Sunday, December 05, 2004

# Posted 11:20 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WaPo CELEBRATES MEDIA-BASHING BLOGGER: If it sounds to good to be true, that's because it is. The blogger in question is "Hugh Upton", a 26-year old from Manhattan and and the pseudonymous author of Iraq in Pictures, hosted on blogspot. Compared to Mr. Upton, Michael Moore is an exemplar of probity and non-partisanship.

The correspondent responsible for celebrating Mr. Upton's accomplishments is Thomas Ricks, who contrasts Mr. Upton's forthright work with the disingenuous propaganda emanating from the Defense Department. Ricks reports that
The military's presentation depicts the fight for Fallujah as a liberation of a city from the insurgents. The Web log posts far more graphic wire service and other photos, and tends to point the finger of blame for civilian suffering at the military.

Judging by the reaction of several soldiers and military experts, a comparison of the two presentations shows, among other things, how the might of the U.S. military can be matched by a single blogger working part time.
To Mr. Ricks' credit, he describes the DoD presentation on Falluja both accurately and in detail. [If you don't have Power Point, you can download a free Power Point reader directly from Microsoft.] It is also to Mr. Ricks' credit that he gives some indication of Mr. Upton's style of argumentation. For example,
In the version of the Web site that was up last week, the first image on the site showed a malnourished Iraqi baby, wide-eyed and screaming in pain, under the sarcastic headline, "another grateful Iraqi civilian."
Yet for reasons unknown, Mr. Ricks avoids reporting on the more inflammatory -- as well as more representative -- aspects of Mr. Upton's website. For example, one post from November 17th is entitled "What exactly do you mean when you use the word genocide?" Apparently, what Mr. Upton means is not the wholesale slaughter of civlians a la Bosnia or Rwanda. Rather, his definition of genocide refers to the American killing of Sunni insurgents, or as Mr. Upton prefers to call them "resistors".

That's right -- insurgents, not civlians. Perhaps, perhaps I could understand if Mr. Upton described the death of Iraqi civlians as a form of genocide. Yet none of the captions under the photos in the November 17th even mentions civilians. Two of the photographs depict "resistors" while the rest depict unidentified corpses that also seem to belong to insurgents.

But let's stay focused on civlians. There are many photographs on Mr. Upton's site of suffering civlians. In numerous instances, the captions identify these civilians as the victims of American attacks. Yet none of the photographs depict the hundreds and perhaps thousands of civlians who have been killed by suicide bombings, IEDs, and other reckless attacks by the insurgents.

On occasion, Mr. Upton includes photos of Iraqis "found murdered" or killed by "unknown gunmen". There is even one photos of an Iraqi policemen "injured in attack by resistors". Injured, not killed. Because only Americans kill.

Of course, Mr. Upton is entitled to his opinions. But it is incumbent upon Mr. Ricks, a professional correspondent, to describe Mr. Upton's opinions with a certain measure of accuracy. However, this is the passage that Mr. Ricks chooses to excerpt from Mr. Upton's writing on the Iraq in Pictures website:
"This is not an antiwar site. You can visit this site and appreciate what it's doing and still support the war. . . . We need the whole story." He added that those wanting to see "the other side" of the story should "Go to Fox News, CNN, USA Today, WSJ, the Washington Post, or any of the other outlets that has these pictures and doesn't show them."
Yes, you can visit the website and still support the war. I did and I do. Yet Mr. Ricks leaves us with the very false impression that Mr. Upton's primary interest is education, rather than advocacy of his radical anti-American views.

Even though Mr. Ricks is smart enough not to express his opinion about Mr. Upton website explicitly, he clearly suggests that Mr. Upton's work is far more persuasive than that of the public relations officers at the Pentagon. After quoting one retired officer who provides lukewarm praise for his colleagues at the Pentagon, Mr. Ricks writes that
"As far as the blog site, this is information operations at its finest," said one Marine officer who has served in Iraq. "IO is about influence, and this piece tries to influence people by depicting the human cost of war."

An Army soldier who fought in the Sunni Triangle last year and maintains a blog himself agreed. "The winner has to be the blog," he said. "There's something all too visceral about seeing the pictures of the dead and wounded, on both sides, which overwhelms static displays of weaponry" in the military presentation.
With all due respect to the servicemen in question, Mr. Upton's site is not primarily concerned with "the human cost of war". Yet just in case these officers' comments weren't persuasive enough, Mr. Ricks closes out his article by citing the judgment of an "expert in Iraqi affairs" well known to those of us in the blogosphere:
Juan Cole, a University of Michigan expert on Iraqi affairs who has a blog called "Informed Comment" (http://www.juancole.com/), came to a similar but broader conclusion: "What the two presentations show us is that the U.S. military is full of brave and skilled warriors who can defeat their foes, but is still no good at counterinsurgency operations, and is wretched at winning hearts and minds."
How impressive. A left liberal professor who insists that the US military is incapable of winning hearts and minds because a 26-year old leftist in Manhattan is against the war. (Of course, Mr. Ricks doesn't tell you anything about Prof. Cole's politics. He simply describes Prof. Cole as an "expert".)

Even though it is hard to understand how Mr. Ricks could provide such a deceptive impression of Mr. Upton's a website, one may infer a certain motivation from something that Mr. Ricks wrote not long ago in the Post. In article about a new exhibit at the Smithsonian, Mr. Ricks wrote that
Some might be put off by the loaded title, "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War." But behind that red-state rubric is a well-balanced show, with enough combat gear to please the warriors, enough emphasis on casualties and Indians and blacks and women to comfort the loyal opposition, and enough balance to satisfy most historians.
If Mr. Ricks believes that an emphasis on casualties (inflicted or sustained by our side) as the essence of "balance" and "loyal opposition", than perhaps Mr. Ricks sought to promote such balance and opposition by lavishing praise on Mr. Upton.

Perhaps Mr. Ricks decision to misrepresent Mr. Upton's website was only subconscious. According to Phil Carter, who knows more about the military than anyone else I have ever met, Mr. Ricks is "the best defense reporter out there." Be that as it may, I still think that Mr. Ricks has a lot to learn.
(0) opinions -- Add your opinion

Comments: Post a Comment