Responding to the two columns I recently wrote about the fight they've picked with the Associated Press over the simmering Jamil Hussein controversy and the Burned Alive saga, warbloggers claim I miss the larger point of their crusade.
Trust me, I'm not missing the point. I get it. I just don't buy it.
I don't believe that the same partisan bloggers who habitually peddle anti-Democratic and anti-media conspiracy theories (Terri Schiavo talking points memo, anyone?) have an overriding concern for the quality of reporting taking place in Iraq and are willing to spend untold hours dissecting and obsessing over a single AP report out of their sheer contempt for sloppy journalism. I do believe, however, that warbloggers, desperate for an Iraq scapegoat, are willing to invest whatever amount of time and energy it takes to advance their phony notion that the press is to blame for the Iraq fiasco.
Look, the prominent warblog Little Green Footballs spells it out best with the recurring headline it often uses for the constant flow of items that disparage the press: "The Media Are the Enemy." That may as well be the warbloggers' motto. And that's fine. If they want to spend their waking hours attacking war reporters, calling them cowardly and unethical, and trying to intimidate the press, so be it. Warbloggers have become an integral part of the right-wing noise machine. But when they get called on it, warbloggers shouldn't demand apologies, insisting they're merely obsessive fact-checkers doing democracy a favor.
There's nothing wrong with asking reporters to back up their work and demanding accountability. As I wrote in my first Jamil Hussein column, there should be hell to pay if it turns out that the AP passed along phony news. But where warbloggers jumped the tracks was when they accused the global wire service of being in bed with insurgents and "spreading terrorist propaganda," where they mocked journalists for not venturing into deadly areas of Baghdad to document the carnage first-hand, and where they claimed questions raised about Jamil Hussein somehow negate the mainstream media's war reporting.
Bottom line: I don't believe warbloggers and they don't believe me. So be it. And frankly, arguing the details of the Jamil Hussein case seems to be a wasted effort, since warbloggers apparently have copyrighted the facts of the case, and nothing I write is going to penetrate their preferred version.
For instance, in my last column, I noted the Burned Alive incident as reported by the AP was "no more than a few sentences" within a much larger dispatch from Baghdad that day. Prominent warblogger and AP foe Rick Moran at Rightwing Nuthouse announced that my description was "absurd on its face and bespeaks" an "extraordinary ignorance of the facts." Hmm, here's a copy of the original, November 24 AP dispatch. Feel free to count the number of sentences in the 1,000-plus word article taken up by the Burned Alive angle...That's right, the answer is two. But, according to Moran, it's "absurd" to suggest that the Burned Alive story took up no more than a few sentences of a larger AP story.
Warbloggers also make a big deal that I didn't mention that the AP has used Jamil Hussein as a source for approximately 60 articles, which proves they're not obsessed over a single story, but think it represents a wider, systemic problem. But warbloggers have had a month to dissect those 60 articles that quote Hussein and, as far as I can tell, they haven't found a mountain of factual errors in any of them. The only error they claim to have uncovered is in the Burned Alive story. So my point still stands; they're questioning a few sentences from a single AP report -- one article out of literally thousands that the agency has filed from Baghdad since 2003 -- to suggest that the AP's reporting is not trustworthy.
What's really interesting, though, is that warbloggers, as we speak, are being pushed even further to the margins within the conservative media sphere, as traditional, war-supporting pundits like The New York Times' David Brooks and the National Review's Rich Lowry dismiss the notion that the mainstream media is ignoring all the "good news" out of Iraq or that the press manufactured Iraq's "civil war." As Lowry wrote this week, "Many conservatives lost touch with reality on Iraq."
Hey warbloggers, he's looking at you.
A final note: I did make a factual error in my last column. It came when I recounted the warbloggers' muted reaction this month to the news that a cameraman in Iraq working for the AP -- the same AP that supposedly cozies up to terrorists -- was murdered by insurgents in Mosul. I noted the "odd silence that emanated from the warblogs" at the time, which was accurate. I also wrote that warbloggers "uniformly ignored" the news. That was not accurate.
Warblogger SeeDubya at The Junkyard Blog did write about the cameraman's death and offered his condolences. I'm guessing that's the only instance I missed since warbloggers have combed over my column and nobody else has stepped forward with examples. That means dozens of warbloggers in the past month have breathlessly hyped the AP saga, devoting tens of thousands of word to the controversy and often suggested that reporters are doing the insurgents' bidding. Then when news came that an AP cameraman was killed by insurgents, one warblogger wrote about it sympathetically, devoting approximately 50 words to the murder. I think that gives readers all the perspective they need.
Meanwhile, I did quote SeeDubya in my column this way:
"The Western press is negligently or carelessly (I'm not ready to believe knowingly) passing along terrorist propaganda disguised as news."
SeeDubya excitedly claims that was unfair because I neglected to quote the entire sentence:
In both stories, the worst scenario is that the Western press is negligently or carelessly (I'm not ready to believe knowingly) passing along terrorist propaganda disguised as news.
I should have included the whole sentence. But I'll leave it to readers to determine whether I drastically altered the fundamental point he was making.