Fake news or biased journalism? Just another day in Baghdad circa 2006. Multi National Division – Baghdad published a newspaper, Baghdad Now, to share a different perspective with Iraqis and compete against the local newspapers who had their own agendas.
WEEK 6 – 24 Dec 06
Liar – Lyre
“If you do not read the newspapers, you’re uninformed. If you do read the newspapers, you’re misinformed.” – Mark Twain
“The first report is always wrong.” – Military Constant
Like the above quotes, some of the non-military reports this week have been a little less than accurate. This Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees issued a report accusing Multi National Forces, read the United States, of not defending Palestinian refugees in Baghdad who were subjected to a three hour mortar barrage. Three hour mortage barrage or barrage of three mortars? In Baghdad, indirect fire often comes in two or three rounds, but we haven’t seen any three hour barrages especially in a neighborhood right next to one of our bases in East Baghdad.
Just as Mac Beth’s witches predicted, trouble comes in threes and we have no problem turning the triple play. Two media reports come to mind from the Agence’ French Presse (AFP). The first report cites the Association of Muslim Scholars complaint of masked gunmen, supported by Coalition Forces, storming the Doura Power Plant and kidnapping several people. In another world called reality, Coalition Forces, in support of Iraqi Security Forces, arrested several wanted criminals at the Doura Power Plant. The report doesn’t cite any Coalition Force or Government of Iraq source as having an opportunity to comment. Good journalism.
For the third example and the second out of the AFP double play, US security guards allegedly helped an imprisoned former minister escape from a Baghdad jail. The byline is written as if United States personnel abetted the criminal suspect in escaping. The truth may be Iraqis working as guards for a US firm assisted in the escape. This accusation was never substantiated other than a US embassy statement that Ayham al-Samarra’I is on the run. On the other hand, Iraqiya, the fledgling Iraqi TV station, managed to handle it objectively. Go figure.
I could keep going on about the Sharqiyah broadcast of the thirteen elite members of the Ministry of Interior’s Wolf Brigade who were supposedly slain in al-Mada yet no bodies were reported found by the Coalition or Government of Iraq. Or, I could refer to the Association of Muslim Scholars web site statement of Coalition Forces arresting innocent people and seizing cell phones at the Abu Baqr mosque. Really, we discovered a large weapons cache.
Now, I am not trying to bash the media, the French or the Association of Muslim Scholars. I am just noting accurate truthful reporting seems hard to find. It as if everybody is reporting off of other reports because they don’t have people on the ground near the truth or they have an agenda.
Having completed almost two months here in Iraq, I have learned not to put too much faith in any report or claim because exaggeration is the norm. When this is the case, it can become a false reality and it makes the truth difficult to define. Thus, the truth is relative to where you sit, what you value and yada, yada, yada you know the rest.
Last time I was in Iraq, my complaint, if any, was the media didn’t cover the positive progress and dwelled too long on the negative like the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal. The faceless monolithic structure called the media does not have a singular agenda.
Often, we are receiving fair coverage from the US media. It appears, however, that many organizations, media or not, have an agenda to berate the Coalition whenever possible and without responsibility. I understand why the Association of Muslim Scholars does it, yet I would almost be amazed how many other information outlets are getting in the act.
This happens when you are number one. Everyone tries to take you down. It is like the March Madness crowd rooting for the underdog.
The information environment in Baghdad is as noisy and chaotic as a college basketball arena. The fans cheer for their team on every play and yell for a foul when the play doesn’t go their way. When I look at it this way, all this grousing by our adversaries is music to my ears. To enjoy my own music, however, it is time to get my information orchestra in unison.
We’ll be playing a Cavalry Charge.