Tuesday, April 10, 2007

NYT – Spinning Out Of Control In Reporting Sadr’s March

The New York Times long ago moved from giving us the news in their factual reporting and into giving us a message. On April 9, Moqtada al Sadr ordered a rally against the U.S. The turnout was extremely low, but you would never get that from the Times, who portray Sadr as a figure of vast power who appeals to the whole country, not just Shias. The clear message from the NYT’s reporting is that Iraqis want us out of their country. You have to love how they go about it.

The headline says “Huge Protest in Iraq Demands U.S. Withdraw.” Now, to put this in perspective, Iraq is a country of over 26,000,000 people. Of those, about 14,000,000 are Shia. The NYT tells us that Mr. Sadr can “command the masses.” So when Sadr calls for all Shias to march in protest of the U.S. presence in Iraq, you would expect a “huge” turnout, would you not - perhaps 1,000,000 people as an AP video says was expected? (The AP video is accessible off the NYT website. If you watch the AP video, note that they appear to show Sadr speaking at the rally. The truth is he hasn't been seen in Iraq for two months and that he was likely no closer to the march then the distance between Najaf and Tehran. The AP and the NYT apparently went to the same ethics school).

The NYT reports that the U.S. military, at the conclusion of the rally, put the number of protestors at only 5,000 to 7,000. The military based that number on aerial photographs of the demonstration. That number would be disastrous for Sadr. It would show a tremendous erosion in the numbers of people who support him and his message. And as it turns out, that number is supported by Reuters, who put the number of demostrators in the "thousands."

Update: The military and Reuters figures are also supported by Omar of Iraq the Model who states:

Speaking of the Sadrists' pitiful demonstrations. His aides were hoping to gather a million marchers for yesterday but all they could manage were less than ten thousands, that's even when they bussed people from Baghdad and Basra.The Arabic-speaking al-Alam Iranian channel claims the number was "hundreds of thousands" but that's just al-Alam, other channels and the footage we saw all put the number between 5 and 10 thousand.I had personally been to a demonstration of 10 thousands once and what I saw yesterday was definitely smaller.

That won't work - not for the NYT. So what does the NYT tell us? First they quote a Najaf police captain as putting the turn out at “half a million.” Wow, that’s a slight difference. Why would the NYT even print that quote?

The importance of that quote is to make it seem much more reasonable for the NYT to discount the military and Reuters and insert their own number. Except they don't insert a number. Instead, the NYT says that the “huge” number of marchers were in the “tens of thousands.” That's a pretty big spread – somewhere between 10,000 and 90,000 or more. The difference from the U.S. military figures and from Reuters is an order of magnitude actually. Do you think the NYT could narrow it down? Or is it best for the message to leave the ambiguity?

Surely there must be photos that support the NYT and disclose the prevarication of the Army and Reuters. Actually, there is an old trick of photography. If you want the number of demonstrators to appear larger then they are, you take photos very near ground level. If you want to get a real feel for the numbers involved, you get photos from as high up as possible to show the start and end of the crowd in scale. Guess which vantage point we are given in the photos that appear in the NYT?

Just to show us the military can't be trusted, the NYT tells us that the U.S. military is spinning on the whole issue of the march – and doing so unsuccessfully at that --
Colonel Garver and other American officials tried to put the best possible light on the event, despite the fiery words. “We say that we’re here to support democracy,” he said. “We say that free speech and freedom of assembly are part of that. While we don’t necessarily agree with the message, we agree with their right to say it.” (emphasis added)
In the U.S., if Col. Garver said that about a Code Pink march, for example, it would be reported as a “statement.” But not from Iraq, where the NYT makes sure we understand that it’s the U.S. military that is doing the spinning – not the NYT.

But the NYT is not done. The NYT portrays Sadr as having a nationalistic appeal, cutting across the Sunni Shia divide. I guess it is best for the message if all Iraqis want us out, not just some of the Shia who have strong ties to the theocracy in Iran.

Mr. Sadr used the protest to try to reassert his image as a nationalist rebel who appeals to both anti-American Shiites and Sunni Arabs, . . . But his nationalist credentials have been tarnished in the last year, as Sunni Arabs have accused Mr. Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi Army, of torturing and killing Sunnis.
Tarnished? One would think that those “credentials” are more then a little “tarnished” among the Sunni population whom his milita have been slaughtering for the past three years. That is kind of like saying that Ahmedinejad’s reputation is a little “tarnished” among Israelis.

It takes the NYT about 15 paragraphs to get to some real news – that Sadr does not control his militia anymore, but the NYT does not dig into this. Actually, news from the “surge” - not mentioned by name in this NYT piece – is that the U.S. Army has been rolling up a tremendous number of Mahdi Army members in their new counterinsurgency operation, now only eight weeks old and, as Bill Rogio is reporting from Iraq, “the split in Sadr's Mahdi Army has led to a large segment looking to reconcile with the Iraqi government.” It will be long before we see those facts coming out in the NYT.

The NYT wanted to portray Sadr’s failed rally as being something completely different - a strong message from the heartland of Iraq. That is clearly the message Moqtada – and Iran and the NYT – want the US citizens to understand.

Could the NYT have spun this whole story any more? It's hard to imagine how. The NYT have not been a newspaper for several years now. Its one thing for a newspaper to take a partisan stance in their editorials - and quite another for a newspaper to try and shape the facts in their straight reporting. The NYT is nothing more these days then a shill for the partisan left. There is nothing remotely patriotic about the NYT. There is nothing remotely neutral about the NYT. And as their ever dwindling circulation and stock value indicate, most of America is smart enough to realize it. Perhaps the NYT will reorganize as a 527 organization before their value reaches zero.

No comments:


View My Stats