Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Journalistic ‘Integrity’ 101: How to Drown-Out the Good News from Iraq

And there I was, wrapped-up in my jaded delusions, thinking that I had seen it all.

I was under the mistaken impression that the Washington Post and the New York Times can sink no deeper in how they’ve misreported the Iraq story.

I was so foolishly wrong.

A new lowly record in disguising propaganda as journalism was set today.

Remember how often the WaPo and the NYTimes were imploring us, for months now, to flee for the hills ‘cause the Iraqi parliament was not managing to pass the Provincial Elections law? Remember how much ink was spilt—by these two papers and their auxiliaries in the ‘expert’ class—warning us that the sky was about to cave-in on our heads any moment now unless Kirkuk’s smoldering powder-keg was not dealt with?

Well, in an anti-climactic turn of events, the Iraqi parliament passed a very reasonable and fair Provincial Elections Law yesterday. The parliament also decided to put Kirkuk on hold, referring the matter to committee.

‘REJOICE, THE PLANET IS SAVED’—that’s the kind of headline one would have expected the NYTimes to run given all their previous panicked hype.

No, they have another trick up their sleeves to fog-up the prospect of clarity as to where Iraq is going.

The NYTimes suddenly remembered a couple of Western lawyers with gripe to spew about procedural and bureaucratic errors that took place, from their perspectives, during the Saddam Hussein trial. Saddam was hanged back in December 2006, but the editors of the NYTimes, who had been sitting on these unsubstantiated allegations of minor misconduct for some months now, chose the very same day on which the elections bill was passed—a major benchmark of the media’s own creation—to give these lawyers their 15 minutes in the spotlight.

So the editors had been sitting on this story/non-story, waiting for a big positive event to come out from Iraq in order to run it, thereby fudging the impression that things are heading in the right direction. Is there any other way to explain it? “Blow some smoke into their eyes, so the public won’t see”—Yup, that seems to be the plan, and don’t tell me this ain’t related to Obama’s run for the presidency on the premise that Iraq is floundering.

Not to be outdone by their main rivals when it comes to duplicity, the WaPo pulled the exact same trick but went a step further into the realm of deceit by putting their own back-burner piece of negative distraction on the front-page!

A dated and dusty account of corruption allegations at Iraq’s charitable Red Crescent Society gets the front-page treatment while the story on the provincial elections law is buried deep within the back-pages. Sure, no editorial agenda here either.

The Red Crescent stuff is old news; the arrests warrants were issued at least six weeks ago. The politics behind all this is that some in Maliki’s office (…his chief aide, Tariq al-Abdullah) are out settling scores with former PM Ja’afari’s camp by going after Ja’afari’s acolytes. It is all about inside political jockeying within the Da’awa Party and has at its heart personality clashes and feuds among ex-exiles that go back decades.

But why didn’t the WaPo run the story six weeks ago when it first broke? Why did they pick today of all days? And does a stale story about a few tens of thousands of dollars that may or may not have ended up in someone’s pocket merit the front-page treatment over a breaking news story on breakthrough legislation that may shape Iraq’s future?

It just doesn’t make any sense, unless one factors in a deliberate effort at distorting the news being reported from Iraq. And who benefits from such distortion? Well, it certainly ain’t McCain, the guy who is partially running on the success being achieved in Iraq and his role in making that happen.

The self-styled ‘serious’ media organs, such as the NYTimes and the WaPo, have too much power in this elections cycle, and their pro-Obama slant is dangerous. It runs from newbie and starry-eyed cubs carrying water at the Metro Desk to cynical left-leaning old-timers in the editorial boards: the overwhelming majority of the staff wants Obama to win. Fine, everyone’s entitled to their biases. But when these biases are coated with the supposedly unassailable decorum of ‘journalism’ and ‘professionalism,’ then something very dodgy is going on: there is no oversight over the fact that several hundred individuals get to mold the opinions of millions.

Sure, the media should be kept as free as possible. I agree, the line should be drawn at irresponsible libel and we’d leave it at that, but while one could live with these biases in the past, it seems that this time around it is unprecedented in shilling for one candidate over another. There is something immensely undemocratic and illiberal about allowing 300 activist reporters and editors to ram their opinions down the throats of their readers who mistakenly pick up the paper hoping for a ray of authenticity from within its folds.

Something should be done about it. Nothing will be done about it.

Be sure to pick-up the NYTimes if Osama Bin Laden is killed or arrested ahead of November, the main front-page headline will probably scream: ‘POLL: PAKISTANIS AND INDIANS STILL DON’T LIKE EACH OTHER AFTER DECADES OF SEPERATION,’
Page A17: ‘Bin Laden, Inconsequential One-Time Terrorist, arrested by Pakistani Forces.’

PS: if the Sarah Palin's issues with her brother-in-law got spun into 'Trooper Gate' by the media, then what about this fine piece of reporting on Obama's "graft" (literally!) buddies back in Chicago: Behold, I give you 'Garden Gate'...Now just watch as the editors and reporters who are supposedly covering this election ignore this story, just like they did with Rezko, and leave it to "die on the vine" (literally, again!)...


Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Dear "crude analysis",

Where are you? It's been almost 15 minutes since I've posted this piece, and you haven't jumped out of the shadows to defend Obama's honor.

I'm worried, are you okay? Is it your day off?


(Just in case you get all agitated again, this was said in jest. You asked for my intervention in another comments thread. Nobody gets banned on this blog. We've seen it all before, from neocon hating Lester to "I Love Al-Qaeda" Jaguar, so you don't really stand-out in your comments. Fend for yourself with the others, and enjoy your stay...)



9:49 AM, September 25, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nibras I think that any day now the biggest story on Obama is about to break and it was you who was the first to clarify it. Obama's ethnic link to Africa is Somali. Which makes him, according to the US Census Bureau, an ARAB-American and NOT an AFRICAN-American.

Obama's father was considered an Arab, and treated that way as an Arab Somali representative of the Arab Somali minority in the Kenyan government.

I think this is an issue that Rev. Jesse Jackson should be talking about.

Here's an interesting link that has found similar evidence that Obama is half-Arab:


10:08 AM, September 25, 2008

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi anonymous,

There's an intriguing aspect of the "Obama is an ethnic Arab" storyline which alleges (...this has been wafting up from the Egyptian press) that Obama's half-brother is a long-term resident of Cairo and is married to an Egyptian lady and that he has filed for Egyptian citizenship on the grounds that he is an ethnic Arab!

I'd love to see the startled looks on the New York Times' Cairo bureau when that story breaks!

The U.S. media keeps referring to Obama's "grandmother" on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya. But she is not Obama's biological grandmother; she is a step-grandmother!

Imagine what an "Obama is an ethnic Arab" revelation would do to the race! Some polls already show that New York may be in play, and with Jewish voters constituting 12 percent of the population in the state, then an anti-Arab reaction (...c'mon, are they more pro-Democratic or anti-Arab? It's all tribal at the end of the day) may swing New York around to Obama's detriment.

And imagine what it would do to the African-American vote: not only is he not ethnically black as we know it, but he's an Arab, and the predominat historical myth is that Arabs in Africa were the ones out capturing, transporting and trading the slaves who ended up in the Americas. So slavery's legacy would have the exact opposite meaning in Obama's blood line!

Anyway, this is the post that I believe you are refering to:


And you're right, I believe the story will break soon. It is just too juicy of a career-making piece for an ambitious reporter to pass-up!



10:28 AM, September 25, 2008

Anonymous crude analysis said...

don't you worry, nibras. i'm alive and well. and i'm here to stay. i don't plan on letting you evil men scare this "kid" away.

i just wrote a fairly long comment, but it didn't submit and now it's gone. yeah, guess i'll have to try again later. wanted to let you know that i'm still breathing though. i sensed your serious concern.

-crude analysis

10:34 AM, September 25, 2008

Anonymous david said...

The Gallup poll today shows that McCain and Obama are back to being tied at 46 % each after a week of Obama having the upper hand.

These numbers are incredible. It means that McCain has faced his worst election crisis (the Wall Street meltdown) AS WELL AS the rabid and ferocious media assault on him and on Sarah Palin (for heaven's sake SNL even accused Tod Palin of having incest with his daughters, how low can they go?) and despite all his McCain only dipped a little in the polls and now he is back being even with Obama.

After all that, Obama should be ahead by 15 points.

Now, it is only going to go up for McCain, and down for Obama.

There are 40 days left! This is all in McCain's favor.

If the debate is held tomorrow, Americans will wonder why in the world are the candidates talking about foreign policy and national security when they should be talking about the economy. And McCain's brilliant move for delay will be remembered. Maverick Square-Jaw McCain outplayed Gullible Floppy-Eared Obama because McCain has the experience.

Anyone with some background in politics looking at this situation and looking at the numbers will conclude that McCain is going to win the presidency.

11:24 AM, September 25, 2008

Anonymous crude analysis said...

david, if you're trying to inform your thinking about who is going to win the election by gallup daily tracking polls, then you're head is in the clouds. and you'll be in for a real awakening come election day.


i'm not one to use polls, especially national ones, but all of the major polls right now have obama up by a few percentage points. gallup is the only one that obama isn't ahead in. you can say he should be up by 10 points and this or that. but i'm not sure where your logic comes in at the end: "Anyone with some background in politics looking at this situation and looking at the numbers will conclude that McCain is going to win the presidency."

how do you get from where you started to that conclusion? for some reason, i feel like you slept for 3 straight weeks and just woke up after a wicked trip. 3 weeks ago mccain was rolling with the palin shine. unfortunately for you, the past two weeks happened. the palin shine lost the luster, mccain has gone bonkers, and most semi-intelligent americans have come to realize that sarah palin is a total idiot and doesn't have even a decent grasp of the many serious issues that are facing this country.


Sarah Palin Talks Russia With Katie Couric (to be broadcast this evening)

just so you know, the past few weeks the tide has been turning toward obama. not sure what you missed, but you should come back down to earth.

--crude analysis

1:43 PM, September 25, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"crude":- you really are one nasty and mentally-challenged spokesman for the Obama campaign. I know that the Obama campaign assigns pro-Obama bloggers to blog against, and comment against, pro-McCain bloggers but they should have picked a smarter guy, someone with more experience, to talk up Mr. Talk (Obama) on Talisman Gate.

You keep misogynically referring to Sarah Palin as an idiot. An idiot is someone who puts such a high premium on his own anonymity but doesn't have the sense to protect his real identity electronically. Do you realize that with a few easy steps I have managed to figure out your real name from the links on your blog and on the blogs you post to?

May I have your permission to publish your real name? Oh please do go and dare me to do it. I would love to unmask a little Obama troll.

2:45 PM, September 25, 2008

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi anonymous,

I know I said that I wouldn't intervene, but if you have some respect for my views then I'd like to ask you not to go through with your threat of "unmasking" "crude analysis"--if indeed you have the goods on him.

He has chosen to remain anonymous, and whatever we may think of that decision, it is his to make. Let him do what he wants to do here on TG, and ask yourself, is he really hurting anyone? He's been keeping the comments section lively, and he's offering a different perspective. I say let him have his say, in whatever way he chooses.

That said, and this ties in to the point David was making about polls, Zogby released his numbers this afternoon, and guess what, he has McCain ahead of Obama by two points, whereas McCain was trailing by three points last week.


That piece of good news should take away the sting of whatever "crude" is up to, doesn't it?

Have a great day,


6:17 PM, September 25, 2008

Anonymous crude analysis said...


from the confidence in your voice, it seems to me that you might know more about computers than myself. i'm blogging anonymously, just as you are commenting anonymously. i haven't necessarily put such a high premium on my anonymity, nor have i tried too overly hard to protect my real identity. there are many people out there that do in fact know my real name. but in the regular blogging world, i've chosen to remain anonymous. who knows what "easy steps" you took, or why you felt so inclined to discover for yourself, but so be it. i appreciate you asking for my permission though. perhaps you're being facetious and will unmask me anyway, but i'd like to think that you were giving me the chance to give you permission or not. in that case, i would prefer that you wouldn't. but obviously you put some work into it and might get satisfaction by getting one-up on me. perhaps we can negotiate. i'll agree to be less of an obama troll and you can agree to be less of an anti-obama troll. unless you'd like something more than that. hope to work something out, "anonymous."

"crude analysis"

6:18 PM, September 25, 2008

Anonymous crude analysis said...


i just noticed that you submitted a comment one minute before i did. i appreciate your intervention. i thought i was gonna be alone on this one, so it's good to know that i'm welcome here. hopefully "anonymous" can respect my wish to remain anonymous.

crude analysis

6:41 PM, September 25, 2008

Blogger Brian H said...

Don't know if you caught it, but a fascinating re-analysis of Gallup's poll numbers here: Gallup's games.

Short version: Gallup has been fiddling the weighting of party affiliation etc. to make the polls come out in whatever seems like the most dramatic pot-boiling way, with a lean to Obama. If the weighting is "locked" at historical levels, the numbers show a steady weekly rise in McCain's advantage, with the latest 3 weeks, (Sept 4, 11 & 18) being :
September 4: Obama 41.06%, McCain 41.77%, Undecided 17.17%

September 11: Obama 42.04%, McCain 42.45%, Undecided 15.51%

September 18: Obama 39.62%, McCain 45.71%, Undecided 14.67%.

12:20 AM, September 26, 2008

Anonymous John in Michigan, USA said...


First, my compliments on an outstanding blog.

I am writing because I think you are correct that, technically, Obama is more Arab-American than African-American...but it won't matter nearly as much as you think it will. Here's why.

The phrase African-American is different from other ethnic-American hyphenations. Most hyphenations, for example Asian-American or Italian-American, suggest a parent or recent ancestor who immigrated to America. With African-American, this is not the case. African-American became a polite replacement for Black in the 90's. Black in turn was a polite replacement for Negro starting in the 60's. All of these terms refer not to a recent immigrant from Africa, but instead to someone whose ancestors were slaves in America. Replacing Black with African-American has created an odd ambiguity in American English, since there is no longer an easy term to distinguish between the descendants of slaves and the descendants of recent (1-3 generations) voluntary immigrants from Africa. But that is another topic.

The important point is that American descendants of slaves, and Americans of recent African origins, are culturally and ethnically two distinct groups; the latter group is more typical of the non-African immigrant experience, while the former is sui generis.

Here's why this matters.

Even before the question of Obama's Somali heritage came up, it was already well known that his ancestors were never slaves in America. This issue manifested itself around questions like, is Obama authentically African-American (Black)? This authenticity question has come up before, most notably with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Ironically, Thomas' ancestors on both sides (as far as I know) are descendants of slaves, yet the consensus today among African-Americans (Blacks), and Americans in general, is that Obama is more "authentically" African-American (Black) that is Thomas. I mean this as a statement of perception, not necessarily of fact. Obama's Democratic and leftist politics are part of the reason, but also it matters than Michele Obama Is African-American (Black). Some even argue that Obama was attracted to Rev. Wright's church in part to strengthen his African-American (Black) credentials.

In short, even if Obama's African-American (Black) heritage is adopted (or even, invented), rather than native, it no longer matters. The adoption "took", i.e. the adoption was successful.

Therefore, Obama's Somali heritage is likely to be treated as a question of only academic interest by most voters.

Granted, some voters really care about this stuff, and some of them will see it as a negative, either because of prejudice or because Obama mislead them.

But others who care about it will see it as a plus! It reinforces his multi-cultural mystique, the idea that he's not just another lily-white, white bread politician. It is even possible that Obama will be able to have the best of both worlds, sort of like how George Bush, Sr. was seen as having two home states (Texas and Maine).

This is a fascinating topic, and I encourage you to pursue it in the interest of general knowledge about a relatively unknown candidate. Just don't get too excited about it making a big difference. It might be ignored, and if it isn't, it is entirely possible, although far from certain, that it could end up being a net positive for Obama.

1:57 AM, September 29, 2008

Anonymous Kafir said...

You hit the nail on the head, John. Obama looks black and that is all that matters - to other blacks and guilty white liberals. However, like you said, some voters may care about this stuff and I think a bloc that might could be northeastern Jews. If that is enough to flip New York to McCain, then it won't matter how many swing states Obama picks up, he won't win.

Here's hoping this is just the first of many October surprises in store for Obama.

6:47 AM, September 29, 2008

Anonymous John in Michigan, USA said...



Uh, New York State has gone to the Democrat in every Presidential election since Bush v. Mondale in 1984, usually by comfortable margins. This has far more to do with the fact that New Yorkers are liberal, that the fact that some of them are Jews.

Florida, on the other hand, is very much in play, and the Jewish vote, or any other bloc, could make a difference there.

But liberal American Jews are really not so different then other liberal Americans, some of them will jump at a chance to vote for an Arab-American, provided he doesn't make too many anti-Israel noises.

Obama seems to be ahead in the polls, on Intrade, etc. for now, but the situation is still volatile. For example, either candidate could be only one mis-step away from being branded the scapegoat for the financial crisis.

I agree, the October surprise(s) this year could be spectacular, and not just regarding Wall St.

Rev Wright had his time in the media glare, but I don't think most Americans were paying attention back then. If Wright surfaces again, they will be. Bill Ayers still hasn't really had his moment, nor have Obama's friendly relations with various Islamists made it to the mainstream. Yet.

6:25 PM, September 29, 2008

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