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War buffery

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I think it’s time for a self-imposed media blackout, and for me to go back to watching The Simpsons, Scrubs and hockey. The news coverage of the day is just too upsetting.

I’m not talking about the actual war footage, although that’s horrific enough. My problem has to do with the tone of the reporting of this conflict, at home and abroad. Never have I seen so much one-sided, sensational and distorted coverage of the day’s events. In my estimation, the media has sunk to a completely new low.

It all started months ago, before the bombing even started. Millions upon millions of peace marchers around the world and in the U.S. took to the streets to protest this war, bolstered by the support of famous artists and intellects. It was the biggest mass protest in the history of the world, and aside from a few incidents, the marches were peaceful and focused.

Yet the media gave little or no attention to the story, and the news organizations that did cover the marches focused on a few weirdos in the crowd. Their cameras missed all the mothers and children out there marching, as well as the seniors, union members, businessmen, war veterans, and families of 9/11 victims. They did however manage to find groups of incoherent college students in rainbow wigs, radical lesbians, anarchists who thought they were at a WTO protest, and communist party members.

The media has also had an irritating tendency to report events as they unfold, including any unfounded, sourceless claims made by the U.S. government, and then move on without any clarification or retraction when those reports turn out to be false.

The Scud missiles that apparently landed in Kuwait on the eve of the bombing campaign? It probably never happened. Those barrels of buried VX and Sarin nerve agents unearthed outside of Baghdad? They turned out to be pesticides.

In some cases the media have implied one thing in a headline, only to refute the very thing they claimed in the body of the story. The danger is that if you don’t bother to read the small print, you’re going to get a very skewed idea of exactly how things stand.

A few days ago CNN.com ran a story with a headline claiming that a suspicious powder was found in Iraq. The writer said that the powder could be used to deliver Saddam’s biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, but if you hung around until the end of the story you would have read an expert statement from the U.S. military that the powder was most likely being used for conventional explosives.

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