Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Yellow Journalism

Recent headlines had me wondering if Ralph Peters's story wasn't the case:
The reporting out of Baghdad continues to be hysterical and dishonest. There is no civil war in the streets. None. Period.

Terrorism, yes. Civil war, no. Clear enough?
When you see headlines that say Civil War Imminent in Iraq, like I did in my email this morning, you really have to ask yourself what criteria they are using to judge whether a civil war is imminent. Imminent means about to occur. Now to me, being "about to occur" isn't one of those things you can really call accurately beforehand. It is a thing best judged by historians looking back after long years of hindsight. Liberals were predicting that WWIII was imminent through the entire Reagan presidency. Turns out all Reagan was doing was scaring the pants off the Ruskies. They had no intention of acting first.

You can't reliably predict the start of a war before it happens. Why? Because the start of a war is often a specific event. Like Pearl Harbor or invading Poland or 9/11 or the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It happens and you think "Shit! We're at war!" That's what I thought when I saw the Towers burn and fall. Sometimes, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, that event never happens at all. And we in the general public don't know when the match will be put to the powderkeg. The best we can predict is when the powderkeg is in the same room as the matches.

Right now the press annoys me. They're like the jerk in the loud sports car who pulls up next to you at a stoplight. You can see him roll forward every time he thinks the light is about to change. Go green now! No... Ok Now! No. Now! Now! Now! Until finally it changes and he gets his perfect launch off the line. Or from where ever he is in front of the line by then. He was eventually right, but only through pure persistance. Sometimes he's exactly wrong and I beat him off the line in my little four-banger. Then I laugh and laugh and laugh. That guy is the media and they've been reporting the war that way since it began. How many months or years of Quagmire! did we have to sit through?

And of course the press doesn't report facts anymore. Civil War Imminent is not a fact. It is a guess. It is their own slanted analysis. Perhaps they should stick to analysis people can actually agree on like "tensions in Iraq are high right now Bob." But that won't sell papers. I have a friend who only considers C-Span to be "TV news." Everything else is an opinion channel. There is wisdom in that.

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