Rat's Nest
Bloggage, rants, and occasional notes of despair

All the news fit to sell

Via Jerry Pournelle's website comes mention of this Observer article castigating the media for finding Iraqi deaths from American action unimportant, not worth reporting.

Of course, the article leaves out a key point: why were American troops raiding Farah Fadhil's apartment building? Because they were bored, callous young men looking for a little excitement, or because they believed that fedayeen or other terrorists were using it a base? If the latter, why did not the late Ms. Fadhil plead with them in fluent Arabic to leave civilians in peace? Perhaps because she feared being gang-raped by them before being tortured to death.

It is a cliché of journalism that "dog bites man is not news; man bites dog is". For soldiers to act brutally and cruelly is not news; so it has been throughout human history. For American soldiers to act in a humane, cautious fashion, at the risk of their own lives, is not news, either; certainly, not the sort of news that attracts reporters for the Observer. Only those incidents astonishing by the standards of journalism --"man bites dog" -- will be reported.

The death of any civilian, at anyone's hands, is tragic. It is no less tragic if it happens at Islamist hands than at American, but perhaps it is less likely to be reported. People reacted in horror -- perhaps real, perhaps feigned -- at the report of the atrocities committed by Hussein, his sons, and his regime. They were certainly known before, but the established media -- including Marxist outlets such as the Observer  --  did not bother to report them. It was more than just they feared the loss of "access" -- knowing things for the sake of knowing them -- they did not care. Third World dictators are supposed to be brutal and cruel; reporting on the Ba'athist regime's brutality and cruelty would be reporting that the Atlantic is wet.

Dr. Pournelle comments that

If this is part of progress, and the price of progress, perhaps we should be very afraid; because I suspect that a free election held in that neighborhood just now would not produce results very favorable to the United States.

If a free election were held in that neighborhood, that would be news; throughout 99.9% of human time and space, it has not been so.

Of course, if that neighborhood is instead ruled by gangs of thugs intent on exacting the maximum tribute in the form of gold and virgins, it will not be reported. After all, it isn't news; it's history.

John "Akatsukami" Braue Wednesday, September 24, 2003