The banner headline atop The Huffington Post’s media page—for twenty-four hours running now—says it all: WRONG AGAIN. It involves a piece that I wrote, but I don’t think they are referring to me.
The Washington Post killed my assigned piece for its Outlook section this weekend which mainly covered media failures re Iraq and the current refusal to come to grips with that (the subject of my latest book)—yet they ran this misleading, cherry-picking, piece by their own Paul Farhi claiming the media “didn’t fail.” I love the line about the Post in March 2003 carrying some skeptical pieces just days before the war started: “Perhaps it was too late by then. But this doesn’t sound like failure.”
Here’s my rejected piece. The web-based uproar and protest generated massive traffic for that article on Sunday into Monday. I had posted it in nearly identical form here at The Nation last Friday. Enjoy this fun (if pointed) response by Charles P. Pierce at Esquire.
Huff Post’s Mike Calderone noted that the Post is now defending killing the article because it didn’t offer sufficient “broader analytical points or insights.” I’ll let you consider if that’s true and why they might have rejected it. Calderone had added his own objections to the Farhi opus, hence the “WRONG AGAIN” headline.
Now let’s revisit my recent posts here on when the probe in the Post itself by Howard Kurtz in 2004 showed that it failed big-time. For one thing, Kurtz tallied more than 140 front-page Post stories “that focused heavily on administration rhetoric against Iraq”—with all but a few of those questioning the evidence buried inside. Editors there killed, delayed or buried key pieces by Ricks, Walter Pincus, Dana Priest and others. The Post’s David Ignatius went so far as offering an apology to readers this week for his own failures.
Woodward, shaming himself and his paper, once said it was risky for journalists to write anything that might look silly if WMD were ultimately found in Iraq. Rather than look silly, they greased the path to war. “There was an attitude among editors: Look, we’re going to war, why do we even worry about all the contrary stuff?” admitted the Post’s Pentagon correspondent Thomas Ricks in 2004. And this classic from a top reporter, Karen DeYoung: “We are inevitably the mouthpiece for whatever administration is in power.“ See my review, at the time, of how the Post fell (hook, line and sinker) for Colin Powell’s fateful UN speech—and mocked critics. Not a “fail”?
In Farhi’s piece, Len Downie, the longtime Post editor, is still claiming, with a shrug, hey, we couldn’t have slowed or halted the war anyway. Farhi agrees with this. Nothing to see here, move along.
Kurtz last week called the media failure on Iraq the most egregious in “modern times,” which echoes my book. This week neither the Post nor The New York Times published an editorial admitting any shortcomings in their Iraq coverage. Back in 2003, the Times at least called for caution in invading Iraq, in editorials. On the other hand, as Bill Moyers pointed out, in the six months leading up to the US attack on Iraq, the Post “editorialized in favor of the war at least 27 times.”
Greg Mitchell’s book So Wrong For So Long, on media misconduct and the Iraq war, was published this month in an updated edition and for the first time as an e-book, with preface by Bruce Springsteen.