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July 1, 2004

Who's the Objective News Source?

Check out this interactive stunner from the Providence Journal:

The sad thing is that, when I checked the results a little while ago, the combined responses for "Bush" and "Both" were exactly equal to "Hussein." (Although this seems to have improved somewhat already.) The encouraging thing is that many of the written responses fault the paper for even asking the question.

Perhaps better questions would be:

  • Do people's skewed views of moral equivalence implicate the news media?
  • Does "objectivity" mean giving credence to the rants of deposed tyrants?

Well, look at that. The folks at have replaced the survey.

Probably a good idea.

Posted by Justin Katz at July 1, 2004 11:05 AM
News Media

Wow. I read the line from Saddam earlier and thought, "Great! It certainly helps us if he's unrepentant and rather crazy, because to say Bush is worse than he is and he himself is still the president is so absurd as to be laughable." Of course, I suppose we should never underestimate the capacity of the media to embrace the moral equivalence of avowedly Stalinist dictators.


Posted by: Kimberly at July 1, 2004 12:01 PM

The mass media is so insular and arrogant they don't even know what being objective means. It's just another postmodern construct that can mean whatever you want it to mean.

The implication question is a chicken-or-egg one - which came first, moral equivalence in the general population, or in the media?

Posted by: Mike S. at July 1, 2004 12:45 PM

Put in proper context - the comment 'the real criminal is Bush' was said by Saddam himself and not posed by the paper on its own though I agree a less-partisan editor may have decided not to ask that question.

But what is sad is the results - assuming that less than 95% stated 'only Hussein'.

What is scarier (and sad) - is that those who would say 'Bush' are allowed to vote.

Posted by: Mark Miller at July 1, 2004 12:55 PM

I'll offer some assumptions based on my reaction to the poll. When asked is "bush the real criminal," an affirmative answer most likely suggests a dislike for Bush and a suspicion of potentially criminal activities by his administration. Yes, some may feel Bush is worse than Saddam, but more so a 'yes' vote reflects the belief that his administration simply is 'criminal' rather than more criminal than saddam. What is alarming to me, is not that some people feel this way, but that large portions of America feels this way. Yes, many 'bleeding heart liberals' and 'tree huggers' dislike Bush, but they are not alone. This time they have been joined by groups of Nobel Laureates in science & economics, former and current high ranking U.S. officials, & respected business men (Buffet, Lee Iacocca). Who has joined Bush's side in his support? I'm not really sure. Is there reason to believe Bush criminal? I'm not sure, but reflect back on his declaration of war on iraq and you may see why some members of America feel this way.

Posted by: Anthony at July 2, 2004 7:46 AM

I'm with Anthony here. Thinking about the poll for more then 5 minutes makes you think there was nothing wrong with asking it. If they're getting a 70/30/30 response or whatnot, then the poll accurately reflects about the midpoint of their readers. Thus, it's not biased. If you're looking for an objective biased, then almost every media outlet in the United States (whose politics are quite off to the right of the "global" center) lean way right. But it's not fair to say "outrage!" when the readers agree, and it just goes to show that conservatives cry wolf when it comes to media bias (but unlike the boy, they get rewarded for it as the media comes running again and again). The real blame goes to partisans on both sides who have opened up this gulf in American politics that is unhealthy (starting with both candidates for President in 1964, continuing through Bork/Strauss, becoming all that more fun during Impeachment, and just plain tragic today), and to Bush, for unneccesarily wielding executive power despite a unitary government in a way that opens himself up to these charges, which while unfounded, do point to a serious injury he inflicts upon his position.

Posted by: Justin at July 2, 2004 9:33 AM


I don't know. The Projo could have gotten at the subtext that you suggest in a way that wasn't as credulous of Saddam's rants. (One obvious way would have been not to make the choices Bush, Hussein, and Both.) Reflecting back on the reactions to the president's declaration, I understand the feelings, but I think most of them simply indicate that people are poorly informed, emotionalist, and sometimes loopy.

Suffice to say that I'm not going to get into a scoreboard of public figures supporting or not supporting the president. Frankly, the Western elite is so broadly infected with a blend of relativism and contempt for humanity that I'm inclined to discount the whole bunch, with the burden of proof on them that they aren't merely playing power games and espousing sentiments that are popular to sneer over raised pinkies.



One wonders, then, why the Projo felt compelled to take the poll down. It looks to me like more than half of its readers challenged even the validity of the question. That's not a midpoint.

As for the "global center," I wonder what countries you include in your measure. Is it defined by Europe? At any rate, I don't see why the American media ought to shoot for a "global center" if it's to the left of an "American center." And I'd prefer our country to lead in the right direction rather than follow in the popular one.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 2, 2004 10:01 AM

This is just stupid and biased just to ask such a question. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves. This is just fanning the flames and further polarizing the electorate. It serves no worthwhile purpose!

Posted by: Ruck at July 2, 2004 10:15 AM

Anthony's and especially Justin's comments are simply amazing in their vacuity. The inability to make distinctions between dark gray and light gray is what drives the left's criticism of "black-and-white" thinking on the Right. We conservatives don't actually go in much for B&W -- but we're not going to pretend all grays are the same. President Bush was authorized by Congress to go to war for reasons that the Executive and Legislative branches both believed were more than sufficient at the time. We will presume that all parties had some suspicion that a war might entail people being killed, and that it wouldn't wrap up in two hours like a movie.

Now one political arm is rewriting history for purely partisan purposes. I defy you to find examples of such opportunism coming from Bush. (Caution! Statements that you think might plausibly be twisted into opportunism don't count; they merely show your own bias). But the major Democrats (except Daschle, who has to disguise himself for reelection) are now backtracking and pretending that Bush did something surprizing and unusual. If you were against the war from the start, then blame your own Democrats for supporting it and now trying to have it both ways.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at July 2, 2004 7:31 PM

I believe it was John Maynard Keynes who said, "When the facts change my opinion changes, but what do yours do sir?"

When Bush made his assertions before Congress about Iraq he presented a convincing argument. Why? Because the integrity of former Presidents developed our trust in his office, so when he made his claims we had no reason to doubt him. Sure other parts of the world disagreed, but would an American president really misrepresent the truth? The argument about the democrats supporting the war is all too common and poorly thought out. Any support of the war based on our 'trust' in the presidency. The facts supporting the war changed, but your opinions remain the same.

Posted by: Anthony at July 2, 2004 9:39 PM

What facts changed, Anthony?

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 2, 2004 11:46 PM

Some facts that have changed...

"Iraq has weapons of mass destruction."
- No, it didn't

"Iraq was attempting to acquire WMD from nigeria."
- Evidence supporting this assertion was eventually found to be based on forged documentation.

"Saddam Hussein has used WMD on his own people."
- Recently it has been mentioned that evidence suggests the Kurds were gassed by Iranian weapons, not Iraqi.

"Saddam Hussien has not disarmed"
- How does one disarm nonexistent weapons? This is really an amazing claim because Bush continues to use it. Sure back when he "thought" Saddam had WMD this argument made sense, but now that we know he didn't have WMD why does George still go around claiming Saddam refused to disarm? Simple logic => Can't disarm weapons without actually possessing weapons.

Posted by: Anthony at July 5, 2004 1:15 AM

Well, Anthony, you've fallen for the mainstream media's tendency to take ambiguous, or even contrary, information and assert it as common knowledge undermining President Bush. Before I point you in some directions, I'd like to note that, even were your statements entirely true, the relevant question is whether the president was justified in believing what he did at the time when he made the call.

"Iraq has weapons of mass destruction."

As yet, I don't see anything demonstrably false in that statement (to link to but a few).

"Iraq was attempting to acquire WMD from nigeria."

Well, nobody ever said Iraq was attempting to acquire WMD from Nigeria. Now, Niger is a different matter, and the president merely mentioned a British claim — one that could still prove true.

"Saddam Hussein has used WMD on his own people."

I'll have to see your evidence that this is not true. "Mentions" of evidence that "suggests" otherwise won't do.

And by the way, I observe that you declined to comment on either of the other two factors that justified the war: terrorists and the humanitarian catastrophe.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 5, 2004 10:48 AM

"Because the integrity of former Presidents developed our trust in his office, so when he made his claims we had no reason to doubt him."

Dude, were you born yesterday? Have you ever heard of Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton? The idea that someone had complete trust in the office of the president until George W. Bush came along and destroyed that trust is laugh-out-loud funny. Either that or a completely disingenous claim. Which means that *YOU* are the one with zero credibility on this issue.

Besides, you haven't offered any evidence that prior to the war, the administration did not fully believe that Saddam posed an unacceptable threat to US interests. I think that all of the things the administration said about Iraq before the war are still true, but even if they weren't, I haven't seen any evidence to indicate that the administration didn't actually believe what it said prior to the war.

Posted by: Mike S. at July 5, 2004 11:04 AM

How exactly should one acquire information concerning the true beliefs of this administration?

Regardless of the administration's beliefs it is fair for others to change their support of the war based on new information. But furthermore, since when does a 'belief' justify a war. Are you suggesting that all that is really required for policy decisions are strong beliefs that one is right?

As far as presidential integrity... yes, america is not without its presidential scandals, but the american people, and members of congress still assume a high degree of trust in the presidency. If that is not the case how does the american system operate? Yes there have been a few black marks on the presidential record, but what makes our country great is the integrity of our former presidents. And while it is fair to argue that Nixon and Clinton destroyed some of our trust in the presidency, it is also arguable that Bush has done the same. Eventually again, America will forgive its presidents transgressions, and eventually another president will be presented with the opportunity to take advantage trust developed by the strong, just, and moral leaders who have come before him.

As far our other justifications for the war in Iraq... If you still believe that Iraq had links to terrorism then I am obviously not going to change your mind.

And as much as I believe in humanitarian causes, the Iraqi War was not authorized on this basis. It was authorized because Iraq presented an eminent threat to the U.S. because it possessed WMD and intended to use them.

Additionally... I made a mistake in saying Iraq was attempting to acquire WMD from nigeria, it was attempting to acquire uranium.

Also... an article about Iran gassing the Kurds. I'm not sure how to do hyperlinks so... link offered below.

Posted by: Anthony at July 5, 2004 8:28 PM