AP Hypes 'Mini-Civil War' Header, Leaves Out Context

August 23rd, 2006 5:37 AM

Continuing with the misleading headline theme, an AP wire story running in the Kansas City Star was entitled "British gen. says Iraq mini "civil war."

That sounds suspiciously like the prevailing conventional mainstream media wisdom. If you read the article, however, you'll find that the general actually stated several times that this was really not the correct terminology to be describing the situation in Iraq, and stressed it repeatedly. No matter - statistics and studies have shown that few people read much farther than the headers and the first paragraph of any given news story, and the point is to implant in the reader's brain a framework before they even read the story. Mission accomplished. Click read more for the context the header doesn't provide.

Here is what the general said regarding the "mini-civil war" quote blasted across the headline:

"So what I think we have is something which is, at the very best, civil war in miniature, at the very best. But I don't think it actually even meets that definition," Fry said.

Notice how much of that quote was snipped to include the magic catch-all phrase in the headline. The headline completely ignores the obvious qualifiers and statments to the contrary - standard operating procedure.

Here is more from the general buried further down in the article (since it contradicts the headline):

"In my judgment, we are not in a situation of civil war," British Royal Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Fry told reporters at the Pentagon in a video-teleconference from Baghdad. He added, "I know what a civil war looks like." He said there is no mass migration out of Baghdad, where the sectarian violence is worst; the central government is functioning; and the country's security forces are answerable to the government.

More statements contradicting the misleading headline:

Fry said it was important that the conflict not be described as "civil war."

"It is inflammatory language,
" he said. "It is implying that the situation is worse than it is. It therefore encourages - among other things - adventurous media reporting" and "could encourage a certain degree of despondency in the political constituencies of both of our countries. But above all, I simply don't think it's an accurate statement of the situation that we're currently involved in."

None of that context provided by the general seems to square with the headline at all, does it? That, along with reports of decreasing violence in Iraq, seems to throw this bogus spin completely off its axis.

Thanks to Pajamas Media for the hattips. Cross-posted at Mein Blogovault.