Planet of the gripes

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Last updated on June 7th, 2017 at 02:42 pm

Bartle Bull, who reported from Iraq for the New York Times, says his big-media colleagues are on another planet:

In the evenings leading up to the election, I sat on carpets on the floors of a variety of shabby houses in the Baghdad slums. But the daily BBC message I watched with my various Iraqi hosts never budged. The refrain was Iraq’s “atmosphere of intimidation and violence,” and the message was that the elections could never work. What about the “atmosphere of resolve and anticipation” that I felt around me? Or the “atmosphere of patience and restraint” among those whom the terrorists were trying to provoke?

I try to avoid the hotels and the green zone and the Fort Apache press compounds when I am here. Sometimes it seems as though I am on a different planet from my colleagues in big media, and at those moments I worry briefly that I am getting the story wrong. The people at NBC news are not even allowed to go to the restaurant in their hotel. They report from the roof. When I went to the BBC’s Baghdad bunker for some interviews after the election, the reporters I had been watching on television asked me, “So what’s it like out there in the real world?” They meant the Iraqi street …

The failure of “hotel journalism” might be forgivable if it were truly about prudence or even laziness. But there has been something wilful about the bad reporting of this story. It is weirdly personal: Iraq must fail. It is in fact the press that failed, on a scale for which I cannot think of a precedent.

Hit the above link for more. Meanwhile, Saddam’s half-brother has been captured.

UPDATE. The Scotsman’s Katie Grant.

Posted by Tim B. on 02/27/2005 at 06:26 AM
    1. Saddam’s other half brother is ‘Watban’. presumably he was in charge of procuring imports with the aid of the UN, despite the embagoe.

      Posted by Nic on 2005 02 27 at 08:03 AM • permalink


    1. Well, at least those professionals at the major news outlets have, errr, fact checking, and uhhh, stuff. Unlike those Iraqi guys in pajamas.

      Posted by taspundit on 2005 02 27 at 09:57 AM • permalink


    1. “Atmosphere of intimidation and violence”: Either such reporters were reporting about themsleves and their little “atmosphere”, or [Oh, no!] they were lying.

      I’ll compromise, seeking the calm middle ground, and sagely say: It’s both.

      Posted by J. Peden on 2005 02 27 at 11:17 AM • permalink


    1. If you want to find violence and intimidation in Iraq today, you can probably find it.  As you can in any country with 25 million people and no history of democracy.  But half a loaf is a great deal better than no bread.  After all, elections in the UK or the USA in the early 19th century were by no means perfect, but does that mean they would have been better off as dictatorships?

      Posted by PJ on 2005 02 27 at 11:59 AM • permalink


    1. taspundit — And editors!  Don’t forget they have editors, keeping their reporters’ nose tight to the grindstone…

      er, from their offices and restaurants 10,000 miles aways…

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2005 02 27 at 01:07 PM • permalink


    1. Sorry, gotta ask… is that Bartle Bull, the Scrivener?

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2005 02 27 at 01:08 PM • permalink


    1. The BBC and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation are both sick organisations, having been hijacked by their left-leaning arts/media staff to such an extent that they no longer fill their charter’s requirements for balanced reporting.
      Keep applying the caustic soda!
      Down with the weasels!

      Posted by blogstrop on 2005 02 27 at 04:53 PM • permalink


    1. Hotel Journalism — it’s not just laziness…

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2005 02 27 at 05:17 PM • permalink


    1. Richard, how could I forget the editors?

      U nevr no wen a speellin or gramatical mistake mite get thru, to boldly chang tha meening of yur sentinces rite arround. 4th Grade English teachers around the country would have heart attacks.

      And while it really doesn’t add much at all to the veracity of your output, even changing the tone entirely… Editors do figure out what the public wants and needs to know. And whether your whole story is so unimportant it needs to be buried in page 67 next to the horse racing section.

      Posted by taspundit on 2005 02 27 at 05:42 PM • permalink


    1. War correspondents reporting from hotels! So what else is new? During the Vietnam conflict all of the big name journos (you know, the ones who later wrote books about the hell of Nam) did their reporting from the bar of either the Caravel or Continental hotels in Saigon – Caravel Cowboys, as they were known.
      The current mob of hacks are merely honouring a long tradition.

      Posted by Boss Hog on 2005 02 27 at 06:08 PM • permalink


    1. “But there has been something wilful about the bad reporting of this story. It is weirdly personal: Iraq must fail.”

      It’s one thing to be against the war. It’s entirely another to want to see your country’s soldiers fail as they try and fight it.

      I never thought I’d see reporters from my own country hope for the defeat of our soldiers in the field.

      Posted by CJosephson on 2005 02 27 at 08:33 PM • permalink


    1. CJ – three words, baby:  Vee Et Nam.  Heck, almost any campus newspaper.  You get the obligatory, “Of course, we don’t want people to die…” followed by “BUT!” and ended with a huge litany of horrible things we all KNOW are going on, and it’s better for us if we just lose and whimper off.

      Posted by Nightfly on 2005 02 28 at 03:00 PM • permalink


  1. Curious – for all those wanting the US to fail. How do they feel about Lebanon? Wishing the Syrians were still able to blow up whomever they wished without any blowback? Now we hear rumblings in Syria about civil unrest and Iraq may be getting ready to payback the Syrians for supporting the terrorists who now kill almost exclusively Iraqi citizens. Interesting. No – there was no good reason to invade Iraq at all, NONE! It was all for the ooiiilll! Yes, it had to be. OK I feel better now.

    Posted by JEM on 2005 02 28 at 04:11 PM