Mark Steyn: Reality in Iraq is “Very Different From What Tim Russert Thinks”

For those of you that missed it, Mark Steyn – one of the finest geopolitical writers on the current landscape – was Hugh Hewitt’s radio guest on Thursday (hat tips to Radio Blogger and Real Clear Politics with audio link to follow). The main topic of discussion was – you guessed it – mainstream media bias towards the war in Iraq. One of the best moments was when Steyn went after one of the most prominent media darlings:

“Tim Russert said today, he defended NBC, the media's Iraq coverage, by saying we capture reality. Yeah, they capture reality in the same sense that those insurgent guys capture people. They saw its head off and shout Allah Akhbar at reality. That's what they're doing when they capture reality. The reality of what's happening in Iraq is very different from what Tim Russert thinks it is.”

Steyn stated the main problem with the press coverage from the Middle East is the “herd think” mentality that emanates when these representatives all get together at bars and social gatherings to, intentionally or not, develop a consensus view: “Well, I think the media has a herd mentality, as Christopher Hitchens was talking about in his marvelous interview with you just the other day. And I think that is the problem, that anyone who's been with large groups of journalists, whether you're at a political convention in Philadelphia, or whether you're with the foreign correspondent crowd in Kabul, knows that they all sit together in the same bar, and they reinforce the herd think.”

In fact, this groupthink is so pervasive that Steyn doesn’t want to tour Iraq as part of a media assignment:

“You know, the State Department, a lady at the State Department asked me if I wanted to go to Iraq the other day, and I politely said well, you know, I'm not thinking about it at the moment. And the reason I said that was because I think there's a difference when you go as part of a media assignment. When I was just driving around the Sunni Triangle, I was doing it pretty much as a tourist, and I think you see a different way that way.”

He then emphasized the difference between being out where the news occurs versus what most press members are doing: “The media sitting in the same hotel bar in Baghdad, and then watching, filming the burning Nissan of the morning so it can be on the Today Show, is not the whole story about what's going on in Iraq in any means.”

In Steyn’s view, the best reporting is coming from – you guessed it again – bloggers: “And I think the most interesting stories to come out of Iraq have been the ones from independent bloggers, sometimes with the American military, and sometimes Iraqi bloggers, or sometimes just from some fellow who happens to be in Kurdistan, and notices the big tourist boom that's going on there. They're all stories that are different stories.”

Steyn also attacked the media contention that Iraq is becoming Vietnam:

“I think that is one of the big stories here, that in fact, the military, whether or not Iraq is like Vietnam, I don't think it is. That's rubbish. But clearly, the military this time around is not like Vietnam. That's the big difference. Anyone who gets e-mail from the troops knows that they're full of pride in what they're doing, and they think it's doing very well.”

Steyn also refuted the media view that Iraq is in a civil war:

“When people use terms like insurgency and civil war and all this, think about the meaning of those terms. We've seen what civil war is within recent memory, in Rwanda and Bosnia and Ivory Coast, just to pick three examples. That's where the country gets split from top to toe between different ethnic groups, and they all start killing each other, and rival governments spring up, and there's massive population displacements. None of that is going on in Iraq.”

Well put, Mark. For the full transcript of this interview crafted by Radio Blogger, go here. MP3 Audio Link also courtesy of Radio Blogger.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.