Monday, March 24, 2003

Bad News: I posted not too long ago on the inevitibility of bad news. I'd like to revise and extend my remarks, as they say. Firstly, read this WaPo piece, the gist of which seems to be that some Americans have been killed, wounded, or captured. Examine that headline: "U.S. Losses Expose Risks, Raise Doubts About Strategy." Ye gods, man! It's war! I confess to my own dreary feelings this weekend, but I never assumed losses on our side meant anything but that victory could be slow and painful. To say that the loss of 20 soldiers may indicate a faulty war plan is one of those moronic trueisms; it's not exactly wrong (after all, anything's possible, including the prophet himself showing up with a Kalashnikov), but it is painfully stupid. Sometimes I fear that what al Qaeda thinks of us is true: we can't take the casualties; we'll pull out as soon as the death toll takes a sharp climb; America has no stomach for a real war. The press is certainly hitting the panic button.

Second, think of what bad news means for our side. We have reporters traveling with units ... are you hearing me? We let our press tag along, for god's sake. You can be damn sure that an Iraqi unit taking a shell up the ass from an Abrams tank is not appearing on Iraqi TV. Nobody from al Jazeera is standing up in press briefings and asking the Iraqi version of Tommy Franks, "How can you explain how crappy this has all gone?" or "Given that 8,000 Iraqi regulars just surrendered in Umm Qasar, don't you think it's time to reevaluate your battle plans?" In addition, we have few reporters on the ground in Baghdad, and they're likely restricted to their hotel balcony. All the good news from the bombing is locked up for at least a few more days. That being the case, the networks have to show something, and bad news will sell as well as good.

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