The Jill Carroll story someday will be told in full, but already it’s offered a painful (I hope) lesson for a great many right-side bloggers and talk radio hosts. When the kidnapped reporter’s final recorded statement in captivity popped up on an Islamist Web site, the ant-Iraq War, anti-Bush, pro-insurgent rhetoric of it fit many people’s preconceived ideas about U.S. media in Iraq.
And so they jumped the smoking gun.
But it was pertinent for any sane person also to ask whether the video footage was made under duress. And any reasonable person would have withheld judgment on it until that was answered. But for too many folks, when politics walks in the door, reason goes out the window.
Now there’s a lot of egg on a lot of faces. Some have been big enough to apologize. Whatever the actual beliefs of Jill Carroll, and whatever the collective attitude of U.S. media types in Iraq, what happened here was a mini-lesson that this “reporting” business is a lot more difficult than some people imagine.
It’s a constant balancing act between your innate suspicion and skepticism, on the one hand, and the facts as presented by the people you talk to. The trick is to never scuff out the line between what you can say for sure and what you suspect. When journalists are caught doing that, bloggers rightly raise a cry against them. Well, there’s a saying about what goes around.
Jim Geraghty of NRO seems to me to have the appropriately scolding tone for all this:
Carroll issues a coerced statement before sheÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s released, and some corners of the blogosphere erupt with a torrent of scathing hatred, declaring that Carroll ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œmay as well just come right out and say she was a willing participantÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚?, that sheÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œspoiled brat America-haterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚? and ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œshe was anti-America when she went over there and I say the kidnapping was a put up deal from the get go.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚?
NRO being NRO, he points out that on the left side there was a bit of over-reaction to the over-reaction. Speculations about Stockholm Syndrome do not automatically cast one as an insensitive reactionary lunatic.
And in the “so sad it’s funny” category were those in the anti camp who, in the hours after the release of the videotape, beat their chests and scolded the war supporters for not accepting the “Truth” and the “Facts” of what Jill was saying on camera.
But the crime, this time, was overwhelmingly on the right/Iraq War-supporting side.
And it did damage to the case some of us have been trying to build that there are institutional, collective, archetypal biases in U.S. news reporting from Iraq that require readers/viewers to look beyond the mainstream coverage and take it with a grain of salt. That case is in the collateral damage ward today.
As Geraghty puts it:
The citizenry around the globe has the greatest mass communications tool in the history of the world, and this is what itÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s led to?
Rip the MSM all you want, but I read this stuff and I begin to appreciate editors.
Well, since I’m one, I could say “thank you,” but I don’t feel like that right now.
Rightwing Nuthouse also strikes the right tone.