Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Now Let's See What Happens

Hi, it's me again. I wanted to be sure to get this post up before today's evening news comes on, just in case I'm right.

News reports today say that a US copter shot up a wedding party in Iraq last night, killing as many as 45 people. The Army, being a bureaucratic organisation, hasn't officially commented on what happened as they have to let their wheels grind, but reporters and cameras are already in the area.

From the AP story:
Associated Press Television News footage showed a truck containing bloodied bodies, many wrapped in blankets, piled one atop the other. Several were children, one of whom had been decapitated.
I'll stake a bet right now. You will see this video on network television. It will not be as severely edited and trimmed as the Nick Berg video, but will be digitised like the Abu Ghraib photos. You will see the decapitated child.

The television network news organisations will say that they are responding to complaints about their handling of the Berg video. And mainstream papers will respond sagely to the resulting outcry when they do by saying, "Well, this is what you wanted. Don't complain now, when it's the other side."

But that's the point. The Berg video was handled differently, markedly so, than the Abu Ghraib photos. AG was all over the news shows, and still is. The Berg video is already gone. One story, the one that makes America look bad and encourages a defeatist mood, gets continuing play; the other, that would inflame American anger at terrorist action, is seemingly pushed aside. This wedding party video allows the nets to have it both ways, and smugly so. They get to once again focus on the bad things (Yes, they are very bad. We need to investigate what happened, prosecute those who did wrong, and correct the process that led to this tragedy if possible.) that make America look bad, while getting an undeserved free pass on shocking and outrageous images that amplify their apparent anti-war point. Read this Jay Rosen column for more on that.

This is my prediction: you will see the headless body of that poor decapitated child on the major television and cable news shows tonight. Probably you will see that image in the major papers tomorrow. It will be contrasted with the Berg video, which will lead back to the Abu Ghraib story. More time will be spent on the child / wedding party images and the Abu Ghraib story individually than will be spent on the Berg video.

Let's see what happens.

INSTANT UPDATE Well, good thing I didn't take that bet! I watched ABC, CBS and NBC. All three showed the same APTN tape mentioned in the story above, even to showing the same clips from that tape. There was only one shot of a dead child, a brief glimpse. No sign of the decapitated child.

However, all three nets played the story as a new trigger for increased Arab anger at Americans. The guilty plea from the first trial of an Abu Ghraib guard was connected to the wedding story in all three reports, and of course, all three showed the Abu Ghraib photos once again.

Still, we'll see what tomorrow's news cycle brings.

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