000 Arabs protesting against a terrorist. It is unprecedented. You can always find a crowd protesting a president or a prime minister, but the Arab street rises up against a terrorist and terrorism, and the coverage is nonexistent.

Now for the facts. The Washington Times featured this story in their World coverage. There were no pictures in the coverage. The WT credits the story as being "from dispatches". Their 200,000+ figure apparently came from Agence France-Presse, though I could not track it back, and I could find only one secondary source which offered the same information, an odd website by the name of ArabicNews.com. There is no About Us on the site to tell us just who the great people of ArabicNews are, but there is a notice that the site is for sale.

There were three other primary sources for the story: Associated Press; UPI; and Petra, the official Jordanian News Agency. The most widely distributed source was the AP story. It appeared in at least 75 separate newspapers across this country with little or no change, straight off the wire. There is a good reason for this. The AP story was the best written and had by far the most facts about the matter.

Drawing largely from the AP story, Fox News covered it, CNN covered it, MSNBC covered it in far more depth than anyone else, including the Washington Times. The cable websites don't have pictures, but I think we can safely assume there were some, particularly on MSNBC.

In addition to this, you can find the story covered strongly on ABC.com and also covered on CBS.com.

Moreover, it was covered in the New York Times in the International section, exactly the same location and degree of newsplay as the Washington Times. Not only that, in the NYT it had a picture, praise the Lord!

It was also covered in the Washington Post World Wire Reports. Also with a picture. And a different picture than NYT used.

And even the BBC covered it, despite Mr. Steyn's claim that they didn't. I found it easily on their website, so I presume he didn't look very hard there. But then maybe, since he's a Brit, maybe he spent the entire two days the story ran watching the Beeb telly news and so knows that there were no pictures. I don't know him well enough to know if he's really that thorough. But with the Brits you just never can tell.

So much for the coverage, now, let's deal with the event. There is one little fact which nobody seemed to have noticed in all the fine coverage above. You can find it in the UPI wire:

Interior Minister Aouni Yerfas, government officials, members of parliament, political parties and syndicate presidents led the demonstration that marched through Amman's main streets after Friday prayers.

This was not in any way "the Arab street rising up against a terrorist and terrorism". This was a government orchestrated and choreographed parade that had a parlimentary cabinet minister leading it! It was about as spontaneous as the half time show at the Orange Bowl.

To what end? I'll quote Petra, the offical Jordanian News Agency:

The Jordanians expressed, during the march, loyalty to the Hashemite leadership... They also hailed efforts of the security apparatuses in revealing the criminals and catching one of them.

Hey, with the Interior Minister at the head of the parade, I'll bet they hailed the efforts of the security services if they knew what was good for them. I certainly would!

The AP story, the UPI story, the Petra release, and the France Presse piece were all the information anybody not in Jordan had to write a story with. Everything that was available from the primary sources got published somewhere. Except, of course, the fact that the event was essentially fake, that it was a Jordanian government publicity stunt.

It also got top international coverage billing in the major markets of NYT and WaPo. And this was even though the event was fake and anybody in the journalism business who read all the primary sources would see this immediately.

Those who published it so widely across the country simply relied on AP, who didn't bother to mention the Jordanian government involvement in the "protest".

Moreover, the secondary sources that are essentially house organs of the Republican Party, Fox News and the Washington Times, squeezed every last drop of newsworthiness out of the primary information.

And I very much suspect that the Washington Times, at least, knew that the protest was fake and didn't bother to mention it. The multiple sources of their story suggest this very strongly. But still, even those patently partisan Republican flacks didn't have the nerve to run a fabricated government publicity stunt as Page One material, merely because it feathered the partisan nest.

American journalism hasn't degenerated quite that far, thank heavens.

Oh, by the way, if you want to read some sensible and intelligent coverage of Jordanians beginning to reject terrorism, try this Knight Ridder Washington Bureau article.

Finally, as I have been composing this post, word has just hit the wires that Jordan's King is replacing the fine government displayed in his Friday parade with a new one headed by the chief of his security services, who will now also become the Prime Minister.

Well, at least they at least had a fine send-off last Friday.


Blogger Alexandra said...

You say the nicest things....

Didn't track me back though you norty boy! If you are being this nice to me I should know about it. LOL!

Thank you for the compliment I know you mean it in a nice way I really do. Just a little typo on the old 'spivvy' word.

Having an English education I happen to be far too familiar with that one:

"A man typically characterized by flashy dress, who makes a living by disreputable dealings"

You really do say the nicest things. Don't you dare change it, I love it....I really I do.

And hey, don't ever say I don't come and visit!

1:58 PM  
Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

Again, my apologies, Alexandra. I have to use Wizbang to ping with, or pop on a separate comment. I'm getting a little lazy, I guess.

But I certainly won't say you don't stop by.

3:57 PM  
Blogger T. Stark said...

Egg-cellent post.

Very thorough itself.

You highlight the lemming approach of many blogs and the "we'll do it so you don't have to" aspect of paid journalism, throughout the world.


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