DATE: 2/02/2005 09:49:00 AM
Laughing at Terror - Much fun was had at the expense of terrorists in Iraq yesterday who tried to pass off a G.I. Joe toy as a captured American soldier. I don't know whether it was the terrorists themselves who did this or if it was one of the photo manipulation specialists from Fark or Something Awful. The media jumped on it right away, and have gotten a lot of criticism for it, some of it unfair.
Some news organizations, like the Guardian, deserve scorn becuase they are still running with the now-discredited story. Others, though, ran with it at first and then backed off when it started to become apparent the story was a hoax. The news judgment was sound - a captured American soldier would be a significant story and it was reported with some degree of caution. The problem arose when no one in the Associated Press or Reuters bothered to examine the facts further after the initial filing. A close look at the picture makes it clear the 'soldier' in question has odd proportions and is clothed unlike any other soldier in the combat zone.
As with Rathergate, it took the major media with all of their editors and fact-checkers, longer to discover the truth than those sitting at their computers at home. Even after getting a huge black eye with the CBS fraudulent documents story, the media has not learned to at least scour the major blogs regarding a large story. It's not that bloggers are smarter than reporters - it's just that there are so many more of them and they do it for fun. I'm not suggesting news organizations create a 'blogger beat,' but think someone should take the time to at least see what the millions of 'open-source' journalists are saying about major stories.
So what does this story say about the terrorists? Well, if it was al Qaeda or a similar group who tried to pass off this forgery as real, they are having a worse week than anyone thought possible. Powerline has a good analysis of what it all means - basically, that democracy in Iraq was a major blow, and this was a vain attempt to put a negative story about the country into circulation.