Monday, April 26, 2004

How to be biased, lesson 1

I am watching my brothers and sisters in the media slowly turn. Media bias, as Chomsky knows, is rarely a conscious effort or a grand conspiracy. More often, it is the automatic infusion of assumptions and beliefs by low-level copy editors and wire desk writers. But the result is just as nefarious as if it had been a vast conspiracy.

On Saturday, Islamist terrorists tried to blow up the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal near Basra. They launched three suicide boats toward the docks, in the type of attack that had succeeded against the U.S.S. Cole and, more recently, a French oil tanker. But this time, the U.S. Navy was on the job. The port patrol intercepted the suicide squads. Two Coast Guardsmen and five Navy sailors aboard a rigid hull inflatable were preparing to board a dhow that had approached the terminal, and the bad guys, a la Flight 93, blew themselves up when caught. A couple of brave sailors died, as did a U.S. Coast Guard member. Yet the day was saved. Damage to the oil rigs at the port was minimal. Exporting of billions of barrels of crucial oil -- crucial to the rebuilding of Iraq -- resumed within hours.

So what headline did the Associated Press (and thus dozens if not hundreds of American newspapers) put on this story? "U.S. Thwarts Major Terror Strike?" "Quick-Thinking Sailors Defeat Bombers on High Seas?"

Nope, try this:

"Two U.S. servicemembers killed when boats explode near Iraqi oil facilities"

Just another bad day in Iraq, I guess.