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The bottom line on the Newsweek/Koran story

| 29 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

All of our wonderful debates here in blogosphere concerning issues of media bias, press culture, accountability, anonymous sources, et al. more or less amount to nothing, zilch, nada over putting an end to the reason that people are so up in arms over what happened to begin with: the riots and the subsequent deaths that resulted from them.

And to be quite frank, this retraction and the sort-of retraction that proceeded it means absolutely nothing as far as putting an end to what prompted the reason we're all talking about this to begin with.

At this point, we'd be extremely hard-pressed to convince Juan Cole that there isn't at least a plausible case (I believe those were the words he used) that the Koran desecration didn't occur. The commenters over at Daily Kos even more so, with a number of them adopting the view that Newsweek was pressured by the US government into issuing a retraction.

And if they can find such a conspiracy theory noteworthy, what do you think can be said for the Taliban propagandists as well as the Hizb-ut-Tahrir and MMA activists who have been spreading this crap around for the last 4 years and took full advantage of it when they had a reputable Western media outlet to bolster their party line. And as long as there is a case that can be made (and is being made right now as I speak - much of it by Americans) that the story was accurate and was only retracted under pressure from the US government, people who were once far less eager to buy into jihadi propaganda are now going to be far more likely to do so.

This is the ultimate result of all of this and there is not a damn thing that Newsweek or the US government can do about it. It goes back to something I noted when bin Laden and his Americian minion showed up on video quoting from Fahrenheight 9/11 and making references to everything from stolen elections in Florida in 2000 to the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts: some of the nuttier stuff that is repeated here that we kind of shrug off as crazy talk can have deadly consequences when it gets repeated overseas.

The bottom line, however, is that al-Qaeda scored a propaganda victory this time around. This ain't red or blue issue either and all the people who have (accurately) pointed out that al-Qaeda is using the war in Iraq or what happened at Abu Ghraib as a recruiting engine need to consider that much the same is true of this story. Let us all do what we can to make sure they don't score another one, yes?

UPDATE: A fuller analysis from Joe and Robin looks critically at Newsweek's practices, links to public surveys re: media bias and credibility, and explains how a lack of diversity in the modern media may have been an important contributor to this al-Qaeda victory: "Newsweek Shows Us Why Media Trust Is Plummeting."

2 TrackBacks

Tracked: May 17, 2005 3:55 AM
natural selections from evolution
Excerpt: » Check out a Palestinian Authority sermon over at Jihad Watch. Let’s give them their own state! » This didn’t work for Rather, and it’s not going to work for Loseweek (LGF). » One writer takes on (lazy, self-sati...
Tracked: May 17, 2005 5:19 AM
Newsweek Aftermath from Dadmanly
Excerpt: Two excellent "post mortem" summaries at Winds of Change. This story won't be truly "post mortem" for years, as Newsweek's carelessness and utter disregard of the outrage and violent response this would cause will reverberate (and kill) for years to come.


Let us all do what we can to make sure they don't score another one, yes?

Whos us ?

Those Americans that rejoice over our fallen as usefull political props ? Do so, make a Film that defends a regime guilty of crimes agaist Humanity, and you get moved from the cheap seats to your arm around president Carter, fresh from blessing the castro of the americas taking his new order of 100,000 machine guns.

The leftist media is the willing propagandists of our enemy, and they dont give a damn what damage they must do to regain power.

A mass grave of kids, of what gravity is that, its NOTHING compared to rumsfeld signing a letter with an autopen in the eyes of Americas 5th collumn.

Compare the media coverage of both discoveries.

Case closed.

Every day the drumbeat of lies and distorton continues, day after day, a legacy of leftist hostility that extends back to Durranty.

Frankly, if this is all they can find, and with the scrutiny we are under, its litteraly proof defacto that America is performing up to the level of near perfect angellic beings, considering the imperfections inherent in humans.

Even the misbehavior at the prison was descovered only because the military was investigating and already well in the process of punishing the misbehavior, long before the media discover a usefull tool to attack America with, to discredit America with. they knew what they was doing.

They are our enemy within, they hate us, and hate everything we stand for, as much or more, than our enemies elsewhere. and they are attacking us, all you need to do, is look at that the left are doing to the kids.

Its all part of "Tear it All Down".

The way to solve this problem for good is greater transparency at Guantanamo.

Now you understand the rationale for the command, "Take no prisoners!"

That third worlders could imagine something the size of the Koran being "flushed" down the loo makers sense if you have ever been there and seen their facilities. A "flush toilet" in that part of the world is a squat hole with a short garden hose nearby in big cities and "fancy" hotels only. For someone like Cole to envision this sort of thing means he is either willfully blind, or he hasn't spent much time with his plumber working on those small pipes and low flush devices we all have to actuate 3 times to complete our business. My toilet gets clogged on 2 Ply; perhaps Cole is a cheap skate and only buys the cheap 1 Ply brands, which wouldn't surprise me.

I'll be quite up-front in saying that I doubt that would solve anything. Gitmo has been so villified as Auschwitz Reborn in the eyes of far too many people that we could have complete and total transparency and large numbers of people would still swear up and down that it was a torture chamber.

If they opened up Gitmo tomorrow, how many minds do you think that would change among Westerners, let alone in the Arab world? If we can't persuade our own people that we aren't flushing Korans down the toilet, how do we seriously expect to convince others who hold far less charitable opinions about outsiders in general and the character of the US government in particular. Doesn't mean we shouldn't have more transparency, but the idea that doing so would stop this kind of stuff from occurring strikes me as a very flaky rationale.

I think it is important to keep perspective here. The people responsible for the murder and death are the Islamic fanatics who committed them. I do not in any way wish to defend Newsweek's appallingly biased reporting and transparently rabid anti-Bush admin agenda, but let's get real:

These people only needed the flimsiest of excuses. Three years ago it was a comment by a beauty pageant contestant. Prior to that it was an author. What's next? A joke by a comedian? Boxers vs. briefs? Creamy vs. chunky peanut butter?

The sad fact is is that as long as we do nothing to address the unending geyser of bile pouring out of the mosques the world over, only the flimsiest of excuses is necessary. We can't sit here, as many of us have argued, and say that "the Israeli-Palestinian issue" is simply an excuse (which it is) and then turn around and crucify Newsweek for "inciting Muslims"; especially to the extent we exonerate the people who will find any excuse justify their pre-existent twisted desire to hate and kill us.

Newsweek's offense, however egregious (and it was indeed egregious) does nothing to mitigate the fact that it is an ideology we are fighting, an ideology whose odium we are irrationally the focus of, but not responsible for.

Keith, no fan of your Al Gore potty ?

Untill that law is reversed, who knew old toilets would become heirlooms, to be repaired and reconditioned eternally untill the piece of leftist typical stupidity is reversed.

The leftist toilet works about as well as leftist thinking, as well as the leftist judgment when they saw a way to take a swing at the country they hate so much (untill their beloved communist utopia finnaly arrives).

No doubt when we repeal the Clinton/Gore "f..k you America!" ... "stroke of the pen, law of the land, kinda neat" that wastes twice as much water as it was posed to save, the dependable left will be beating us on the head about it, screaming that us evil advocates of freedom are attempting to destroy the planet.

Ohh there are those out to destroy alright, behold our accusers.

praktike: The way to solve this problem for good is greater transparency at Guantanamo.

The way to solve this problem ... for good? Are you serious?

I'm not sure which problem you mean - Newsweek or Islamic Fascism - but I don't see either one of them going away for good.

Face it: We could put every Al Qaeda prisoner up at the Grand Hyatt in New York and let them hold daily press conferences. Then we'd have riots until Darwinism took care of the problem.

At this point, we'd be extremely hard-pressed to convince Juan Cole that there isn't at least a plausible case (I believe those were the words he used) that the Koran desecration didn't occur.

Perhaps so, but, as Andrew Sullivan, among others, have pointed out, actual instances of prisoner abuse by the United States military has made the "Qu'ran flushing" story more than plausible, especially among those already predisposed to mistrust us.

In this case, the report of malfeasance, in the minds of those Muslims who were offended enough to start rioting and killing people, transformed into actual malfeasance. Forget about Cole or the Kos crowd. Their opinions about this are essentially meaningless, no matter how much they may like to deride so-called "keyboard warriors." They're sitting behind computers posting comments on the internet like the rest of us, so who really cares whether or not they can be convinced that Newsweek wasn't actually in the wrong?

The ones whose opinions count -- angry Muslims who are on the edge of violence as it is -- have become increasingly willing believe the stories, no matter how false they may be.

Incidents like Abu Ghraib have only served to make any reported incident, true or false, that much more believable.

I agree, which is why what happened at Abu Ghraib was so bad to begin with.

Vincent certainly has a point. Two years ago my reaction to this story would have been a reflexive "bunk". Now when faced with stories like this I'm resigned to contemplate (though not assume) the worst and dig through the reports.

I watched the WaPo's Robin Wright on Chris Mathews show tonight - she referred to a set of rules concerning the handling of the Quran at Gitmo.

According to her the rules were formulated very early on, and are extremely deferential and strict. (To the extent that they would be the subject of an anti-dhimmitude rant of their own at LGF et al). [Anybody know if these rules are online?]

Andrew Sullivan (among others) cites a number of allegations of cases of religious disrespect against prisoners at Gitmo as reasons to give credibility to the reports of Quran abuse. But given the strict regime around the Quran handling (non-Muslims are apparently not permitted to touch the Quran at Gitmo), we have a substantial reason to doubt the authenticity of any such claim of Quran abuse, even in the face of documented instances of other abuse.

Though I will note that investigations and charges were underway re: Abu Ghraib before the media showed up to report the story, and proceded to sensationalize it across the world in a manner that would not have been permitted in previous wars.

People were going to be punished, severely, without the media's involvement. One could argue that the only thing the media's involvement changed was the endangerment of American lives... though there's a school of thought, and one I partly subscribe to, that says the clear example of in transparency and public accountability had a lot of beneficial results too.

And media biases do play a role. Compare and contrast media coverage of Abu Ghraib to the tone, length, intensity etc. of coverage given to Saddam's mass graves et. al. Or the things we found in Fallujah.

We can demand justice and accountability for Abu Ghraib's abuses, and also demand justice and accountability from our media.

The difference is that in the media, they think themselves above such things.

They're not.

I agree with #6, Johnny Mozart, the biggest story here is how inane the Muslim world is---killing people over some pieces of paper flushed down the toilet? That is crazy. Can you imagine if some Christians started killing people, because in the course of an investigation where they were interrogating someone they believed knew where someone was about to be killed, they ripped up a Bible in front of the person? Who would really care?

Are we supposed to be held hostage to Muslim insanity? Could it be that Newsweek made a mistake and the real problem is how waxed Muslims get over nothing?

The Koran is not the word of god, the Koran is god. For an infidel's dirty hands to even touch god is blasphemy. To flush a Koran down an infidel toilet is utter sacrilege. Newsweek is to be commended for revealing this vile side of infidel depravity. I do not blame Newsweek. No, I blame the infidel.

"I'm not sure which problem you mean - Newsweek or Islamic Fascism - but I don't see either one of them going away for good."

I was referring to leaks about alleged abuses at Guantanamo.

Several points:

1.A fundamentalist backlash is probably overdue in Afghanistan, particularly with Pakistani zealots fueling the fire. There is a reason this has been the most violent nation in the world. Our job is to ride it out and try to keep it from spreading to Iraq.

2._Without question_, the incidents at Abu Ghraib and Guantanimo have made this story plausible. Those pictures werent just horrific, they were disasterous. A level of stupidity breathtaking in scope and rarely paralleled in effect. Whether the abuse was systematic or there was simply faulty oversight is less important than the reality that it hasnt been addressed agressively. There are other prisons in the world, ones with less notariety.

3.Newsweek is a rag and has been for years.

4.Bush needs to make a trip to Afghanistan to retrieve this situation before things get really out of hand. By all accounts he is respected by friends and enemies in the region as a man of true faith. A trip to a mosque with Karzai could help.

First of all, we welcome the great shaytn Bush to visit our homeland. We will sharpen the long knives as we say.

Secondly, we are watching this issue of desecration of the Q'ran most closely. Now that the goat is out of the bag, as we say, you cannot deceive us with denials.

Thirdly, a few deaths over an issue of this magnitude is nothing. Come to my homeland with all of your friends and we will discuss this as reasonable people.

What is more, fool me once shame on you, fool me five times, shame on you even more, as we say. Enough talking. Send your important people to my homeland. We will accomodate them.


Atleast it is not a flag. Locking somebody up for burning a flag makes total sense.

The media is one of the tools a free society uses to ensure that it remains free. As much as I'm a supporter of the WoT, I'm not quite prepared to take the government's word for it that they're always doing the right thing.

The reason so many people found the Newsweek article plausible is because of what we know happened at Abu Ghraib. Yes, the army was well underway with investigating the abuse there before the media got wind of it. That's as it should be. But to me its a stretch to argue that it was unnecessary or unwise for the media to report on it. When properly functioning, the media helps keep the government honest -- both now, and the next time something like that comes along. Ignore it today, and tomorrow maybe someone takes just a little more (or a lot more) liberty with their misbehavior. Not a risk I'm willing to take.

As I see it, there are two problems here:

1) The media is not functioning properly. Far too many reporters and services are biased, uninformed, reactionary and arrogant. This needs to be fixed. But "fixing" the problem is far from suggesting that stories showing the U.S. in a bad light -- regardless of whether they may have negative consquences elsewhere -- should never be run.

2) The massive overreaction to the Newsweek story in Pakistan and Afghanistan does not reflect poorly on the U.S. You can try to spin it any way you want, but the simple truth is that rioting and killing because of a story they printed in Newsweek is NOT someting that happens in a civil, functioning society. That isn't the U.S.'s fault or problem, it's Islam's. And if Islam doesn't straighten itself out, more and more they stand the risk that someone else is going to do it for them.


BooPear makes a point that bears consideration.

What happened in the wake of this "Qur'an flushing" story is not solely the responsibility of Newsweek's shoddy journalism, nor is it entirely the fault of those responsible for Abu Ghraib.

The third dynamic in effect, here, is Muslim hypersensitivity and an undeniable proclivity to react with violence to percieved insults against Islam. See: Salman Rushdie, Theo van Gogh, etc. But, of course, this can't be the sole explanation, either.

Newsweek certainly deserves a healthy dose of criticism, as do violent mullahs and their ignorant followers, to say nothing of those moderate Muslims who refuse to stand up and loudly proclaim that these people do not -- or, at least, should not -- represent Islam. We as Americans must admit that, whether we like it or not, Abu Ghraib happened under our watch and tarnished greatly our reputation.

In short, there's plenty of blame to go around. Trying to pin it on one party or another, whether "the liberal media," "the neocon fascists," or "the ignorant Mussulmen" amounts to little more than scapegoatism.

Short answer: I agree with that, and said as much in
Newsweek Shows Us Why Media Trust is Plummeting

Having said that, Newsweek is NOT off the hook. As we demonstrate, Newsweek's conduct was pretty reckless, cut corners on long-established journalistic standards, and did so on a story where this kind of reaction was 100% predictable in advance. Among other problems.

There is no right to shout "fire" in a crowded theater.

Primary responsibilty does belong to the Islamofascists who incited this, and those who followed them. One day, they will answer for it before Allah. But Newsweek is also responsible for their own massive failures of conduct and responsibility.

As we explain, even the Pentagon is not totally blameless here - albeit not for the reasons the Left would have one believe.

Just to keep balanced on this Newsweek question, the item that was published was in a column of brief, mostly unrelated, one-off items, some of them reportedly speculative or even gossip-y. No excuse for getting the story wrong, true, but keep in mind they didn't run this as a feature story. I think they, like many of us, just didn't figure it was that big a deal. Mistaken, true, but also understandable.

I suspect that whoever was organizing the demonstrations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. was monitoring Western media looking for an article, any article, that they could use as the excuse to riot. We've seen this before, in fact, we've seen collaboration from the Islamist press in re-printing a western story with significant alterations when our press doesn't provide them the grist they need. So if it hadn't been Newsweek, it would have been a altered NYT story, doctored WaPo photos, whatever, reprinted in an Islamist paper.

It a paradoxical way, like Abu G., this is a bigger deal in the West than in the middle east at large. IMO, the middle east at large is already so convinced of our evil-ness, they are sure that Abu G is how most Muslims are treated every day in our every day criminal justice system. Even if we somehow managed to go a year without an embarrassing or sacrilegious incident, they'd easily convince themselves we (or more accurately, the Joooos) were suppressing the "real" news!

Where were the buddhist riots when the taliban blew up the 2500 year old historic indian buddhist statues in Afganistan with grenade launchers ?

The alleged desecration of a copy of the Qura'n pales in comparison.

I try not to judge but if small incidents like these spark riots it reflects badly upon muslims in my mind.

Bohemian, what is your opinion on flagburning. Do you think that people who have a problem with it are completely bonkers?

a, I'll let Bohemian speak for himself, but I don't at all think that people (like me) who have a problem with flag burning are bonkers. I do think that people who would riot and kill over it are bonkers. That seems like a significant difference to me.

"One day, they will answer for it before Allah."

Joe, Dan et alia. I am no Islamist, but after 9/11 I, like many others, read everything I could about Islam trying to understand what had happened. Bernard Lewis for one makes things quite clear regarding the Qu'ran. To desecrate this book is to desecrate Allah Himself--in this case to defecate on Allah. The world is divided between Muslims and the Enemies of God. Guess who we are. This sounds very simplistic,no? But this is the way it is. There is no God but Allah, the Christian Revelation is bogus and not worthy of respect or veneration. Jews and Christians can be tolerated as long as they are subservient to the Muslim master. Just try to bring a Jewish or Christian Bible into Saudi Arabia. Tolerance is a virtue as long as the Muslim sword is at the infidel throat. It is contrary to God's will for the infidel to have superiority of any kind in relation to the Muslim. Don't take my word for it, See, Bernard Lewis, "What Went Wrong?" passim.

These folks will not tolerate disrespect toward Islam from anyone--to tolerate an insult to Allah is unthinkable, which is why Al Queda teaches its operatives to claim abuse and disrespect has occured to stir up other Muslims. We may be astonished at the fatwa against Rushdie but Muslims are not. These folks aren't going to answer to Allah for anything. They think they are doing Allah's will and that virgins await them in Paradise--once they restore God's plan by achieving ascendency over the infidel.


Let's just say I think the Islamists are in for a bit of a rude shock when they finally receive the divine encounter they profess to desire so. Allah also tells them that one shall not venerate idols, and that saving the life of a single person is the equivalent of saving the world (and yes, Judaism had that first - others are welcome to steal it). That brain which so distinguishes your species? You were supposed to use it, and use it for good.

If you're an ethical monotheist, there isn't a god for each religion, there's one G-d. That has consequences re: a universal morality, one the Islamists transgress as a matter of routine. And all are called to account, in the end.

Otherwise, you know, they could save themselves the trouble and just talk to AllahPundit online, whose entire comic premise is that he plays the role as if The One really was what the Islamists think.

"Judaism had that first"

I think G-d had that first!

Love you guys,

Fred, making laws that lock people up is not bonkers but doing it yourself is? I find that a weird proppsition, especially if the people who want to do it themself don't live in a country in which you can change the law or where problems are solved by going to the state's courthouse.

(and yes, Judaism had that first -

How do you know that? Especially when Judaisme (like every other human artifact) is build on previous human inventions. The number of Bible stories that are rewritten versions of older stories are obviously quite large.

If you're an ethical monotheist, there isn't a god for each religion, there's one G-d. That has consequences re: a universal morality, one the Islamists transgress as a matter of routine.

You can make that statement broader. It is not only most Muslims that transgress it as a matter of routine but most followers of monotheisme.

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