Monday, December 05, 2005
The demise of the memory hole: One of the nice things about the Internet is that it is so much easier to actually go back and check what happened or see what was said. It's this fact that led to the famous statement that bloggers would "fact-check your @$$."
Unfortunately, too many reporters and editors are too lazy to do their fact-checking before they go to press, leaving it to bloggers to correct their mistakes.
The most recent case in point was Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha's call for an immediate pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq. Murtha's call appeared on front pages across the nation and led network and cable television news shows. Why? Because Murtha was a "hawk" and was reversing course. Murtha's decision was extraordinary -- a "man bites dog" story.
The Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Ombudsman makes that case here. The Union-Tribune's TV columnist Robert Laurence makes a similar claim here.
The problem? Well, none of it was completely accurate.
Yes, Murtha voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, but so did a lot of other Democrats who now claim they were misled or (more rarely) they made a mistake.
You see, Murtha's not really what you would typically describe as a "hawk" and his "reversal" wasn't really anything new.
As Ed Morrissey pointed out, Murtha had been talking pullout as early as May 2004.
"We cannot prevail in this war with the policy we have today. We need to mobilize or get out," he said.
"It would be devastating to pull out now, but it may be impossible to mobilize now that the public has turned against it," he said.
Is Murtha a hawk? No, actually Murtha is Osama bin Laden's stereotype of what every American is -- a paper tiger whose nose only needs to be bloodied and they will retreat. It was the U.S. retreat from Somalia after the Blackhawk Down incident that convinced bin Laden of this fact -- and guess who wanted our troops to retreat from that fight? John Murtha.
It's frustrating to many who support the misison in Iraq when defeatists like Murtha make the front page and profiles in political courage like Joe Lieberman (who may face a primary fight from the left) are ignored. The mainstream media -- the ones who still don't even realize that their @$$ is being fact-checked -- claim that it's the man-bites-dog rule that explains the discrepancy in the coverage. They may actually believe that. However, the truth is that Murtha's revelation was more of a vicious-dog-finally-bites-passerby-on-the-ankle story. It's news, but not front page news.