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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Newsweek or Newsweak?

This week Newsweek magazine issued a retraction from a story that they printed on their May 9th issue. The story claimed that American soldiers had committed certain actions involving the Quran, among them flushing it down the toilet. Subsequently, protests erupted in the middle East and a number of people lost their lives in the process. Newsweek has apologized for the error, issuing a retraction. Unfortunately, those who lost their lives are not lucky enough to receive that apology. I admit when something like this is reported (this being the Newsweek claims) I am among the first to jump the gun on the issue, maybe not necessarily sinking my teeth into the matter before I comment on it. I have always said that American culture has been isolated throughout its history, by oceans and by the choices that we make here. We are inherently a lone society that is still finding its way in the world (and finding that too much power has come to the country so fast that inexperience has reared its ugly head). There is a general lack of understanding and knowledge regarding other societies, therefore some of these kids (that is what they are, kids, 18, 19 year olds fighting a war) are going to be just that, kids. Can we really be surprised if something like this happens? No. Is it right? No. But we have to bear some of the responsibility for creating a society that at times is insensitive to other cultures. So, when Newsweek made the allegations it was not terribly surprising. Like I had mentioned on my previous post, Newsweek is supposedly a respectable magazine, and naturally I expect them to support their stories with facts and reliable sources. It seems that nowadays the sensationalist side of a story supercedes its factual content. This is a trend that has been coming for a while now. You would think that the press would be careful to protect itself with facts, verifyable facts, when printing stories as sensitive as this one. But the eagerness to pin the Bush Administration on its heels has become a major aim of the press and its seems that they do not understand what it is they are up against. Taking on the government has never been an easy thing to do, but it is especially difficult today, with the Patriot Act (one that has nothing patriotic about it at all), increased security, and most of all increased secrecy. Everything said and done, let me offer this bit (and this is not to foster any conspiracy theories or so forth, just laying out what could be):

with the abundance of stories coming out at the same time, and with the power that the Bush Administration wields, all it takes is a rumor to cast doubt over the validity of any story. The story might be true, but just suggesting that is fabricated will taint it irrepairably. Just look at what happened with Dan Rather's story about President Bush in last year's election. They still haven't found the source of the fake documents. But I find it extremely curious that bloggers were able to verify the validity of the documents in thirty minutes, without having a copy!!!! I guess some of us bloggers are experts at reviewing documents on TV screens and faxes. OK, the documents have questions surrounding them, but how in the hell would those people who posted within thirty minutes of the story being aired know so soon? They Didn't! Why did they do it? Because you cry wolf and someone will listen, always. As I mentioned, just questioning the story creates a cloud of doubt from which it cannot recover. And when you go up against the Bush Administration, the odds are against you. Newsweek has retracted its story, although I have some reservations as to what the reasons were. If indeed it was a mistake on Newsweeks behalf, they should be held responsible for the lives that were lost. They should know fully well that in today's anti-american atmosphere stories of this nature are going to incense people. They have a responsibilty to the public to provide fair, accurate, and unbiased coverage, not to print stories that are inaccurate and possibly, as was proven, deadly stories. But as I mentioned, I have reservations.

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