Yellow Journalism Alert
Posted by aogWednesday, 16 October 2002 at 11:41 TrackBack Ping URL

This is a clip from Best of the Web for 16 Oct 2002. I can only ask, why do these journalists hate us?

Suckers for Saddam

Iraq is holding a sham election today, in which citizens "vote" on whether Saddam Hussein should serve another seven years as president. Under the watchful eye of Saddam's thugs, these "voters" must sign their names to the "ballots," and any who dare vote "no" can expect to be executed.

It's a mystery why Western news organizations insist on portraying this as if it were an actual election. We've previously criticized Reuters and CNN for this, but it's very widespread:

  • "Iraq Says 'Yes' to Saddam; Voters Show Support as U.S. Threat Mounts"--headline, MSNBC.com, Oct. 15
  • "Saddam Aims for 100% Support"--headline, BBC, Oct. 15
  • "Although President Saddam Hussein faces no challenger in Tuesday's presidential referendum, the government is pushing for the highest percentage of 'yes' votes to paint Saddam as a popular leader in a rebuke to the United States."--lead paragraph, Associated Press dispatch, Oct. 15

CNN and Reuters are still at it too. A CNN.com headline from yesterday declares: "Election All but Assured for Saddam." (Isn't that "all but" a lovely touch?) Today's follow-up: "Landslide Expected in Saddam Poll."

Reuters leads off its "report" with this ludicrous statement: "Defiant Iraqis lined up to show their support for Saddam Hussein Tuesday as Western powers were deadlocked over how to deal with the veteran leader they say threatens world security." A captive people does a dictator's bidding under threat of death--only in Reuterville could anyone call this "defiant."

Worst of all is the Los Angeles Times. Reporter Michael Slackman's article carries the headline "For Iraqis, Vote for Hussein Is an Exercise in Democracy." "Of course the outcome is preordained," Slackman acknowledges. "But then, so is Western reaction"--as if making a mockery of democracy were morally equivalent to recognizing that someone's made a mockery of democracy.

The New York Times and Washington Post deserve credit for playing the story at least somewhat straight, albeit with excessive understatement. The Times' headline reads "Iraqis Cheer for Their President, but Their Real Mood Is Hard to Read." The Post has a silly headline--"In Iraqi Ballot on Hussein, All Signs Pointing to Yes"--but at least the subheadline acknowledges it's an "orchestrated referendum."