Assume the Position

Saturday, May 03, 2003
Looting Happened While Security Forces Watched.

"They took everything…"

"It was chaos, wild, something out of a war scene."

"…unbelievable, crowds of people just taking everything in sight; they stripped the place bare."

Iraqis after decades of Hussein's oppression? Nope. Just UN diplomats and staff who couldn't forego a single meal and looted UN restaurants, snack bars and lounges after a walkout by food service workers at the UN. (Via Country Store.)

Hunger pains can apparently turn even the most upstanding diplomat into a looter. At noon on Friday, food workers at the U.N. headquarters walked off their jobs, calling a wildcat strike. The result: none of the U.N.'s five restaurants and bars was staffed. The walkout left thousands of U.N. employees scrounging for lunch — eventually, the masses stripped the cafeterias of everything, including the silverware.

While Stogel may be gleefully exaggerating the events, these are the people who will supposedly "bring legitimacy" to the process of rebuilding Iraq. Kofi Annan on UN involvement in Iraq, April 7, 2003 (emphasis added):

I do expect the UN to play an important role, and the UN has had a good experience in this area, whether it is the issue of political facilitation leading to the emergence of a new or interim administration. We have done quite a bit of work on reconstruction, working with donor countries and with other UN agencies. You have seen the work the UN has done in human rights and the area of rule of law. So there are lots of areas where the UN can play a role, but above all the UN involvement does bring legitimacy which is necessary, necessary for the country, for the region and for the peoples around the world.

Friday, May 02, 2003
BlogSpot Permalinks And Archives. These are some tips for BlogSpot and, presumably, BlogSpot Plus users. I have no idea if they apply to Blogger and Blogger Pro users.

BlogSpot permalinks are anchors to the archive page, such as this one for my previous post:

BlogSpot's problem is that it rarely publishes the archive page when it publishes the main page, something it is supposed to do automatically. This is especially true if it is a new archive page, i.e., generated for the first post of the week or month.

If you want to make your permalinks work, you may have to manually force the archive page to be published. Open the "edit your blog" page and you'll find five buttons on the upper toolbar: Posts, Setting, Template, Archive, and Team. Select "Archive" and, when the archives list comes up, click the small "republish" button next to the archive you want republished, wait a minute or so, then try the permalink. Repeat until the permalink works. Don't be fooled by the "last saved" date and time, it might update the time without really saving the archive. (If you're impatient, you can click "republish" several times, waiting only a few seconds after the pop-up closes before clicking again, and then check the permalink.)

Note: May 3, 2003 - Even after the archive page is produced, there is no guarantee that a browser will automatically jump down to the correct post after rendering the page. Browsers often finish as soon as they get a new page loaded, without bothering to go to the internal anchor [the part of the URL after the hash (#)]. But manual republishing does make your permalinks work to the extent that it eliminates getting the BlogSpot not found page, and puts the latest posts on the archive page so that readers can find them, even if they might have to scroll down to earlier posts.

If you are having trouble getting your archives to list properly on your blog, these instructions might help. Here, too, you may have to repeat the procedure several times.

Finally, if you have a long sidebar and don't want your first posts for the week or month to have a screen or more of whitespace above them, check your template for the table data cell tag (<td … >) that establishes the posting area of the table and put a valign="top" in it:

                  <td bgcolor="white" valign="top">

                  <div class="date"><$BlogDateHeaderDate$></div>

                  <div class="posts">
                  <a name="<$BlogItemNumber$>"> </a><br>

This Is Objectivity?

"Somebody should be able to stand outside and find fault other than the people inside."

That was Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker, who was a "unilateral" rather than an "embed," quoted in Jack Shafer's Slate article "Embeds and Unilaterals" (via Media Minded). If finding fault or cheerleading is your goal, that's fine; just don't try to call what you're doing objective reporting.

I don't know if Goldberg has ever claimed that he tries to approach stories objectively, but the quote certainly fits many reporters and organizations that do make such claims. A reporter's goals going into a story shape the result. If the goal is to "find fault," they will—nothing is perfect—but to do so, they may have to fixate on and exaggerate minor faults while downplaying or ignoring other important or positive aspects.

The Man Without Qualities provides an example of this in the New York Times' coverage of the Baghdad Museum looting. (Scroll down the main page, this permalink doesn't work yet.)

UPDATE May 3, 2003: Glenn Reynolds points to a Weekly Standard article by Jonathan Foreman in Baghdad that provides good examples of the press who, as I said, "fixate on and exaggerate minor faults while downplaying or ignoring other important or positive aspects."

To an amazing degree, the Baghdad-based press corps avoids writing about or filming the friendly dealings between U.S. forces here and the local population--most likely because to do so would require them to report the extravagant expressions of gratitude that accompany every such encounter. Instead you read story after story about the supposed fury of Baghdadis at the Americans for allowing the breakdown of law and order in their city.

Well, I've met hundreds of Iraqis as I accompanied army patrols all over the city during the past two weeks and I've never encountered any such fury (even in areas that were formerly controlled by the Marines, who as the premier warrior force were never expected to carry out peacekeeping or policing functions). There is understandable frustration about the continuing failure of the Americans to get the water supply and the electricity turned back on, though the ubiquity of generators indicates that the latter was always a problem. And there are appeals for more protection (difficult to provide with only 12,000 troops in a city of 6 million that has not been placed under strick martial law). But there is no fury.

The demonstrations?

There are frequent small demonstrations in the blocks outside the Palestine and Sheraton hotels--partly because that is where the press corps is congregated, but also because it's an area that many Baath party officials fled to after the war began. Anyone who assumes that the atmosphere of that downtown area is in any way representative of the city would be gravely mistaken. However, many reporters have chosen to do just that rather than venture further out to places where they would have seen that far more typical and frequent "demonstrations" involve hundreds or even thousands of Iraqis gathering to cheer U.S. troops.

The myth about the Ministry of Oil:

More irritating is the myth constantly repeated by antiwar columnists that the military let the city be destroyed--in particular the hospitals and the national museum--while guarding the Ministry of Oil. The museum looting is turning out to have been grotesquely exaggerated. And there is no evidence for the ministry of oil story. Depending on the article, the Marines had either a tank or a machine gun nest outside the ministry. Look for a photo of that tank or that machine gun nest and you'll look in vain. And even if the Marines had briefly guarded the oil ministry it would have been by accident: The Marines defended only the streets around their own headquarters and so-called Areas of Operation. Again, though, given the pro-regime sources favored by so many of the press corps huddled in the Palestine Hotel, it's not surprising that this rumor became gospel.

Foreman's piece doesn't mention the one thing regarding the looting that, as far as I can tell, is never mentioned by the press: The Palestine hotel was not looted.

He does provide an example where a reporter just twists the facts:

I was talking to Dr. Ali Faraj al Salih, a cardiologist trained at Edinburgh, when [David Zucchino of the Los Angeles Times ], a fine, experienced foreign correspondent, walked over and began listening in. I asked Dr. Ali if he'd had any trouble with looters. "No" he replied, "I have guns, with license from the government. And I have two bodyguards." "Have you always had the bodyguards?" I asked him. "Oh yes," he said.

But Zucchino's April 22 article in the L.A. Times--headlined "In Postwar 'Dodge City,' Soldiers Now Deputies"--reports "Dr. Ali Faraj, a cardiologist, stood before his well-appointed home and mentioned that he has hired two armed guards," as if the doctor had been driven to this expense by unrest following the arrival of the Americans.

As they say, read the whole thing.

Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.