The Conservative Blogosphere vs. The Associated Press

The right wing blogosphere is taking on the mainstream media again over an allegedly inaccurate account about six Iraqis who were set on fire. Kathleen Carroll, executive editor and senior vice president of The Associated Press issued her most recent statement on Friday:

In recent days, a handful of people have stridently criticized The Associated Press’ coverage of a terrible attack on Iraqi citizens last month in Baghdad. Some of those critics question whether the incident happened at all and declare that they don’t believe our reporting.

Indeed, a small number of them have whipped themselves into an indignant lather over the AP’s reporting.

Their assertions that the AP has been duped or worse are unfounded and just plain wrong.

No organization has done more to try to shed light on what happened Nov. 24 in the Hurriyah neighborhood of Baghdad than The Associated Press.

After a lengthy discussion of the facts, she concludes:

Questioning their integrity and work ethic is simply offensive.

It’s awfully easy to take pot shots from the safety of a computer keyboard thousands of miles from the chaos of Baghdad.

The Iraq war is one of hundreds of conflicts that AP journalists have covered in the past 160 years. Our only goal is to provide fair, impartial coverage of important human events as they unfold. We check our facts and check again.

The attitude of the right wing bloggers is that they have their story and they are sticking to it. Just like they stuck to claims that we were threatened by WMD in Iraq, that there was a connection between Saddam and 9/11, that the war is allowing us to kill off al Qaeda in Iraq so that we don’t have to fight them here, and that we are winning the war. Confederate Yankee is criticizing several liberal blogs for not siding with them on the story.

There are several reasons why this story may not have been of interest to liberal bloggers. While the conservative bloggers are somehow certain of the facts, the rest of us simply do not know. The efforts described by Carroll to determine the truth sound more valid that the attacks of those who “take pot shots from the safety of a computer keyboard thousands of miles from the chaos of Baghdad.” If AP got a story wrong they deserve criticism, but it is difficult to take the word of those conservative bloggers who have been wrong so many times over the word of a journalistic organization which generally gets the facts right. In addition to the questions of credibility raised by the issues over Iraq in the previous paragraph, we are also reminded that these are also the same people who believe that Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry have any validity, that intelligent design is a valid alternative to evolution, and that Fox News can be used as a source for accurate news or information.

The pattern we have seen repeatedly is that conservative bloggers judge claims not based upon any meaningful measure of accuracy, but by whether the claims help promote their political biases. We’ve seen a similar situation when a Reuters stringer was exposed for altering a photograph. I initially commended the conservative bloggers who exposed this fabrication. Unfortunately their true colors were exposed when they continued to claim “Reutergate” as an example of media bias even when Reuters proved them wrong by firing the photographer.

Besides questioning the accuracy and judgement of the right wing bloggers, liberal bloggers also question their motives. If the goal was accuracy this would be admirable, but we repeatedly find that the goal is more often an attack on those they perceive as political opponents. Another goal is often to prevent the reporting of news, such as with their opposition to reports from Abu Gahab and the reports on the warrantless wiretaps. In the case of the disclosures of the monitoring of financial transactions, the right wing blogosphere attacked the New York Times for reporting the story but ignored the fact that the conservative Wall Street Journal reported on the same program.

The conservative blogosphere just has not shown any interest in fact finding or honesty. Conservativism has become an authoritarian movement which is more concerned with preventing publication of information critical of the government than with preserving the free press. This latest crusade against the AP smells far too much of another one of their attempts to suppress the free press than a desire for media accuracy, regardless of the facts of this specific case.

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