Sunday, December 05, 2004

A bit biased 

When does "a bit messy" become an unqualified "mess"? When you're being interviewed by a news program of an Australian public broadcaster ABC, which in turn gets reported by another ABC news program.

On Friday night, the outgoing US Deputy Secretary of State, Rich Armitage gave a wide-ranging interview about the American foreign policy. Mid-way through the interview, the attention turned to Iraq:
"MAXINE McKEW: What would you say will need to have happened by 2008 when the President leaves office if Iraq is to be seen by the international community as something of a success as opposed to a mess?

"RICHARD ARMITAGE: It's a bit messy right now, there's no question about it.

"We're continuing to lose soldiers, and Iraqi policemen and National Guard figures are continuing to die as well, but the nation of Iraq is heading towards elections on January 30, a year after that they'll have a full-up government elected with a new constitution and I think we will be in a much better place."
As you can see, not even the interviewer is implying that Iraq is currently a mess, merely asking what should happen so that it is not a mess in four years' time. In response, Armitage says that there are security problems ("it's a bit messy right now"), which is rather uncontroversial, but opines that the election in January will provide the circuit-breaker required to make Iraq in longer term "something of a success," as the interviewer had phrased it.

Well, what would you know - the following day, on a morning news program, another ABC presenter opened a story titled "Senior Bush official: Iraq a mess" with this statement: "A senior member of the Bush administration has made a frank public admission that the situation in Iraq is a mess."

A bit messy is when you don't wash the dishes after the dinner; a mess is when you let your younger brother use your house for the end of the school year party.

Yep, I know; it's a petty thing to hold the media to every little word - but arguably no less petty than the games the media play with the very same word.


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