August 29th, 2006

We are all investigative reporters now–or should be

David Frum has summarized some of the hoaxes perpetrated on and by the media in recent weeks. From Reutergate to counterfeit bills passed by Hezbollah, from Green Helmet guy doing photo ops at Qana to the Ambulance Hoax, the MSM has been at the very best disingenuous and at the very worst complicit in the spread of lies and fraud. If not for bloggers, none of this would have been exposed.

Also, please check out Richard Landes’s latest efforts at Second Draft, entitled “The Birth of an Icon.” As you watch more of the footage of the alleged death of the boy Mohammad al Durah (“caught in the crossfire”), it becomes ever more likely that the entire thing was a hoax–and a very influential one at that, especially in Europe, where al Durah’s death became a rallying cry for sympathy with the bloody Second Intifada.

So, what’s up with the media? Frum lists the possibilities: they are gullible, they are biased, they are in collusion, they are frightened of retaliation, they are some of the above, they are all of the above.

Here is my call to the MSM: put the “investigative” back into reporting. Traditionally, investigative reporting–in which the writer deeply questions the obvious, and brings an attitude of skepticism and critical thinking to the story, almost like a detective researching a case–has been limited to local scandals and corruptions. But it needs to be more broadly applied these days. What used to be a straight news story of war reportage–a photographer comes upon a bombed vehicle, is told by the locals what happened, and takes a photo–is no longer so straightforward. Perhaps it never was. And local stringers, who are often used as photographers and reporters in war torn areas–even those who’ve worked a long time with a news agency– might be found to have their own political agendas that distort coverage.

It makes for a lot more work, to be sure. And if the reporter isn’t ideologically inclined to doubt the sources, the healthy skepticism that’s a prime requirement of all investigative reporting is going to be especially hard to bring to the story. But at this point it couldn’t be more clear that it’s necessary to do so. No, not just necessary; it’s absolutely vital.

19 Responses to “We are all investigative reporters now–or should be”

  1. Trimegistus Says:

    Your post illustrates a problem I’ve noticed. When a blogger catches a mainstream source lying, the story gets echoed all over the blogosphere and bloggers congratulate each other over catching the big boys…

    …and that’s it. Do the mainstream sources even bother to publish retractions? If they do, they’re buried back in the pages nobody reads. And they don’t change their ways. If anything, it seems they feel they’re being attacked by the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, which only justifies all their lies and distortions because they’re fighting the spread of Christian fascism in America.

    All this error-spotting and lie-catching makes bloggers feel like they’re doing something, but is it really having any effect? Does the elephant even notice the gnats?

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    I wonder myself, Trimegistus. In fact, I don’t really wonder; I think most people are not aware of the hoaxes the blogosphere has uncovered.

    But on the other hand, every little bit helps. It may have a snowballing effect. Certainly, polls indicate that respect and trust for the MSM has been dropping in recent years. Perhaps the blogopshere has had some influence.

  3. jgr Says:

    “Does the elephant even notice the gnats?”
    Trimegistus, I think so. The main problem is that too many of us have settled for the MSM as the arbiter and custodian of our free speech.Too much power in the hands of a few– unelected, unseen, unchosen.

    The blogosphere represents an assertion of basic American freedom of speech. A reclaiming of the public square, if you will.

    Can an informed few really make that great a difference: check our American history. I think you find they can.
    IN our case today, they must.

    Michael Yon’s work and the Katrina Fabrication have especially caused our family to question EVERY part of the last 40 years or more of the Media’s presentation. I’m not sure how much remains corrupted, but there are many stories which an informed people need to investigate.

    The MSM does not speak for my family, community, or my country.

    That rejection is a beginning.

  4. snowonpine Says:

    The power of the media, especially the visual media which has such an immediate impact, to shape our perceptions of our world is immense. It is quite possible that the little sampling of deceptions, lies, set-ups and con jobs that has been uncovered in just the last few weeks means that such deception is quite widespread and it is, therefor, quite possible that the picture of the world we have gotten through the media is seriously at odds with objective reality, particularly when it comes to the political aspects of reality.

    A good case can be made tha the Vietnam War was close to being won on the battlefiled but was lost here at home, in large part because the public’s perceptions of this conflict–its origins, causes, players and how it was playing out–were all manipulated by the media and various opinonmakers to make the public believe it was ignoble, futile, wasteful and unwinnable.

    I submit that this is the same pattern of reportage and commentary that is being applied to Iraq and to the GWOT today.

    Seeing these recent examples, you start to wonder what other parts of your world view have been gradually, over the years, pushed further and further out of congruence with the actualities on the gound.

    I think it is imperative that we all scrutinize the output of the media with the greatest skepticism and that we publicize, as often and as loudly as we can, the manipulations and lies that we discover. At some point enough people will wake to the realization that they have been manipulated and duped for decades and at that tipping point, things will change in a very rapid, radical and perhaps violent way.

  5. Sergey Says:

    American Revolution was ignited by so called “Cato letters” – hand-written and rewritten political pamphlets circulated in British colonys in New World. Bloggers certainly have much more powerfull tools to disseminate their views then these folks had.

  6. goesh Says:

    – darn tootin’ it matters and has an impact

  7. Don Says:

    Fox News talked up zombie’s take down of the fake Red Cross Israeli missle strike, and some other cable news outlet had Charles Johnson discussing the photoshoped “news” photo.

    Oh, and what is Mary Mapes upto these days?

    The impact may not be what it should be, but there is an impact.

  8. Tatterdemalian Says:

    The media is becoming a fine example of how the “ignore them and they’ll go away” strategy fails.

    Which is a most poetic justice, considering the fact that the media has pushed exactly that same failing strategy for everything from Fascism to Communism to Al-Qaeda.

  9. strcpy Says:

    It will also continue to grow in impact.

    At one time television news had little impact – everyone who counted got thier news from papers and magazines. Then the first of the TV generation grew up and you get the 60’s and thier ascendancy to power.

    Same here, if your much over 30-35 the chances of you reading many blogs is low – you depend on broadcast news. In ten more years that’ll be 40 and in another 20 that’ll be 50. By that point the MSM will have either shaped up (as print came to more closely mirror broadcast TV) or gone away to the sidelines. Of course, there will most likely be some sort of technology waiting to replace us that we don’t read also – it may or may not have the impact blogs are and will continue to have though.

    One other impact this has, even if they do not retract thier mistakes, is there are MUCH fewer being made now than ever before. As we find the more and more obscure ones they will begin to police themselfs better.

    The MSM has not been remotely truthful since I began being interested in politics (early 90’s). I watched a lot of c-span and I rather suspect people like Neo would have switched parties a long time ago if they had done the same. In many cases it was an outright lie. I would gather that since the vast majority of the times NEO gets interested in something from Vietnam and finds it to be, well wrong, that it was probably true for a long long time.

  10. Dave in FL Says:

    I remember in early October of 1981; (nine months after Ronald Reagan had taken office and mere days after the beginning of the first “Reagan Budget”); Dan Rather opened the CBS Nightly News with the solemn pronouncement, “Reaganomics has failed!”.

    That was a light-bulb moment for me. I’ve not believed a single thing I’ve seen, heard, or read in the MSM since then. Without independent verification I assume anything and everything the MSM produces to be an agenda driven fabrication.

  11. pete Says:

    Pete: Your comments are spam rather than comments. You’ve been spamming this blog for quite some time now.

    Edited By Siteowner

  12. scary Says:

    Are you really suggesting that the International Committee for the Red Cross faked the missile strike upon one of its Lebanese ambulances? I have seen the photos and read the blogs describing it as such and the only word that springs to mind is “hysterical”. You are accusing the guardians of the Geneva Convention of crimes against humanity? Are you aware of their mandate, their mission, their history? And you dare accuse them of faking an unprovoked attack on an ambulance!

  13. Sergey Says:

    To scary:
    Yes, we do. Not in crimes against humanity, but in collaboration in faking
    evidence, politisation and moral corruption. There are many examples in history of once noble institutions degrading into scum. Alas.

  14. goesh Says:

    I bet Pete squeezes pimples while compiling his numbers……Pete, we could use a little diversion if you don’t mind. I’ve always been fond of fires in orphanages….any numbers there? Any stats on molestation in group homes for the mentally handicapped, Pete??

  15. triticale Says:

    Hey Pete, how many people in Iraq were fed into grinders feet first by their government lately? How many had a hand chopped off at Abu Ghraib by their government lately? How many were attacked by their government with chemicaL weapons lately?

  16. Gary Rosen Says:

    I agree that the blogging on the ambulance story was hysterical. I was laughing hysterically that anyone would try to pass off the kind of damage shown (old rust spots, a “missile hole” in the top of an ambulance where obviously a warning light had been removed) as being the result of “missile strikes”.

  17. jgr Says:

    Gary posts: “that anyone would try to pass off the kind of damage shown (old rust spots, a “missile hole” in the top of an ambulance where obviously a warning light had been removed) as being the result of “missile strikes.”

    Why not?
    How would YOU know differently?

  18. jgr Says:

    For those who may have missed it:

    Anti-Israel news photo hoax alleged
    JERUSALEM, Aug. 31 (UPI) — A news photo that circulated worldwide of a Lebanese ambulance hit by an Israeli missile was a hoax, the Israeli Arutz Sheva broadcaster said Thursday

  19. Richard Aubrey Says:


    Either missile exploded, in which case the vehicle would have been blown to pieces, or it didn’t, in which case the missile should be lying around someplace.

    The Israelis have developed a missile with a small warhead–supposedly about 4 pounds of explosive–for use in crowded conditions to reduce collateral damage.

    The explosive in a hand grenade, for example, is just a few ounces.

    So this would have been the explosive equivalent of a bunch of hand grenades. If they’d used their mini-missile in the first place. If not, there would have been more damage. Fire.

    The windshield blew in (???), not out.

    Simple stuff if you look.

    And an inert missile would have had the kinetic energy of a very large boulder dropped from the top of a very tall building. And should be around someplace.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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