NYT Circles Its Wagons with Associated Press

December 4th, 2006 1:36 AM
It was only a matter of time before the Gray Lady put in her two cents worth about the discredited "Six Burning Sunnis" story.

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.

Over the course of last week, an Associated Press article — one subsequently challenged by the military — in which six Sunni worshipers were reportedly doused in kerosene and burned alive by Shiite attackers, became the worst kind of totem.

For bloggers who believe that the media has been drawing false pictures of mayhem in Iraq, the insistence of the American military and Iraqi officials that the burning incident appeared to be a mere rumor was proof that their suspicions were correct.

As one might expect, the New York Times is vastly more concerned with the freedom of reporters to report, than the actual accuracy of those reports:
Iraq’s interior ministry wielded the article like a bludgeon and used it as an opportunity to create a press monitoring unit that suggested, in no uncertain terms, that reporters in Baghdad should come to its press officers for “real, true news.” A ministry spokesman promised “legal action” — whatever that might mean — against journalists who publish information the agency deemed wrong.
As if a country whose citizens are daily subjected to assaults from terrorists has no legitimate interest in seeing that rumors and disinformation propagated by their enemies are not being published as "news."

We've been down this road before. Mainstream media efforts to minimize the Reutersgate scandal during the Lebanon/Hezbollah war mean that most Americans aren't even aware that deadly serious concerns about the accuracy of major news service accounts have arisen. And they don't know that it was bloggers who forced Reuters to withdraw all ten years of Adnan Hajj's photographs.

The mainstream media never did fully acknowledge the stunning depth of the fauxtography scandal; a pattern of disinformation perpetrated by agenda-driven stringers that made much of the "news" coming out of that war so suspect as to be nearly useless. Is there really any reason to think that the same thing isn't going on in Iraq?

Update 12:20 by Matthew Sheffield. The Ace of Spades blog and Flopping Aces have lots more on this story that's worth reading.