24 Iraq students massacred vs. improved Mesopotamian Marshes

We’ve all heard the hopelessly tragic news of the 24 students, 15 and 16 years old, who were taken off a bus by Iraqi insurgents this week one by one and murdered. No words can express the horror.

GUNMEN have dragged 24 people, mostly teenage students, from their vehicles and shot them dead in the latest wave of violence in Iraq. As Iraqi leaders appeared deadlocked overnight on naming new interior and defence ministers seen as critical to restoring stability, the relentless killings continued.

Police said gunmen manning a makeshift checkpoint near Udhaim, 120km north of Baghdad, stopped cars approaching the small town and killed the passengers. The victims included youths of around 15 and 16 years old, who were on their way to the bigger regional town of Baquba for end of term exams, and also elderly men, they said.

“(The attackers) dragged them one by one from their cars and executed them,” said a police official.

The Belmont Club, famous for being enamored of the war in Iraq from day one, is unhappy that news like this always appears on page one of the newspapers, creating an appearance that the Iraq war has degenerated into a quagmire. (Imagine anyone thinking such a thing.) Why, there’s big news, important news, that should also be on page one! Like, um, the improvement of the Mesopotamian Marshes since Saddam’s ouster. Yes, the Belmont Boys really make this argument, with a straight face. (Check out the post I linked to to see what I mean.)

Look, it’s really great that some schools were built or marshes saved or hospitals erected. But when editors have a choice between the improved marshes and 24 teenagers murdered in cold blood, guess which one they’re going to go with? In every way, this Belmont Club post is specious and misleading. All of the outrage over the neglected marshes stems from the sentence introducing the story: “This story about a real swamp, for example is probably going to wind up on page 54.” And that’s why he’s furious, because the story of this swamp will “probably” wind up on page 54. That’s not where it did end up, as far as we know (I suspect most newspapers will ignore it altogether as not being relevant enough to their readers), but in case it does, Belmont Club has all the anger saved up in advance, ready to explode.

If the Belmont Boys really believe this story is of equal news value as the state of our illegal war in iraq, they are in for a lot of disappointment. No editor in his right mind would look at the state of Iraq today, with constant breaking news of fresh carnage, and decide the page-one story should be the marshes. And check the mean comments. They all see media bias as the bogeyman – we’re only losing in Iraq because of the media, dammit!. Why don’t they get that mass murder is more topical and page-one-worthy than environmental stories, unfair as that may be. Oh, and one question for the Belmont Boys: Not even Fox News or the Wall Street Journal or the Moonie Times picked up the marshes story. Could it be that they, too, are hopelessly biased? Or could it be, just maybe, that they saw it as less newsworthy than the ceaseless acts of violence tearing Iraq apart?

Update: I checked Google News, and as would be expected by most rational people, the story of the marshes has been covered almost exclusively by science publications. What a surprise.

The Discussion: 2 Comments

Not really fair to list the Wall Street Journal among the even-they list of right-wing sources that didn’t cover the story. Right-wing they are, obviously, but their news coverage is surprisingly good — as if they cater to customers who want to make a profit even if it requires knowing unpleasant truths. Example: whereas The Economist gloated over those stupid Californians who thought somebody was CHEATING them in the great energy crunch, and took a long time to acknowledge the solid evidence that finally came out, [breath] the WSJ had a story six months *before* the troubles showing how the so-called free market in energy had been massively abused in other states.

However (to keep it topical), their coverage of Wen Ho Lee was weird. They had a long retrospective on how the government bungled the case, with much information that made it clear what a crock the case had been from the start; but the reporter clearly believed that the only problem was that they had messed uip procedurally, and they ought to have been able to put him away. Well, nobody’s perfect.

Speaking of which: a million and half, and publicly humiliating your calumniators. Not bad. The system works! Almost. Pretty often.

June 6, 2006 @ 2:06 am | Comment

You are quite right – the WSJ’s news reporting is superb, while their editorial/op-ed side is downright medieval.

June 6, 2006 @ 2:32 am | Comment

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