Catching up on some articles from last week when I was on vacation, I just read Howard Kurtz’s piece about how The Washington Post screwed up coverage of the run-up to the war, how the reporters and editors, with few exceptions, suffered from “group think,” as Bob Woodward put it.
I often have my suspicions about the objectivity of Kurtz’s work, but this time he did a pretty good job. Pretty good in that he allowed the Post people to embarrass themselves with their weak excuses. It’s to the point that I’m beginning to question Len Downie’s general competence.
A comment he makes confirms the suspicion that too many people at The Post look down their noses at ordinary people.
Across the country, “the voices raising questions about the war were lonely ones,” Downie said. “We didn’t pay enough attention to the minority.”
“Lonely voices”? It may have been a minority in the U.S., but the 100,000 people with whom I marched in Oct. 2002 in Washington didn’t seem all that lonely. And I’ll bet the one million-plus in Rome and London didn’t either.
Downie’s comment suggests that even a massive demonstration, if it doesn’t include enough of the people Downie meets at parties, consists merely of the ignorants, the naïve, the hopelessly unrealistic trouble makers who don’t understand the complexities of “intelligence,” which in this case is an oxymoron.
Over at Common Wonders, Bob Koehler of the Chicago Trib, pulls no punches (You may need to look under previous columns) about The Post’s, and before it the New York Times’s mea culpas.
War is waged by cowards. Brave men and women will die, but first, chicken-hearted politicians and journalists must start the stampede. When the war wagon rolls, no one in a position to slow it down will throw his body beneath its wheels, even if he harbors doubts or retains a shred of professional skepticism.
Woodward, for instance, told Kurtz that the atmosphere at the paper in early 2003 was such that “it was risky for journalists to write anything that might look silly” – that is, forcefully present the other side of the story – “if weapons were ultimately found in Iraq.”
In other words, bucking the groupthink was career suicide. I guess if you’re not on tenure track at the Washington Post, you don’t know what risk is.
Do they know what courage is?