On Tuesday, the front page of the Los Angeles Times had three stories about Iraq: “Suicide Attack Kills Head of Iraqi Council,” “Death of Prisoner Detailed in Testimony,” and “Pervasive Abuse Alleged by Freed Detainees, Red Cross.”
The attempted use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction against American troops made page A8, with this lead paragraph: “An artillery shell rigged to explode in a roadside bomb in Baghdad instead dispersed a tiny amount of sarin, a nerve gas that Saddam Hussein produced in the 1980s, U.S. officials said Monday.” Paragraph 8 of the story read: “‘What is of concern is that there may be more of them out there,” said a U.S. official, who requested anonymity.”
What apparently concerns American elite media – blue state media like the Times of both coasts – is that any credibility be attached to the idea that Saddam did in fact conceal WMD, just as he buried MIGs in the sand. Rather than confront any implications of the attempted use of the WMD, the Times editors buried the story deeper than the MIG, and covered the front page with anti-war, anti-Bush headlines. They even tossed in an Enron header on page one: “Enron Tapes Hints Chiefs Knew About Power Ploys.”
In a lengthy praise of himself and his newspaper delivered to an academic audience a couple of weeks back, Los Angeles Times Editor John Carroll blasted Fox News as “pseudo-journalists.” One part of his indictment read this way:
You may be familiar with a study published last October on the public misconceptions about the war in Iraq. One of those misconceptions was that Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction had been found.
Another was that links had been proven between Iraq and al-Qaida.
A third was that world opinion favored the idea of the U.S. invading Iraq.
Among people who primarily watched Fox News, 80 percent believed one or more of those myths. That’s 25 percentage points higher than the figure for viewers of CNN – and 57 percentage points higher than that for people who got their news from public broadcasting.
Put aside Carroll’s wildly amusing elevation of the ideology of viewers into a commentary on the content of their preferred channels – as though PBS viewers are going to believe any reason for invading Iraq – or his repetition of the talking points of the left, as though it is not rational to believe there were ties between Saddam and al-Qaida. [Note to Carroll's believers: It is only a "myth" if you hate Bush so much as to blind yourself to the obvious.]
The crime Carroll accuses Fox News of committing is of leaving “its audience so deeply in the dark.”
What percentage of Los Angeles Times readers know that a sarin shell – a WMD – was employed against American troops? And since the paper chose not to report at all the second major story on WMD confirmed by the military yesterday – the use of a mustard gas shell against American troops a couple of weeks earlier – what percentage of Times’ readers will know about that?
John Carroll wrote his own indictment in his windy speech. The Times is concealing the news it doesn’t like, leaving its readers “deeply in the dark.” But don’t expect the courage to admit as much from Carroll or any of his staff. It is a “get Bush” operation on Spring Street, every bit as obvious as the “get Arnold” frenzy of last fall. It will have the same effect as well.
People know. They don’t believe the bigs, even when they agree with the agenda of the agenda journalism within.
If future attacks using WMD are successful, however, I wonder if we will have another commission to explore why a U.S. news media turned its eyes from the story that was sitting right in front of them. Maybe John Carroll will give a lecture on that topic when that day comes.