November 07, 2003

You've Entered A Spin Zone--Proceed

You've Entered A Spin Zone--Proceed with Caution

The Times really wants to keep pumping up this non-story doesn't it?

An "Administration response" piece (an embarrasingly thin article--because the non-story elicited so very little attention among Administation players--unless desperately hounded by correspondents' queries).

A lead masthead (entitled, you guessed it, "Rush to War, Revisited").

The masthead fairly drips with contempt for the Bushies:

"By March, Washington's military and political preparations for war were complete. The Bush administration was then showing little patience for diplomacy or anything else that might delay what it envisioned as a swift and easy military triumph, with jubilant Iraqis cheering American troops, a model Middle Eastern democracy rising in Baghdad, reconstruction paid for by Iraqi oil revenue and no lengthy military occupation."
[my emphasis]

It's not just MaDo who is "accelerating such memes".

Seemingly the entire editorial page shares her views and, indeed, similarly adopts her deceptions. Small wonder she's never reeled in.

But back to the Perle as peace mediator non-story story.

Post NYT-hype, our friends elsewhere are picking it up and it is quickly metamorphosizing into a heartwrenching tale of a historic missed opportunity.

A peace-loving Saddam, after all, was offering up to the Americans an almost innumerable number of concessions (advantageous petrol contacts too, cuz that's what we really wanted, bien sur!) only to be crudely rebuffed by the bloodthirsty hyperpuissance.

As I said, you've entered the W. 43rd St--Auntie Beeb--Liberation-on-the-Seine spin zone. Proceed with caution--and disregard much of what you're reading...

UPDATE: Sure, I could don a leftist cap and scrutinize the WSJ, Weekly Standard, and so on to play 'gotcha' from another political perspective--critics sometimes write in.

But none of those outlets pretend to be the neutral and oh-so judicious purveyors of the news. None proclaim themselves the "newspaper of record."

Listen, I think the NYT is the greatest paper in the world, all told. Thus the scrutiny and attention. They can (and must) do better.

That doesn't mean they need to steer to the right on the political spectrum--but it does means getting the news right.

This means, speaking generally, a couple things. One, they need to get their facts straight. That's what gets many of us all up in arms with so many of MaDo's columns.

And relatedly, they have to be careful how they position/play stories even where they may be factually correct.

For instance, a wise editor would realize that a couple hours of Richard Perle sitting down with a minor Lebanese-American businessman to ruminate about a (frankly risible) alleged back channel to Saddam doesn't warrant the copy, masthead, and general attention the Times has given it.

So why does Bill Keller play the story up?

Well, you can't help thinking there's an agenda at work there. And it appears a pretty simple one.

It's playing up the theme that Bush a) rushed us into a war and b) it's a war that is now becoming a Vietnam-style quagmire. They will, of course, be shifting more to "b" as the months go along.

There is much worrisome news emanating from Iraq--to be sure. But we need to continue to monitor the hyperbole, the spin, and, most important, the factual errors going forward where such bad news is purposefully co-opted by the Times. There will doubtless be many.

But note: It's a labor of love, folks. Bill Keller should thank us righty bloggers!

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