Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Subtle -- and dangerous -- bias in newspaper reports

My understanding of the Newsweak situation is that Newsweek, after starting a firestorm in the Arab world, and perhaps irreparably damaging US/Muslim relations, admitted that it had no basis for publishing a story about Korans and toilets. Indeed, factually, Reuters agrees with me:

Newsweek magazine on Monday retracted a report that U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated the Koran after the story triggered protests in Afghanistan that killed 16 people and the White House criticized it. "Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay," Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker said in a statement, a day after apologizing for the report.
The same story then goes on to report that the White House had encouraged this retraction, based upon (a) the story's factual failure and (b) the damage it was doing abroad:
The retraction came as the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department all heavily criticized the report and said it had damaged the U.S. image abroad. White House spokesman Scott McClellan had said it was "puzzling" that Newsweek had not retracted the story a day after apologizing for it. "A retraction is a good first step," McClellan said after Newsweek issued its statement. "This allegation was unsubstantiated and it was contrary to everything that we value and all that our military works to uphold. We encourage Newsweek to now work diligently to help undo what damage can be undone." "People lost their lives. the image of the United States abroad has been damaged. It will take work to undo what can be undone," McClellan said. The Pentagon said earlier an investigation remained open into allegations contained in Newsweek's May 9 report. The report sparked violent protests across the Muslim world -- from Afghanistan, where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, to Pakistan, Indonesia and Gaza. In the past week the reported desecration was condemned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and by the Arab League. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said it was appalling that "an article that was unfounded to begin with has caused so much harm, including loss of life."
The story, of course, has the inevitable reference to Abu Ghraib, which is becoming the Left's Harper's Ferry moment. Lastly, the article points to what I suspect is true: "Muslims in Afghanistan were skeptical about the turnaround on Monday." This last point gets me to my point. Perhaps the Muslims suspect a cover-up because of the headline al-Reuters assigned to the story: Newsweek Retracts Story on Koran Under Pressure. [Emphasis mine.] This implies that Newsweek stands behind the story, and retracted it only because the government strong-armed it into doing so. The truth, of course, would have been this headline: Newsweek Retracts Story on Koran, Admitting That the Story was False. That might have convinced the Arab world that there's no cover-up here. Now we can add Reuters (and AP, which played a similar game) to the list of American news agencies action as Fifth Columns aiding and abetting the enemy from within.