Tuesday, September 16, 2003

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They report, Roger Simon decides

Roger L. Simon compares what John Burns of the New York Times and Christiane Amanpour of CNN had to say about media coverage of Iraq before and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The results aren't pretty for Amanpour.

It's worth pointing out specifically how Burns contradicts Amanpour. USA Today quotes the CNN reporter saying the following on Tina Brown's CNBC show:

I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did.

Amanpour is correct -- CNN was muzzled during its war coverage. However, you have to take a look at what Burns says to discover who did the muzzling:

[T]he TV networks were still filing from the information ministry because they were not allowed to file from anywhere else. Which is why CNN got expelled. They refused to go on filing from there; they used a videophone to file their stories on the first heavy night of bombing on March 21. They were caught with a videophone and they were expelled by dawn.

Well, at least they can agree that CNN was muzzled during the war.

posted by Dan on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM


Interesting juxtaposition here. Surely, Ms. Amanpour must have been aware of at least some of Mr. Burns' charges. No? She reported from Iraq. Did she not see at least some of what Mr. Burns' saw?

Let us assume, for the sake of the argument, that Ms. Amanpour's charges have merit - that there was a "chilling" effect on CNN by Fox/Bush.

So, of the two examples cited - the "self-censorship" of CNN's reporting due to pressure from Fox and Bush Admin. and the, let us call it, "self-censorship" of reporters in Iraq - Ms. Amanpour only expresses his disapproval of the former. Even though the two cases are not in anyway comparable.

Interesting case study.


posted by: SteveMG on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

I simply can't get the image of the Brave War Correspondent wilting in the face of the menacing disaproval of E.D. Hill and Brian Kilmeade.

"Bravely bold Sir Amanpour rode forth from Camelot.
She was not afraid to die, O brave Sir Amanpour.
She was not at all afraid to be killed in nasty ways,
Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Amanpour!

She was not in the least bit scared to be mashed into a pulp,
Or to have her eyes gouged out and his elbows broken,
To have her kneecaps split and her body burned away
And her limbs all hacked and mangled, brave Sir Amanpour!

Her head smashed in and her heart cut out
And her liver removed and her bowels unplugged
And her nostrils raped and her bottom burned off
And her pen--

Brave Sir Robin ran away,
Bravely ran away, away.
When O'Reily reared his ugly head, she bravely turned her tail and fled.
Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly, he chickened out. Bravely taking to her feet,
She beat a very brave retreat,
Bravest of the brave, Sir Amanpour.

She is packing it in and packing it up
And sneaking away and buggering up
And chickening out and pissing off home,
Yes, bravely she is throwing in the sponge.

posted by: Porphyrogenitus on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Pedant alert: the coinage "meme" is not foreign, so stop capitalizing it!

posted by: DonBoy on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Or, uh, italicizing it. Damn.

posted by: DonBoy on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

And, to top it off, I posted in the wrong comments thread. I'm pretty sure this is the right blog, though.

posted by: DonBoy on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Wait a minute, whoa! Before we get carried away with the thrill of trashing on a swarthy female here -- can anyone think of any fragment of CNN war coverage that was anything less than celebratory? CNN cozied up to the administration during the war for the same reason it cozied up to Saddam before the war -- it feels a need to cozy up to people in power. Recall: this is the network that called in Tom DeLay to ask how it could be more pleasing to Republicans. CNN's real trouble is that they are getting beaten up in the entertainment business and they can't figure out how to compete.

posted by: Buce on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Huh? You write, "Before we get carried away with the thrill of trashing on a swarthy female here" when nobody but you has mentioned any such emotion.

posted by: Natalie Solent on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Ah, Natalie, sweet Natalie...

You let the cat into the bag. Bashing we all were, not caring that she was swarthy or of the female persuasion.

Then YOU come along and point out that we have a point, there...

...but if I comb my hair right, it won't show.

posted by: Sharpshooter on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Y ou couldn't possibly describe Amanpour as a "swarthy female" -- leaving aside that it''s a strangely ugly choice of words, she lacks swarth.

I think Christiane is trying to have it both ways: a bit of leftish street cred by dissing CNN, and a nice f at job (by carrying on working there in the ministry of scariness).

posted by: Dave F on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

I live in Prague, so I was watching the CNN International version. They were pushing the quagmire angle from the very beginning, e.g. how the "shock and awe" bombing was a gross failure by the Americans. It was relentless during daytime hours, but there was a noticable difference when the American content was fed in, particularly the military analysis which seemed unbiased and evaluated both sides pretty well

Strangely, my satellite carrier dropped FoxNews in March and picked up Al Jazeera in its place.
My oranges and oranges comparison was a bit different -- we had to watch SkyNews to catch Murdoch World.

posted by: Christopher on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

I remember the goodbye to the Iraqui military spokesman in New York, who blew kisses in tearful thanks to a CNN guy as he left. Anyone remember this?

posted by: Dennis on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Blew kisses? I remember he turned around and went back, grabbed him and planted a wet one on each cheek.

Or maybe that was just how it looked to this definite non-fan of CNN.

posted by: McGehee on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

The only intimidation Fox News presented was that of competition. Something CNN didn't have to worry about during the previous Gulf War.

posted by: ruprecht on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

So if, by Amanpour's own admission, CNN was "self-muzzled", then isn't that their own fault?

Unlike their pre-war coverage of the Hussein regime in Iraq, there was no risk of CNN people getting shot for not toeing the Bush party line.

Do Amanpour et al. feel their mission statement is to report the news as long as it doesn't make them feel uncomfortable?

posted by: Joe Grossberg on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Boy did Amanpour come off like a whiney loser. Isnt the point of journalism to court abuse by holding the powerful accountable? Whats the old saying, 'what someone doesn't want you to publish is journalism, all else is publicity.' Imagine the Washington Post silencing Woodward and Burnstein because Nixon stopped shmoozing with them. Some legacy, its not too tough to connect the dots even if Amanpour cant. CNN is more interested in ratings than journalism, but they feel more noble because they agonize over it. Excuse me if I dont shed many tears.

posted by: Mark Buehner on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Whoa! Holy Media convergance - Nat Solent! How do you rate such a celebrity visit, Drezner? ;)

posted by: Art Wellesley on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

You know, I read the transcript of Brown's show to find out if Amanpour had cited any examples in her prattling about "disinformation" put out by DoD.

She came up with only one: Don Rumsfeld's complaint about the same single vase being shown over and over again on the coverage of the looting of the Baghdad museum ("you have to wonder just how many vases there are in Baghdad"). She's apparently still oblivious to the fact that Rummy's claim turned out to be pretty close to the mark.

posted by: Bill Herbert on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

"CNN had no comment."
Hypocrisy will do that.

CNN's Eason Jordan made it clear he was intimidated by Saddam a few months ago, so they neglected to report torture and abuse by the Ba'athists, in order to retain access in Baghdad. Now we hear from John Burns of the NYT :
"There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.
We now know that this place was a lot more terrible than even people like me had thought. There is such a thing as absolute evil. I think people just simply didn't recognize it. "
Contrast Amanpour's comments about CNN with John Burns' general comments about the media in Iraq. She criticizes the administration, claiming to be intimidated by Pres. Bush and Fox News, to the degree that the network decided, of its own free will, to change their TONE!!
At the same time, the press corps capitulated to and eagerly participated in (CNN included) Saddam's conspiracy of silence. No rigorous questioning, no seeking to expose disinformation.
So if Fox News were footsoldiers for Bush, what does that make CNN? Fedayeen with a camera crew?
Amanpour's main whine seems to be that the media should have questioned the war more forcefully... to what end? Preventing it, I presume, thus allowing this regime, one that was truly muzzling, truly censoring the media about its horrors, to remain.
The differences between these two reporters tells you everything you need to know about the national divide on Operation Iraqi Freedom. One whines about, well, nothing really, the other is furious that the media served at the pleasure of a murderous tyrant.


posted by: http://bleeding heart conservative on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Bleeding Heart Conservative:
Bingo. You hit that one out of the park.

Why do I think that Amanpour's charges will find their way in a Krugman or Dowd column in the next several weeks? While Burn's more troubling and serious allegations disappear into the mist?

Cynical aren't I?


posted by: SteveMG on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

CNN in Prague was pushing the quagmire angle? But isn't it true that CNN content is different overseas in the US? And doesn't that support the inference that this is not about journalism, but about marketing?

After this crowd is through venting its collective spleen on Amanpour, will they have any bile left for Judith Miller and her shameless overhyping of the WMD story? Or is Amanpour more fun because her politics are not the right flavor?

posted by: on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

No one mentioned Judith Miller's story on WMD or any other reporter because the topic started by Mr. Drezner was the comments by Ms. Amanpour and the piece by Mr. Burns.

Were Mr. Drezner to post a story on Ms. Miller, we'll comment on that. That's the way blogs work; comments are made on the post made by the host of the blog.

Perhaps the only person concerned about having the proper politics here is those posting off-topic comments?


posted by: SteveMG on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

To me the most interesting aspect of Amanpour's claim is that she does not feel it necessary, for reasons of either professional ethics or personal morality, to resign her position and find employment with an organization that will not capitulate to the intimidation of the nefarious Bush Junta.

Evidently truth and justice aren't important enough for Amanpour to risk (at most) the career, or (at least) a couple of paychecks. Oh well, such are the difficult choices in life. Good to see Amanpour meeting the challenge in so typically CNN-ish a fashion.

posted by: DennisThePeasant on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News

What I want to know is what exactly the Fox "foot soldiers" (do they have their own uniforms like the foot soldiers in the Ninja Turtles cartoons?) did to intimiate CNN. Were they wielding spiked clubs and flinging their troll boogers at the CNN reporters? Were they emanating an aura of evil? Perhaps they were shadowing the CNN reporters with a finger to their face and repeatedly saying "I'm not touching you!"?

New class action lawsuit: millions of Americans intimidated into watching Fox News.

posted by: Hei Lun Chan on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Some thought should be directed to the word "intimmidated." Most of the posts seem to accept this as a literal action by Bush and/or Fox. What Christianne may have meant is that the climate of the times, in which Fox was constantly harranging and pounding the war drums while Bush made gross misrepresentations about chemical weapons and other items which no one can find as though these represented a danger to me at home in the U.S. It was a time of whacky frenzy with idiots out pouring $100 French wines into the gutter. At such a time, anyone with any brains is going to feel intimidated. The idiots were clearly in charge.
Now the tax bill is being prepared and most idiots are starting to wonder if they really, really, really care that strongly whether some people living on the other side of the world have a dictator named A or a dictator named B.

posted by: Patrick on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

You're speculating completely on this vague charge by Amanpour. She never gives any specific details on how this "chill" affected reporting, or by who and in what circumstances or even where it came from (one of Wesley Clark's non-existent White House phone calls, perhaps?).

On the other hand, we have Burns giving details on what occurred in Iraq, of the complete failure of reporters and new organizations to accurately report what was going on, of the checkbook journalism carried to sickening levels.

Which gives you greater concerns?

Okay, Bush=Saddam, right? Moral equivalency once again.


posted by: SteveMG on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

I am not concerned about either. Journalism is a messy business in which many axes are ground by all parties, both on personal, political and corporate levels. When young I worked on a newspaper, so I can testify first-hand to the power of group-think in a news organization. After a few months or years, everyone thinks the same way (whether right wing, left wing, or just bling-bling. It's not evil. It does, however, fall short of one's idealized hope for unbiased information.

The most useful solution is to subscribe to several different (contradictory) newspapers and forgo the nightly blues altogether. What Fox/CNN/MSNBC et al serve up is only vaguely related to news. It might more properly be classed as "entertaganda."

I happen to like "Sir Amanpour," but only because it is encouraging to see women in khaki.

posted by: Patrick on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Hmm, I'm also a former reporter (state and local newspapers - mostly covering things like school board meetings, city council meetings - the meat-and-potatoes stuff) and I really don't know what you're talking about.

Is there peer pressure? Peer approval type thinking? Yeah, human nature doesn't sit outside the newsrooms. Our prejudices, emotions, thoughts, come with us.

But the level of dishonesty and corruption cited by Burns, IF true, is pretty damming. I'm amazed that you dismiss it so cavalierly.


posted by: SteveMG on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

"You couldn't possibly describe Amanpour as a "swarthy female" -- leaving aside that it''s a strangely ugly choice of words, she lacks swarth."

I think the "swarth" comment was referring to the fact that she's Iranian. FWIW she's from a wealthy Catholic family and as a child went to boarding school in England.

posted by: Yehudit on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Christopher in Prague --
You've fired your cable company since then, right? If you haven't yet, you should do so NOW!
Be sure to let them know why.

posted by: John T on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Coincidentally, I was reading an article about anti-Israel bias in the media and guess who was mentioned?

"The most startling ignorance was displayed by CNN's peripatetic Christiane Amanpour, who visited the region and delivered a series of mystifying reports. One day, she described the Israeli Jews who engaged in violence with Israeli Arabs in the town of Nazareth as "settlers," apparently unaware that this term usually refers to Israelis who live in the occupied territories rather than Israel proper (which is why they are called settlers). On another, she described the highly dovish Prime Minister Ehud Barak as if he were from the hawkish end of the Israeli spectrum: "even the supporters of . . . Prime Minister Barak are saying that he's just gone too far this time, that there simply is too much force being used." Conversely, she mistook Hamas for a group of doves: Happening upon an anti-Arafat protest of theirs, she explained that they were upset about "the killings and the casualties.""

posted by: Yehudit on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

will anyone every really believe in her anymore. I will not be able to watch one of her reports and not wonder if she is being intimidated again.

posted by: Noelle on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Thought should be given to the meaning of the word "Intimidated"?

Patrick - did it really not occur to you what that sounds like? - On this board of all places, for god's sake?

posted by: Art Wellesley on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Amanpour, early on, garnered a decent reputation as a Middle Eastern correspondent because: her reporting was OK; she was on-site frequently; she has that slight hint of a foreign, English-inflected accent that seems to suggest intellectual depth (whether merited or not); she was, maybe is decently attractive; and she had /has "background" leftist credentials, thus guaranteeing positive reviews of her work in the media.
Despite those advantages, her reputation began to slip as it began to be noted (primarily on the Internet and within Blogdom) that: she wears that damn flak-jacket when reporting from the lobby of her plush hotel; she's anti-Israeli, she's leftist, she's partisan, and she's shallow.

posted by: Doug Rivers on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

I watch CNN International. It's quite disgusting because they often cover important stories by having anchors in the studio ask questions of their correspondents in the field.

I recall one funny incident where Larry King was discussing justic in Afghanistan (in case they caught Bin Laden) and their "expert" from Afghanistan was a very tired looking Christiane. Larry would ask her all manner of silly questions, and because it was 4:00 a.m. in Kabul, Christiane actually would answer with decent replies like "Larry, there is no justice system here." or "I honestly don't know." The facty they use her as an expert is incredible, because she is in a different location every two days...how can she know anything?

Finally, she is married to an ex-Clinton administration individual (spokesman?)

The only decent REAL reporting done at CNNi is by Maria Resa.

posted by: Aaron on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

Often the test of courage is not to die, but to live.

posted by: Robichaud Sarah Wolfman on 09.16.03 at 06:22 PM [permalink]

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