Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

SOTME

Get Religion’s David Pulliam notes that in the early going largely overlooked--with the exception of this WaPo hitpiece--what he regards as a significant and high-profile portrayal of our adversaries. Of course, Reuters carries an account of the Middle Eastern response that whitewashes the Iranian and Syrian roles in stoking violence in the region, presenting a picture of Iran as interested in stability and of the Lebanese crisis as "internal," pitting Shiites and Christians against the government. No mention of Syrian and Iranian involvement there, just of American meddling. And Iran has "refrained from matching U.S. rhetorical escalation" (!!!!).

Discussions - 6 Comments

And this is a surprise?

Journalism appears to not be about the truth, just the truth that the journalists want to portray.

Joseph:

Hit piece?

I realize that these are heated issues, but I can’t see how it’s out of bounds to take issue with Bush’s undifferentiated rhetoric of "the terrorists" and "the enemy."

Lumping Hezbollah with al-Qaeda is odd (just as lumping the bombing in Beirut with the attacks on 9/11 obscures more than it reveals). Ignoring the problem of Hamas winning at the ballot box is odd. Calling Egypt "moderate" plain and simple is odd. Claiming success in rallying the world to our version of the war on terror is odd. And then there are the other distortions noted in the article having to do with domestic policy, like the move-the-goalposts in deficit projections game.

Some on the right have decided that any attempt to get beyond the "he said, she said" coverage of tepid and domesticated journalism is an assault on the prerogative of government to have its own set of facts and to push that set of facts aggressively. I would think that conservative skepticism of government should kick in here at some point.

I suppose that I’m fine with some folks seeing the bombings of the marine barracks in Beirut and the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis and Blackhawk down and 9/11 and the Islamic Courts Union (etc.) as the same phenomenon. It’s a distorting view, though, and questioning it is legitimate. Journalists are supposed to care about facts and distinctions, so it’s not surprising that they are skeptical. They should be.

Brett,

The WaPo piece is very tendentious, implying, for example, that the fact that Iran is a state makes it necessarily different in its attitude toward the U.S. than is al Qaeda. There are some differences, I’ll concede, but the issue is more complicated than the author suggests, and all the complications don’t run in the direction that he’d like.

Second, the fact that the EU doesn’t list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization doesn’t prove anything.

Lastly (for now at any rate), there’s the inaccuracy of the characterization of an "attack on a Sunni [sic] mosque in Iraq."

I’ll concede that radical Sunnis and radical Shias ultimately have different interests, but both are anti-American and anti-Israel. And in the swathe of the Middle East from Lebanon to Iran, there’s at least a plausible argument to be made that there’s a functional anti-Israel and anti-American alliance between Syria and Iran and the terrorist groups they sponsor and support.

I’ll take GWB’s simplifications over those offered by the WaPo reporter, as they’re less misleading.

Joseph:

You write that it is "tendentious" to imply that the fact that Iran is a state makes it necessarily different in its attitude toward the U.S. than is al Qaeda. Putting aside the burden-shifting problem in the argument, of course at night all cats are black, but there is no darkness here, really. Having a large, internally complex nation state to defend makes a world of difference, in terms of limits on strategies, the constitution of interests, and in who we’re talking about in the first place. We are not and should not be oriented toward al Qaeda in the same way that we are oriented toward Iran (or toward Hezbollah).

To imply otherwise is misleading; to point out that kind of problem is a core function of journalism in a free state. But - no surprise - I’m more of a Millian and less of a Nietzschean than you are!

I don’t think that lying about deficit projections - or jobs, or NCLB, etc. - is what Plato or Nietzsche had in mind when they worried about the relationship between truth and politics. Maybe I’m misreading you, though (and I realize that with respect to enemy constructions I’m on a different theoretical ground.)

Brett,

By calling me a Nietzschean you cut me to the quick!

But seriously, in the paragraph to which you object, I did say that Iranian statehood made a difference, which means that there’s a certain hope for Iran that there isn’t for al Qaeda. But only if they cease being serious about this. Obviously, on the other hand, statehood makes creating and funding the instruments of the apocalypse easier.

This makes life complicated, though it (interestingly) comes in the wake of GWB’s efforts to pin some of the blame for the SOTME on Iran.

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