Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Most people who pay close attention to the news consider themselves well informed. But what if their sources are less than stellar? You wind up with people who have invested a lot of effort in learning about current affairs, but are still coming up short. Moreover, they don't know how much they don't know, or how much of what they do know is flat out wrong. This is especially true in the case of current events in Iraq, as Christopher Hitchens points out in his latest column.
When it comes to Iraq, one of the most boring and philistine habits of our media is the insistence on using partitionist and segregationist language that most journalists would (I hope) scorn to employ if they were discussing a society they actually knew. It is the same mistake that disfigured the coverage of the Bosnian war, where every consumer of news was made to understand that there was fighting between Serbs, Croats, and "Muslims." There are two apples and one orange in that basket, as any fool should be able to see. Serbian and Croatian are national differences, which track very closely with the distinction between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic beliefs. Many Muslims are Bosnian, but not all Bosnians are Muslim. And in fact, the Bosnian forces in the late war were those which most repudiated any confessional definition. (And when did you ever hear the media saying that, "Today the Orthodox shelled Sarajevo," or, "Yesterday the Catholics bombarded Mostar"?)

In Iraq there are also two apples and one orange in the media-coverage basket (as well as many important fruits that, as I mentioned above, are never specified). To be a Sunni or a Shiite is to follow one or another Muslim obedience, but to be a Kurd is to be a member of a large non-Arab ethnicity as well as to be, in the vast majority of cases, a Sunni. Thus, by any measure of accuracy, the "Sunni" turnout in the weekend's referendum on the constitution was impressively large, very well-organized, and quite strongly in favor of a "yes" vote. Is that the way you remember it being reported? I thought not. Well, then, learn to think for yourself.

You can read the rest of his column here.

I have long believed that the "fourth estate" has been failing the American public miserably. I have often attributed this to their blatant partisanship. But as Hitchens points out, much of it is due to plain old ignorance.

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