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Posts Tagged ‘media’

Over at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Dan Froomkin has written a good analysis of what is missing from the “the surge has worked” perspective on Iraq. Froomkin discusses the argument about the surge made by Peter Galbraith. Some of the key points in Froomkin’s piece:

Certainly the surge has been accompanied by a dramatic and welcome reduction in violence. But Galbraith argues that it wasn’t the surge as much as other factors that led to the reduction in violence; that the main factor was the Sunni Awakening; and that the U.S.’s de facto creation of a Sunni army — led in some cases by the same Baathists the U.S. invaded Iraq to overthrow – has in fact contributed to Iraq’s breakup and set the stage for an intensified civil war between Sunnis and Shiites once the U.S gets out of the way. Whenever that is.

Galbraith thinks journalists are under-reporting certain key aspects of the current Iraqi political situation. Among them:

  • The character of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s  government, which Galbraith says is profoundly anti-Sunni and not likely to make accommodations, regardless of the occasional PR blitz to the contrary. Reporters should also talk to Sunnis and Kurds in the government and ask them how much influence they feel they have. Reporters in Washington should be asking their sources: Do you really see Maliki as someone who is committed to secular democracy?
  • The character of the Sunni Awakening. A hundred thousand Sunni fighters – used to getting paid $300 a month by the United States – are in fact not going to be easily accommodated by the Shiite government. And who knows what they’ll do when the U.S. stops paying them?

The linking of reduced fatalities to the coalition’s prospects for withdrawal is flawed. At least some of the proponents of the surge seem to know that – the Bush administration has committed itself to maintaining troop levels pretty much constant to the end of its term.

What is most important is attempting to ensure conditions that will foster lasting peace – which requires political, social and economic stability. That still hasn’t happened. For four years it seemed like there was little in the way of a coalition strategy toward peace in and withdrawal from Iraq. The surge then became the strategy, when it could only ever serve as one plank in a larger platform.

The debate itself still hasn’t moved. Many of the mouthpieces of the surge talk about Victory! without defining it. What everyone needs to be talking about is how to leave a stable Iraq.

UPDATE: And then there is the argument that the surge is not even responsible for the reduction in violence – such as this analysis, which suggests sectarian violence cleared out the hotspots for conflict.

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Shankar Vedantam has written for the Washington Post about psychological research on the effects of misinformation and how it applies to politics. Media Matters has a nice summary of some of the implications:

If Candidate A lies about Candidate B, for example, the fact that Candidate A is lying should be the lede – otherwise the news report just drills the false claim into readers’ and viewers’ minds, allowing the misinformation to take hold before it is corrected.  As I wrote in my column on Friday, the news media too often privileges lies rather than punishing them.

Lies need to be debunked in the right way, or there can end up being a boomerang effect.

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Lies become the narrative

Tell enough lies and it appears that the media will manage to find a narrative about it – which is exactly the magical ingredient that is needed to kickstart the journalistic process. At the same time, Paul Abrams notes that the Obama campaign can’t just leave the lies sitting there. But as Digby notes, the Republicans are likely to try to flip the narrative into one about how the campaign, rather than the campaigners, are what has been corrupted. The Democrats have to find a way to cut through the lies without reinforcing them, hit back without being seen to be equally immoral, and to keep the media from being derailed by any more distractions.

Meanwhile, Timmeh saves himself and his followers from having to read a lengthy report on Sarah Palin’s history in the evil New York Times by quoting from another pithy conservative blogger.

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Keep talking

Tom Tomorrow’s comic captures exactly what is wrong with the media.

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Blogs are bad, mmmkay?

Mark Day’s argument would be much stronger if journalists were actually peeking behind the closed doors of our democracy and giving us genuine investigation and analysis. Repeating the spin and driving the narrative that their preferred MPs are talking about doesn’t cut it.

It seems to me that the media is attributing its difficulties to the shift from print to online and the difficulty maintaining revenue streams. To some extent, this masks the fact that political journalism is degenerating into basic observation and speculation. It’s the same approach that reality TV is built around – watch something happen and then construct a narrative to make it entertaining.

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Time for the Republicans to roll out their proven political strategy – attempt to distort everything the Democrats say into its worst possible interpretation. Expect to see a lot of more of it, but there are already two instances today.

Exhibit A – Joe Biden asks why the Republicans are opposed to stem cell research if they say they want to help parents of special needs children:

“Barack Obama’s running mate sunk to a new low today launching an offensive debate over who cares more about special needs children,” McCain-Palin spokesman Ben Porritt said. “Playing politics with this issue is disturbing and indicative of a desperate campaign.”

Exhibit B – Barack Obama uses a well-worn saying to highlight that John McCain is just more of the same:

“It’s disgraceful. Sen. Obama owes Gov. Palin an apology,” Swift said.

“This is just the latest in a series of comments that females like me will find offensive . . . There’s only one woman in the race. It’s hard to think this was directed at anybody other than Gov. Palin.”

Setting aside the rank hypocrisy of it all, what the Republicans are going to try to do is minimise the extent to which this campaign is about issues. After creating distance from President Bush and getting through a party convention without needing to address the major policy concerns such as the economy and foreign policy, they will attempt to make this about which people the voters should choose. The questions that should be coming out of these two examples are:

  • Why are the Republicans opposed to science? (not only stem cell research, but pushing intelligent design as an alternative to legitimate scientific theory of evolution, etc.)
  • McCain and Palin talk about change – what do they claim they will actually do differently, and what evidence in their background suggests they would do so?
  • Why are the Republicans so defensive about attempting to muffle criticism from the Democrats and the media?

By the way, there has been a very interesting line of discussion running through several US blogs today about the media’s role in political “narrative” – Glenn Greenwald’s piece is a good place to pick it up.

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Spot the difference

Nobody in the MSM is paying attention to rumours about a Democrat in the National Enquirer!

The media has different rules for politicians of the Left:

SCRATCH John Edwards off the list of potential vice-presidential candidates… Every supermarket shopper knows that the preternaturally youthful former senator for North Carolina may have fathered a love child with a film-maker while Elizabeth, his saintly wife, is dying of cancer. There are sensational new details on the National Enquirer website, although most of the media have done their best to ignore them…

How dare anyone pay attention to rumours about a Republican in the National Enquirer!

Witch hunts were conducted with more decorum:

John McCain’s campaign threatened legal action against the National Enquirer today for running a story about McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, allegedly having an affair with her husband’s business partner.

The rules certainly are different in somebody’s mind.

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