Thursday, May 22, 2008

Iraq and the Meeja - Failed on Both Counts

The massive ongoing failure in Iraq is barely reported in the news either here or in the US it seems. It has dropped off the news radar, however is that what audiences want?

The Zogby news release, below, about a new poll demonstrates that Informed Comment is giving the American people what they want in the way of Iraq news: "When asked about the news coverage of the Iraq war, most (80%) say the coverage has been fair or poor. When respondents were asked to pick what coverage they would like to see more of, stories about the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people were the two most chosen (68% each) . . ." They also said that the war is having an impact on their local communities, and a fifth had had a relative serve in Iraq! Nearly half knew community members who had served or were serving.

Television news has largely dumped Iraq as a story, quite unwisely according to this poll. Almost as many Americans learn about Iraq from the internet (28%) as from television (33%). We in the blogosphere are not far from overtaking television on this one! Even when they were covering it, the US channels almost never reported on the Iraqi government or people. There have been few interviews with Iraqi government or opposition figures. Virtually no one has explained the difference between Abdul Aziz al-Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and Muqtada al-Sadr's Sadr Movement, both Shiite religious parties. Yet what has been happening in south Iraq and Baghdad lately has been largely a feud between al-Hakim and al-Sadr, with PM al-Maliki having switched to taking al-Hakim's side.

One reason the American public so easily believes implausible assertions about Middle East politics is that our mass media gives them little context for judging how plausible assertions are.

I agree, indeed Iraq has not featured much in the recent Neo-Labour electoral disasters and all the news seems focused on Brown, but I have a feeling, as with the last general election, that Iraq is a much more important factor that the media or the politicians would like to admit, however because of their complicity in the disaster, they are shy of too much focus on it. For example, this 'fact box' from AP, taken apart by Helena Cobban shows just how shallow event the big media outlets are. It reminds me of a quote by Thomas Jefferson;

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.


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