Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Media Stampede

Christopher Hitchens, in a radioblogger interview with Hugh Hewitt, has an observation about journalism that had me nodding in assent:

It's just that I've been doing this business for a long time. I've been a journalist for most of my life, and it must be nearly 40 years now, and I know a press herd mentality when I see one. I really do. And sometimes, I approve. I mean, I remember when I was in Bosnia, all of the press was hostile to Milosevic in one way or another, and as it happened, I thought that was the right bias to have. But I did realize it was a bias. And when I've been in the company of people covering Iraq, I notice this...another herd mentality, and it's been there since before the war, and it's placed a bet on quagmire at best ... And defeat at worst. And in some ways, it doesn't want its prediction to be falsified. I won't say any more than that. It's not a conspiracy, but it's definitely a mindset.

He singles out Johnny Burns of the New York Times -- again, I think, rightly -- as an example of a reporter who has kept his professional head pretty well in Iraq. But Burns is an extraordinary character to begin with.

He has an observation, as well, on the "civil war atmosphere" (seems as good a term for it as any, at least for today) in Iraq:

[Y]ou could look at any of your today's newspapers and notice it, and say well, there's a civil war atmosphere, as if that was a criticism of the Bush administration, instead of the people like Zarqawi, who have been announcing for two years now that it's their plan to create a sectarian civil war by destroying the other side's Mosques in an unbelievable piece of facistic blasphemy.

Isn't blaming Bush for a civil war in Iraq like blaming Lincoln for the South firing on Fort Sumter -- I mean, you can construct an argument for that. But I bet most people would reject it.