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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Double Failure

The Washington Post killed my assigned piece for its Outlook section this weekend which mainly covered media failures re: Iraq and the current refusal to come to grips with that (the subject of my latest book)--yet they ran this misleading, cherry-picking, piece by Paul Farhi claiming the media "didn't fail."  I love the line about the Post in March 2003 carrying some skeptical pieces just days before the war started: "Perhaps it was too late by then. But this doesn’t sound like failure."

Here's my rejected piece.  I see that the Post is now defending killing the article because it didn't offer sufficient "broader analytical points or insights."  I'll let you consider if that's true and why they might have rejected it. 

Now let's revisit my recent posts here on when probe in the Post itself by Howard Kurtz in 2004 showed that it failed big time.  For one thing, Kurtz tallied more than 140 front-page Post stories "that focused heavily on administration rhetoric against Iraq"--with all but a few of those questioning the evidence buried inside.  Editors there killed, delayed or buried key pieces by Ricks, Walter Pincus, Dana Priest and others.  The Post's David Ignatius went so far as offering an apology to readers this week for his own failures.  Also consider Bob Woodward's reflections here and here.   He admitted he had become a willing part of the the "groupthink" that accepted faulty intelligence on the WMDs.

Woodward, shaming himself and his paper, once said it was risky for journalists to write anything that might look silly if WMD were ultimately found in Iraq.  Rather than look silly, they greased the path to war.   “There was an attitude among editors: Look, we’re going to war, why do we even worry about all the contrary stuff?" admitted the Post's Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks in 2004.  And this classic from a top reporter, Karen DeYoung:  “We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power.“  See my review, at the time, of how the Post fell (hook, line, and sinker) for Colin Powell's fateful U.N. speech--and mocked critics.  Not a "fail"?

In Farhi's piece, Len Downie, the longtime Post editor, is still claiming, with a shrug, hey, we couldn't have slowed or halted the war anyway.  Farhi agrees with this.  Nothing to see here, move along.

Kurtz last week called the media failure on Iraq the most egregious in "modern times," which echoes my book.  This week neither the Post nor The New York Times published an editorial admitting any shortcomings in their Iraq coverage.   Back in 2003, the Times at least called for caution in invading Iraq, in editorials.  On the other hand, as Bill Moyers pointed out, in the six months leading up to the U.S. attack on the Iraq, the Post "editorialized in favor of the war at least 27 times."

Greg Mitchell's book "So Wrong For So Long," on media misconduct and the Iraq war, was published this month in an updated edition and for the first time as an e-book, with preface by Bruce Springsteen. 

14 comments:

Martha Kent said...

Any chance you might post the killed piece here on the blog?

john said...

its amazing how much people refuse to admit defeat, iraq was a total failure point blank. and most of the world agrees.

SFAW said...

john -
Obviously you don't get out enough. Why, just last week, none other than Jeff Jacoby declared that it (i.e., Iraq invasion) was all worth it, because FREEDOM! And, FSM knows, Jeff Jacoby is second only to Jonah Goldberg for deep, insightful, thoughtful parroting of the right-wing party line. (And, no, it's NOT true that Jeff and Jonah are the same person - even though they resmble each other to a stunning degree, and no one has ever seen them in the same room.)

So, lay off, will you?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting this out there, Mr. Mitchell.

And I'll second commenter Martha Kent's request. [Or is this one of those deals where, 'all documents submitted to AcmeMediaCorp become the property of AMC...'?]

-sharl

Anonymous said...

Martha,
There is a link to the piece in question in the first sentence of the second paragraph.

uh-huh said...

Iraq was a success. It was cracked apart into competing warlords swapping oil for guns. Win-win.

RepubAnon said...

Funny, I ran a survey of five people chosen at random (Dick Cheney, Doug Feith, John Yoo, Don Rumsfeld, and George W Bush) - four of the five said the Iraq War was fully justified (the fifth one said "I'd have to ask Uncle Dick what I think about it.)

Can I get that writing gig on the Washington Post now?

Anonymous said...

MSNBC also owes Phil Donahue an apology for wussing out and firing him because he urged caution about a war in Iraq.

http://fair.org/press-release/some-critical-media-voices-face-censorship/

Mark said...

Personally, I'm supremely unimpressed by Howard Kurtz (or as I call him, Coward Curtsy) and his after-the-fact criticisms of the media for its failures on this - beginning with his mea culpa in the Post a few years ago.

When all of this was HAPPENING, Kurtz couldn't be bothered to comment on ANY of it. I and I know others were emailing him regularly in 2001-2 pointing out how the media was falling down on the job. His response then? Stone silence, except for his gratingly pointless fascination with the media's coverage of the Runaway Bride stories of the day. For me, Kurtz will go down as the poster child for this two hundred thousand death atrocity. He was the security guard who willingly looked the other way for the perpetrators and ignored the pleas of bystanders to call them on it.

Flor Gressel said...

I also heard Bradley Manning say that The Washington Post was one of the papers he contacted to give them the information he later gave Wikileaks, because they didn't want it. The government and media are one. The mainstream media infringes on our right as citizens to know the truth and on our freedom of speech and the transparency we were promised by this administration.

Anonymous said...

I object to one aspect of this introspection - reference to journalistic failures as "blunders." What a "safe and friendly" cover - "We're just plain folks who goofed. Far be it from us to have been complicit, either through participation or through silence, with the intense war-mongering attitude so prevalent at the time."

While the government and CIA were at the "head" of this criminal conspiracy to attack Iraq (as we now know and many at the time knew, for oil), to a great degree this approach lets the Corporate-led demands that led to the government criminal decisions and actions remain far in the background.

A constant ruse utilized by the 1% is to keep the public distracted and/or fighting with each other to maintain distance from the 1%ers who were the real movers of the war. The U.S. being a fascist state in every way but in name, there was intense infiltration by the Corporate hit men in Government, with no less than Cheney acting as an obvious Government/Corporate Darth Vadar. If we're ever to engage in more meaningful introspection we are compelled to push past the puppet government/spy operatives who carried out the crimes, and flush out and call to justice the puppeteers who pulled the strings. Call the Media and Government to justice as well? Of course! But as always, the idea is to "follow the money!" And follow it all the way to the source!

Anonymous said...

Well, the Post has a history of Killing stories, don't forget. Anyone remember this?

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2009-09-15/news/36894017_1_katharine-weymouth-marcus-brauchli-previous-editor

GRC - Greg said...

I respect newspapers as a genreally rule and use them heavily. I subscibe to mor ethna one, in paper and on line. My respect for the Post has diminished substantially, and my research prctices and advice to others will reflect the damage the Post has done itself.

truthspeaker said...

Even if the war couldn't be halted, it was still the press's job to report objectively. And objectively, it was clear the administration was lying.