On October 7, NewsBusters shared the astonishing statements of journalists from the Washington Post and CNN as to why good news from Iraq should not get reported.
Two weeks later, the Iraq Interior Ministry announced: "Violence in Iraq has dropped by 70 percent since the end of June, when U.S. forces completed their build-up of 30,000 extra troops to stabilize the war-torn country."
Such was reported by Reuters at 1:01 PM EST Monday. Not surprisingly, the major American media outlets ignored the good news.
Deliciously coincident, military blogger Michael Yon posted a piece at his website Monday appropriately titled "Resistance is futile: You will be (mis)informed" that should be must-reading for all Americans, especially elected officials (emphasis added throughout):
I was at home in the United States just one day before the magnitude hit me like vertigo: America seems to be under a glass dome which allows few hard facts from the field to filter in unless they are attached to a string of false assumptions. Considering that my trip home coincided with General Petraeus' testimony before the US Congress, when media interest in the war was (I'm told) unusually concentrated, it's a wonder my eardrums didn't burst on the trip back to Iraq. In places like Singapore, Indonesia, and Britain people hardly seemed to notice that success is being achieved in Iraq, while in the United States, Britney was competing for airtime with O.J. in one of the saddest sideshows on Earth.
No thinking person would look at last year's weather reports to judge whether it will rain today, yet we do something similar with Iraq news. The situation in Iraq has drastically changed, but the inertia of bad news leaves many convinced that the mission has failed beyond recovery, that all Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, or are waiting for us to leave so they can crush their neighbors. This view allows our soldiers two possible roles: either "victim caught in the crossfire" or "referee between warring parties." Neither, rightly, is tolerable to the American or British public.
Anyone who has been in Iraq for longer than a few months, visited a handful of provinces, and spoken with a good number of Iraqis, likely would acknowledge that the reality here is complex and dynamic. But in the last six months it also has been increasingly hopeful, despite what the pessimistic dogma dome allows Americans and British to believe.
In fact, this is what American media, hoping that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) have the public support to force an expeditious retreat, are immorally withholding from the citizenry:
I wasn't back in Iraq three days before this critical disconnect rocketed up from the ground and whacked me in the face. There I was with British soldiers, preparing for a mission with a duration of more than ten days in the southern province of al Basra, when someone asked me about the media reports alleging that Basra city had collapsed into violent chaos. Not wishing to trust solely to my own eyes and ears, I asked around and was able to quickly confirm what I'd already noted: conditions in this region had improved dramatically in the months since my previous embed with the Brits.
No one who's actually been to this area in the last month could honestly claim it was swarming with violence. I've been with the Brits here for more than two weeks, during which time there have been only a few trivial attacks that could easily have been the work of an angry farmer with extra time on his hands and a mortar in his backyard. As to serious attacks on British forces, in the last eight weeks, there have been exactly zero. So, any stories that make it sound like Basra is in chaos are shamefully false.
But it wasn't until I spent that week back in the States that I realized how bad things have gotten. I believe we are witnessing a conspiracy of coincidences conflating to exert an incomprehensibly destructive force on the free press system that we largely take for granted. The fact that the week in question also happened to be when General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were delivering their reports to Congress makes me wonder if things are actually worse than I've assessed, and I returned to Iraq sadly convinced that General Petraeus now has to deal from a deck clearly stacked against him in both America and Iraq.
Clearly, a majority of Americans believe the current set of outdated fallacies passed around mainstream media like watered down drinks at happy hour. Why wouldn't they? The cloned copy they get comes from the same sources that list the specials at the local grocery store, and the hours and locations of polling places for town elections. These same news sources print obituaries and birth announcements, give play-by-play for local high school sports, and chronicle all the painful details of the latest celebrity to fall from grace.
Eric at Classical Values commented Monday:
The post is an eye opener, and it makes me very angry, because I think that the general public is fatigued to the point of being burned out. While this is often thought of as war fatigue, unfortunately it takes the form of information fatigue. People just don't want to hear any more. Part of the reason is because they have already heard too much, and they are tired of being scolded in a partisan manner if they so much as utter a war related thought.
A good friend recently told me that he supports the war in silence, and he absolutely refuses to talk about it any more.
Bloggers, I am sorry to say, cannot fix this problem. Most people do not get their information from blogs, and those who do are usually on one side or the other, so their minds are not likely to change.
Take me, for example. I can write this blog post, but I am not in Iraq, and I am relying on what I have read in Michael Yon's blog and a few others. However, I do watch mainstream media reports pretty closely, and what I have noticed is that at the same time the situation in Iraq improved, mainstream news reports seemed to dwindle in a direct relationship to the improvement. To me, that's a clue. But to others (especially the more "normal" people who rely on news accounts) no news is not seen as evidence of good news, but just a relief from news. Unfortunately, all they remember is the steady drip drip drip of bad news from Iraq. Without any news, they're probably just hoping that the channel has been changed.
Maybe so, but I find Yon's conclusion quite uplifting:
The only antidote for this toxic press is a steady dose of detailed stories about the amazing men and women who serve in the United States military. People like Lieutenant Jeffrey Pettee, Iraqi Army Captain Baker, USMC SSG Rakene Lee, and LTC Fred Johnson. Each of these soldiers is a credit to every human being.
It is important that Americans let their best and clearest voices be heard around the world. If the world contained only twenty people, only one would be American. We represent about 5% of the world population. What those other nineteen people think about America is truly very important to each one of us. We cannot afford to let the media around the world continue promulgating so many recycled misconceptions about our soldiers and the character of our nation.
Quite right. And, maybe more importantly, we cannot afford our own media promulgating such misconceptions.
Thank you, Michael, for all you do.
And, for those that are or aren't familiar with Yon's work, please read this entire marvelous piece.
*****Update: There was a notable exception last evening concerning the reporting of good news from Iraq as Brent Baker pointed out.