Monday, September 20, 2004

Uncomfortably stuck somewhere between Matthew Yglesias's buttcheeks 

What a day - first, I become a syndrome; next, I jolly Matthew Yglesias's ass. Both rather unexpected occurrences, but I certainly know which one is more pleasant.

Yglesias takes Mark Steyn to task for his latest column
"All the good things they never tell you about today's Iraq," in which, among many other things, Steyn argues that contra to the general impression created by the media, most of Iraq is actually quite peaceful and the life is moving ahead. Yglesias notes that even (?) Andrew Sullivan doesn't buy this argument anymore, however, he juxtaposes Sullivan's scepticism today with his endorsement of one of my "Good news from Iraq" segments back in June this year. What Sullivan wrote then was:

"THE GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ: Arthur Chrenkoff offers another essential summary of where we now are. Why, one wonders, couldn't a mainstream newspaper produce something like this?"
What Yglesias writes now is:

"Um, maybe because the mainstream newspapers, by utilizing experienced foreign correspondents on the ground understood that the news was not, in fact, very good and that our position was deteriorating. But that's just me."
One is, of course, tempted to say, "Um, it is just you, Matthew", but that would be too flippant (and inaccurate; there are many other Yglesiases running around the world, spreading gloom).

What it ultimately comes down to is that Yglesias evades the real issue: Sullivan had asked why the mainstream media could not produce a compilation of positive developments from Iraq similar to what I put together every two weeks. Yglesias says it's because the situation in Iraq is really quite bad. But that's not the point. The good news I list is out there in the public domain; not even Yglesias is arguing that either I or the media sources I quote have invented these stories. The question is, as I wrote
earlier today, not whether there is good news coming out of Iraq, but how much weight people choose to give it vis-a-vis the much more widely reported bad news - and it is their absolute prerogative to make that call either way, after assessing both sides of the story. I cannot stress this point too much: in the end you can say that the bad news out of Iraq far outweighs the good news, and therefore the situation in Iraq is truly bad, but you owe it to yourself and your sense of integrity not to make that decision until you actually acquaint yourself with both the good and the bad news.

To say that the mainstream media will not be publishing a compilation of good news stories out of Iraq because "experienced foreign correspondents on the ground underst[and] that the news [is] not, in fact, very good" is tantamount to saying that the media, instead of performing their task of providing us with all the facts, has instead decided to skip one step and assumed the responsibility of making our minds for us.


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