Back in early February of last year, I noted that I heard Rep. Peter King (R-NY) saying that “the media is the enemy” on Laura Ingraham’s radio show, while I was driving around that night.
At the time, his statement, while containing much truth about how the media handled coverage of the war in Iraq, had a whiff of hyperbole about it. But that was before a brutal election year featuring a series of increasingly fabulistic big media reporting, culminating in RatherGate and its lesser-known but almost equally damning “NYTroGate” by the New York Times.
It was also before a Newsweek article based on shabby “source of a source” reporting led to 16 people killed in riots this weekend in Afghanistan–along with additional protests in “Pakistan to Indonesia to Gaza” according to Reuters, because Newsweek reported that a US interrogator at Guantanamo Bay flushed a Koran down a toilet to intimidate a captured prisoner–the results led to 15 killed in riots in Afghanistan.
As Glenn Reynolds has noted, there’s two big elements to this story: one, that riots over a book–any book–would cause people to get killed. I remember back in 1988 walking past protestors in front of the Ritz Theater in Philadelphia to see The Last Temptation of Christ, but they didn’t try to stone me–or Martin Scorsese, for that matter.
But the other element is that Newsweek surely had to have considered that in the tinderbox atmosphere that is the Middle East, that something along those lines could have happened, when they wrote their story–if they didn’t, they need only ask Salman Rushdie.
But they ran the story anyway, even though they knew they didn’t have evidence to support it (heck, try flushing any book down a toilet–it’s not going to get far), and the result, as numerous bloggers have already somewhat drolly noted, “Newsweek Lied, People Died“.
I’ve written before that back in the old days, most people–including myself–believed that if it was reported in the news, an event was true, (“And that’s the way it is“) even if its ramifications and causes were often open to debate. But ever since 9/11, big media, thanks to the repeated fact checking by the Blogosphere, has turned the Gipper’s famous statement about the Soviet Union on its head: verify–and only then, trust.
And as Glenn wrote, “Really, I don’t want to hear another word about the superior ‘responsibility’ of Big Media. Not one more word”.