In a column published last night, Eric Boehlert does an excellent job of showing why David Brock's Media Matters
should be regarded as the alimentary canal of punditry; on one end it's
good at regurgitation, and on the other, the finalized product is
consistently something better flushed.
By the next day, even more details had emerged in the AP's story along with a description of why the alleged attacks finally ended.
Synthesize the various versions of the story, and you will have a
horrific story of how Shia gunmen attacked while the Iraqi police and
military stood by, without interfering, as four mosques were destroyed
and as many as 18 people were killed, including six Sunni men pulled
from a mosque and burned alive after being doused with kerosene. Only
the arrival of American military units brought an end to the carnage.
But here's the problem... there is little to no evidence that any of these events took place.
Contrary to the AP's reporting, the Ahbab al-Mustafa, Nidaa Allah,
al-Muhaimin and al-Qaqaqa mosques were never blown up. There is no
evidence uncovered that a single soul, much less 18, were burned in an
"inferno" at the al-Muhaimin mosque. In fact, soldiers from the 6th
Iraqi Army Division found al-Muhaimin completely undamaged.
When the "six burning Sunnis" story hit the blogosphere, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal wrote that bloggers had "turned over a rock" at the Associated Press.
In his Best of the Web column today, Taranto turns over a rock himself and discovers a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News trying to scurry away from the light. Will Bunch is upset that conservative bloggers, the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, and CENTCOM blew the whistle on the AP's story.
Now comes the flap over a mosque attack in Baghdad, and a dispute over the news account -- trumpted [sic] on this Daily News front page at top -- that six Sunni worshippers were burned alive. This Huffington Post post does a good job of breaking down the mixed signals on whether this event really happened as reported by the AP. It's clear to me that a) The AP based its article on information from a trusted and previously reliable source, which is no guarantee of avoiding an error but is also the proven and accepted way all over the world that journalists gather news and b) even if the report were wrong, and I'm not convinced that it is, it was in the context of horrific -- and demonstrably true -- escalating violence in Baghdad.
Mark Tapscott of the Washington Examiner weighs in on how the Associated Press can extricate themselves from the Jamil Hussein/burning men story in Iraq. Sound familiar?
What AP appears not to grasp is that the most serious questions about
its credibility are already in the minds of millions of people, thanks
in part to the bloggers, but also to the few mainstream media
organizations that have covered the growing controversy.
What is most puzzling about the AP reaction is its failure to do
the one thing that would instantly put the critics in their place -
produce Capt. Jamil Hussein. If he is in fact an Iraqi police captain,
it is impossible to understand why he cannot be produced and his
"Captain Jamil Hussein" is but one of 14 Iraqi-sounding names of
sources quoted by AP that U.S. military officials say cannot be
verified as credible sources.
By this point, the Associated Press has almost assuredly tried to
contact Jamil Hussein to come on camera, in uniform, in his police
office to prove that he does in fact exist, thereby shutting down this
Just as assuredly, the present silence from the Associated Press on
the matter indicates that they have likely failed to produce their
source for over 60 news stories.
Writer Tom Zeller manages to muddy the waters without ever directly mentioning the most troubling question of all: whether or not al Qaeda propagandists are using the Western media to foment civil war in Iraq. The closest Zeller comes to acknowledging this vital issue is mentioning the title of the Flopping Aces post that started the controversy, Getting News From the Enemy.
In today's Boston Herald, columnist Jules Crittenden calls on the mainstream media to confront the Associated Press over its "shoddy" work:
When a company defrauds its customers, or delivers shoddy goods, the customers sooner or later are going to take their business elsewhere. But if that company has a virtual monopoly, and offers something its customers must have, they may have no choice but to keep taking it.
That’s when the customers, en masse, need to raise a stink. That’s when someone else with the resources needs to seriously consider whether the time is ripe to compete.
The Associated Press is embroiled in a scandal. Conservative bloggers, the new media watchdogs, lifted a rock at the AP.
The Iraq government has set up an agency to monitor false news coming out of Iraq. After the Associated Press used a government source that doesn't exist, the government wants to make sure the AP and other media outlets cannot get away with similar fraudulent activity. Reports the UK Guardian.
Iraq's interior ministry has formed a press monitoring unit in response to what it described as "fabricated and false news" that misrepresents the country's security situation.
Singling out the Associated Press for criticism, spokesman Brigadier General Abdul-Karim Khalaf said yesterday that dedicated unit would monitor news coverage and even initiate legal action if journalists do not correct stories it believes to be incorrect.
The "police captain" that the Associated Press used as the source for their story about six Sunni men dragged from prayers and burned alive by Shiite militants is not a policeman and does not work for the Iraqi government in any capacity, according to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior.
CENTCOM had warned the AP about Hussein and other questionable sources they were using, but was rebuffed by the wire service organization. The AP's sensational story of the burning Sunnis was cited by NBC as a reason they decided to start calling violence in Iraq a "civil war." The source, "police captain Jamil Hussein," has been quoted in wire service stories since April of this year.
The New York Times is trying once again to convince the public that tipping off alleged terrorist front groups about an upcoming government search somehow falls under the umbrella of “the public’s right to information”.
Lawyers for the newspaper tried unsuccessfully to prevent special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald from reviewing telephone records that could be used in helping the government determine who leaked the classified information to the newspaper in the government’s obstruction of justice investigation.
Reports of burning mosques, like this one from Reuters remain unconfirmed, and may have been fabricated by Sunni militants.
Also, sensationalized accounts of Sunnis being dragged from prayer and burned alive by rampaging Shiites are unconfirmed, and all appear to come from the same source, police Captain Jamil Hussein, whose entire career appears to be issuing statements about Shia violence against Sunnis. Curt at Flopping Aces has researched Hussein and found a remarkable number of atrocity stories for which he is the source.
There is perhaps no better time to speak well of someone than when they pass away. But tributes can be excessive to the point where the truth is utterly lost, and low moments of someone's career are glossed over. When we lose presidents, partisans of one stripe or the other think the celebration risks ignoring or going beyond the facts of history. In today's Washington Post, Marcia Davis's appreciation of departed New York Times managing editor Gerald Boyd, dismissed by the Times in the furor over utterly fraudulent reporting by Jayson Blair, Davis claims no one can challenge Boyd's record as a stickler for accuracy and against racial favoritism. The caption the front page of the Style section didn't mention Blair, but merely: "As he mentored new generations of journalists, Boyd was an unyielding stickler for accuracy." Davis recalled the Blair scandal this way:
Here's an interesting bit of irony: Knowledge of the media's ongoing fauxtography scandals has gotten so widespread that now entertainment shows are starting to make plots based on journalists faking the news. "CSI" recently ran an episode about it.
Appearing on Monday's edition of the "The Colbert Report," Dan Rather promoted his new HDNet investigative series by touting an ability to report "quality news with integrity." The small cable channel will premiere "Dan Rather Reports" on November 14. The show will feature the ex-CBS anchor who famously left his network after overseeing a segment that included forged documents used to attack President Bush. Amazingly, when talking with Comedy Central's Colbert, Rather touted his reputation in Bob Dole-style third person:
Stephen Colbert: "Now, let me ask you something. Now, the show is called ‘Dan Rather Reports.’ Um, what is the show about? Like, what is Dan Rather reporting?"
Dan Rather: "Dan Rather is reporting, hopefully, quality news with integrity. I hope it will be news with guts and spine."
Early on in the recent Israel/Lebanon war, there was a photograph published by both U.S. News and World Report and Time Magazine, which according to captions published with the picture was of a burning Israeli jet, shot down by Hezbullah missiles. The blogosphere was quicktodisputethepicturein question, and the widely-circulated story was that the photograph was actually that of a tire dump.
Well, it seems that the photographer responsible for taking the photograph, Bruno Stevens, has finally sounded off on Lightstalkers (the professional photographer's forum), explaining the photograph and telling the true story of how things ended up the way they did. He also notes that the site was not a tire dump, but was rather an old Lebanese Army base that had either been hit by an Israeli jet, or by a misfired Hezbullah rocket (both possibilites he appears to have recounted in his original captions). The key point that Bruno makes is that, while he sent in a fairly balanced caption to accompany the photograph, the wire services rewrote the caption completely, changing the pertinent facts surrounding the story. Where have we heard that before?
Bruno's story is available in full at Lightstalkers, and I recommend checking it out, even though it is mostly written as a response to someone who has been alleging that he was somehow covering up a civilian massacre or other indiscriminate act by the Israeli Air Force.
Just moments ago on North Carolina' Morning News with Jack Boston on Raleigh-based News-Talk 680 WPTF, former CBS anchor Dan Rather defended the infamous 60 Minutes
story using forged documents to attack President Bush's service with
the Texas Air National Guard as being, "absolutely true," a charge a
testy Rather reiterated at least four or five times.
Rather not only defended the report, but the validity of the forged
documentation that the report relied on, saying it had never been
proven false (despite copious evidence to the contrary).
I've contacted the station, and hope to get audio of that portion of the interview posted later in the morning.
Kerry received five Ds, including four in his freshman year, with a D in political science! Bush, during his time at Yale, got one D, in astronomy. Overall, Kerry finished Yale with a cumulative score of 76. Bush finished with a score of 77.
So if Bush who scored 77 might end up getting us stuck in a war, what would Kerry who scored a 76 end up getting us stuck in?
Terrorists in Iraq know they can rely on CNN to carry their propaganda as if it were straight news, now the Taliban is having success in placing "news" with the publicly funded British Broadcasting Corporation.
The lead story for the June 23 New York Times exposed a U.S. terrorist surveillance program involving international bank transfers ("Bank Data Sifted In Secret By U.S. To Block Terror"):
"Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials."
This is a truly shocking revelation by the New York Times ombudsman Byrone Calame (hat tip to Michelle Malkin). In a column published Sunday, Calame – the Times' “public editor” – has reversed a previous position of his concerning the Times June 23 article about secret international banking surveillance designed to uncover the sources of terrorist funding. Now, Calame thinks it was a mistake for the Times to reveal the existence of this program (emphasis mine throughout):
After pondering for several months, I have decided I was off base. There were reasons to publish the controversial article, but they were slightly outweighed by two factors to which I gave too little emphasis. While it’s a close call now, as it was then, I don’t think the article should have been published.
Those two factors are really what bring me to this corrective commentary: the apparent legality of the program in the United States, and the absence of any evidence that anyone’s private data had actually been misused. I had mentioned both as being part of “the most substantial argument against running the story,” but that reference was relegated to the bottom of my column.
This is quite a reversal for Calame who wrote at the time:
Reuters explains the latest mainstream meme, the public is "numb" to Iraq war deaths:
But with the U.S. military death toll hitting 2,787 on Friday, and with 73 deaths so far in October, it is shaping up to be the deadliest month for U.S. forces since the Falluja offensive two years ago.
Analysts said even local media coverage struggles to overcome the numbing affect of the steady flow of deaths.
Five months ago, the Internet’s top search engine Google was accused of banning conservative websites from its news crawl. Last week, the e-behemoth offered to purchase YouTube, the preeminent provider of videos over the Web that has recently been implicated in censorship of its own. With their pending merger, serious questions arise about the future of the most powerful telecommunications medium on the landscape, and who if anyone is trying to control its content.
It could have been Speaker Dennis Hastert's team skills or dexterity or experience or ingenuity that is being tested, but no, it's his "mentality."
It takes until the second paragraph for the authors, Michael Grunwald and Jim VandeHei, to make the relevant point that Mr. Hastert is "the beefy former wrestling coach - who's a bit bearlike himself." Just in case that's too subtle, we're later advised: "He looks like a cross between actor Wilford Brimley and Jabba the Hutt, and his unassuming Midwestern public demeanor makes for dull television."
ABC News has just released this statement explaining how blogger Wild Bill of Passionate America was able to learn the real screen name of Mark Foley's Instant Message correspondent:
On Friday, ABC News published instant messages between a former page and Congressman Foley with the IM screen name of the teenage victim redacted. Immediately, we discovered that in one instance, the screen name of the teen on one IM exchange had not been properly redacted. ABC News immediately took down the posting [version 1], redacted the screen name and re-published the posting [version 2]. We certainly believed that we had taken care of the issue quickly. Last evening, after an inquiry from Matt Drudge, it came to our attention that a blogger was able to access our deleted file [version 1] by typing in a slightly modified web address. To be clear, no one visiting our website would have simply stumbled on the old version. We thank the blogger and Drudge for bringing this to our attention.
ABC news mistakenly released the IM identity of the page who exchanged IM messages with former Rep. Mark Foley. Bloggers Wild Bill from Passionate America and Ms. Underestimated tracked the AOL profile from the unredacted IM message and are reporting that the person is a 21 year old Deputy Campaign Manager for Congressman Ernest Istook in Oklahoma.
The current age of the person would put him at 17 or 18 years of age at the time of the IM exchange although ABC released a statement saying that the messages took place before and after the man's 18th birthday.
I haven’t posted much about the Foley Follies since this scandal erupted because I wanted to get a clearer picture of what exactly was going on.
As October Surprises break there is a tendency for the press and various political entities to hype up the leading story while neglecting the various stories behind the story.
Usually by the time the story has run its course the full picture is brushed aside in the wake of the lead. The damage is done and the press has moved on to the next item of the day.
NewsBusters gives us the opportunity to look beneath the scandal and dissect the way the media approaches these stories in real time. This post is my take.
Foley is gone. That’s good. If any laws were broken then I hope he gets what is coming to him. Lock him up; throw away the key. The same goes for anyone who is shown to have covered it up.
However, the Democrat and MSM attempts to paint this as a full blown Republican scandal is transparent and obvious. I find it hard to believe that these events just happened to unfold in a perfectly timed fashion a month before Congressional elections. Whoa, what are the chances?!
If I was an odds maker I would have bet on this sort of thing happening.
Remember when the AP ran the bogus story about the Crowd booing when President Bush annonunced that Bill Clinton was ill? There was no booing and the report created a firestorm in the blogsphere. Faced with an onslaught from bloggers, the AP was forced to retract the story.
The Guardian's Jonathan Freeland was caught in the reverse when he claimed there was no applause in response to this statement by PM Blair at the Labor Party conference:
"So when Blair said that a withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan would be "a craven act of surrender", he said it to silence."
This one’s really good, folks. Writing in Friday’s FrontPage Magazine, Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn Law School Henry Mark Holzer made the case for why the New York Times should be indicted for violating the Espionage Act (hat tip to American Thinker):
It is an article of faith on the Left and among its fellow travelers that the Bush administration stole two elections, made war on Iraq for venal reasons, tortured hapless foreigners, and conducted illegal surveillance of innocent Americans. A corollary of this mindset is that the press, primarily the Washington Post and The New York Times, has a right, indeed a duty, to print whatever they want about the administration—even if the information compromises national security.
Holzer marvelously responded to this absurd notion:
The declassification of parts of the National Intelligence Estimate spells out the ramifications of a major triumph in the War on Terror: the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (the report was finalized in April, before Zarqawi's death). The NIE states:
Al-Qa’ida, now merged with Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi’s network, is exploiting the situation in Iraq to attract new recruits and donors and to maintain its leadership role. • The loss of key leaders, particularly Usama Bin Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and al-Zarqawi, in rapid succession, probably would cause the group to fracture into smaller groups. Although like-minded individuals would endeavor to carry on the mission, the loss of these key leaders would exacerbate strains and disagreements.
Jules Crittenden, writing in the Boston Herald, examines the Associated Press' actions in light of the detention of AP photographer Bilal Hussein, captured by Coalition forces with al Qaeda terrorists and a weapons cache earlier this year:
The Associated Press, the reliable just-the-facts news agency you and I once knew, no longer exists. Amoral propagandists have taken over. It is not only in the disturbing matter of Bilal Hussein, AP photograher and al-Qaeda associate, being held without charge in U.S. custody in Iraq that this is evident. But also in the departure from balanced, nonpartisan coverage that has always been the AP’s promise to us, its customers...
Well sports fans, the plot is getting so thick you can drive a truck over it. TV Newser is reporting that Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time” who went on quite a rant Friday night about being denied his free speech rights by CBS, might be mistaken. According to the New York Daily News (emphasis mine): “‘If I or my representatives got it wrong about how the 'Free Speech' segment of the 'CBS Evening News' is, sorry, our bad,’ Maher said yesterday in a statement. ‘I'm ready, willing and able to speak about the topic I originally suggested.’"
Isn’t that special? In fact, according to Vaughn Ververs at CBS’s “The Public Eye,” the “Evening News” is in no way opposed to addressing religion: