Information operations

Baghdad Ten Years Ago – 15 Apr 07

WEEK 22:  Again, the irony of recent events with the history of a mere decade past. Is it fake news or just lazy or one-sided news? Often, just lazy or one-sided.

Amateur Hour

“We got the bubble headed bleach blonde who comes on at five,

She can tell you bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye.”

– Don Henley

Media bashing can be fun. I’m going to burn off some steam.

It’s easy to blame the media for lousy slanted coverage.  The news networks should be showing all the good things we are doing.  We are really conducting very important humanitarian efforts that are making a positive difference.  We are doing them because people need food and aid and not because we want something.  The charities and aid organizations would be proud of us. If the news networks would cover these events, Peace and Jeffersonian democracy would break out all over Baghdad.

Seriously, though, most of the US media outlets conduct fair professional journalism and reporting.  The fourth estate has a responsibility to the people to find the truth and to themselves to make a profit.  Often, media coverage improves when we engage them. Likewise, media accuracy and fairness improves when they engage us.

We had two bogus reports reference Monday’s Iraqi Freedom Day march in Najaf.  Moqtada Al Sadr called for a massive demonstration to observe Iraqi Freedom Day and protest the US led occupation.  It was supposed to rival his previous Million Man March.  Louis Farrakhan would be jealous.

According to most Iraqi government and military estimates, the number of participants was between fifteen and twenty thousand.  Depending on the media outlet, though, the range varied from thousands to tens of thousands.  I’m okay with those figures. Sure, tens of thousands can be up to ninety thousand and that is much higher than twenty thousand.  In the spirit of the media’s ‘Man Bites Dog’ is news mantra, I’ll accept it.

I won’t accept the inanity of Agence France – Presse, or AFP, who cited hundreds of thousands of marchers.  Hundreds of Thousands?  What war are you watching?  Yes, the oldest news agency is victim to the oldest bad media habit.  AFP is reporting off of stringers.

Stringers are local media guns for hire who report what they see back to the reporter who is not at the location.  In this case, the AFP reporter was likely back in Baghdad and the stringer was in Najaf.  It’s not unlikely that the stringer was part of the Sadr network or Jaysh al Mahdi given the obvious slant.

I’d like to believe that AFP would learn.  Back in November, AFP quoted a Captain Hussein from the Ministry of Interior (MoI) as saying that the Iraqi Police were slaughtering innocent civilians.  Who would really believe a MoI official spokesman would admit to slaughtering civilians?  AFP I guess.  AFP corrected the record then and now, but the damage is already done.

If the oldest news agency can make such a gaffe then I guess the so called most trusted name in news can do the same.  CNN’s coverage would have been comical if it hadn’t been so nauseating.  The reporter’s account was just gushing over the vaunted influence of Moqtada Al Sadr.

I almost thought she was reporting about Nelson Mandela overcoming apartheid.  Moqtada was able to call for a massive demonstration all the way from his self imposed exile in Iran.

sadr march
Sadr supporters march in Najaf in April 2007

His loyal followers answered the summons in droves rallying under the banner of Iraqi brotherhood.  “No, No, America. No, No, to the Occupiers” they shouted.


The police and army even participated in the demonstration.  Yes, the anchor agreed, Moqtada is still very influential.  Surely, brave Moqtada and his followers will stand up to the American Occupiers so we can all soon go home.  Wait.  Back Up.

I didn’t see any photos, videos or written reports of Iraqi police or Army participating in the march.  I am willing to bet that the reporter wasn’t in Najaf.  I am also willing to bet that her stringer worked for Sadr.  I am almost willing to bet her stringer wasn’t in Najaf either.  Call me Crazy.

The galling part of such amateur journalism isn’t using the stringer.  It is not engaging us and giving us the benefit of the doubt.  CNN especially has no reason not to give us or the Iraqi government the opportunity to answer as to whether Iraqi Army or Police were involved.  If this is the attitude of a US media outlet, we may as well do it ourselves.