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Balancing the Scales: An Example of Bad Reporting

By Brian | June 29, 2005 | Share on Facebook

Following up on my post about good, balanced reporting from Reuters, here’s an article on the same topic from the New York Times (via Jeff Jarvis). The title, “Some Iraqis Optimistic About Sovereignty,” is encouraging. But then we begin to read:

Paragraph 1:

“When [an Iraqi butcher was] asked what he thought about life in Iraq . . . he responded with a blast of invective as heated as the sunbaked sidewalks [of] Baghdad.”

Paragraph 2:

“What sovereignty are you talking about? How can you even call it sovereignty? We have thousands of occupation troops in this country and you talk about sovereignty? Enough! Iraq is nothing but an American base.”

Paragraph 4:

“Both of those governments have been rubbish. How can you call them governments when they were imposed from abroad? Those governments and their ministers are just puppets. They are all spies, for Iran and the Kurds. I tell you, Saddam did the right thing when he used chemical weapons against the Kurds.”

Paragraph 7:

“[A New York Times survey] turned up plenty of people who bridled over the issues that have eroded support for the American presence in Iraq, from the relentless violence to doubts about the degree of authority vested in Iraqi ministers to faltering supplies of electricity and water and woeful inadequacies in hospitals and schools. There were many, too, especially among Sunni Arabs, who favored a withdrawal of American troops and the resumption of authority by an Iraqi government that is not dependent on foreign troops.”

Perhaps they had the wrong title? Ah wait, here it is. In Paragraph 8:

“But perhaps more striking, considering the huge gap between the hopes stirred when American troops captured Baghdad in April 2003 and the grim realities now, were the number of Iraqis who expressed a more patient view. Among those people, the disappointments and privations have been offset by an appreciation of both the progress toward supplanting the dictatorship of Mr. Hussein with a nascent democratic system and the need for American troops to remain here in sufficient numbers to allow the system to mature.”

The article goes on to quote several folks who strike a very similar tone to those in the Reuters article – we want the Americans to leave, but we’re grateful for what they did and understand why they’re still here. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re improving. etc.

It’s a lesson in strawmen:
Step 1: Take a survey and get surprising results.
Step 2: Interview a somewhat hysterical person (Saddam did the right thing when he gassed the Kurds? Please…) to imply that he represents the norm.
Step 3: Give the results of the survey, and characterize them as a gap between the picture you just painted and what the survey actually shows.

I guess it’s better than just lying about it.

But not much…

Topics: News and/or Media, Political Rantings | No Comments »

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