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Sorry Seems to be the Hottest Word

Looks like apologies are in vogue. bq. While the major media, from The New York Times on down, has largely remained silent about their own failings in [reporting on the war], a young columnist for a small paper in Fredericksburg, Va., has stepped forward. For a second, my heart stops. A reporter is going to apologize for the media's one-sided, bad news only coverage of the war? I just may faint. Well, that was too good to be true.
"The media are finished with their big blowouts on the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and there is one thing they forgot to say: We're sorry," Rick Mercier wrote, in a column published Sunday in The Free Lance-Star. "Sorry we let unsubstantiated claims drive our coverage. Sorry we were dismissive of experts who disputed White House charges against Iraq. Sorry we let a band of self-serving Iraqi defectors make fools of us. Sorry we fell for Colin Powell's performance at the United Nations. Sorry we couldn't bring ourselves to hold the administration's feet to the fire before the war, when it really mattered. "Maybe we'll do a better job next war." Mercier admitted that it was "absurd to receive this apology from a person so low in the media hierarchy. You really ought to be getting it from the editors and reporters at the agenda-setting publications, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post."
I must respond to Mr. Mercier: Perhaps because you are young, you still have that tiny shred of idealism that usually disappears by age 30 or so. Or perhaps you have been swayed by too many readings of Noam Chomsky columns. Or perhaps you were swayed by Mr. Apology himself, Richard Clarke. Following a trend, maybe? Insincere mea culpas are the new black, I suppose. But here's the main thing that bothers me: your list of reasons to be sorry seem borne out of some alternate reality; perhaps a bizzaro world where the media doesn't question the administration, write negative articles or dig for dirt when they are standing on cement. I've just spent some time looking back at news articles from the past year, and it seems to me that most of the media concentrated on the bad things going on; the lack of WMDs, the slow hunt for Osama, the death toll, the despair of the Iraqi people and so on. Judging from the hundreds upon hundreds of news stories spanning the last twelve months, what the media needs to apologize for is misleading the public into the thinking this war reached quagmire status about twelve hours in. Even when good things did happen - for instance, the day that Baghdad fell and the statue was toppled - the media put a negative slant on every report. They tried to tell us that the statue toppling was set up. They tried to tell us that Iraqis hated us, yet there were Iraqi bloggers popping up all over the place telling us the opposite. I could go on with many examples, the most glaring of which are the exagerrated body counts and the comparisons to Vietnam, but I think I've made my point. The media should be sorry. They should apologize to the coalition soldiers from other countries who are made to feel insignificant when the media calls this war unilateral. They should apologize for the swarming coverage of anti-war protests and the complete lack of coverage of rallies for the troops. They should apologize for going out of their way to find negative statistics when good things like rebuilt schools and hospitals were staring them in the face. They should apologize for pretending as if the freedom of the Iraqi people was inconsequential given that no WMDs have yet to be found. I really like that snide little comment about the "next war" that you managed to insert in there. That lets me know what side of this war you are on, giving your credibility on this issue a zero balance. So, Mr. Mercier, your apology is worthless. I will, however, forward it to a bunch of Iraqi soldiers I know to see how they feel about it. In fact, I'll forward it to all the Iraqi bloggers who have spent quite a bit of time thanking the American troops and President Bush. I'm sure the soldiers in particular will be thrilled to know that in Fredricksburg, Va., there is a small time reporter who thinks the media should have done even more to turn this country against them and make their job even more difficult than it is. Speaking strictly for myself, I would like you to take the paper your apology was written on and stick it up your ass. Thank you.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Sorry Seems to be the Hottest Word:

» A sorry excuse for an apology from sisu
"Speaking strictly for myself, I would like you to take the paper your apology was written on and stick it up your ass," writes Michele of a small victory in an open letter to a young columnist for an obscure [Read More]

» The New Black from d-42.com: the electronic home of Josh Cohen
Michele from A Small Victory has posted on something I realized a long time ago, and just never got around to writing about: sorry seems to be the hottest word... I must respond to Mr. Mercier: Perhaps because you are... [Read More]

» Effervescent idiocy from Opinions Galore
In which Michele of A Small Victory explains reality to a clueless and insular tree stump of a journalist who... [Read More]

» "I'm sorry, so sorry." from Brutally Honest
Fredericksburg is about a 2 hour drive from where I sit right now. I'm of a mind at this point to get in my car, drive those two hours, track down this Rick Mercier buffoon and kick him square in [Read More]

» Carnival of the Cutups from sisu
A little over a week ago, we warned our readers: The fact-twisters are coming soon to a TV screen near you. Keeping our remotes handy, we tuned in and tried to determine which was the real Richard Clarke? The [Read More]

» my head is full from Whomping Willow
Haven't had much time for blogging this past day or so. Have been working on marketing materials for Paul's company in preparation for a trade show next week. Knock em dead, baby! Anyway, I HAVE had time to read some [Read More]


It wasn't an apology. It was a snide "shove it" from a young "journalist".

One wonders if they will ever get it.

Barring the bit about "shove it", I couldn't agree more. When you send the article, please emphasize that (even out here on the left-coast) we're on their side, and we know they're doing the right thing.

You should send a copy of that to Mercier, Michele.

The media may have played bad news only, and never really focussed on the 'good' stuff, but at the same time they didn't ask the tough questions. They didn't ask for more evidence. They didn't ask for more justification. They didn't do research to make sure everything lined up BEFORE going in.

Sure, they printed bad news only. Sure, they focussed on how the statue-topple was staged. Those were the easiest things to report on without digging into the real truth and without asking the tough questions that could get you disinvited to the next set of press conferences.

As for the statue toppling, those 4 days I watched and read regular news, even the NYTimes etc, I didn't hear anything about it being 'staged'. Those four days I was away from my computer, and I only had access to mainstream media. And I heard only good, or at least neutral and unquestioning, reports of what was going on. It wasn't until I got online and saw a picture from the guardian that showed the toppling was staged.

We all read out own news. It's hard for the active-left and the active-right (just active people, like you and me) to really know what the average person's impression is. We both read so much of our own news and see things that upset us in the way the other people are reporting it.

All I know is watching one press conference on c-span leading up to the war, I noticed no American reporters ask any 'real' questions at all... and then a British reporter asked a question, the kind of questions we should have been asking.

It's the media's job to ask the tough questions, not just put a negative spin on the answers they get to the easy questions. If the tough questions yield great answers, then praise the administration. If the tough questions yield bewilderment and wriggling, then criticize. But we all, as a country, need to always ask the tough questions whether we agree with the president or not.

$.02 :-/

I'm actually going to go further and say that the media should check facts and actually do research. When anyone, liberal, conservative, anyone, goes on the air and says something, someone should check the facts and put that person on the spot.

I see it as the media's job to keep everyone honest... and I do mean everyone. They should be a watchdog, and I think they've become slow, fat, sluggish, and lazy. They write their stories, put their slant, but thats it. I want fact checkers, and I want honesty. I want everyone put on the spot.

There was a time when you could depend on journalists to complete the basic checklist of who? what? when? where? why? and how? before rushing to press; a time when bias and slant became so laughably obvious.

Before that "apology" gets shoved, let's make sure it has as many corners as possible. Sharp ones.

This kind of phony 'apology' was brilliantly (and brutally) analyzed by C S Lewis in his essay 'Dangers of National Repentance.' It's summarized in my post here:


It really seems like it's been a pendulum to me. At first, the media believed everything the White House spoonfed it, 100%, turning into almost a propaganda outlet, with very little thought given to any other sides to the story.

Now, the media has realized that it let itself be had, and now it's swung the other way, hyper-critical.

How about "I'm sorry we let a brutal dictator kill and maim at will for 12 years, while lending him legitimacy with the oil for food sham for the latter half of that period... proving that multilaterism for its own sake can provide and sanction just as much evil in reality as we thought it would in theory. I'm sorry we were so quick to judge this worthwhile endeavor as a failure just so we can score some quick political points, even though followed to its logical conclusion this would have condemned you to decades more of unspeakable acts and terror from the dictator's now deceased spawn. I'm sorry we hoped you would suffer more than should be humanly possible so we could sway a homefront election. And lastly, we're sorry our regime has imposed on you the chance to control your own future, with all the uncertainty and hope that entails."

Yeah, I'm not holding my breath either...

You hit the nail on the head, Kate. Along with RAWB, too.

They hold their hands in front of their faces, then refuse to admit they're blinding themselves.

Erp. I'm so embarrassed, Michele. I was over at Electric Venom just before I came over here, and my Scotch consumption interfered with my cognitive skills.

Just wrote something similar to this today over at Pardon My English.
I'm so sick of this apology shit...


You forgot this part, "And rotate."

Michelle, I have the misfortune to actually be a subscriber to the Free-Lance Star. I gagged on my coffee when I read that piece of garbage. I am soon to be an ex-subscriber. As usual you nailed that ignorant bastard.

It seems the US papers are evolving toward the European and ME model, where each promotes a political party: the govt paper, the Islamic paper, the Communists paper. I thought it would go the other way around and those papers would become more impartial, instead of ours becoming more biased. So which of ours is the "pro-govt"?

Awesome apology. I expect more in the coming months, as well as more soldiers like here (http://www.drudgereport.com/flash2.htm) coming out of the woodwork.

Of course, the chickenhawk brigade will denounce these truths, but the chickenhawks don't have America's ear like they used to.

I mean, look at all the lies Mercier believed!


I'm sorry that you conservative patriots are unwilling to acknowledge that our news media has a valuable role in telling we the people what's going on in our government, and not merely acting as stooges or mouthpieces for a secretive administration hell bent on war at any cost.

Seems to you we are either with the president or we are with the terrorists, and that's the way it has to be, and any questioning of Scott McClellan is just a waste of our time. Too many reporters have unfortunately sucked up to the Administration's claims: Judith Miller of the NYT, for example, who said, "my job isn't to assess the government's information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq's arsenal."

Why not read this excellent analysis of how much our journalists failed to ask questions in the lead up to the war:

Or maybe we should just forget the whole nasty mess and watch baseball. The Iraq game's already over, right?

Please don't try to define me by your misconceptions, Brad. No sane person believes that journalists are being secretly guided by some sort of conspiracy, either conservative or liberal.

The main complaint I have is that, over the years, journalists have dropped much of their objectivity, while refusing to acknowledge that they're allowing their opinions to taint their so-called journalism.

He quotes Howard Zinn in an old column. Enough said.

Um, the media does have a vital role. The complaint is that they are not doing it. They have not been doing it since, well at least since the beginning of OIF.

And yes, sadly, in this world, the real world we live in, you are either with the President, or with the terrorists. Its one thing to constructively criticize a particular action. But there is nothing this administration has done that the left won't criticize, even if it furthers their so called principles.

The political left supposedly cares more about the little guy than those fat cat Republicans. Yet I am left with, after listening to their constant critcism of Bush's actions since he took office, that they would prefer that Saddam was still in power. That he was still free to rob, rape, torture and murder the Iraqi people. That Uday still had his "special relationship" with high school principles in the greater Baghdad area. That the mass graves would have stayed uncovered.

Does any of this help us, or does it help the terrorists? I see it as potentially damaging for the US, and at the very least it gives the terrorists hope. Hope for a Kerry presidency, where terrorism will no longer be an act of war, but merely a crime.

In short, your unwillingness to give the "devil" his due is a very convincing argument that you are not just the opposition, but are actively and consciously siding with the enemy. With the terrorist.

Isn't Fredericksburg, Va. the last known address of former National Review "Misanthrope's Corner" writer Florence King? If so, I bet the letters to the editor section of that paper is gonna be smokin' for the next couple of days. She has a fax and she's not afraid to use it.

Ben, I suppose Clinton should have used your argument when he was criticized for lobbing cruise missiles at Osama's training camps in 1998.
Were Republicans then siding with the terrorists?

What I'm sure gave the terrorists hope is when we fulfilled Osama's post-9/11 prophecy that the "infidel" would invade and occupy the Muslim's lands.

Excuse me, Brad, for the most part it wasn't the lobbing of cruise missiles they objected to, it was the suspicious timing of the attacks as well as the half-assed tactic of launching a few cruise missiles at a target and thinking the problem has been taken care of. There was no follow-up. Speaking for myself as a conservative, had Clinton began an active program of hunting down terrorists, I would have supported it.

And are you saying we shouldn't be in Muslim lands because it might fulfill bin Laden's predictions?

The problem with the cruise missile attack was that it clearly wasn't a serious attempt to solve the problem. It was "let's fire a few cruise missiles at where OBL might be...if we get him, great; if not, we still look like we're doing something about terrorism."

"Look like" is the operative phrase. To many of today's liberals, there is no universe outside of the symbolic one.

Study: Network coverage fair on Iraq war
Pentagon newsletter, linking a CMPA article. Fairly straightforward.

As far as Bush in particular goes:

TV News Turned Sour on Bush After Iraq War Ended. Study: President's Coverage Dipped Sharply After “Mission Accomplished” Event
Study reports that Bush's overall cover coverage went from 56% positive after 9/11 to 32% positive during the 6 months that followed "mission accomplished" event (possibly one of the biggest long-term PR blunders of the war). Significantly, the study reports that Bush received only 36% positive coverage before 9/11.
Did that 36% represent liberal media bias, or just media pessimism?
A story from FOX News, quoting a CMPA study, states that, "The New York Times, for example, had 33 percent favorable coverage for Clinton on its front pages, while it had 30 percent favorable coverage there for the current President Bush," during the first year of their presidencies. So, while the "liberal" New York Times did give Clinton better coverage (and, let's be honest, the domestic scene was a lot better under Clinton), we're still talking about the difference between 30% and 33% positive coverage.

"Study: Network coverage fair on Iraq war
Pentagon newsletter, linking a CMPA article. Fairly straightforward."

Ouch. That's gotta hurt, guys. Having the rug pulled out from under one of your biggest talking points of the past 12 months.... I almost feel sorry for you.

Ouch. That's gotta hurt, guys.

Nope. Joshua quotes two articles from the same source saying exactly what he (and apparently, you) believes and we're going to wet ourselves and run away.

Having the rug pulled out from under one of your biggest talking points of the past 12 months.... I almost feel sorry for you.

Oh, do you now?

Jeezus, what an asswit.

Actually, I linked two and quoted one. The one I quoted was from FOX News.

Both links and the quote ultimately refer back to studies published by the CMPA. But one of the links goes to a Pentagon newsletter and the quote is from FOX News. If the CMPA can be said to have a partisan bias, the sources that utilize their press releases would indicated that it's not a terribly "liberal" one.

saying exactly what he (and apparently, you) believes

I think I must not be reading this right. It looks like you're suggesting that the source is somehow invalidated because I'm only using it to support my argument.

we're going to wet ourselves and run away.

On the contrary; I was trying to stimulate discussion. Do you have a possition on this issue?

Do you have a possition on this issue?

Yes I do.

As I understand it, journalism is a function of the broadcast media and their for has only one responsibility, to make money. I thought we sort of decided that government should pretty much drop all of the regulations that required broadcasters to work in the public interest or lose their license. Or are we kidding ourselves that the media was ever more objective? Having worked in the broadcast media for 15 years I can tell you that politics is not a big driver of bias, you want to find out what drives the bias stop looking at the politics and start looking at the commercials.

If the news you're covering does not appeal to someone who want's to buy hair color and deodorant, it ain't getting on the air.

Wow. So what was the media supposed to do, find their own intelligence that was better than what the best intelligence organs on the planet had found (i.e. EVERYONE thought Iraq had WMD less than two years ago, otherwise, why all the UN resolutions?) and publish it? Give me a break. That asshat "journalist" apparently thinks that unless the White House provided photos, twenty eye witnessess and a sworn statement by Saddam that Iraq had WMD, anything less wouldn't justify invasion. Give me a break. If you think that, you're against military action plain and simple. Why not just admit it instead of couching it in terms of being "misled", "lied to", or bum-rushed into war? Don't be fooled: No amount of intelligence would have satisfied this type of person. And further, someone like this guy will never understand why sources/methods need to be kept secret from the media in the interests of national security.