Raging Right Wing Republican

For those of us who are politically informed, and therefore Republican.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Media Tries to Stand It's (Shaky) Ground

Documenting the extensive account of which their bias pervades the media would be an impossible task, so I have settled for merely taking one situation then analyzing the disingenuity in each paper and the surrounding reports of it.

The editors of almost every news report I've seen who quote General Mattis saying "I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men." Remember when that stray bombing supposedly killed all those innocent Iraqis at a wedding? Wellll, let's look into that, shall we?


As exhibit A, I present to you a verbatim transcript of the press conference in question.

As exhibit B, I further note the pertinent part of the conference:
Unnamed Reporter: What happened yesterday at 3 a.m. in Al Qaim? Was there a wedding on? A wedding celebration?

Gen. Mattis: You joined us a little late, as I said to the young lady here, I said how many people how many people go to the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border and hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization? Over two-dozen military-aged males... let's not be naïve. Let's leave it at that.

(Question unintelligible)

Gen. Mattis: I can't...I've seen the pictures, but I can't...bad things happened. Generally...in Fallujah, I never saw a Marine hide behind a woman or a child or hold them in their house and fire out of the building. I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my Marines.

As you can plainly see, General Mattis clearly shifted his point of reference from the site of the so-called 'wedding party' to Fallujah. When he said he did not have to apologize for the conduct of his Marines, he was contrasting his own Marines' tactics with those of the insurgents, who make a common practice of hiding behind women and children.

Contrast this with these accounts:

The Globe and Mail:
"Bad things happen in wars," said Major-General James Mattis, the U.S. Marine commander in charge of occupation forces in western Iraq.

"These were more than two dozen military-age males. I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men."

That's right, they blow the quote, they take the last sentence out of the Fallujah context and mix it in with the "wedding," and they don't bother with the ellipses normally expected of a journalist when he omits portion of the text of remarks.


From the UK Guardian:
Major General James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, was scathing of those who suggested a wedding party had been hit. "How many people go to the middle of the desert ... to hold a wedding 80 miles (130km) from the nearest civilization? These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive."

When reporters asked him about footage on Arabic television of a child's body being lowered into a grave, he replied: "I have not seen the pictures but bad things happen in wars. I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men."

Again, no ellipsis. They quote Mattis as saying he has not seen the pictures but in the transcript he says he had. And again, the last sentence is removed from its original context and placed in with the wedding stuff.


The New York Times:
Maj. Gen. James Mattis, the commander of the First Marine Division responsible for the remote stretch of desert where the strike was carried out, asked, "How many people go to the middle of the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?"

At a news conference in Falluja, west of Baghdad, he said that two dozen men of military age were among those killed.

"Let's not be naive," he said. "Bad things happen in wars."

"I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men," he added.

Again, the decontextualization from Fallujah. And I'm still looking for "bad things happen in wars" in the transcript.


Reuters:
"How many people go to the middle of the desert 10 miles from the Syrian border to hold a wedding 80 miles from the nearest civilization?" Mattis said in Falluja.
"These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive...Bad things happen in wars.

"I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men."

Again, Reuters seems to invent "bad things happen in wars," skips the expected ellipses, and distorts the context of Mattis's assertion that he does not have to apologize for the conduct of his Marines. (Why are so many outlets distorting the exact same way? Are they not doing their own reporting, perchance?)


Agents France-Presse:
Asked about the footage, Mattis said: "I have not seen the pictures, but bad things happen in war."

In this case, AFP quotes Mattis as saying the enemy owes the world an apology. But bizarrely, they say he was referring to the Nick Berg beheading--NOT the alleged wedding party. Look over the transcript. There's no mention of the Berg beheading anywhere.

The Independent engages in perhaps the most egregious distortion of all:
"These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naive," Major General James Mattis, commander of the US 1st Marine Division, said. But he had no explanation of where the dead women and children in the video came from. "I have not seen the pictures but bad things happen in wars," he said cryptically. "I don't have to apologise for the conduct of my men."

Ummm, there's nothing "cryptic" about the General's comment to someone actually familiar with the source material, putz.

The Washington Post, to its credit, gets it right.

For the most part, though, the news outlets are committing the same sins: distorting the general's meaning by omission, by skipping the ellipses (in the same places), and by making the same mistakes.

Essentially, it looks like they're quoting each other, or some apocryphal Q source material. They're not quoting General Mattis. They didn't even show up at the press conference, and they didn't bother to get a transcript or listen to the tape. But all these reporters are passing their crap off as if they were right from the source material.

Absolutely, completely pathetic.

If this is what passes for news coverage, then they ought to fire their reporters and hire some boy scouts to write for them. At least they'll be honest.

Asshats.

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