Monday, December 12, 2005

Media Bias, the War in Iraq and Senator Clinton's Continuing Dilemma

Howard Kurtz's Media Notes revisits yet again the eternal debate over bias in the media and coverage of the war in iraq; is the media focusing on bad things, neglecting to cover the positive stories?

Michael O'Hanlon and Adriana Lins de Albuquerque have made the case that bad and good news CAN coexist side by side in Iraq, but more importantly, that one does not necessarily counter or cancel out the other. (See their "Gauging the Aftermath" that appeared in the Summer 2004 issue of The National Interest.) This was a point raised in the Kurtz column as well--that the car bombing of the police academy is not "balanced" by the opening of a new health clinic.

We should acknowledge that media bias always exists--it can be deliberate or unintentional, for reasons of party or class; as I once commented for a Russian audience, my view of Washington, DC would change dramatically if I walked 15 blocks from my office.

Accepting that media outlets prefer to cover death and gore and explosions over reconstruction and quiet, to what extent is the picture coming out of Iraq an inaccurate one?

To me, it seems to depend on what extent the capital is a bellweather for the rest of the country. When Washington DC and New York during the 1980s had high crime and murder rates, it did not necessarily mean that the rest of the country was on the verge of anarchy. Even in Washington--and to this present time--the crime is geographically contained and usually makes news now only when the forward spearheads of gentrification move into "bad" areas of the city (the paradox of paying $500,000 for a home so someone can urinate in your front garden). Is the same true for Iraq? Do what extent does the peace and prosperity and reconstruction of certain areas depend ultimately on stability in Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle?

Of course, this is not the kind of reporting we get--we get snippets of real time events but little framework for analysis.

Dan Balz picks up the theme of Hilary Clinton's attempts to balance initial support for the war with later criticisms in today's Washington Post. The article tracks many of the comments in our discussion of that question last week. My sense is, however, that the national party will work overtime to try to marginalize any anti-war protest candidate in the primary for the Senate nomination next year. I also found Balz's point about HRC using e-mail as a way to prevent any footage from being taped that could then be used later on quite interesting.

Many feel that America is fighting the war in a very ethnocentric manner; they feel that the Bush administration is judging success as it is defined in Western culture and not how it is defined in the Middle East. We must remember that how we are perceived is part of the winning strategy.
Raymond B
HRC's advisors must be worried about the Douglas precedent. To win Illinois's Senate race in 1858, Douglas had to take a strong anti-slavery position that made it impossible for him to get the Democratic nomination in 1860. To forestall that, the HRC campaign has to prevent any challenger from emerging and use its influence to choke off the big donors. How this will fly with the Howard Dean strategy of bringing new voices people and money to the Democrats remains to be seen.

I think that the RNC in turn should understand the importance of a single strong candidate even if they assess they have no chances of winning in New York. Get HRC on the record as much as possible and draw her out on the hot button issues that divide centrist from leftist Democrat.
When does the new Iraq have to "sink or swim" on its own? At what point does the insurgency become the test for Iraqi politicans to solve?
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