The Anchoress has a post up about the ongoing Jamil Hussein/burning mosque/six burning Sunni controversy. As she puts it, there is a pissing contest going on between the left, the Associated Press and the right. Frankly, the left was completely silent about the entire story, or very nearly so, for six weeks while the controversy simmered. Then, after the AP "revealed" that Hussein actually existed and was "facing arrest" it became an important cause™ for the left. One they are willing to distort the truth on to push.
Indeed that does seem to be the narrative that the left is pressing – because Jamil Hussein has been “found” that means the story about four burned mosques and six immolated human beings must be true.
Let’s test that logic with a syllogism, shall we?
Major Premise: The AP reported four mosques burned down and six people were murdered, and their source was Jamil Hussein.
Minor Premise: Jamil Hussein exists.
Conclusion: Therefore four mosques burned down and six people were murdered.
No, that doesn’t work. The logic fails.
The fact that the AP itself could not find serious corroboration for the story, that it changed the “four” mosques to “one” but has not been able to provide a single picture, that it has never named the victims or talked to the victim’s families or done anything at all to substantiate the story beyond saying “we stand by it,” seems not to matter to some. But it matters, and that is what the bloggers on the right, “war” or otherwise, have been trying to say. A report matters. The credibility of a report (even if the story is “brief”) matters. It matters because every time a horrible story crosses the wires and into the public perception, it plays on gut-level emotions and raises discontent among already warring local factions. In the same way that some would use our own liberties to work against us, such reports embolden those who would take advantage of the fact that America is a compassionate country, that makes war only with reluctance. Am I saying that ugly or troubling stories should not be reported? Of course not. But they must be true.
Credible news reports matter because the press possesses the public trust and therefore they have a charge – a duty – to do all they can to ascertain that the information they pass on to the nation is as accurate as it can be. The embrasure of that duty is an honorable one and a privilege. Honest journalism – whether popular or not – is as much a service to the nation as is a noble military or an uncorrupted government. Honest journalism tells the good and the bad without passion or prejudice, respecting the right of the people to “know” and the right of the government to hold classified what it deems truly necessary for the good and welfare of nations. Honest journalism respects the reader enough to trust him or her to receive information with an active mind, and welcomes the reader’s ability to question what it reads, to look for clarification, if necessary. The craft of honest journalism is less an imperious handing down of selected information by “mediating intelligences” than a provocative waltz between writer and reader, both partners challenging, encouraging and turning in sync.
A lot of people on the left either do not get it or do not care. The former is unfortunate, the latter frightening. It matters – a lot – whether the media tells a story accurately. If the media lies or distorts it should matter to everyone, left or right, as The Anchoress points out. If the left does not care that the media lies, omits or distorts the truth, that can only mean they are happy that that is happening. That is a scary thing.
I get a lot of people commenting (or trying to, in the case of banned individuals) who assume I am some right wing automaton based on reading one post – usually one linked by the Daou Report. They then swoop in and deposit a comment, often obscene or abusive (and therefore deleted). They fail to comprehend that my criticism of the media is not ideological. It is a problem with the credibility of a lot of reporting these days. And that credibility should matter no matter what side of the political spectrum you happen to inhabit.
I have received a couple of demands from left wing bloggers that I apologize for some posts. The problem with those demands is that they have demanded I retract a post about some item that I never posted about at all. Would I be considered credible if I demanded someone apologize for something they had never done?
I haven't seen one left leaning blog that said a single word about the New York Times Byron Calame and his conclusion last week that there had been a major – very major – lie told in the pages of the NYT Magazine. Nor have I seen any retraction or correction from the New York Times.(UPDATE: Anchoress points me to a correction published today by the NYT. I will leave it to the reader if it is sincere or a bit weasel-worded. I guess that kind of gives my opinion on it away. But the left demands absolute, abject contrition, why shouldn't we?) But the left is very fast to demand – demand, I say – retractions and corrections from right leaning blogs over sideshow issues to the real problems of the AP story.
So about syllogisms then. The left demands corrections from those they disagree with when it turns out a report was inaccurate. The left ignores acknowledged public lies by the media if they happen to agree with the lie. Conclusion: The left supports lies told in their favor.
Unfortunately, that syllogism did not fail.