June 27, 2004

PRICE

Wretchard writes of the price our Soldiers had to pay to prevent the media from having "quagmire" footage. It pains me that they have to play that kind of game.

MORE TO GROK:

I'd much rather see this movie, made by an anti-war fellow who was looking for the truth.

Posted by: Sarah at 02:56 PM | Comments (22) | Add Comment
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June 21, 2004

POLLS

The LA Times poll: splashed across the front pages
The Harris poll from last week: nonexistant

(I still don't think the results matter, but I do think it matters that the papers ignore the one where Bush is shown winning.)

Posted by: Sarah at 04:45 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment
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June 19, 2004

GOTCHA

I did some major catching up with Iraq Now this morning. Jason has a good post on journalists and the gotcha question. I agree with him; the majority of questions that reporters ask in news conferences do nothing to educate the general public. He also links to Iraqis who were decorated for saving a Marine, more bunk from the media who misreport the IRR and simple military rank, and a journalist who doesn't believe newsrooms lean left and says he'll be "calling Peoria". I hope he does, and I hope my mom answers and gives him an earful!

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June 17, 2004

IMPARTIAL?

Journalists consider themselves impartial. I saw that in Under Orders, Under Fire when prompted to watch it by this Den Beste post. Deskmerc wonders just how far their impartiality extends, but I'm honestly starting to wonder just how they can consider themselves impartial when they only seem to be reporting on the bad news...

Some who stayed wished they hadn't. They told of savage scenes of decapitation, fingers chopped off one by one, tongues hacked out with a razor blade — all while victims shriek in pain and the thugs chant Saddam's praises.

Saddam's henchmen took the videos as newsreels to document their deeds in honor of their leader.

...

Saddam's torture videos may be too awful to show, but it's hard to explain the low media interest in the story of seven Iraqi men who had their right hands chopped off by Saddam's thugs — and then got new prosthetic arms and new hope in America.

They're eloquent, they're available, they're grateful for the U.S. liberation of Iraq. No one can better talk about Saddam's tortures — and no one is more eager to do so. Yet, as of yesterday, the New York Times had written 177 stories on Abu Ghraib — with over 40 on the front page. The self-proclaimed "paper of record" hadn't written a single story about those seven Iraqi men.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:07 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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June 11, 2004

POLLS

When my students and I study media bias, this might be a perfect article to discuss:

A majority of American registered voters now say conditions in Iraq did not merit war, but most are reluctant to abandon efforts there, according to a new Los Angeles Times poll.

A majority? How big of a majority?

Voters are increasingly concerned that Iraq is a quagmire America cannot escape, and they are doubtful that a democratic government will be established there, according to the poll published in Friday editions of the Times.

No scare quotes in there? Did the questions in the poll include these words "Is Iraq a quagmire America cannot escape?" or are they the biased drivel straight out of L.A.?

Fifty-three percent of respondents said the situation in Iraq did not merit war, while 43 percent said war was justified. When the same question was asked for Times polls in March and November, the numbers were precisely reversed.

But less than 20 percent said America should withdraw its troops within weeks, and 25 percent said the U.S. should set a deadline for pulling out.

Less than 20 + 25 = max 45%. What did the remaining 55% have to say? Obviously nothing that the LA Times thought was newsworthy. And what was the margin of error, by the way?

The poll, which was conducted from Saturday to Tuesday, surveyed 1,230 registered voters nationwide. It had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The U.S. population is estimated at close to 300 million right now, and we're supposed to get worked up over what 1,230 people who are registered voters have to say? Hell, I only just registered yesterday, so I would've been ineligible. And if the margin of error is plus or minus 3%, and 53% of these 1,230 people thought war was not necessary, then perhaps only 615 people in the whole USA said this.

615 people. How on earth is this supposed to be representative of the voice of America?

A majority of voters said presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry has done little to help: The poll found that 34 percent said Kerry has not offered a clear plan to handle the war, while 15 percent said he has. The other voters said they didn't know.

Ha ha ha. That last line is a hoot.

MORE:

Since I certainly wouldn't want Groucho to think I was lazy or stupid, I went and registered for the LA Times so I could read the poll. Turns out it was AP who came up with the quagmire quote all on their own; LA Times chose the expression "bogged down". AP also left out many positive findings in the poll: 52% said the US is winning, 73% said there should be no specific date for withdrawal of troops, etc. At the end of the LA poll we see this disclaimer:

Poll results may also be affected by factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented.

At least they're aware of it; I think it's highly biased to ask whether Americans support President Bush by framing the question like this:

Q48. As you may know, John Kerry has said that President Bush has lost credibility around the world and that only a new president can rally the support of US allies to help stabilize Iraq. Do you agree or disagree with this assessment by Kerry?

That's a loaded question, since in order to answer it you have to accept the fact that 1) we care what other countries think and 2) we actually need to rally certain former-allies; I don't accept either of those premises. How would I answer that with a yes/no? It's not possible.

So I hope Groucho is happy that I took the time to read the original. I still think that all polls of this nature are worthless, but now I know for sure that the AP was hilariously biased in their reporting and that the original poll contained loaded questions.

I guess I've learned something today. I learned that people who tick me off can incite me to do more research and strengthen my opinion with even more facts than I had before.

UPDATE:

More on why all polls -- not just this one -- are irrelevant.

MORE:

Well, it's time for bed on my side of the world, so I think 90 comments are plenty for one day. Thanks for participating...

Posted by: Sarah at 05:36 PM | Comments (89) | Add Comment
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June 05, 2004

ETHICS

I hate the show Crossfire. I hate the back and forth arguing and the stressful chaos. When I did invest the time to watch the full two hours of Ethics in America: Under Orders, Under Fire, I was glued to the computer. Here the panelists did not address each other, but only answered the hypothetical situations the moderator posed in a calm and deliberate fashion. They showed each other the highest respect and merely tried to explore their own ethics without belittling the ethics of others. I highly recommend watching the whole thing.

Thus by the time I got to the segment that was highlighted in Why We Hate the Media, I felt more pity for Peter Jennings and Mike Wallace than contempt. Here they were, surrounded by men in uniform who were trying to make difficult decisions about taking lives to protect others, and their jobs as reporters seemed so trivial in comparison. Their ethical systems seemed more trivial as well.

There was more nuance in Mike Wallace's ethics than was suggested in Why We Hate the Media. One exchange that really struck me, which I've transcribed here, after Wallace said that he would not warn the Americans that the enemy was going to ambush them, and would instead roll tape and "remain detached", to use Den Beste's words:

Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft (R): What's it worth? It's worth thirty seconds on the evening news, as opposed to saving a platoon?
Mike Wallace: In other words what you're saying is that the reporter should say, "Hey, hold it, fellas. Americans, these guys are about to go after ya!" and you die? That's really what the question is here?
Moderator: And your answer is?
Mike Wallace: I don't know.

We ask our servicemembers to make these decisions everyday. No, I take that back; it's not even a decision. They do it no matter what. They, in putting on the uniform, have already made the decision that saving other Americans is indeed worth their own life. Standing up and yelling to save others is worth your own life. They don't think twice about it. Yet Mike Wallace, journalist and non-combatant, washes his hands of having to make that choice.

A few minutes later Major Stuart addresses this very paradox:

Major Robert C. Stuart, USMC: I think what we're asking the reporter on the scene to do is -- keeping in mind that that individual is not a combatant -- we expect our combatants to do in the normal course of their duties that which is heroic at all times. We are now all of a sudden charging the reporter with doing the heroic, when that is not...maybe for them it's super-heroic, to jump up and yell and scream and warn the Americans. I think that that's different however than that which we expect from ourselves while in uniform and in a combat situation.

Reporters are not expected to do the heroic, while our men and women in uniform do it every day. Why should we excuse "regular civilians" from doing things that will save the lives of others? Why is that a duty that only servicemembers must obey? Our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors should not be the only Americans who have to face the grim reality that the good of our society is more important than their own life.

Newt Gingrich, surprisingly enough, made an enlightening speech about the role of technology in the changing face of warfare. (And this was in 1987!) At the end, he summarized the whole dilemma between the military and the media:

I don't think we're good right now at deciding "who are we?" Are we Americans first? Are the South Kosanese [the fake ally] then ours? Is it as bad to see our friends and allies get killed as it is to see our own children get killed? What does it all mean? And I think we're right at the cutting edge in this discussion, with the technology and the reality. And all I would say is that the military, I think, has done a vastly better job of systematically thinking through the ethics of behavior in a violent environment than the journalists have.

I agree.

Posted by: Sarah at 12:27 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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DETACHED

Remember last week when I said I'd strangle the journalist who values "the story" over someone's life? Well, according to Steve Sky and Charles Johnson, I just might get my chance:

MOSUL, Iraq - Coalition soldiers questioned two news media cameramen and a reporter after a roadside bomb exploded near a Coalition convoy two kilometers north of Mosul June 3.

The media, who were at the scene prior to the attack, told soldiers at the scene they had received a tip to be at that location prior to the attack and they had witnessed the explosion.

One of my good friends is attached to 3-2 Infantry. That hits close to home. And those "detached" journalists were going to sit there with their cameras and watch American Soldiers get blown up.

What in the hell is wrong with these people?

Posted by: Sarah at 05:09 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
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