Old Media on Iraq: Good News Not Newsworthy

April 11, 2005

When it comes to reporting on the Iraq War, the Old Media might as well be an appendage of the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party. It is astonishing how little coverage we’ve seen of the positive trend there over the last few months.

I realize many just chalk up the media’s emphasis on bad news as intrinsic to journalism: the attitude that if nothing is going wrong, it’s not really newsworthy. But that just doesn’t wash.

How could anyone seriously contend that a reduction in the anarchy isn’t newsworthy? What could be more important than signs indicating we might have turned the corner on the “insurgency”?

While we heard a daily drumbeat of despair and an ongoing tabulation of American dead when things were looking bleaker — a look, I might add, that was meticulously cultivated by the Old Media — we hear nothing but a thundering silence today.

How can we but conclude that the media simply don’t want to promote the good news out of Iraq? But why? Well, obviously, they suppress good news because it vindicates their nemesis, President Bush, and incriminates them and their liberal comrades.

Do you think that’s unfair? Would you prefer I conclude instead that they downplay positive developments because they abhor the march of democracy in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East? I’m straining for an alternative explanation for their one-sided coverage.

We heard barely a whisper from these naysayers when we witnessed the popular uprising in Lebanon against Syrian occupation. Rather, they chose to highlight counter-protests by Hezbollah-sympathizers — as if the media were rooting against democracy and independence.

They don’t even pretend to be balanced. Remember the early anti-administration reporting that accompanied the beginning of the ground war? There were predictions of quagmire, reports we were being greeted as occupiers and not liberators, exaggerated stories of museum lootings, complaints about our supply lines not keeping pace with our advancing troops and the like.

Don’t forget the media hype over alleged coalition negligence leading to missing explosives in Al Qaqaa, nor the media’s preposterous, relentless quest to pin the Abu Ghraib abuses directly on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The most egregious example of bias involved their conspiratorial joinder with Democrats to smear President Bush as a liar concerning his claims of WMD in Iraq. When we failed to find large WMD stockpiles after deposing Saddam Hussein, they helped Democrats portray a global failure of intelligence (assuming the weapons weren’t there and moved before our invasion), as premeditated deception by President Bush. They’ve all repeated the lie so much now that it has become part of the “conventional wisdom.”

Moving into the present, why aren’t we hearing much today about how we have the terrorists on the run? The Washington Times — decidedly not part of the Old Media — reported that the U.S. Marines almost caught “Abu Musab Zarqawi, the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq,” and he is still being pursued. “He’s going from brush pile to brush pile just like a wet rat,” said Lt. Gen John F. Sattler.

“Big deal,” you say. “It’s only newsworthy if they capture him.” Wrong. It’s newsworthy anyway, but especially if his near capture is more than blind luck. Indeed, it appears that any blind luck involved accrued not to coalition troops, but Zarqawi, who managed to escape only because of poor visibility brought on by bad weather.

Far from serendipitous, our tightening of the noose around Zarqawi was a natural consequence of our earlier military successes. Gen. Sattler told the Times that the “coalition has forced Zarqawi to work ‘independently’ by killing or capturing his first- and second-string lieutenants.” A media at least marginally receptive to good news out of Iraq would be all over this story.

While we don’t want to prematurely “count our chickens,” it would seem that a media interested in reporting, rather than coloring the news would celebrate this story.

Similarly, how about the relative decline in American fatalities? How about reports that Iraqi security forces are maturing and strengthening each day? How about recent hints that if current trends continue we could begin withdrawing substantial numbers of troops toward the end of the year?

Perhaps Gen. Sattler’s declaration in November that our victory in Fallujah had “broken the back of the insurgency” was not an overstatement. Only time will tell. But in the meantime, I suppose we’ll not hear much from the Old Media until the next coalition setback.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not saying the Old Media don’t want good things to happen in Iraq — but just not on President Bush’s watch.

Now that’s newsworthy.