I observed that three articles on conditions in Ramadi and al Anbar Province had appeared within a week of each other giving entirely different points of view. Mine and one in the Times of London said we’re winning the war in Ramadi; a Washington Post A1 story co-authored by “Fiasco” author Thomas Ricks claimed exactly the opposite. The difference, I said, could be explained simply. I and the Times writer reported from Ramadi. Ricks and his co-author have not only never been to Ramadi, they wrote their piece from Washington.
Preemptive note: we can expect Anonymous Moron in the comments section to chime in with the chronic mindless “chickenhawk” attack on me any minute now, because, you see, I’m not allowed to criticize the media reporting in Iraq unless I go myself. He or she never disappoints.
Why are we watching AP repeat the same basic mistake that CBS committed with Dan Rather’s fake-but-accurate National Guard debacle?
Two words: “Everybody knows.” Anyone who has studied anthropology, sociology or mass psychology understands how false beliefs can become conventional wisdom within groups if (a) high-status individuals within the group advocate the belief, and (b) there is no one inside the group to dispute the false belief.
That, in short, is the herd-mentality explanation of why liberal bias pervades the MSM. It’s also the explanation of the Heaven’s Gate cult (whose members acted on the belief that they must commit suicide in order to be taken aboard a cosmic mothership traveling behind the Hale-Bopp comet). Where group membership is dependent upon shared belief, where skepticism of key beliefs is viewed as disloyalty to the group, and where non-believers are stigmatized, marginalized and excluded, the truth or falsehood of group beliefs is moot. Logic and evidence, so far as they might undermine belief, are unwelcome. This is how it becomes possible for groups to act upon false beliefs.
It’s one of those stories too good to fact check, because they want so badly to believe anything bad about Iraq (read: bad about Bush).