Tuesday, July 6, 2004

The Fourth Estate: ON THE JOB

Memo to American journalism: YOU ARE DUMB.
We'll kick off with the New York Post, who went to press with the SCOOP OF THE YEAR. Front-page stuff. Exclusive. John Kerry has picked as his running mate... Richard Gephardt!
This scoop comes just hours ahead of the actual announcement of John Edwards as Kerry's running mate, a choice that, unlike Gephardt, saves John Kerry from being the subject of today's column. Gephardt would have been a shit choice for VP. We, as a country, have said "no" to Gephardt on at least three separate occasions. He's like a new stadium in Minnesota. He's only incrementally better than Tom Vilsack, who has an awful lawn-sign name. Edwards, while strictly a "best of a bad crop" choice, was it.
Except, of course, at the New York Post, bastion of accuracy and somber non-sensationalism. The Post is a very successful paper. So successful, in fact, that it can afford to send its best reporters through a dimensional rift to Earth-2, where they can produce such exceptional copy as "Edwards also could have been competitive in the south, and the choice of Gephardt could be a sign that Kerry is 'writing off' that region.", and "Edwards also lacked experience. He is a one-term senator whose lack of seasoning in foreign affairs could have made voters nervous about his ability to assume the presidency during a war or an international crisis. "
Obviously, the Post's reporters were misled by their many, numerous, named sources. The ones they must have had to cut from the article for um... space. Yeah. I just feel bad for the reporter who got this wrong. His career is ruined. He'll never live down that byline.... except, of course, there's NO BYLINE.
So a major piece of news gets printed in a major metropolitan newspaper with a huge circulation, with no byline, no sources, and no attribution, and oh, by the way, it just so happens that everything in it except for Dick Gephardt's biographical information is entirely wrong. The only silver lining to this cloud is that, since it was the New York Post, they won't actually lose any respect over this. That well came up dry years ago.
Luckily, our nation's press, in a bold attempt to atone for its past sins, has finally gotten around to reporting what many of us suspected over a year ago. The defining image of the early days of Gulf War II, the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein by jubilant Iraqis? Completely fucking staged by Army psych-ops staff.
Basically, the way it -actually- went down is some Marines got it in their heads to slap an American flag on the statue and pull it over. Psych-Ops (Psych, from the Greek "psychus", meaning "photo", decided that since they couldn't actually find the masses of jubilant Iraqis our leaders promised us were in the country, they'd better round up a couple dozen locals from nearby streets, and pack 'em into the square. Swap out the flag, get them to cheer for the cameras and look like it was THEIR idea to pull down the statue, and those nice Marines were just helping them out.
Shortly after the statue was toppled, there were pictures on the Internet of wide shots of Firdos Square, showing a few dozen people in the square with the Marines, and nobody else for a couple hundred feet. Funny those shots, or any possible questioning of this admittedly very photogenic footage, never got picked up on by our fine embedded press corpse... er, corps.
Even now, with the truth out, the story got buried over the holiday weekend. And the sum total of mea culpa expressed by the LA Times in its tiny story? I'd say it's ACTUAL QUOTE TIME, but by the time I'd finished typing the "Q", I could have said the whole quote, so here it is. "It was a Marine colonel - not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images - who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said."
See? It's YOUR FAULT, AMERICA. You just ASSUMED, because all these people showed you pictures of happy Iraqi civilians, and told you they were the ones toppling the statue, that it was them who toppled the statue. You suckers, going around assuming things just because they're in THE NEWS. The press did their job. They told you the Army was behind it, fourteen months later, after the Army publically admitted that they were behind it. Not their fault you fell for it. Now shut up and vote for Vice President Gephardt.