Saturday, May 06, 2006

When Good People Do Nothing (Part 1)

Summary: There are a lot of intelligent, well-informed individuals in American society who do not speak out against the atrocities that are being committed in the American media today regarding Operation Iraqi Freedom. This post—the first in a two-part series—looks at one of the reasons why and what to do about it.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
-Edmund Burke

Evil of a sort is triumphing every day in the way success is suppressed and failure is accentuated by the American media with regard to what is occurring in Iraq. Do negative events occur in the attempt to liberate Iraq? Yes. But the problem with a significant portion of the American media is that they report the negative in monumental disproportion to its relative occurrence. America is filled with well-informed individuals who understand this. But up to now, too many of us don’t know what to do about it. This 2-part installment discusses the phenomenon and how to break out of it. In part 1, I want to discuss a very common concern that leads to a breakdown in our ability to “do something” about the problem:

“I have to get my news somewhere, and I need it fast”. Many people, including me, are constantly on the go (right now in Iraq I’m working 12 hours every day—no days off). In an information-saturated and work-hectic society, we often feel the need to get our news from concise sources. As a result, we often turn to newspapers and television news shows to get a perspective of what is going on in the world. In my opinion, this is not a good idea. There are better ways to get our news and excellent reasons to do so.

My wife pointed out to me recently how utterly dismayed she is with our local newspaper’s coverage of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Every story is so negative. Why does every story come with ‘AP’ in its byline? Can’t they do some of their own reporting?” The answer to her questions are (1) because that’s what the news mills produce, (2) because our local newspaper is lazy, and (3) yes, if they really wanted to. Once we find a good alternate source for the comics that we get from our newspaper, we will likely cancel our subscription.

There are about 3 sources from which a majority of newspapers get their news (AP, UPI, and Reuters) in the United States. It is frequently easy to perform a web search and find the identical story from one of these sources regurgitated in 10 or 20 different online newspapers. This means that a tiny group of people is determining what an enormous group of people are allowed to sample from the world news menu.

On a similar note, I recently read a survey that claimed just over 50% of Americans get their news from television. This, to me, is disappointing, particularly in light of the contrast between the reality here in Iraq and what I’ve seen reported on even the supposedly conservative Fox News Channel. Television is generally not a trustworthy source of news—especially as regards Iraq—if only for the fact that it tries to engage the eyes of the viewer (by using titillating sound bytes) while seldom delving into the reasons behind the events—and while seldom engaging the viewer’s mind. Almost all television news sources attempt to shape our opinions for us, rather than to give us the facts and contexts to allow us to form our own views.


The Internet
: To get an accurate picture of what is going on in the world, and particularly in Iraq, it is important to find multiple internet sources for news and commentary. Take time to compare what each site reports, and in time you will determine which sites are reputable and which sites have overweening bias. Ensure that you get your news from multiple sources in order that you may compare and contrast what is being reported, that you might become familiar with the bias or validity of any particular internet news outlet. Try to avoid those sites whose predominant content is a regurgitation of what is put out by the news mills (AP, UPI, Reuters, etc). Find websites which have a considerable amount of original reporting, especially if stories that turn out to be true are often ‘scooped’ on that site or are otherwise relatively unique. Uniqueness of stories is often as a result of indigenous news sources (sources that were born and live where the news is happening).

Weblogs: Often times weblogs are a good source for information and opinions. I enjoy reading others’ blogs, as it helps me further refine my opinions and perspectives of the way the world works. Sometimes, however, blogs are not a good source of information. Usually it is easy to determine when this is the case—blogs that use foul or offensive language are not worth one’s time. Well-thought out blogs are motivational and appeal to our reason and sense of fairness. They stimulate our thinking, whereas most newspapers and television news shows already have your thinking done for you.

Don’t forget to leave your comments on your favorite blogs. Not only does this help the blog site administrator know that his or her effort is appreciated, it also helps you become better expressing and understanding in your own words what is important in your own life.

You will find that your desire to study the news from the internet will far exceed your energy or time available to do so. Ultimately you’ll need to consolidate your news down to a few good sources. This is a good thing. With everyone creating similar ‘short lists’, a diversity of opinions and perspectives will obtain.

Good places to start. With your time and energy in mind, here are a few excellent sources for you to begin your search toward getting particularly accurate news and commentary about Iraq and Iran: - A daily news roundup and compendium of blogs on the Military Blog Ring. Includes links to several blogs by soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. - An analysis of news and commentary related to Iran, including the status of Iranian dissidents and current conditions inside the country. - A reasoned critique of Islamic society by Muslims and former Muslims. - A portal to a large number of weblogs by Iraqis and Iraqi expatriates. - A similar web portal to weblogs by Iranians living both inside and outside of Iran. - A roundup of daily news, as well as commentary from a variety of angles on the political spectrum.

For some of us, gleaning the news in this manner will require a greater dedication of time than we are used to, especially at first. As we rely more on internet news sources and less on suspect newspapers and television news shows, their generally inaccurate portrayal of life in Iraq (and the rest of the world) will improve. It won’t happen overnight. But in the meantime, we can develop a calm assurance that our understanding of the world has more depth and accuracy than heretofore, and that it provides a surprising zest to our lives as we come to know and understand for ourselves. And in the longer run, because we live in a free market, newspaper outlets will soon begin to know that more and more of their subscribers (such as you and I and our friends) have renounced our allegiance to their mind-numbing regurgitation. It won’t take much longer, either, until the big television outlets find out that we’ve put our trust in alternate news sources—sources we can rely on to tell the truth more consistently. In fact, these events are already happening, and it’s time for us to accelerate their occurrence.

Once we experience the exhilaration of discovering the news as it really is, then talking about it with others becomes more and more a part of our everyday conversation.

To be continued…


artwheeler said...

Great idea to get news from Iraq. Did you know Operation Iraq freedom has lasted longer than World War II?

can you give me some bloggers, like yourself, that are on the front lines of the operation bin laden?

Frank Staheli said...


You might check at They generally have registered military blog sites separated by country.

Matt said...

Truth be told, I don't watch TV for news that much anymore. As regards to the newspapers, I really don't read them anymore. My news everyday consists of reading either , as Gary just posts the news (he doesn't actually shape it necessarily), and a smattering of other blogs regarding Hugo Chávez's destruction of Venezuela and anything else I think is relavant. Then again, I will admit I have plenty of free time on my hands considering my summer break just started. Anyway, keep up the good work!