Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Robert Jensen and Pat Youngblood: Scapegoating Newsweek

Scapegoating Newsweek
by Robert Jensen and Pat Youngblood

Blaming Newsweek for a journalistic foul is just, but blaming them for 17 deaths and America's image overseas is just plain wrong.

If there is a political playbook for right-wing conservatives these days, it no doubt begins, Step #1: Whenever possible, blame the news media.

What to do if the U.S. invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq have sparked a persistent and bloody resistance that eats away at the president's political capital?

Blame journalists.

That's exactly what the Bush administration and its rhetorical attack dogs are doing with the "scandal" over Newsweek's story on the desecration of the Koran at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo.

In a short item in its May 9 issue, Newsweek reported that U.S. military investigators had found evidence that U.S. guards had flushed a copy of the Koran down a toilet to try to provoke prisoners. This week, the magazine retracted, saying not that editors knew for sure that such an incident didn't happen but that, "Based on what we know now, we are retracting our original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay."

Meanwhile, after the original story ran, Afghan and U.S. forces fired on demonstrators in Afghanistan, killing at least 14 and injuring many others.

The conventional wisdom emerged quickly: Newsweek got it wrong, and Newsweek is to blame for the deaths. The first conclusion is premature; the second is wrong.

Rest of the Essay

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