MSNBC Struggles To Report Ossama’s Views Of Saddam
The Strange Case of The Vanishing Paragraph That Disagrees With Colin Powell
Scoop Editorial by Alastair Thompson
More news behind the news, and in a startlingly similar vein to a Scoop from the very recent past. It seems that nothing is quite as effective at tripping up the major US news networks as a statement from public enemy number one. (See also … CNN Said It So It Must Be True, Or Not? – 8 November 2002).
It’s always instructive to catch a bit of news manipulation midstream as it sheds considerable light on the mechanisms operating behind what is presented on our nightly news.
And just as happened back in November, today’s weird behaviour among the media giants revolves around a statement which is purported to have been made by public the bogeyman himself, Osama bin Laden.
In its initial posting of the breaking news of a brand new statement from Osama Bin Laden MSNBC.com reported:
“…the message also called upon Iraqis to rise up and oust President Saddam Hussein, who is a secular leader.”
A screenshot of part of the story page containing the paragraph is shown here.
CLICK FOR FULL SCREENSHOT
Clearly this statement does not overtly support the argument made by Secretary of State Colin Powell earlier in the day.
In his briefing on Capitol Hill Powell said:
“This morning, it was brought home to me once again when I read the transcript of what bin Laden, or who we believe to be bin Laden, will be saying on Al-Jazeera during the course of the day -- and you'll be seeing this as the day unfolds -- where once again he speaks to the people of Iraq and talks about their struggle and how he is in partnership with Iraq. This nexus between terrorists and states that are developing weapons of mass destruction can no longer be looked away from and ignored. As the President has said, 9/11 changed things. (emphasis added)”
Shortly after Powell's revelations AP reported:
"In an interview with al-Jazeera aired after the tape, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the recording shows that Iraq and al-Qaida 'are bound by a common hatred.'
'He threatens everybody in the Arab world except Saddam Hussein (news - web sites),' Boucher said. 'We are saying Iraq is giving a haven to this group.'"
[It is also worth noting that this statement from Powell was the first evidence the news media had that this tape from Bin Laden existed. And that in the immediate aftermath of this statement Al Jazeera very oddly disavowed its existence. But that’s another mystery.]
So what does MSNBC do when it realises there is a clear and present conflict in views between what they are being told by their translators and what they are being told by the State Department.
As news consumers we might expect them to ask the Secretary of State or his spokesman about this apparent conflict in the story. And to report their answers.
After-all what do we have here - the Secretary of State responsible for creating credible reasons for invading Iraq announces that an incriminating tape exists, the tape then emerges and it says the precise reverse of what he says it will say.
It appears that “message discipline” at MSNBC is almost as good as that at CNN.
Look for yourself.. http://www.msnbc.com/news/842500.asp?0cv=NB10
MSNBC quickly deletes the offending paragraph. Snip.
However thanks to the Internet their efforts at self-censorship are noticed and promptly turn into a notice-board cause celebre.
The MSNBC page has since been revised again and now reads…
“But the tape did not appear to establish a clear link between bin Laden and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, as Secretary of State Colin Powell had promised hours before it aired.
The speaker in the 16-minute message declares Saddam, with whom bin Laden has been at odds for years, to be an “infidel,” but it stresses that the paramount battle for Muslims is with the United States and its allies.
(MSNBC.com initially reported in error that the speaker had called for Saddam’s overthrow, based on a mistaken extemporaneous translation.)”
Very elegant, a limited hang-out of classic simplicity.
But unfortunately not nearly good enough. By now the damage to US media credibility (on the Internet at least) has been done yet again.
Justin Raimondo of Anti-war.com tells it like it
is: ”This story is spinning so fast it threatens to unravel
before our very eyes….” he says in a far
more detailed expose of this affair than that provided
here. (See... ONE
BATTLEFIELD, TWO WARS
Bush and Bin Laden: Brothers in battle against Ba'athist Iraq)
And so when you sit down to watch your local TV network’s version of the latest Osama bin Laden tape this evening, be very careful about what you choose to believe.