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January 05, 2007

Missing The Point On Jamil Hussein

Sacre bleu! After weeks of delusional truimphalism from the Radical Reich WingNut-o-sphere...

While I want to know more about Jam(a)il Hussein, I continue to believe that it is a mistake to focus on his “existence” to the exclusion of focusing on the other problems with the AP story. I am primarily concerned with the fact that the initial AP story on the “burning six” reported that four mosques were burned.

... by irresponsible, rabidly partisan bloggers who refused to even entertain the idea that all the facts weren't in yet:

...why I haven't been in any great hurry to jump on the Jamil Hussein bandwagon...

I seem to recall saying, a very long time ago, that it is not that easy getting the facts straight over there, which is why both blogospheric triumphalism and dubiously-sourced media reports of "atrocities" are not such a great idea.

Neither is some of the harsh criticism the CENTCOM has come in for. It's not as easy as it looks, folks. I think it's great that folks like Marc and Curt over at Flopping Aces and Patterico are on stories like this.

I also think that in light of the facts, a little humility is called for.

... finally our long national nightmare is over. An important lesson has been learned here, and hopefully it is one the upstart blog mob will not soon forget. Since it now appears Captain Jamil Hussein may, in fact exist, the American public can now safely ignore the following problems with the AP's reporting:

1. The Associated Press originally reported that four mosques had been destroyed in Baghdad's Hurriyah district. Major U.S. papers such as the NY Times and Washington Post gleefully jumped on the bandwagon, even tossing a few more destroyed mosques into the mix for good measure:

In the mixed Hurriyah neighborhood, Shiite militiamen torched at least five Sunni mosques on Islam’s holiest prayer day, police and residents reported. Other mosques were attacked by gunmen spraying bullets from the rooftops of nearby houses, witnesses said.

An Iraqi patrol, however, found just one mosque damaged, a fact the AP was slow to report until its story was challenged by pesky bloggers with an agenda.

2. In its most recent statement regarding Jamil Hussein, the AP continues to dissemble about the sourcing of their news reports:

Hussein was not the original source of the disputed report of the attack; the account was first told on Al-Arabiya satellite television by a Sunni elder, Imad al-Hashimi, who retracted it after members of the Defense Ministry paid him a visit. Several neighborhood residents subsequently gave the AP independent accounts of the Shiite militia attack on a mosque in which six people were set on fire and killed.

This is a red herring. Hussein is directly cited as the source for the 4 destroyed mosques story (the veracity of which we note the AP still refuses to address) in the following AP stories, oddly all dated Nov. 24th:

Shiite militiamen kill 25 Sunni Arabs in revenge attacks in Baghdad
New Savage Twist to Violence In Baghdad
Shiite militias burn Sunnis alive, attack mosques in capital as revenge killings spiral

On Nov. 25th, however, the AP changes the cite to "police and/or witnesses said" and all mention of Hussein mysteriously vanishes from references to the mosque story. Hussein continues, however, to be quoted as the source for the burning Sunnis story. In fact, he is the only named source for this story, which makes the AP's huffy disclaimer that he was "not the original source" rather odd. If Imad al-Hashimi went on Al-Arabiyya television with the story, why weren't Al-Arabiyya or al-Hashimi mentioned in the earliest reports? The AP claims he - not Hussein - was the original source and having been televised, his identity was hardly a secret. Nonetheless, the AP goes on to cite Hussein, not al-Hashimi, in the following stories:

November 24, 2006:

Shiite militiamen kill 25 Sunni Arabs in revenge attacks in Baghdad

Militiamen burn six Sunni worshippers alive, army does not intervene

New Savage Twist to Violence In Baghdad

November 25th:

Insurgents gun down 21 Shiites in Iraqi village; coalition forces kill 57 insurgents

Shiite militiamen burn Sunnis alive in revenge attacks for Sadr City slaughter

November 26th:

Iraq PM Struggling Ahead of Bush Talks

Why does this matter?

Simple. Because there have been a string of stories lately in the media regarding suspicious or anonymous sources who proved to have dubious loyalties, or even to have provided information that was deliberately false and which was not carefully checked by media management before it went to print. The accuracy and unbiased nature of the news we are reading has been questioned, and yet when quite legitimate questions are raised regarding news stories, the media, rather than investigating and issuing retractions where warranted, stonewall, lie, and accuse their questioners of having an "agenda".

Apparently they don't like a vigorous and free citizenry who dare to question them. As we saw with Joseph Rago recently, they are downright contemptuous of bloggers:

Nobody wants to be an imbecile. Part of it, I think, is that everyone likes shows and entertainments. Mobs are exciting. People also like validation of what they already believe; the Internet, like all free markets, has a way of gratifying the mediocrity of the masses. And part of it, especially in politics, has to do with conservatives. In their frustration with the ancien régime, conservatives quite eagerly traded for an enlarged discourse. In the process they created a counterestablishment, one that has adopted the same reductive habits they used to complain about. The quarrel over one discrete set of standards did a lot to pull down the very idea of standards.

The technology of ink on paper is highly advanced, and has over centuries accumulated a major institutional culture that screens editorially for originality, expertise and seriousness.

That "major institutional culture" seems to have failed in an alarmingly high number of cases, however. It would seem, for instance, to have failed miserably in the case of poor Bryan Calame, whose integrity may cost him his job at the New York Times. His crime? Noticing that the paper which pays his salary not only failed to detect the fact that one of their reporters was egregiously negligent in investigating an abortion story, but that, even after the true facts became known, the Times adamantly refuses to correct the record, admit fault, or publish a retraction.

This story bears many similarities to the Hussein story. Instead of investigating the story thoroughly firsthand, the Times' reporter relied on a local stringer who turned out to have ties to a pro-life activist organization. The reporter wrote that a local woman had been jailed for having an abortion.

In fact, she had been jailed for strangling her new-born baby, a fact that even the most cursory investigation of the facts (Calame himself was able to obtain the court records without leaving his NY office) would have revealed.

Even knowing this, the Times' editorial staff proclaimed:

“We have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the facts as reported in our article, which was not part of any campaign to promote abortion.”

After the English translation of the court ruling became available on Dec. 8, I asked Mr. Marzorati if he continued to have “no reason to doubt the accuracy of the facts” in the article. His e-mail response seemed to ignore the ready availability of the court document containing the findings from the trial before the three-judge panel and its sentencing decision. He referred to it as the “third ruling,” since the trial is the third step in the judicial process.

...I asked Mr. Whitney if he intended to suggest that the office of the publisher bring the court’s findings to the attention of those readers who received the “no reason to doubt” response, or that a correction be published. The latest word from the standards editor: “No, I’m not ready to do that, nor to order up a correction or Editors’ Note at this point.”

The court system of El Salvador is not the only thing which appears to be "terribly politicized" if one of this nation's largest newspapers, when challenged on an issue of material fact, deliberately opts to conceal part of the truth from its readers. And more disturbingly, this appears to be part of a larger pattern. The LA Times recently accused our military of killing innocent civilians in an airstrike in the city of Ramadi, a claim which was disputed by CENTCOM only at the prompting of Patterico, another of those upstart bloggers who aren't worth reading because they aren't screened by a 'highly advanced' editorial staff for originality, expertise, and seriousness.

After several weeks, the LA Times finally got around to telling the other part of the story.

Only after they were literally embarrassed into it by a pesky blogger who refused to let them get away with incomplete and misleading reporting.

What does all this mean? Should bloggers who doubted the existence of Jamil Hussein apologize for asking questions of the Associated Press? Of course not. Does the media ever apologize for asking questions? And more importantly, does the liberal blogosphere really mean to imply that ordinary Americans, much less bloggers, have no right to ask questions?

Should bloggers who made incorrect statements retract them? Absolutely - immediately. And I predict they will. That has been the difference all along between most of the blogosphere and the mainstream media: accountability and responsiveness to the public we serve. No, we don't always get it right the first time, but then we aren't reporters ourselves and we don't claim to have a handle on the truth. Like them, we are asking questions.

All we ask, all we have ever asked, is for a little accountability and transparency. Unfortunately those qualities seem to be sadly lacking from both the AP's handling of the Hussein story and the NY Times' handling of the Carmen Climaco story. But is this really surprising? As we found out when Baghdad fell, there was quite a bit of news the media had kept to itself.

Posted by Cassandra at January 5, 2007 06:30 AM

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IT IS BUSH'S FAULT! If he hadn't dragged us into a war those lying liars wouldn't have been caught making misstatements or a failure to communicate.

I know because I peeked into my crystal ball.

Posted by: Professor Trelawney at January 5, 2007 11:05 AM

I say we let Michelle Malkin wander around Baghdad for a few minutes to try and get the 'real story' for us duped citizens. After all, Iraq is a peaceful oasis of democracy, right? What do you say, Michelle?

Posted by: minorripper at January 5, 2007 11:26 AM

At least she seems willing to go.

Go figure.

Posted by: Jamil Hussein at January 5, 2007 11:29 AM

I hereby apologize for calling Rago a punk on Hugh Hewitt's show. I stand by the rest of what I said about him, though.

He mistakes intelligence for intellect, and assumes that because he sits in the midst of intelligence (i.e., data) that it must also mean he's smarter than the rest of us.

Simply not true. And if you don't know how to filter your intel, or worse, filter it without understanding your bias, you get... dumber.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at January 5, 2007 11:39 AM

Puts a whole new spin on the old adage that "no news is good news".

Posted by: camojack at January 5, 2007 11:46 AM

minorripper sure points out the disingenuity inherent in the 'chickenhawk blogger' argument, doesn't he?

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Posted by: Daveg at January 5, 2007 12:03 PM

Keep the Unclean One and her womanish devilments away from me!

Isn't it being badly enough that the infidel Eason Jordan is pursuing me with bells on, day and night? You people are insane - first you allow the Jews to blow up your World Trade Center, now you want to let them Infest the Moon????


Posted by: Jamil Hussein at January 5, 2007 12:15 PM

I have proof that I don't exist.

Posted by: spd rdr at January 5, 2007 12:48 PM

spd, I really hate it when you get all existential on me. It forces me to conclude that moonbats make their own problems because of their agenda and they don't like getting called on it.

As usual. Why are we continually surprised that
the MSM isn't going to go to bat for their credibility? Why leave it to the little guys to prove them wrong and then whine about how we, the vast uneducated have somehow managed, in spite of Jayson Blair, Dan Rather, et al. to add two and two and get four?

Why is not protecting their good name not important? Especially if they have an agenda?
Wouldn't the moonbats, liberals and other anti
war persons be MORE persuaded to the anti war agenda if the media DID due diligence?

Posted by: Cricket at January 5, 2007 01:13 PM

Correction: The fence sitters and the war monkeys
be more inclined to align themselves on the side of the anti war media IF they didn't insult our intelligence.

Posted by: Cricket at January 5, 2007 01:17 PM

Why leave it to the little guys to prove them wrong and then whine about how we, the vast uneducated have somehow managed, in spite of Jayson Blair, Dan Rather, et al. to add two and two and get four?

Correction little Missy: two and two do NOT - I repeat NOT - equal four! I have three anonymous witnesses who will SWEAR that they added two and two and got not four but FIVE mosques! And anyway what does it matter if we said that four entire buildings had been destroyed when they weren't?


Of course we did not argue - there was no need!

Posted by: Jamil Hussein at January 5, 2007 01:26 PM

I have proof that spd doesn't exist. But since spd has the burden of proof, I'll let him present his evidence first.

Posted by: KJ at January 5, 2007 01:26 PM

I have proof that spd doesn't exist. But since spd has the burden of proof, I'll let him present his evidence first.

I think my head just exploded... ;)

Posted by: FbL at January 5, 2007 01:30 PM

Who is this "spd" personage? He is offensive in the nostrils of Allah the Munificent! May the fleas of a Thousand Camels infest his jockey shorts!

May his stomach burn in Hell for all Eternity! May he be tormented by 47 lustful but matronly legal secretaries who dance on the rim of his whisky glass as he types out his ridiculous commentaries! ENOUGH!!!

Posted by: Jamil Hussein at January 5, 2007 01:34 PM

Brett raised his head hopefully at the thought of 47 lustfilled secretaries and then remembered;
The merest hint of pressure on the keys rendered him non existent. His bona fides having thus suffered at the hands of a quick witted colleague
who enjoys Pixar movies, he surrendered himself to the torpor of being a resident of an archive.

Life was so unfair.

Posted by: Cricket at January 5, 2007 05:36 PM

Who is being this Brett personage??? Why have 47 lustful legal secretaries invaded the peace and quiet of my Archives???

And why are there floury fingerprints all over my beloved goat?

Posted by: Farouk of the Farouk Souk and Pastry Nook at January 5, 2007 06:33 PM

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