The MSM gets a twofer
In my previous post on the Koran/urine-splashing incident, I spent some time wondering why this story got so much coverage.
Some things were fairly obvious: yes, the MSM seems determined to report anything that might reflect badly on Bush and his policies; and yes, Guantanamo is certainly one of those policies. And yes indeed, the MSM would like to see a Democrat in the White House in 2008. But the story seemed so unimportant (accidental urine-splashing by one guard?), and its potential to harm the US so clear, that it was hard to see why the MSM felt they simply had to cover this one--and heavily, at that.
So in that post I asked a rather rhetorical, angry question: why is the press so determined to make the task of protecting ourselves as hard as possible? I'm not so cynical about the press that I think that actually was their goal in publishing this story; instead, it was more in the nature of an unintended side effect. I think their real goal is something quite different.
Anti-Bush and pro-Democratic sentiment is certainly a motivator, but there's another thing driving many journalists who pressed this story: their own self-interest. In other words, their careers. In this they are no different than most human beings, of course--looking out for number one is a time-honored activity.
So, how does the Koran/urine story advance the careers of journalists, or enhance the MSM? Well, remember the earlier Newsweek Koran-flushing story (it wasn't so very long ago, but it seems like aeons, doesn't it)? That story was attacked, particularly by bloggers. This was both unnerving and embarrassing to the MSM, which has gotten rather tired of blogs now that the novelty has worn off. In fact, after an initial flirtation with blogs, the MSM response to the blogosphere turned condescending ("guys in pajamas") or even downright hostile. Blogs are no joke anymore--first Dan Rather and then Eason Jordan went down, now Newsweek and Isikoff were threatened. Who's next?
For me, the sign that things were getting serious was when the ordinarily even-handed David Brooks wrote a poorly-reasoned apologia for the Koran/flushing story. It seemed to me that the MSM was circling the wagons, leaping to the defense of fellow journalists under attack.
Afterwards, when the odd symmetry of the Koran/urine-splashing incident turned up in a report (Koran down the toilet on purpose, Koran urinated on by accident--what's the difference among friends?), the MSM found its chance to publicize it and get a twofer. They were able to present a story that was both anti-Bush and, even more importantly this time, pro-MSM. The message was "see, Newsweek wasn't so wrong after all--even the military itself says this one is true, and it's almost the same thing."