Sorry gang, but my head’s not on straight lately. I loved this post when I first started writing it yesterday, but now I can’t stand to read any of it. And unfortunately, it’s unfinished. But I’m having trouble finding the time to do this shit lately (deep into tax season) so I’m sending this one out unfinished and fairly unpolished. I’ve got a few more posts in the pipeline I might send out unfinished, but if I don’t send them out that way, they probably won’t get out at all.
If you’ve got the time, I recommend reading this interview on Howard Kurtz’s appropriately named Reliable Sources (via Atrios). It’s interesting that, despite Kurtz’s insistence on pro-Bush balance, the reporters keep coming back to reality. Here’s Bush implicitly downplaying the importance of bad news in Iraq:
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Footage of children playing or shops opening and people resuming their normal lives will never be as dramatic as the footage of an IED explosion. They're capable of blowing up innocent life so it ends up on your TV show.
Uh, yeah, isn’t this the way it’s supposed to be? That death and explosions are more important than school openings? But it’s not just a coincidence that the dramatic footage is often more enthralling than the boring kind. And sure, some unnewsworthy items such as missing white women, car crashes, and fires also make for dramatic footage; but it’s hard to imagine a potential civil war in Iraq…aww who cares. This is my blog, and I’m arbitrarily ending this paragraph right now.
Working On One Level
But that wasn’t my main point. Everyone and his dog are hyping the reporters’ defiance to Kurtz and Bush’s “balanced” bullying. No, my main point was regarding an earlier incident of complaints of “one-sided” reporting; this time with right-wingers and the sycophants who love them complaining that someone would dare to report good news from Iraq.
Remember all the hubbub regarding Fahrenheit 9/11, and all the “debunker” sites that popped up? And one of their claims was that Michael Moore had glossed over Saddam’s evilness by failing to show the negative pictures of pre-war Iraq that we were already familiar with. Here we see on Dave Kopel’s infamously deceitful Fifty-Nine Deceits in Fahrenheit 9/11, deceit number 44 titled “Iraq before Liberation”: “Moore shows scenes of Baghdad before the invasion (read: liberation) and in his weltanschauung, it’s a place filled with nothing but happy, smiling, giggly, overjoyed Baghdadis. No pain and suffering there. No rape, murder, gassing, imprisoning, silencing of the citizens in these scenes.”
Nor was this trend limited to the brain-dead right-wingers. Heck no, brain-dead left-wingers were quick to get in on the action too. Here’s faux-liberal dipshit Richard Cohen regarding Moore’s atrocious oversight: “In fact, prewar Iraq is depicted as some sort of Arab folk festival -- lots of happy, smiling, indigenous people. Was there no footage of a Kurdish village that had been gassed? This is obscenity by omission.”
And just to show that Conventional Wisdom loves company, here’s Boston’s female-Cohen equivalent Ellen Goodman reciting the same point: “But at some point, I also began to feel just a touch out of harmony. Not even this alto believes that the Iraq war was brought to us courtesy of the Bush-Saudi oil-money connection. Not even the rosiest pair of my retro-spectacles sees prewar Iraq as a happy valley where little children flew kites.”
To further demonstrate the principle that great minds think alike, both Goodman and Cohen failed to refrain from the irresistible urge to pun; thus Cohen’s title of “Baloney, Moore or Less” compared with Goodman’s hilarious “Moore to the point.” Get it? The movie was directed by Michael Moore, so they used his last name as a witty replacement for the word “more”, even though the supposed puns lamely only work on one level. Yep, that’s why they get paid the Big Bucks and why blogs like mine don’t even have advertising. It’s not enough to recite the same talking points, you’ve also got to include faux-puns when describing such mundane matters like war, death, and deception. How else can people be bothered to read such things with their morning coffee? As they say, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
Propaganda v. News
Of course, none of these three examples are exact equivalents to Bush’s propaganda complaint. In fact, one might even see that the complaint against Bush’s one-sided good news is far stronger than that against Moore. I mean, the complaint against Moore was that he dared to show good news from Iraq. Yet it can be easily argued that it wasn’t necessary to show bad news, as everyone already knew the bad news. Everyone had already heard of the torture and brutality of the Saddam regime. Moore was merely showing that another side existed, and that there were happy people in Iraq who got hurt. That isn’t to suggest that Iraq was always a “happy valley” or an “Arab folk festival”. It helped establish a human element to the Iraq war and was intended to provide some contrast to the one-sided images we had routinely seen.
Moore himself says this (as quoted by ignoramus Dave Kopel): "This film exists as a counterbalance to what you see on cable news about the coalition. I’m trying to counter the Orwellian nature of the Big Lie, as if when you hear that term, the ‘coalition,’ that the whole world is behind us." And despite Kopel’s absurd protests to the contrary, that makes perfect sense. If everyone has already seen something, it’s not necessary to show them it again every time you’re discussing the topic. But somehow, Kopel failed to understand that, as a good percentage of the “deceits” he lists all fall within this category.
But Bush’s complaint is slightly different. He’s not arguing that we need to show the occasional good picture or story. He’s saying that these positive images should trump the bigger news stories. Or more specifically, he’s lamenting that these negative images are considered more important than the positive ones; but implicit in that is that he’s prefer things to be otherwise. He’d prefer that the negative images be replaced entirely. Even if he never specifically states that, can anyone seriously doubt that that’s not his intent?
But the parallels are even more tenuous. Because the negative anti-Saddam news stories were not actually news. They didn’t affect us directly at all. They were part of a propaganda campaign to get us to invade Iraq. And here we see house liberals like Cohen and Goodman griping in unison that Moore failed to show the same pro-war propaganda that we had been deluged with for years.
But the negative Iraq footage that dominates the news isn’t propaganda at all. That really is news. It is news when American soldiers die in combat. It is news when a mosque gets bombed. It is news when someone is beheaded. These things can be used for propaganda purposes, but the reporting itself really is news. The pro-war propaganda largely involved old offenses which had long since been forgiven by our government (eg, the gassing of Cohen’s Kurdish Village); while the negative Iraq news are all current events which are playing out in real time. In Iraq, we weren’t stopping active genocide. The threat sounded eminent, but the offenses were all old.
And that’s why it’s not entirely fair to cite Bush’s insistence of positive Iraq news as the equivalent of Moore’s footage of happiness in Iraq. Nor is the current bad news emanating from Iraq equal to the pro-war propaganda the Bushies were pimping before the war. But to the Bushies there is no difference. To them, it’s all propaganda. They only wanted negative images of Iraq because that helped their cause. And now, they only want positive images of Iraq because that helps their cause. And in fact, their biggest complaints against Fahrenheit 9/11 was that it was propaganda, and as such, every fact, opinion, or statement must obviously serve an ulterior purpose towards that propaganda. And that’s how the propagandists and the faux-liberals like Cohen and Goodman saw things. But if instead, one sees the movie as a collection of facts which were either unknown or forgotten about; it changes everything. Where propaganda, pre-conceived notions, and conspiracies weren’t underlying them of the movie; but rather an alternate
And the same goes for the negative news streaming out of Iraq. If one wants to find a connection and conspiracy behind all the stories, one will see it. But instead, if one see this as the