A week or so ago, there was a turn over in the group
of producers and correspondent for the network news
that I am embedded in. A fresh, new, scared crew of
people who come to replace the old crew whoíve gotten
bored and jaded by the end of their 3-6 week stay.
DR, the big network boss-- the new crew claimed-- had
ordered them to send some happy stories instead of the
negative portrayals of death, defeat and destruction
that was saturating the news. This was said with a
bit of resentment, less because it was a ridiculous
order, and more because death and destruction is more
camera friendly and easy to do. Unfortunately for DR
and whoever else wanted happy news stories, the first
Blackhawk helicopter went down a couple of days later
and the new ëhappyí crew rushed out to get the story
and I havenít heard about any more happy stories
So, I figured Iíd follow the news and see what is
actually being said.
The raging debate over there where you guys are, as
far as I can tell, revolves around the idea that
America's new (?) aggressive offensive will either 1)
free Iraqis of the ëterroristsí that have come to use
iraq as the site for their crazed ideology, or it will
2) anger the Iraqis and send them into the arms of
ëthe resistanceí. Journalists here, whether they know
it or not are basing their stories around these two
positions, with plenty of "Iraqis" quoted to prove
their point. That's how it works, the political
establishment sets the parameters of the debate and
the journalists plug into it with their reportis. How
often have you read or heard "Well, Dan, most Iraqis
want Ö." it sounds so empty, and until you are
walking around and seeing real Iraqis, I am not sure
how empty the words sound to you.
Rule of thumb: if anyone purports to tell you what the
ëIraqisí want, know that they are probably delluding
themselves (looking for someone to tell them what they
want to hear) and in the process misinforming, if not
lying to you.
The opinion polls in Iraq have not had time to become
a scientific assessment of the communal angsts ruling
over the middle class-- yet. So the Iraq specialists,
journalists and such are left to assess public opinion
through their own scientific research: morning
conversations with the waiter, noon conversation with
the driver, night conversations with some friends you
have made haphazardly to bolster your claims of
ëauthenticí indigenous voices. You can imagine what
happens to this kind of polling considering the fact
that most Iraqis speak minimum English and virtually
no American reporters bother to learn Arabic.
At the moment I do not see any mass expression of
Iraqi sentiment for or against anything and if I were
to take a similar scientific poll of all the 20 or so
people who I talk to, I would say that most Iraqis are
pretty confused and it depends on outside factors such
as the questionerís identity and credentials, the
presence of other Iraqis in the vicinity and the
ìIraqi'sî own level of fatigue (exacerbated by fasting
The more I stay here and the more I talk to people,
the LESS capable I am of telling you and convincing
myself of what it is exactly that the Iraqi people
want. The only chorus I have heard from Iraqis Ö what
they all say repeatedly and in unison is this: I want
to get the hell out of this place.
It's hard to miss, and easy to dismiss.
It feeds off the hoplessness and insecurity that
drives people to desperate measures, and it feeds into
the guilt of those who came here to sympathize rather
than report. Either case, the point is not very
TV-ready as a concept. So it's easier to talk about
terrorists and resistance.
Journalisms -- Rita (via Avi) -- Last Night in Ramallah ------------------------------------------------------ "Journalisms:" or "Our Correspondent:" or "?" The title and mission of this collective project is a work in progress. But the general idea is that we cannot be in...