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Journalists Failure to Dispel Saddam-9/11 Myth is Media Scandal

Buried in this New York Times story is the following incredible finding from a new poll:

Six in 10 Americans said in the poll that administration officials deliberately misled the public in making a case for the war; 33 percent of all Americans, including 40 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats, say Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The incredible stuff is not the first part of the sentence — the facts are utterly clear that the Bush administration misled the public as it prepared the nation for a war.

No, the astonishing result is that so many Americans believe Saddam was part of the plot. This has been proved utterly untrue, and even Bush — who did as much as he could to imply otherwise before the war — has admitted as much.

The continuing scandal is that media organizations are doing so little to correct the record. Because it is not enough to run an occasional story debunking the lie.

If I ran a newspaper I would make it a mission to educate people about the truth in these kinds of situations. If the job of the press is not to make as many people as possible understand the truth about big issues such as this, then what is?

8 Comments on “Journalists Failure to Dispel Saddam-9/11 Myth is Media Scandal”

  1. #1 Saddam und 9/11 | trice.de
    on Sep 10th, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    [...] Jahren eine andere Sprache und es ist geradezu skandalös, dass ein Drittel der Amis sowas denkt. Dan Gillmor (Autor von “We the Media”) merkt sarkastisch an, dass die Journalisten hier offenbar [...]

  2. #2 Seth Finkelstein
    on Sep 10th, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    If I ran a newspaper I would make it a mission to educate people about the truth in these kinds of situations.

    No, Dan, you wouldn’t. Or rather, if you did, you would quickly find yourself on the end of a SwiftBoating campaign, and very likely be put out of business or marginalized.

    Further commentary gets into territory which would result in *my* being on the receiving end, so I won’t do it (well, I’m already marginalized, but still …)

  3. #3 Dan Gillmor
    on Sep 10th, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    Maybe so, Seth, but it would be worth trying…

  4. #4 Jon Garfunkel
    on Sep 10th, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    C’mon, Dan. You can’t be serious. You can’t study this much media without knowing that not every outlet has the same lofty ambitions towards truth and understanding. In October 2003, the Program of International Policy at the University of Maryland polled people about their perceptions of the Iraq war and corresponded it with the media they watched/read. The results aren’t at all surprising:

    “Those who primarily watch Fox News are significantly more likely to have misperceptions, while those who primarily listen to NPR or watch PBS are significantly less likely.”

  5. #5 Dan Gillmor
    on Sep 10th, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    I’m serious. At least some of the Fox watchers read the local paper. (I’d also go after any parties that were spreading the mythology, including news organizations.) Not saying it would ultimately solve the problem, but it is worth the effort. The shame is that no one is even trying.

  6. #6 ScribbleSheet
    on Sep 11th, 2007 at 5:38 am

    I am sure some of the readers here have been to the US. Do you know how difficult it is to get international news on the television. It almost impossible. Even CNN is overly US-centric.

    Poor international news coverage is to blame. The statistics above are shocking, but can any of us say we are truly surprised.

  7. #7 Jon Garfunkel
    on Sep 11th, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Well, how would you try?
    You could start by tagging each source you found which mad the 9/11-Iraq connection on a social bookmarking site. That’s what I do when I try to document trends.

  8. #8 Dan Gillmor
    on Sep 12th, 2007 at 5:08 am

    Scribble, CNN International is a heck of a lot better than the domestic version.

    Jon, nice idea.