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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Saturday, February 01, 2003



On To The Second Stage

Regrettably, denial did not last long following the news of Columbia. Right, then, it's time for anger, and much as I hate to blog in a bad mood, away we go.

Let's start with A Sullivan. Presumably he did not check the news, perhaps his computer crashed, or maybe the dog ate the modem. But, two hours after the Columbia crash, here is what we find at his site:

Saturday, February 01, 2003

HOME NEWS: Big month for the site. 1,262,000 separate visits; 311,000 unique visitors; 1,772,000 page views. Our previous record was the election month of November, with 1,065,000 visits. Many thanks. Stay tuned for the email newsletter for subscribers beginning soon. It's taken a while to set it up, but it'll be worth it. One other thing: you'll have noticed the Book Club in suspension. Until this war subsides again, I'm going to concentrate on the Dish. But the Book Club will return, when I get some more time and mental space.
- 11:06:25 AM


Oh, that is just great to know. I hope it's just bad timing. Maybe he is in England, blogging on local time, and I certainly hope there has not been some personal disaster in his life, but for now, media critic, criticize yourself - this looks terrible.


Now, a bit of content. Mr. Sullivan finds an anti-war tilt to each of three NY Times stories. OK, I will not contest stories one and three. But the second story concerns the mood of the local Iraqis - Hot (for our blood), or Not? The NY Times sends an intrepid reporter to meet the locals of Baghdad. Naturally, all conversations have an official Iraqi "minder", so what can the locals really say? Andrew's version:

The second anti-war piece informs us that "In two days of interviews [in Saddam City], there was no outward suggestion — not the subtlest arch of an eyebrow — of anything other than complete unanimity in support of Mr. Hussein." Hmmm. I wonder why. That still doesn't stop the Times from leading the piece with this inflammatory quote: "We are ready to confront the United States," said Halima Nebi, 57. "We will use stones, bricks, guns, our own hands." Yes, the piece acknowledges the presence of a police state that makes any interviews with ordinary Iraqis a farce. So why run the piece at all? Stupid question, of course.

Hey, I loved the piece. And let's see how it opens:

Iraqi Slum Vows to Fight U.S. but It Couldn't Be Friendlier

OK, not a totally defeatist headline.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 31 — Even in the huge slum of Saddam City, where a filthy tide of sewage laps the streets, where swirls of human hair and animal intestines pile up as garbage on a soccer field, where Saddam Hussein's portrait is not much seen in a poor place named after him, there is no crack in the official line.

"We are ready to confront the United States," said Halima Nebi, 57, matriarch of a family forced by poverty to pack 21 people into one apartment in Saddam City. "We will use stones, bricks, guns, our own hands."

So it comes as a surprise to American visitors here, only days or weeks before United States warplanes will most likely begin bombing near homes again, just how nice everyone is. Mrs. Nebi and her husband, Abdul, graciously served "the enemy" tea. They offered lunch repeatedly along with praise for the American people, if not their leaders. It is not just the Nebi household: no one here seems the slightest bit hostile.


And the story continues in that vein: "Yes, if the crazy Americans attack, we will feed their livers to the hungry dogs and throw their eyeballs to the crows. Oh, my, your glass is empty - would you like some more?" I thought the article was quite clearly meant to be a headscratcher, as the headline suggests. Bad job on this one, Andrew.



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