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Good News Is No News

October 27, 2008

It’s sad to observe how the mainstream media has gotten increasingly biased and unreliable in their reporting. The New York Times is probably the most extreme example. If they always printed corrections of the half-truths and lies they published in the preceding edition they could fill their entire paper with those corrections and give the term “news cycle” a whole new meaning.

But even the Associated Press seems to have given up on the aspiration of reporting in a neutral and informative fashion. Especially their reports on the war in Iraq tend to highlight the bad news. Just compare how much reporting we had about Iraq a year ago with how much we get now. It doesn’t exactly refute the thesis that “good news is no news” to the media, even when the good news is about winning a war.

Generally, it’s very disappointing to see how most press releases seem to be written by people who distrust the US military profoundly. Any accusation about alleged misbehaviour by US soldiers is eagerly taken up. (Think about the Haditha case that defamed eight Marines before (so far) seven of them had their charges dropped.) While stories about their heroism are largely neglected. (How many Medal of Honor recipients can you name?)

The mainstream media played nicely into the hands of those who were eager to irresponsibly call the Iraq war lost, without recognising that such declarations can become self-fulfilling prophecies. The same problem exists with the war in Afghanistan. General David McKiernan had an interview on Sunday in which he tells the AP that he, too, thinks that reports on the situation in Afghanistan focus too much on the negative:

But NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. David McKiernan, said he is tired of negative headlines and what he sees as a wave of unwarranted pessimism in news reports.

“Somebody likes to report an attack somewhere and that becomes the trend in Afghanistan, or they don’t report the positive events or the absolute brutality or the illegitimacy of the Taliban,” McKiernan told The Associated Press in an interview Sunday.

McKiernan highlighted an event last week witnessed by NATO troops in Farah province in which insurgents planting a roadside bomb grabbed two children and used them as human shields when they were attacked by NATO forces.

The four-star general also pointed to a protest last week by about 1,000 Afghans in Laghman province over the slaying of 26 local workers by Taliban militants who stopped a bus in Kandahar and killed many on board.

“That’s a rejection of the brutality of the Taliban by the people of Afghanistan, and that needs to be heard,” McKiernan said.

“What happens sometimes in reporting is that there’s this idea that the Taliban is at the gates of Kabul, or after Sarposa (a massive June prison break) they’re about ready to take control of Kandahar, or they’re resurgent in Uruzgan or Helmand, and it’s just not true,” he said.

McKiernan, who took command of the NATO mission in Afghanistan in June, has acknowledged that the country lacks security and governance in many regions but concluded in a recent news conference that “we are not losing Afghanistan.”

Note how McKiernan points out two more factors: the typical news reports don’t tell the extend of evil that NATO is fighting in Afghanistan, while they also leave out stories about courageous Afghans who stand up against the violent Taliban.

Instead of informing those far away from the theatre about encouraging events or about the real face of the enemy, the mainstream media is busy trying to paint as bleak a picture of the wars as possible. And on top of that they are more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to insurgent fighters who think nothing of civilian casualties but exploit the fact that their enemies keenly avoid them, than to a military that has repeatedly fought for the freedom of other nations.

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