Jamilgate: NYT circles the wagons for the AP

posted at 4:29 am on December 4, 2006 by Allahpundit

An attack on one is an attack on all:

It is important to find out if this really happened in order to separate the hyperbole from the merely horrible in Iraq, so that the horrible will still have meaning. Otherwise it will all become din.

It is also true that the institution conducting America’s multibillion gamble in Iraq — the military — says that this standout of atrocities never happened, while a venerable, trusted news agency has twice interviewed witnesses who said, in extensive, vivid detail, that it did.

That is not just a curiosity. It is a limbo that leaves Hurriyah open for use as a political plaything, to confirm deep-seated beliefs about the media, or to give Iraqi ministers rhetorical fuel to threaten reporters.

Whatever the agenda of the bloggers most interested in debunking the article, it somehow seems important to figure out why this incident — in the face of all the killings in Iraq — remains in such dispute.

Which part is most offensive? The vaguely puzzled, “fake but accurate” overtones of that last paragraph? The aspersion cast on the military’s credibility vis-a-vis a news outlet that employs jihadi paparazzo Bilal Hussein? The indignation at the thought of Iraqi stringers feeling cowed by the government into slanting their coverage without a glimmer of awareness that they might already be slanting it the other way out of sectarian fear or sympathy? Or the fact that he glosses over the real worry here, that a “venerable, trusted news agency” might have committed fraud, to fret about people failing to distinguish real news from fake — and then acts defensive and disingenuous when a group of (conservative) bloggers try to make that very distinction?

But never mind that. Here’s where he tips his hand:

Meanwhile, little in the way of fallout over the event itself has been detected — no outcry, no heated, televised denunciations from Sunni clerics and politicians — as might be expected from what The Associated Press itself called “one of the most horrific alleged attacks of Iraq’s sectarian war.”

And so questions lingered and the blogs raged on.

That’s pretty much all you get by way of skepticism about the AP report. What you could have and should have gotten is the fact that the Times itself cast doubt on the AP’s story. From November 24th:

Fanned by fear, rumors spread quickly throughout the day. In the evening, a resident named Imad al-Hashemi said in a telephone interview on Al Jazeera, the Arab news network, that gunmen had doused some people with gasoline and set them on fire. Other residents contacted by telephone denied this.

How do I know about that? Because Tom Zeller, the author of tonight’s wagon-circler, linked to it on his blog on November 30th. Then, the next day, he went one better and contacted the author of the article for further details. The response:

Hi Tom,
You ask me about what our own reporting shows about this incident. When we first heard of the event on Nov. 24, through the A.P. story and a man named Imad al-Hashemi talking about it on television, we had our Iraqi reporters make calls to people in the Hurriya neighborhood. Because of the curfew that day, everything had to be done by phone. We reached several people who told us about the mosque attacks, but said they had heard nothing of Sunni worshippers being burned alive. Any big news event travels quickly by word of mouth through Baghdad, aided by the enormous proliferation of cell phones here. Such an incident would have been so abominable that a great many of the residents in Hurriya, as well as in other Sunni Arab districts, would have been in an uproar over it. Hard-line Sunni Arab organizations such as the Muslim Scholars Association or the Iraqi Islamic Party would almost certainly have appeared on television that day or the next to denounce this specific incident. Iraqi clerics and politicians are not shy about doing this. Yet, as far as I know, there was no widespread talk of the incident. So I mentioned it only in passing in my report.

Best,
Edward Wong

That’s where Zeller got the background for the paragraph in tonight’s article. Why didn’t he specify that the Times’s own Baghdad correspondent has reason to doubt the AP report? Probably for the same reason he didn’t note that the AP’s new witnesses to the burning were all anonymous or that the agency hasn’t disputed Centcom’s assertion that its initial report about four mosques being burned was wrong: because that would have screwed with his theme of “rag[ing]” bloggers and Bush’s keystone kops military assailing the “venerable, trusted” Associated Press.

Curt has also responded to Zeller at length, but the post of his you really want to read is the one about AP reporter Qais al-Bashir. See-Dubya figured out a few days ago that al-Bashir has a funny knack for interviewing guys on Centcom’s list of unverified personnel, and now Curt’s put those suspicions to a Lexis-Nexis test. With curious results.

Keep your eye on this, too. As of 4:30 a.m. eastern time, both the Times and the Washington Post place yesterday’s death toll from the car bombs in Baghdad at “at least 51 people.” The AP says it’s “at least 91.” One of the AP’s sources for its report? Lt. Ali Muhsin, who’s on Centcom’s list. The AP reporter on the story? Qais al-Bashir.

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They NYTimes plays traitor by printing classified documents with abandon, of course they are going to take up for AP. If one falls, they all fall.

Lord Nazh on December 4, 2006 at 4:54 AM

It is important to find out if this really happened in order to separate the hyperbole from the merely horrible in Iraq, so that the horrible will still have meaning. Otherwise it will all become din.

It’s also important to find out if this really happened because you’re supposed to be in the business of giving us the news.

Jim Treacher on December 4, 2006 at 6:10 AM

Whatever the agenda of the bloggers most interested in debunking the article, it somehow seems important to figure out why this incident — in the face of all the killings in Iraq — remains in such dispute.

Arrgh! It’s not just “this incident”! That’s the point. If there’s journalistic fraud here, doubt is cast on the accuracy of many stories from the AP.

There’s never just one cockroach, as they say.

mikeyboss on December 4, 2006 at 6:16 AM

I begin to suspect that “Qais al-Bashir” will turn out to be a pseudonym for Jayson Blair, who is actually covering Baghdad from a Starbucks in Brooklyn.

Ali-Bubba on December 4, 2006 at 6:32 AM

This is great coverage; and the reason why I visit Hot Air and MichelleMalkin.com first thing every morning. News from patriots. Thanks.

Zorro on December 4, 2006 at 7:01 AM

explained that the agency had already done all it could to respond to the uncertainties by vigorously re-reporting the article

Vigorously re-reporting is a surefire way to separate the hyperbole from the facts. Especially when you have twice interviewed witnesses who said, in extensive, vivid detail, that something happened. Sure, someone might lie about something once. But twice? impossible!

Anyway, a venerable, trusted news agency didn’t do the interviewing. A reporter we are unfamiliar with did, and no company is immune from a bad hire. That the AP couldn’t report a story incorrectly because they are the AP seems like circular reasoning to me. Re-reporting with the same reporter and sources is just going around the circle twice.

MayBee on December 4, 2006 at 7:03 AM

WOW, the NYT defending a piece of “Fake but accurate” news… how… ironic…

E L Frederick (Sniper One) on December 4, 2006 at 7:19 AM

AP: Venerable and trusted, even while using imaginary sources.

United States Armed Forces: Inherently suspect, even while pointing out that AP’s sources are imaginary

Whatever the agenda of the bloggers most interested in debunking the article, it somehow seems important to figure out why this incident — in the face of all the killings in Iraq — remains in such dispute.

And one of the leading possibilities is that it didn’t happen. But everyone other than the AP is suspect.

Printing such willful anti-American, anti-Iraqi ignorance is pathetic and disgusting. Zeller should be ashamed. Then he should be fired. Instead, I’m sure it’s all attaboys around the NYT offices.

I’m looking forward to the Times going out of business.

Pablo on December 4, 2006 at 7:40 AM

I cannot stop suspecting that at some point it will be revealed that some in the MSM are actually taking blood money from Islamofascists in return for spreading their propaganda. I know they are movitated to spread propaganda anyway, but a lot of pieces would fall into place…

Halley on December 4, 2006 at 7:48 AM

I cannot stop suspecting that at some point it will be revealed that some in the MSM are actually taking blood money from Islamofascists in return for spreading their propaganda.

I think it’s worse than that, Halley. I think that many of them truly believe that their propagandizing is the right thing to do, that their lying is actually noble. Because, you know, America is an awful country that needs to be taken down a few dozen notches.

Greed would at least be reasonable.

Pablo on December 4, 2006 at 7:59 AM

MSM is circling the wagons. Totally exposed as frauds.

JammieWearingFool on December 4, 2006 at 8:36 AM

It’s not an argument anymore whether the MSM is objective or biased. Now the question is whether it’s bias or propaganda.

Quisp on December 4, 2006 at 8:44 AM

I was overseas when the Reutersgate scandal broke. Apparently, Kerry thinks I am smarter than the average soldier because I only got stuck in Kuwait and not Iraq. Anyway, the media keeps on attempting to deflect the issue by trying to figure out whether the incident happened or not. If six Sunnis were set on fire, does that mean that Jamil Hussein MUST be an Iraqi Police officer? Of course not. Its like saying if Bush WAS getting special treatment in the TXANG then the memos MUST have been real, regardless of the fact that the memos typed in 1972 used MS Word’s default format.

BohicaTwentyTwo on December 4, 2006 at 8:52 AM

The biggest non-news? You can’t trust the NYT!
The “code of silence” the NYT and MSM have reported on for years, or how this administration is “tight knit” and won’t turn on each other, or how the military backs up each other, has always been reported with disdain. Now look at them, all cozy in each others arms. Aren’t they cute.

right2bright on December 4, 2006 at 9:07 AM

I’m also hearing that the NYT is trying to discredit Glenn Beck, for of all things, ‘his war on the movie Happy Feet’, and of course his ‘war on islam’.

I can’t wait for some enterprising young reporters with real integrity and an honest desire to ferret out the true facts of a story to start exposing our duplicitous and traitorous main stream media.

Faster please.

techno_barbarian on December 4, 2006 at 9:38 AM

LET ‘EM CIRCLE, they’ll be easier to cluster bomb.

SUPTID AMERICANS, they believe anything.

seejanemom on December 4, 2006 at 9:52 AM

The New York Times is pure evil.

WriterMom on December 4, 2006 at 9:58 AM

It is important to find out if this really happened in order to separate the hyperbole from the merely horrible in Iraq, so that the horrible will still have meaning.

…this statement would be naive if it originated outside the information industry. Originating as it does from inside the puzzle palace, it’s a sign to me of attempts to “just move on”, to respond to what *SHOULD* be the cardinal sin of journalism — either making sh*t up or allowing others to use you to report their made-up sh*t — for the sake of being able to say that you’ve responded. “We’ve addressed this issue, but there are more important issues at hand.” *BAIT* *SWITCH*

They’re even saying themselves that they’re *LITERALLY* “phoning this one in”. Weak.

It is also true that the institution conducting America’s multibillion gamble in Iraq — the military — says that this standout of atrocities never happened, while a venerable, trusted news agency has twice interviewed witnesses who said, in extensive, vivid detail, that it did.

…and once again the generation brought up on fashionable cynicism attempts to put the blame for the incident on the military, as if merely accusing the military is itself both accusation and proof. The military was involved, so the attrocities must be true. The word of witnesses — tribal people in a tribal country, some with guns to their heads, some actually from among the enemy — is automatically beyond question because they accuse the military.

Whatever the agenda of the bloggers most interested in debunking the article, it somehow seems important to figure out why this incident — in the face of all the killings in Iraq — remains in such dispute.

…the agenda of the bloggers most interested in debunking this “article” (and I use “article” not in its journalistic sense, but in the indicitive sense, as in “did the dog leave this ‘article’ on the dining room floor? Rub his nose in it!”) is that the “article” purports to report a war crime….which now appears to never have happened. What happened was a standard-issue military engagement, with is what one should expect in wartime…which has been layered-over with lies, distortions and tarted-up to fit the agenda of the Left in this country…the better to weaken war resolve (further) and hasten “new strategies” in Iraq.

Furthermore, the agenda of these bloggers seems to run *COUNTER* to the agenda of the folks who provided “information” for this “article”. It also is fairly clear that the agenda of these self-same bloggers — here and elsewhere — is to hold the feet of the mainstream, establishment press, to the fire. They can’t be allowed to be content printing what they want, regardless of veracity, merely because it fits neatly into their tidy little paradigms.

Nobody other than these sorts of bloggers — those like the folks here and elsewhere — seems interested in disseminating actual fact. The establishment press seems content to print fabrications — Jayston Blair-isms — so long as their cocktail-party friends applaud their “courage”…the “courage” it takes to phone someone from a climate-controlled office, half-a-world-away from the facts on the ground, to receive, rework and print propaganda.

Shame is dead in American society.

Puritan1648 on December 4, 2006 at 10:15 AM

Shame is dead in American society.

Puritan1648 on December 4, 2006 at 10:15 AM

Exactly correct, Puritan. Great post.

techno_barbarian on December 4, 2006 at 10:26 AM

MAD BLOG RABBLE!

I’m gonna frame that one, even though the mob-violence analogy seems a bit…insensitive in this case.

see-dubya on December 4, 2006 at 10:57 AM

And now for the million dollar question, “Why do we need the MSM?”

tormod on December 4, 2006 at 10:57 AM

“Why do we need the MSM?”

Judging by their continually decreasing circulation, we increasingly do not.

Pablo on December 4, 2006 at 11:31 AM

vigorously re-reporting

Is that like strenuously objecting? They can’t handle the truth!

Laura on December 4, 2006 at 11:34 AM

I bet you someone could make a lot of money with a show that just focuses on exposing the MSM for what it is – problem is finding someone to put it on the air.

Rick on December 4, 2006 at 11:54 AM

I bet you someone could make a lot of money with a show that just focuses on exposing the MSM for what it is – problem is finding someone to put it on the air.

They do, its called Fox News, and they have more viewers than any other news outlet.

BohicaTwentyTwo on December 4, 2006 at 12:22 PM

Shame is dead in American society.

Puritan1648 on December 4, 2006 at 10:15 AM

Correction Purritan1648: Shame is dead in the progressive and liberal side of the world.

right2bright on December 4, 2006 at 1:05 PM

Correction Purritan1648: Shame is dead in the progressive and liberal side of the world. — right2bright

…I’ll complete the statement when the conservative and traditional side pokes its head out of its safe environs and begins making noises. Rush isn’t enough. Hannity isn’t cold-blooded enough.

We need the Right to shame the Left, and the Left to remind the Right that “Right” (the means) doesn’t automatically mean right (the end).

Puritan1648 on December 4, 2006 at 1:24 PM

How can you “shame the Left” when they have no sense of shame? If ‘shame them’ means expose them, well, that goes on every day, and will continue. If you want the American people to join us in believing that the Left should be ashamed of themselves, don’t hold your breath.

Most people ( mercifully ) do not know or care that much about politics, and know & care even less about international affairs. They reveal this in every survey since nationwide surveys began being taken over fifty years ago. They are not going to join up with either Us or Them

The best that can be hoped for is for a growing number and percentage of Americans to recognize the moral sterility of the Left–and recognize the true agenda of the Left and the means they’re willing to use to achieve their goals.

We’re embarked on Sorenson’s “long twilight struggle”, only
now the enemy is the triumvirate of terrorists, Democrats, aand the media. None of the three is going to give up eeasily….

Janos Hunyadi on December 4, 2006 at 1:42 PM

I bet you someone could make a lot of money with a show that just focuses on exposing the MSM for what it is – problem is finding someone to put it on the air.

Rick on December 4, 2006 at 11:54 AM

Now that’s a great idea right there. Glenn Beck is opening eyes and ears with his show. The higher ups and money people are taking notice. They have to. Beck and that van sustren knock off are the only ones responsible for the massive ratings increase for cnn-hl news.

Big media is waking up and looking at FNC (though they absolutely HATE it) and Beck and realizing there’s money in them thar rednecks. I think they’ll wind up holding their noses and produce a show exactly as you’re describing.

Damn… I’d LOVE to be on the production staff of a show like that. Talk about a dream come true!

techno_barbarian on December 4, 2006 at 4:48 PM

They do, its called Fox News, and they have more viewers than any other news outlet.

BohicaTwentyTwo on December 4, 2006 at 12:22 PM

Yes, you are right, but Fox News covers the news, and is the leader in cable news outlets. Unfortunately, more people still get their news from the three dinosaur networks NBC, ABC and CBS – I’m talking about a show that just focuses on the MSM – a watchdog for the alleged watchdog. The average person doesn’t pick up on the bias displayed by the MSM – there are still way too many people that take what the MSM says as truth (instead of as agenda driven).

Rick on December 4, 2006 at 5:42 PM

The political director at ABC News was intereviewed on Hugh Hewitt. Here is part of what he had to say:

MH: I never say MSM, because I don’t believe the old media is mainstream. They’re out of the mainstream on most of the issues I’ve been referring to. So I don’t use that phrase. I believe that as I’ve said several times, happy to say again, that anyone who’s conservative in this country has every justification to be skeptical about anything, an internal memo, or product that goes on the air, from the old media, because of a forty year or more history of liberal bias on a range of issues. And after what CBS News did in 2004, regarding the President’s National Guard record, I would be…I am thankful that any conservative looks to us every for news and information, given how outrageous what they did was.

http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/g/8096249b-e534-43ac-81ac-8c4722648377

georgej on December 5, 2006 at 3:11 AM