Substance-free accusation against Tony Blair illustrates a repulsive trend in journalism
"Blair Knew Iraq WMD Claim Wrong, Says Ex-Aide." Thus reads the CNN.com News Headline today, and so the story passes into the public record. The only problem is that the headline and the entire point of the article is grossly misleading.
It turns out that the WMD Claim referred to is not the claim that Saddam indeed had Weapons of Mass Destruction, but merely the analysis by British Intelligence that speculated that Iraq could launch a WMD attack within 45 minutes. But to find that out you will have to read down to paragraph twelve, and then "connect the dots" for yourself.
The CNN story is drawn from a book by the former Labor Party Leader of the House of Commons, Robin Cook, and the conversation with Blair, which Cook refers to, is as innocuous as can be, and indicates no deception on Blair's part. "[Cook] said he asked the prime minister if he was concerned that Saddam might use chemical munitions against British troops...Blair's response was: 'Yes, but all the effort he has had to put into concealment makes it difficult for him to assemble them quickly for use.' Cook said the prime minister's response left him 'deeply troubled.'"
What may have "troubled" Cook was the realization of how torturously he would have to re-contextualize Blair's words in order to cast them in a sinister light. For CNN the important thing about the accusation against Blair is not the relevance or veracity of the information, nor the credibility of the source, but the opportunity to perpetuate the myth -- now a Leftist article of faith -- that the Liberation of Iraq was justified by false pretenses.
The same technique was attempted without effect in The Observer's absurd, "Bush Knew" headline last year, but has since been employed quite effectively respecting the now infamous "Sixteen Words" from President Bush's 2003 State of the Union Message about British intelligence reports that Saddam attempted to obtain enriched uranium from Africa. The only reason those 16 words are infamous is that the Media and Bush's political enemies have persistently mis-represented their content -- and because Bush imprudently apologized for including them in his case for war (see my post 10/3/03 "Lessons From Nixon").
Anyone can read what The President actually said and ascertain that his statement was true, then as now (just GOOGLE "State of the Union Address" and you will be reading Bush's unfiltered words within sixty seconds), but tens of millions of voters will not look up the State of Union text, but will hear News reports refer matter-of-factly to Bush's "false" statement, or hear Democrats say "Bush lied," so eventually the truth will be completely replaced by a fabrication which, because of its constant and widespread dissemination, is effectively impossible to refute.
The reporting of both these episodes illustrates a repulsive trend in Media. Both American and British Media are stating facts in a way that is grossly misleading, and presenting analysis in the guise of fact. The journalistic dishonesty would be reprehensible enough in itself, but in these instances the results of successful journalistic deception may be catastrophic for the journalists' own Country. One could be excused for wondering whose side the BBC, CNN, AP, NY Times, ABC, NBC, CBS, etc. are on.
The most generous construction one can put on such acts is that our News Media are copiously supplied with blind fools. The alternative is more unpleasant to contemplate, especially since it is considered bad form these days to question anyone's patriotism.