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Friday, July 13, 2007

The "al Qaeda in Iraq" propaganda exposed: Bloggers make stuff happen?

Exposing the deception involved in use of the “al Qaeda in Iraq” meme has finally gained traction in the national media, with the Public Editor of the New York Times harshly attacking the work of one of its own reporters, and even Joe Klein of Time attaching the dreaded “L” word (“an outright lie”) to President Bush’s false claim that we are fighting “the same people” in Iraq who attacked us on 9-11. This blog saw this propaganda ploy coming almost a year ago when the phrase “al Qaeda in Iraq” made a sudden appearance in news reports (see from a few weeks ago "News from Iraq: All “al Qaeda,” all the time" and from last September "News flash! Republicans test-market new meme, mainstream media regurgitates it" ) Now Salon-based big-blogger Glenn Greenwald, who is always a must-read and has been pushing this issue hard, offers an inspiring look suggesting that the blogging world really is affecting national reporting. Little ripples and all that:

Given how systemic and deeply rooted all of these political and media failures are, what is the point of writing about them day after day, and complaining on a case-by-case basis about them? The corruption and dysfunction is, by now, obvious to those who are able and willing to see it. Why beat the same drum every day?
As frustrating as it can be, this sort of day-to-day pressure on individual journalists and political figures is the most effective weapon possessed by blogs, websites and other organizations devoted to forcing into our public discourse various perspectives and narratives which are otherwise excluded. Given how energized, engaged and active blog readers are, virtually all journalists, editors, pundits and political figures now hear the criticisms launched at them, and usually hear them quite loudly.
Through this process, many became aware of objections to what they do that they otherwise would not have realized. At the very least, they are conscious, when they go to write the next article or give the next interview, that they can trigger very vocal and negative reactions by repeating their errors.
. . . Everyone is potentially affected, to some degree, even if subconsciously, by substantial amounts of anger directed at them. Journalists in general have thin skins for criticism and when they are subjected to it, they remember it.
The point here is that changing our public discourse is a slow, grinding, difficult process. Any changes that occur, any progress that is made, will be made only incrementally, one day after the next. Each individual change is usually so slight as to be imperceptible, but aggregated, those changes can be substantial. The real success of blogs comes not from single, easily identifiable spectacular achievements ("we defeated this bill/candidate" or "we uncovered this fact"), but rather, by the gradual re-shaping of the dominant political narratives, by changing how political and cultural issues are discussed, by influencing (either through pressure or competition) how the media conducts itself in covering our political process.
One can only speculate about what caused this specific recent burst of journalism concerning the President's manipulative use of "Al Qaeda" to justify our ongoing occupation of Iraq. . . .though I think there is ample basis for believing that the Public Editor's criticism this weekend, which undoubtedly reverberated around newsrooms, was rooted in the work of bloggers and the complaints of blog readers).
But, in general, the way that blogs and similar instruments can be effective is precisely through this day-to-day warfare with the opinion-making guardians -- journalists, pundits and politicians alike. . . . And while some may try arrogantly to ignore the criticism and others may try to demean it and insist that it does not matter, the criticism --- when it is persuasively defended and grounded in fact -- eventually builds and grows and strengthens and has an effect. I would again point to the relatively small but still revealing point made by the NYT's Sheryl Gay Stolberg in her article this week regarding the White House ceremony to celebrate the new Press Briefing room:
“. . . . Yet with the White House press corps under attack from liberal bloggers as being too cozy with the Bush administration, some reporters say they feel a little bit queasy about attending.”

Defeatism can lead one to believe that there is no progress at all and that progress is impossible. Impatience can lead one to conclude that the progress is too slow and incremental to matter. But slow and incremental progress of this sort is the only kind that is viable, and ultimately, the only kind that really matters.

It's time for Klein et al to smoke Lieberman out as a liar, too. He has been the biggest cheerleader for this fraudulent defense of Bush's War.


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