In his Best of the Web Today column at the Wall Street Journal editorial page site on Wednesday, James Taranto noticed how Reuters had two very different takes on how Osama bin Laden attacks American presidents. He attacks Obama to protest his persuasive skills, while Bush is easily cartooned as a belligerent cowboy:
"A double blast from al Qaeda against Barack Obama shows the group is as worried as ever by the persuasive skills of the U.S. president, who makes a speech to Muslims on Thursday," Reuters "reports" from London:
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in an audio recording aired on Wednesday by Al Jazeera television, said Obama had planted the seeds of "revenge and hatred" towards the United States in the Muslim world and he warned Americans to prepare for the consequences.
A day earlier, the militant network's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri urged Egyptians not to be seduced by Obama's 'polished words' when he makes a major address in Cairo seeking to repair ties with the Muslim world.
When we read this, we suspected bias. After all, al Qaeda often attacked George W. Bush, but did Reuters portray this as a sign of the American president's strength and bin Laden's fear of his "persuasive skills"?
Then again, would it really be worth our time to comb through the archives in order to prove something so obvious--to answer what is essentially a rhetorical question?
Fortunately, we didn't have to! Reuters confirmed our suspicion in the next paragraph of this very dispatch:
For some, al Qaeda's concerted attempt to upstage Obama is a propaganda own goal that shows its normally media-savvy operatives in disarray following the departure of Obama's predecessor George W. Bush. They found Bush easy to stereotype as a belligerent, Muslim-hating cowboy.
This is a good opportunity to remind readers of one of Taranto's Laws of Journalism: When it appears in a news story, the word some is a first-person pronoun.
Absolutely. Reuters security correspondent William Maclean also added this line about how the president with the middle name "Hussein" is making al-Qaeda sweat, even as Zawahiri is denouncing him as a "criminal":
But Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi, said Zawahri's words showed al Qaeda was panicking.
"They know Obama is popular in a huge part of the Arab and Muslim world because the man is actually trying to address America's record in the region," he said."Zawahri is desperate. There is no substantial argument in his piece: He cannot say like he did with Bush that 'this is the man who killed a million Iraqis and supports the Israelis'. Everybody knows Obama is at odds with the Israelis."
Tell that to the Israeli lobby, Reuters.
[Image from Toonpool.com]