June 15, 2006

HOWARD KURTZ featured this comment from USA Today Baghdad correspondent Cesar Soriano:

To all the Chairborne Rangers advancing the vast ‘negative media’ conspiracy from the safety and comfort of their parents’ basements: If you think you can do better, I’ve got a spare bed in the Baghdad bureau.

Blackfive offers a tart response. And here’s an email from Bill Roggio:

Hello Cesar,

I’d take you up on the offer of “the spare bed in the Baghdad bureau” but this Chairborne Ranger is currently embedded in Kandahar, Afghanistan. I’ll head back to Iraq for the second time this year after I make my next stop in the Horn of Africa. No doubt Michael Totten and Michael Yon, two other notable Chairborne Rangers, have similar plans.

You should also ask another group of Chairborne Rangers, such as Smash, Greyhawk, OpFor, and the other military bloggers who did their blogging from the combat zones to see if they need a rack. Oh, and I’ll be bypassing Baghdad to go outside the comfort of the hotel, so you can keep the spare bed.

Best wishes, be safe and enjoy the pool!

Ouch. I don’t know what J.D. Johannes would say. Appropriately enough, the title of Kurtz’s post is “Overshadowed” . . . .

UPDATE: Reader Michael Russo notes why this matters:

Notice strategy number one for Al Qaeda based on the Zarquawi safe house documents:

“1. To improve the image of the resistance in society, increase the number of supporters who are refusing occupation and show the clash of interest between society and the occupation and its collaborators. To use the media for spreading an effective and creative image of the resistance.”

Interesting that leveraging the western media before all else is (and presumably has been) Al Qaeda’s top strategy. And shitty how many people have bit hook line and sinker. I bet this will be head line news… or not.

Terrorism is an information war disguised as a military operation. The press plays a symbiotic role, and isn’t willing to address that.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More email here:

The folks who have screamed the loudest about the biased and negative media coverage of the Iraq War are by and large people like myself, servicemembers who have spent their time in the dustbowl of Iraq and know firsthand what an exceptionally poor job the media has done covering our actions. How poor do those who have been to Iraq perceive the coverage? Well, speaking for myself, there have been many times I have wondered if the reporters in Iraq were on the payroll of the insurgency. . . .

I don’t speak as someone who was confined to the relative safety of a basecamp during my deployment. I commanded a company running convoys throughout Iraq, and while on the roads we saw the worst of the insurgency – IEDs, mortars, and a couple of large ambushes. Despite the numerous engagements with hostile forces that I was involved in, I still have no doubt that the media coverage has been excessively negative, and I know that my opinion is shared by the overwhelming majority of folks who have worn the uniform in Iraq.

Read the whole thing.

MORE: What do I mean by “symbiotic?” Something like this:

More ink equals more blood, claim two economists who say that newspaper coverage of terrorist incidents leads directly to more attacks.

It’s a macabre example of win-win in what economists call a “common-interest game,” say Bruno S. Frey of the University of Zurich and Dominic Rohner of Cambridge University.

“Both the media and terrorists benefit from terrorist incidents,” their study contends. Terrorists get free publicity for themselves and their cause. The media, meanwhile, make money “as reports of terror attacks increase newspaper sales and the number of television viewers.”

The researchers counted direct references to terrorism between 1998 and 2005 in the New York Times and Neue Zuercher Zeitung, a respected Swiss newspaper. They also collected data on terrorist attacks around the world during that period. Using a statistical procedure called the Granger Causality Test, they attempted to determine whether more coverage directly led to more attacks.

The results, they said, were unequivocal: Coverage caused more attacks, and attacks caused more coverage — a mutually beneficial spiral of death that they say has increased because of a heightened interest in terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001.

(Via MediaBistro.) Yet the press — which can be exquisitely sensitive about being manipulated when it cares — isn’t worried about the way it’s being used here, at least not enough to matter in its coverage. But why should it be? Ethics might cost money.

God help ’em if the trial lawyers get ahold of this information. . . .

MORE: I wondered what J.D. would say, and he emails:

Bunk in the Baghdad Bureau?

A bunk? Air conditioning? Warm food? Cold water? Internet access?Satellite phone?

That sounds more comfortable than my mother’s basement.

I should be back in Iraq for a hitch this Fall and will probably spend most of my days and nights outside the wire–baking in the sun, eating MRE’s, sleeping in the dirt and enjoying nature in the fertile crescent.

Maybe you can drop in on Cesar and beg a cold beer.

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