Patterico's Pontifications

7/19/2009

Is This a Media Double Standard on Hostages?

Filed under: Media Bias,War — DRJ @ 10:26 pm



[Guest post by DRJ]

The international media stayed mum for seven months when New York Times‘ reporter David Rohde was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Executive Editor Bill Keller convinced media around the globe not to publish information about Rohde’s capture:

“Keller said he had a responsibility for his employees. Based on advice from security experts and others, including Rohde’s family, the newspaper kept the abduction quiet.

“The more you talk about who did what … the more you’re writing a playbook for the next kidnapping,” Keller told CNN.”

Like the New York Times, the Department of Defense wanted to protect one of its own, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl (23, of Ketchum, Idaho), who was captured by the Taliban on or about June 30. Apparently it took the BBC just two days to release the news of his capture:

“The military first made Bergdahl’s capture public on July 2, though he was believed captured on June 30.

A Department of Defense official told ABC News on Friday that if it hadn’t been for the BBC reporting on the missing soldier on July 2, the military would have kept the capture quiet. The goal, he said, was to minimize the amount of information that might get back to his captors that might influence the military’s search and recovery.”

It’s not clear if other media sources declined to cover Bergdahl’s capture before the BBC broke the story or if the BBC was simply the first to find out about it, but it looks like a media double standard.

— DRJ

64 Responses to “Is This a Media Double Standard on Hostages?”

  1. Question: If the media shows itself willing and capable to suppress news to improve a hostage’s chance of survival, and then in another case fails to do so, is the news outlet that breaks the story liable for any bad outcome? In the absence of the Rohde event, I’d say no, but now? Not clear.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  2. DRJ – I thought the Taliban put up a video on the intartubes.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  3. Rereading – The video came much much later and disclosed the identity.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  4. This is sadly predictable, and the usual suspects will come by to defend the MSM and tell us why it is different.

    JD (9f4ff6)

  5. I’ve rewritten this at least a half-dozen times already and still can’t say exactly what I think. Simply, the answer is yes. There is a double-standard and the MSM does not care what happens to this soldier.

    Wait, that’s not exactly true. They care to the extent that they hope they will soon be able to report a new atrocity and blame President Bush somehow. Hopefully, at a time advantageous to distract from something about President Obama.

    Stashiu3 (ed6467)

  6. Defense officials said they didn’t know the real reason why he left, but speculated he might have been visiting a female and that he may have had prior behavioral issues.

    that’s the story … “Defense officials” bent on letting the Taliban know that this guy was a.) drunk and b.) on the prowl for Muslim womens is what this reads like to me. This is helpful.

    happyfeet (c75712)

  7. to be clear, this reporting a lot ensures I think that there will be little or no anti-Taliban backlash in the muslim world if they choose to kill him

    happyfeet (c75712)

  8. Defense officials said they didn’t know the real reason why he left, but speculated he

    Sounds like a cynical REMF spouting off after a few drinks on the reporter’s tab. And, hey, what was that NY Times fellow doing?

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  9. oh. I should have quoted the drinking part too…

    However, Defense officials said it appeared he somehow left his base in Paktika Province at night, likely accompanied by several Afghan soldiers, and that his disappearance wasn’t noted until the following day when his body armor and rifle were found in his quarters. There were some reports that Bergdahl had wandered off drunk with the Afghan soldiers.

    happyfeet (c75712)

  10. They do not even try to hide it anymore.

    JD (f303d4)

  11. “There were some reports that Bergdahl had wandered off drunk with the Afghan soldiers.”

    Well there you have it…he was asking for it…..

    gahrie (9d1bb3)

  12. Acceptable loss.

    Yes, I know it’s heartless and unkind.

    But that’s what makes soldiers soldiers. Death is in their hearts and brutality, cruelty, and killing some other mother’s child on orders is their life.

    nk (e56d9c)

  13. Death is in their hearts and brutality, cruelty, and killing some other mother’s child on orders is their life.
    Comment by nk — 7/20/2009 @ 3:08 am

    Maybe you could explain this further because I’m really not sure I understand what you’re saying here. Does he deserve whatever happens because he’s a brutal and cruel killer, like all soldiers? Is that really what you’re trying to say? Please tell me I missed your point.

    Stashiu3 (ed6467)

  14. No, only that he has accepted his fate, in what he may do and in what may be done to him.

    You tell me, do soldiers ask for solace and affection? Or do they find it demeaning to have them offered to them? Or something in between?

    nk (e56d9c)

  15. I don’t see how your first comment, which defined how you see soldiers, has anything to do with him accepting his fate. Of course soldiers ask for solace and affection when appropriate… which is not while captured. How does that mean death is in their hearts? How does that make them brutal or cruel? How does a soldier’s life become about nothing but killing? Do you really think that’s what a soldier is? And what does any of that have to do with how the MSM treated the stories differently?

    You don’t understand soldiers, what they do, or how they think. It is not an acceptable loss to be written off because you think he’s just a baby-killer. Every effort needs to be made to recover this soldier and bring those who hold him to justice.

    This has got to be the most ignorant point I’ve ever seen you make. The point of the thread was how the MSM treats one of their own differently than one of our troops. That definition you gave was deranged and you left it unchanged after I asked you to explain it. The craziest moonbat in the last 50 years would have trouble coming up with a more evil description. It’s good to know where we really stand with you. I had really hoped that I just missed something.

    Stashiu3 (ed6467)

  16. It’s not clear if other media sources declined to cover Bergdahl’s capture

    Pentagon reporters on July 1 disclosed a soldier missing from his post after wandering off with Afghanis. He was feared captured. On July 2, CNN quoted “a senior U.S. military official” saying the soldier was “being held by a notorious militant clan” having been sold to its leader by “low-level militants.”

    I don’t think this all leaked from an embedded reporter. He would be burned and useless -perhaps even left to die – by jeopardizing the unit protecting him.

    steve (f352b5)

  17. He would be burned and useless –perhaps even left to die – by jeopardizing the unit protecting him.
    Comment by steve — 7/20/2009 @ 5:29 am

    Another one… great.

    Stashiu3 (ed6467)

  18. small-s steve can always be counted on for gibberish, Stash.

    JD (5375e6)

  19. There was July 2 reporting that the Pentagon posted a $25,000 reward to any Afghan national for information about the soldier’s whereabouts. FOX News’ piece [July 2] sourced to a “U.S. defense official” said it was possible the captured soldier was “disaffected” and wandered off with some Afghanis his unit was training.

    “He was not of sound mind when he did what he did. Not smart,” the official said.

    And now the Pentagon is blaming the BBC for breaking a blackout embargo during the same news cycle it’s anonymously trashing the captured soldier? This is awful for his family. They only added to their burden.

    steve (f352b5)

  20. Bergdahl says in the video that he was captured when he lagged behind on a patrol.

    However, Defense officials said it appeared he somehow left his base in Paktika Province at night, likely accompanied by several Afghan soldiers, and that his disappearance wasn’t noted until the following day when his body armor and rifle were found in his quarters. There were some reports that Bergdahl had wandered off drunk with the Afghan soldiers.

    see what they did there?

    happyfeet (c75712)

  21. I see the LA Times is helpfully assisting Taliban propaganda this morning by showing a picture of the hostage. He’s a dead man… will the LA Times post the eventual execution video on their web site? (Accompanied by an editorial saying we must not have any anti-Islamic feelings…)

    Jack (1a3562)

  22. Notice how it is never people on the ground that make these anonymous statements that asshats like steve like to point to, it is anonymous defense department officials, that are so brave they will not allow their name to be used while they are throwing a soldier to the wolves.

    JD (d55760)

  23. steve,

    It’s hard to know what happened here because there are so many different stories circulating about this capture, but I think the statement to CNN by the senior military officer occurred after the BBC report had been was published. It’s also possible the media cooperated by protecting the soldier’s identity but that’s not clear either.

    DRJ (8b9d41)

  24. Jack – That is an unequivocal no. They refused to show video of Barcky speaking with Khalidi that they had in their possession during the campaign. That which does not support Teh Narrative must be suppressed.

    JD (cc3aa7)

  25. And now the Pentagon is blaming the BBC for breaking a blackout embargo during the same news cycle it’s anonymously trashing the captured soldier? This is awful for his family. They only added to their burden.

    Comment by steve — 7/20/2009
    ——-
    What makes any of you actually think these anonymous quotes are actually from Pentagon officials and aren’t simply products of the “Jason Blair school of journalism?”

    The press has been writing AQ/Al Sadr/Taliban/etc. propaganda for the past 8 years just fine without DoD help. And if they need a named source, they can go to Jack Murtha or some other Congressional Democrat.

    Steve (89f020)

  26. steve, how is the pentagon anonymously trashing this soldier?

    You do realize that millions of people work for the DoD, right? As happyfeet noted, the alcohol and other comments just make it much easier for the Taliban to get away with murdering this soldier. It makes the Army look bad, though. It makes no sense for our military to want this information out there.

    And I suspect this soldier’s team, squad, platoon, company and battalion leadership are all really hating life right now thanks in part to this leak. I think it’s fair to suspect it’s from some jerk with nothing at stake.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  27. Amen, capital-S Steve. I wish you could teach the small-s one to think like a sentient being.

    JD (4cd453)

  28. Off topic – slightly. This incident pretty much proves that bin Laden is dead. Less than three weeks from capture the Taliban can make and release an almost broadcast quality video of this captive but can’t manage to release a decent video of bin Laden? No real videos that are not plagued with video freeze frames and bad quality audio? It’s not like he was real shy before 9/11 or even after.

    Have Blue (854a6e)

  29. Have Blue, I hope one day the CIA explains what the hell its reasoning is behind pretending Bin Laden is alive and supporting the propaganda claims of al qaida to that effect.

    But you’re right… it’s pretty obvious at this point.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  30. Ralph Peters is not very sympathetic to the soldier and believes he is a deserter or worse. I don’t know what happened but this is all pretty strange.

    MIke K (90939b)

  31. Mike, it’s possible this man had a mental problem or was a deserter… I mean, the military has problem individuals occasionally. but I really wish people would save this discussion until after the situation has ended.

    The Lt Col Ralph Peters video disgusts me. He’s judging the man for ‘collaborating with the enemy’, when we all know he is probably facing true severity if he doesn’t read the words in front of him. He’s just surviving, and even our truest heroes break at some point. Calling him a liar was way over the line. Saying the media needs to stop calling him a hero was crass. This Ralph Peters is a jerk trying to be sensational and cutting edge. Every single soldier is a hero, even the ones who lose their head. If he’s a traitor, then of course he’s no hero, but there’s no evidence of that.

    This man will probably pay for whatever mistakes he made with his life, and I wish people would just realize that most of our information comes from unreliable sources.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  32. Juan, there are some odd things about the story. There was another deserter story that was never explained. I think Peters is a bit over the top in his reaction. I feel sorry for the family, at least.

    Mike K (90939b)

  33. Mike, I agree completely. I’ll be surprised if this soldier can explain this, but I don’t think that’s as important right now.

    That guy is a good example of why I can’t stand to watch TV news. Everyone is trying to top everyone else and we wind up having half birds calling current POWs ‘LIAR!!!!’

    Juan (bd4b30)

  34. Mike, I should point out I wasn’t talking about Hassoun, the Lebanese POW deserter. That guy appears to be a loser at best. Probably much worse.

    His family reminds me of my own. I served in the Army, and my father, an Iranian, has endlessly flawed things to say about my service. I have no idea where it comes from and he’s otherwise reasonable, but he’s always thought military service was a bad thing warranting an excuse. I wonder how much of that explains Hassoun’s family saying he was forced into the Marines. Of course, military service in an Islamic country is not quite as honorable or as prestigious as it is here. You’d think a man who managed to become a Marine would understand that.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  35. Juan, I’m not happy that Ralph Peters made those comments, but I believe that Peters really has that opinion. He’s a pretty straight shooter if a bit blunt at times.

    SPQR (5811e9)

  36. Just not on our (the military’s) side.

    htom (412a17)

  37. Are you refering to Peters, htom? I would strongly disagree. Lt. Col. Ralph Peters has always been on our side.

    SPQR (5811e9)

  38. I think the statement to CNN by the senior military officer occurred after the BBC report had been was published.

    Based on what guidance?

    What makes any of you actually think these anonymous quotes are actually from Pentagon officials and aren’t simply products of the “Jason Blair school of journalism?”

    Because they were filed July 2 by CNN and Fox News Pentagon-based reporters during their respective day shifts.

    The Pentagon works in mysterious ways but it leaks what and when it has to. It’s not logical they would hustle up a reward offer and list background details on the soldier’s Tuesday movements just as a BBC embargo breach occurred.

    How many sit-downs with ADM Mullins and GEN Petreaus do you imagine Barbara Starr would score after burning Pentagon sources over a captured soldier?

    I think some Pentagon PIOs who routinely drop by their cubicles and get out daily briefings did the damage here.

    steve (e62210)

  39. The “media” will work this story to death because they could care less if this soldier dies….the silence of the “media” on the NY Times reporter was them protecting themselves. There is a reason the “media” has less trust than the Congress it is because Americans see through their cabal (hattip to Michael Steele) and ignore them!

    Jaded (2dcf17)

  40. steve, I thought the reward offer and other things like that were made in Afghanistan and kept off the airwaves.

    I don’t think you’re making much sense to think some random troop dashing by a cubicle = The Pentagon deciding to leak information.

    Not that I really understand that argument you’re trying to make. ‘The Pentagon’ wants this man returned safely and it wants as little negative information about him or soldiers in general released as possible. No one of decision making authority wants to slime this kid, even if he is guilty of whatever random things some jerk LTC says on fox.

    SPQR, this LTC may be a really great guy, and I get that he’s ‘speaking from the heart from the hip’, but in this case he crossed the line. I am not familiar with him, and I think he’s symptomatic of TV news trying to distill everything into 5 second ideas. There was a more respectful way to explain that the ‘straggler’ story was ridiculous and that there are a lot of odd details to this story than to shout that this POW, likely a dead man soon, ‘is a liar!!!!’

    It’s extremely easy to be on the side of the troops that don’t make mistakes. Being in Afghanistan is so difficult for some of our men that I support the ones who do. To a point. I’m willing to give this man the benefit of the doubt until I have much better info. This LTC was not.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  41. Juan, as I said, Peters can be blunt. Nor do I always agree with him but I’ve been following Ralph Peters’ writings for decades now and think that he’s a deeper thinker than you realize.

    SPQR (5811e9)

  42. steve, I thought the reward offer and other things like that were made in Afghanistan and kept off the airwaves.

    Well, it was at the top of the July 2 FOX News piece reported by Pentagon-based correspondent Jennifer Griffin. I think they’d take her badge at the gate if she purposely and with malice aforethought misrepresented a military background briefer during a missing/captured soldier crisis. Same with CNN, notwithstanding Susan Roesgen’s still-black eye.

    steve (e62210)

  43. steve, do you have an argument? I don’t understand what you’re trying to prove. You certainly haven’t refuted my point.

    Just because something is eventually reported doesn’t mean it wasn’t kept off the airwaves as long as possible.

    no one accused the press of malice… just of a double standard. Which is brutally and basically obvious. Are you saying there is no double standard, or are you just saying that because information eventually got out there that the pentagon doesn’t try to minimize the flow of information about POWs.

    I just honestly don’t know what you’re going for.

    SPQR, I’m glad the LTC isn’t fully characterized by the video I saw. I make mistakes too. But I’m still not cool with it.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  44. steve:

    I think the statement to CNN by the senior military officer occurred after the BBC report had been was published.

    Based on what guidance?

    Because the BBC report was at 23:50 UK time on 7/2/2009, and the CNN report at 8:45 PM EST the same day. The UK is 5 hours ahead of the East Coast, which means the BBC report was published approximately 1 hour before the American media report.

    DRJ (6f3f43)

  45. I wonder how the Brits would feel if the situations were reversed and the American media released a story about a UK soldier.

    JEA (9c25cd)

  46. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8160297.stm

    I was going to close GITMO before I decided to keep it open.

    ROTFLMAO!!!

    Are any ObamaTards going to come to their senses?

    HeavenSent (641cde)

  47. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8160150.stm

    Leftist dictators need not worry. Press will never hold you to the same standard.

    Funny enuff, Fujimori was everything Peru needed and he really helped turn around that dust heap but Socialism and Victimologist Politics runs deep in them parts.

    HeavenSent (641cde)

  48. http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/07/20/afghanistan.us.troops.killed/index.html

    Obama is sending our boys to die in a war we can’t win.

    Where is the MSM hysteria??

    I like these news stories for double standard columns.

    HeavenSent (641cde)

  49. HeavenSent,

    You should consider posting at The Jury.

    DRJ (6f3f43)

  50. #49, Why?

    HeavenSent (641cde)

  51. (SPQR — the Press.)

    htom (412a17)

  52. Because the BBC report was at 23:50 UK time on 7/2/2009, and the CNN report at 8:45 PM EST the same day.

    DRJ, those are time-stamped for web update write-throughs.

    In point of fact, the soldier’s capture was reported on CNN’s air in the 6am hour [EDT] on July 2:

    BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the U.S. military just releasing an official statement a short while ago saying a soldier who was missing from his unit since Tuesday now believed to be captured by militants. The U.S. military saying they are exhausting all available resources in their words to try and get him back. What that means, of course, is operations are under way at this hour to try and find this man and get him back. By all accounts, they believe this happened in eastern Afghanistan. And, John, by all accounts, this was not a combat situation where there was a firefight and someone was captured.

    The working theory right now, sources tell us, is that this soldier, for some reason, was outside the wire, outside a camp base on his own. That is the working theory about what has happened. No one can explain the circumstances.

    The family has been informed, we are told. But the name of the captured soldier has not been released. Obviously, there is a good deal of concern about this and a good deal of concern that the Taliban could broadcast some sort of video claiming that the man they will show is this man. None of that confirmed yet.

    steve (e62210)

  53. Good find, steve. That certainly casts doubt on part of my argument but it doesn’t change the DOD’s claim that “if it hadn’t been for the BBC reporting on the missing soldier on July 2, the military would have kept the capture quiet.” I don’t have any reason to doubt that statement at this point. Do you?

    DRJ (6f3f43)

  54. HeavenSent,

    Because you might enjoy taking the stories you are interested in and sharing them with others in a post. It’s fun.

    DRJ (6f3f43)

  55. I don’t have any reason to doubt that statement at this point. Do you?

    I think heads rolled at the Pentagon press center when leaks implying the missing soldier had displayed errant or rogue judgment could not be plausibly disowned. Chumping the BBC became a backstory face-saver. It’s pretty tough to reconcile the timeframe anomaly of an official Pentagon statement ready before dawn broke.

    steve (b5bb51)

  56. It depends on when the Pentagon learned about the BBC story. Dawn in the U.S. is almost Noon in the UK, and I assume the BBC contacted someone in the U.S. military for confirmation or comment before publishing its story.

    DRJ (6f3f43)

  57. DRJ – I was spot on in #4. You are a more patient and far betterer person than I.

    JD (bdcd86)

  58. I assume the BBC contacted someone in the U.S. military for confirmation or comment before publishing its story.

    You do? And the flak who confirmed it now SWEARS he told them not to run it. I’m pretty sure that is not the way the Pentagon fields inquiries involving a missing or captured soldier.

    steve (b5bb51)

  59. I always assume that if someone is unwilling to put their name to a quote, they are lying or the reporter is making it up.

    JD (355e34)

  60. If you were correct in your analysis, steve, then why didn’t the BBC report that a Department of Defense official lied when s/he said the BBC report came first? After all, wouldn’t it be a media coup to show the U.S. military lied to the press and public regarding who announced the soldier’s capture?

    DRJ (6f3f43)

  61. After all, wouldn’t it be a media coup to show the U.S. military lied to the press and public regarding who announced the soldier’s capture?

    The BBC would look like a petulant 5th grader complaining about a phantom accuser.

    Here’s what I guess happened:

    On July 1, the Pentagon briefed a Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown (DUSTWUN) soldier in Afghanistan. They’re not routinely reported because an innocent explanation often applies and it’s quickly a non-story.

    You have a worried family in Idaho. Friends go online. The local paper or TV station picks it up and them some McClatchy, Fox, ABC or CNN affiliate is requesting the mother ship check with their Pentagon correspondent. The overnight Pentagon press release is probably the product of several media inquiries, not just one. The DUSTWUN was already out there.

    And the military “official” who told FOX News the soldier was “not smart” and “not of sound mind when he did what he did” – should be re-assigned.

    steve (b5bb51)

  62. steve, your last comment makes a lot of sense to me. Reasonable and intelligent.

    But that staffer who should be reassigned (at best) isn’t The Pentagon.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  63. It is the military’s fault for the media having a double standard.

    JD (28f89b)

  64. […] wondered before about a media double-standard in comparing the months of secrecy the media afforded the Rohde […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » Another New York Times’ Reporter Freed in Afghanistan (e4ab32)


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