Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Barbers Of Iraq

Today’s war news is brought to you by the barbers of Iraq. In fact, most war news is brought to you by the barbers of Iraq. Media critics have long complained that journalists are sheltered and isolated in Baghdad, seldom venturing out of their hotels, but I hadn’t realized how prominent hair-cutting was until I smelled a rat in the New York Times.

Background: this is not merely a conservative complaint about the MSM: Robert Fisk at Counterpunch has written
Rarely, if ever, has a war been covered by reporters in so distant and restricted a way. The New York Times correspondents live in Baghdad behind a massive stockade with four watchtowers, protected by locally hired, rifle-toting security men, complete with NYT T-shirts. America's NBC television chain are holed up in a hotel with an iron grille over their door, forbidden by their security advisers to visit the swimming pool or the restaurant "let alone the rest of Baghdad" lest they be attacked. Several Western journalists do not leave their rooms while on station in Baghdad.

And as Michael Fumento mentions, most journalists stay rather safe and sound near the Green Zone in Baghdad, rarely emerging from their comfortable hotel rooms there. Their practice to get the story of the day is to send Iraqi citizens, called "stringers," to go out and get the story. American journalists then slap their name upon the gathered "facts" for that all-important "from Baghdad" by line. With this practice, they could be here in the states filing their stories because they don't really do much reporting from the site of the real story.

So much has been known for years. But I hadn’t known it was the barbers. In the second “Q” of a “Q&A” with Damien Cove in the NYT, he mentions a barber. Barbers are ideal for journalists, as they seem to be just average Ahmeds, middle-class sons of toil who come in contact with lots of everyday people. I imagine it is also not lost on our enemies that barbers come in contact with lots of people. I’m just saying.

So I looked up these sources, and found that the Washington Bureau gets some of its information from a barber, as do Newsweek, the New Yorker, NPR, the McClatchey newspapers, and even the Chips Quinn journalism scholars. Maybe it’s even the same barber, for all I know.

Oh yeah, Afghanistan, too.

How many American barbers do we interview about world events?

Now that you’re in on the secret, scoot on over to the Damien Cove Q&A I mentioned above. The reality behind the writing jumps out at you. This is how bright college students write when they have few sources, little material, and are padding their term paper up to the required number of pages. It is a very, very well-done example, far better than any b.s. I ever wrote, and I was pretty good. But the sources are thin and the generalizations thick.
Q & A: Baghdad Correspondent on End of the Surge.

The same red flag should go up when you read the word "drivers," also.

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