Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

A good op-ed by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times about the situation in Iraq.


What's good about this piece? It's manipulative and blatantly partisan, but what information or insight does it contain? Other than the emotional satisfaction of sneering at the Bush administration, what could you possibly get from this piece?

I think that part of the reason why American (and perhaps world) opinion has gotten so partisan is because it's easier now for people to talk only to true believers without ever having to explain or justify certain assumptions to the non-faithful. Readers of the NYT already know that Iraqis are much worse off today (regardless of any delusions that Iraqis themselves may be suffering from; if they'd only read the NYT, they'd know how much worse off they are) and that the US invasion of Iraq has led to massive increases in recruitment of terrorists. So why listen to any other source?

My two main sources of information are National Public Radio and Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume. I've paid special attention to how often one source leaves out relevant information in its coverage of an issue, and NPR is coming out very badly in this comparison.

You may automatically assume that I'm biased. But, if you're at all curious, try it for yourself. Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume has, over and over again, brought up relevant information that I've been able to verify through other sources and that many news sources simply leave out.

I know somone that travels a lot in Europe and Asia, and he claims that CNN would lose their US audience if Americans knew what CNN shows overseas. In Europe, before the Iraq war, he was struck with the skillful editing (particularly in France and Germany) that allowed them to show cuts from Colin Powell's talks while carefully removing all logic. I've paid more attention since then to 'the art of omission' in the media - NPR doesn't lie, but they're careful not to report facts that might lead to the 'wrong' conclusions.

Try it - listen to Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume for, say, a month, watching carefully to see if you learn things there that you don't hear elsewhere. Then try to find a pattern in the facts left out by most media sources - it's not random.

I'll be happy to try to follow any other news source you recommend, if you feel that NPR is too right-wing to give a full and accurate view of the world (I also check BBC and CNN regularly, but maybe they also have a conservative, pro-US bias and so I'm still missing relevant facts). If you only listen to those that you already know will support your own views, then how do you know you're getting the full picture?

Ann. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I guess the article is partisan, and your point is valid. I guess I liked it because it was a well written piece supporting my current thinking rather than challenging it. I agree with you that spinning the media for your audience is common and probably a huge polarizing element in society. I think that when big media starts to treat their news as "content" with ratings, you also risk "selling people what they want to see".

One thing they all leave out... how much oil is being pumped out of the ground into the Bush administration's pockets.