Saturday, October 15, 2005

Spreading myths

No wonder many people have the impression the mainstream media is biased against Bush to the point of dishonesty - it is! This paragraph from a recent Tina Brown column has been making the rounds of the blogosphere:
The former chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain, Lord Palumbo, who lunched with Mrs. T six months ago, told me recently what she said when he asked her if, given the intelligence at the time, she would have made the decision to invade Iraq. "I was a scientist before I was a politician, Peter," she told him carefully. "And as a scientist I know you need facts, evidence and proof -- and then you check, recheck and check again. The fact was that there were no facts, there was no evidence, and there was no proof. As a politician the most serious decision you can take is to commit your armed services to war from which they may not return."
In fact this is a typically unreliable representation of reality, which is more evident after reading this excellent post (via The Wide Awake Cafe). Here is a summary of the main points from the comments:
The story should be treated with high skepticism because it is sorely lacking in journalistic integrity. The headline conveys as fact that Thatcher has turned on Bush. This is how dozens of exuberant bloggers on the left and dozens of depressed bloggers on the right have read the story. Two leftists transmitted orally a recollection of a private conversation from six months ago with the most consistently aggressive instigator of deposing Saddam as a nuclear threat and coincidentally come away hearing left-wing anti-war talking points?
Then the article implies that "silence is assent" because her office didn't deny on the spot the specific words of a private conversation? As I emphasized, her secretary strongly contradicted the main implication of the story--that she had turned 180 degrees on the war. Why did the article have to then be rushed into print? It was one day from the time Tina Brown published her column until the time when the Independent researched, wrote and published their story. I strongly doubt that there was time for Thatcher's secretary to contact an 80-year-old in ill health and return an answer to the reporter with her specific comments when she had withdrawn from public life long ago.
Clearly they were trying to tie the story to Thatcher's 80th birthday party. When I first saw the story, I automatically connected the story to the celebration and assumed she had denounced the war there.
Do read the whole post which has more arguments and all the links. After noting that Margaret Thatcher was and remains a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, I wonder how crass one has to be to run a partial and unconfirmed quote of an 80-year-old lady just to dishonestly score political points.

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