Have Faith or Pandemonium/Liable to Walk Upon the Scene

by Belle Waring on August 3, 2004

I have it on excellent authority that small kittens have done literally dozens of impossibly cute things in Iraq, yesterday alone. But are we going to read about that in the so-called paper of record? No, it’s all “there was this coordinated attack on Christian churches”, and “militants kill Turkish hostage; trucking group withdraws from Iraq over safety concerns.” As Tacitus blogger Bird Dog rightly asks, “Which is actually more newsworthy, something we hear about every day (terrorist bombings) or previously unheard of signs that Iraqis are stepping forth and taking steps to restore their country?” Signs like that one time in Mosul, when the kitten pretended to stalk and pounce on that dented beer cap, like it was a mouse or something, and everybody laughed. Remember that? Right before the mortar attack, remember?



Giles 08.03.04 at 12:24 pm

right on – last week some kittens who were applying to join the police force and bang there they went! Hey I laughted at that!

But I get your point – Iraqi’s are essentially kittens – cute and ineffectual. But they make great mascots!!


Dave F 08.03.04 at 1:02 pm

Sure, how can it possibly matter that Iraqis want democracy and civil rights even though the bombers are killing them personally for wanting to join the police. Who cares what they want or how they are trying to achieve it despite being blown to smithereens for it.

You’re not making sense, pussy cat.


mc 08.03.04 at 1:23 pm

Oh well, there’s also a lot of very cute things happening in Afghanistan that no one wants to talk about.

In fact, better not talk about Afghanistan, period.

Hopefully we’ll have another war soon, so we can forget about Iraq, too.


Anon Again 08.03.04 at 1:30 pm

Bird Dog says a lot …

Some local radio deejays were also behaving badly. Had Bono not dumped manure in front of a gay couple’s house and if the gay rights parade had political elements to it, I could see where he might have had a case. But to me, the act of dumping manure is no more a free speech right than the act of burning an American flag. There are plenty of other ways to express dissatisfaction.

Guess you are just feeling snarky.


Jack 08.03.04 at 1:32 pm

Well that’s hardly news is it dave? Now if there were some big arrests or signs that the amnesty had made a big difference that would be news. As for BDs example of welcome developments in Iraqi Archaeology you can’t be very pleased by that without being really upse by the looting and pillaging elsewhere but that would be the sort of bad news focus that BD complains about. You know, lost a pound and found a penny.

That said there is a problem with the attention span of newspapers and broadcast media. You only get a direction, not the big picture and not much reporting of anything that happens slowly or steadily.


james 08.03.04 at 2:23 pm

Belle’s point, surely is that the reporting of Christian churches being attacked is particularly going to rile Christian voters in America, some of whom couldn’t have cared less about Mosques being bombed, and it may well increase American voters’ sympathy for the occupying forces.

She’s right too to mock Tacitus’ response because focussing exclusively on ‘the positive side’ of Iraqi ‘reconstruction’ is also in danger of playing into those same reactionary hands, adding some semblence that an immoral and illegal invasion can be legitimated retrospectively. It can’t.

And Dave F, do you think joining the police force (in any country) is a politically neutral and morally unequivocal act?


asg 08.03.04 at 2:49 pm

Funny, I must have missed the part where Tacitus says that the press should focus *exclusively* on the positive aspects of the reconstruction. Surely you aren’t implying that a more balanced, even-handed coverage of the reconstruction effort ought to be opposed for purely political reasons?


Carlos 08.03.04 at 2:56 pm

Perhaps editors are worried about kitten fatigue. Of course, they could use puppies, horsies, and rainbows, checking with focus groups when to switch.

Not babies, though. Too risky. And after all, people have babies every day; what’s so newsworthy about that?

(And Bird Dog would then say we’re humanizing the enemy too much. But who cares what he thinks.)



james 08.03.04 at 3:01 pm

Nope, if my reading of Belle is correct (and there’s a bit too much satire for even me to decode) she’s saying a kitten-carried plague on both reporting houses – both the religiously inflammatory and the rose-tinted. The solution: tell it like it is.


David W. 08.03.04 at 3:01 pm

Excuse me, but I’ve just had this epiphany and I must tell you about it! Not only could the situation in Iraq be better than what’s being reported, it could in fact actually be worse! Isn’t that a mind bending concept? Keanu? Keanu?


Andrew Boucher 08.03.04 at 3:04 pm

“And Dave F, do you think joining the police force (in any country) is a politically neutral and morally unequivocal act?”

Next time someone robs you, I hope you debate first the apparently morally equivocal act of calling on the help of this same police force (in your country).


roger 08.03.04 at 3:04 pm

Actually, instead of a more balanced and evenhanded coverage of the reconstruction, I’d love to see a more skeptical one — coverage that investigates exactly why American tax dollars are flowing to big corporations that apparently can’t follow through on their water projects, their electric power plant reconstructions, their sewage treatment plants, while systematically ignoring local expertise at cheaper prices. I think that coverage would be awesome. How about an in-depth report that compared the repairs to the power grid after the first Gulf war, under Saddam, with the repairs now, asking the always timely question — why did the Americans feel they had to import expertise from America, rather than use the people at hand? Could it be… gosh, that a group of interested, inbred corporations, with close relationships with the current administration, engulfed major tranches of tax payer money with minimum supervision to do below average work, under the benign supervision of a Pentagon honeycombed with conflict of interest?
Oh… dear me, I’m getting all pessimistic sounding again.


BigMacAttack 08.03.04 at 3:38 pm

Bird Dog is way off base.

The headon that killed a mom yesterday on 195 is news.

The safe arrival of millions of commuters is not news.

That is just the nature of news.

The Chruch bombings are the news but if anyone thinks the news definitively reflects the complete state of Iraq, let alone the future of Iraq, they are badly mistaken.


mc 08.03.04 at 3:51 pm

asg: surely you’re not implying that there’s any kind of definition of ‘balanced, even-handed coverage’ that considers terrorist bombings NOT newsworthy? or LESS THAN whatever good and great things are going on in the meantime?

Because that’s what Mr Bird Dog was saying right there, and it just doesn’t make sense. If in doubt, try and apply the same to a terrorist bombing in Israel. Let’s hear complaints that when a bus blows up the media are making TOO much of a fuss about it and are not telling us about the people quietly enjoying drinks at the cafe right beside the bus stop. Can you imagine that?

david w -“Not only could the situation in Iraq be better than what’s being reported, it could in fact actually be worse! Isn’t that a mind bending concept? ”

Totally mind bending. It would only be more mind-bending if you were actually living in Iraq and came across a debate on whether the coverage about Iraq isn’t perhaps a tad too pessimist.

But no, people who are _not_ in Iraq want to hear more good news, so let’s give them more good news, because it’s their feelings that matter. They have a right to feel good. So the media has a duty to make them feel good. That’s what fair and balanced media is for. The rest, the unfair and unbalanced media, clearly cater to the catastrophist anti-americans just by making such a big deal of bombings. Obviously such irrelevant events are turned into prime newsworthy material only to satisfy the rotten glee of those who don’t much trust the handling of the situation in Iraq.


Carlos 08.03.04 at 4:39 pm

It’s just basic cognitive therapy: reframing the situation so that Americans who otherwise would be seriously interested in staying the course towards national greatness in Iraq don’t fall in the black, Prozac-y pits of despair and depression.

In other words, a Tic-Tac tactic.


Morgoth 08.03.04 at 5:15 pm

an immoral and illegal invasion

Complete horsedung.

So stopping Saddam killing another million of his people is immoral then?

And which *laws* did the invasion break, exactly?


praktike 08.03.04 at 5:43 pm

Now, here’s a young Iraqi blogger that loves kittens.

Kind of adorable, really.


JRoth 08.03.04 at 5:47 pm

I think the Catholic Church’s teachings on jus ad bellum – just war – can be considered a pretty good gauge of whether or not a war is moral – and an objective look at them makes things pretty clear.

As for legality, last I checked unprovoked invasions of sovereign nations run counter to international treaties to which the US is a party. And international treaties signed by the US (like, say, the Geneva Conventions) are binding as US law.

What’s that you said about the UN? Funny, the members of the Security Council don’t seem to think that they approved the war. Just because Bush likes to say that they did doesn’t make it so. “But your Honor, I swear that the cop told me I could!”


allawi 08.03.04 at 6:00 pm

i happen to hate kittens. they deserve worse than death. in fact, let’s see how they like a bullet to the head.

very good, sir. things are getting better.


allawi 08.03.04 at 6:01 pm

i happen to hate kittens. they deserve worse than death. in fact, let’s see how they like a bullet to the head.

very good, sir. things are getting better.


JRoth 08.03.04 at 6:17 pm

I suppose this answers the question of whether andrew boucher is a black American or not.

If you’re Jonny Gammage, would you be calling on the police without equivocation? If you’re Emmit Till, would you be comforted by the arrival of the police? How about Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo?

Of course, it’s not just race that has divided American police from those they supposedly “serve and protect.” Ask the steelworkers of Homestead, or the autoworkers of Flint whom the police serve. Recall the Hobo’s Lullabye, which assures us that “when you die and go to heaven, there’ll be no policeman there.”

When I was 8, I too was certain that every cop was a hero. I’ve grown up a bit since then.


dsquared 08.03.04 at 7:02 pm

Morgoth: please don’t assume that content-free trolling is tolerated here.


Lance Boyle 08.03.04 at 7:40 pm

Morality creates law. Not the other way round. You can have one without the other. People lose sight of that fairly easily.
The death zone around al-Sadr’s home is more “newsworthy” in the sense that its repercussions will have a greater effect on the world even than the chruch bombings. But it’s apparent that concentrating on the news as delivered, as though it comes free of agendae, or that it can be easily interpreted, is more important than any discussion of what’s actually happening, in Iraq, or now beginning to unfold in northern Africa.
Saying it’s about oil is like saying it’s about money; it is but then it isn’t. It’s about power, and time. Survival and breeding rights. Immortality and manipulation.
On the ground of course it’s about avoiding being blown to smithereens.


Adam Kotsko 08.03.04 at 8:12 pm

I think that most people on the right are basically postmodernists at this point — there is no possible access to the “objective situation” (the illusion of objectivity is just a reification of the liberal media hegemony that discursively enacts its faux “consensus”), so anything that reflects poorly on their political position can only be motivated by the reporter/pundit’s personal biases. To the claim that President Bush did something that had negative results for some people, the instinctive reaction is not to assess the facts, but to say, “Oh, I see, more Bush-bashing… We’ve heard this before.”


Andrew Boucher 08.03.04 at 9:43 pm

“I suppose this answers the question of whether andrew boucher is a black American or not.”

That’s almost like concluding, because I think the priesthood is an honorable calling, that Andrew Boucher was never a small boy.

steelworkers of Homestead ==> 1892 !!
autoworkers of Flint ==> 1936-37
Hobo’s Lullabye ==> yes, well, the word “Hobos” was (I believe) last in current use in the 1930s

I suppose this answers the question whether jroth is young or not.


Mario 08.03.04 at 10:20 pm

Well, unless you believe all bombing and attacks are being conducted by non-Iraqis then the continuing violence might be a sign that a lot of Iraqis have different vision of what “stepping forth and taking steps to restore their country” means. To some, it seems to mean getting rid of the Americans and the government that they have installed. Of course, if all these Iraqis are “stepping forth and taking steps to restore their country” then why do we 170,000 troops stationed in Iraq? My guess is that we know if we pulled our troops out the current government would quickly be slaughtered by these civic-minded Iraqis and a civil war would likely break out. This has been true since the occupation began and has not changed one iota since then. Once there is government capable of sustaining itself and we can pull American troops out, terrorist bombing in Iraq will cease to huge issue though they will likely continue to make the news. Don’t laugh, it could happen in Bird Dog’s lifetime.


Morgoth 08.03.04 at 11:19 pm

please don’t assume that content-free trolling is tolerated here.

Guess that rules out 90% of the anti-war movement then.

The question is serious: How *exactly* was the invasion illegal? Given one person’s rather vague answer of the Geneva convention, where does that put folks like Switzerland or Taiwan, who aren’t part of the UN. Are they similarily illegal as well?

And if we assume the field of action was covered by UN hegemony, then under the terms of the Gulf War I ceasefire, which Saddam broke, action was *legal*.

And as for folks calling the war “immoral” – I have only one response to that. Which is a) laughter and b) disgust. Saddam Hussein had jails for toddlers, for feck’s sake.


carlos 08.04.04 at 1:46 am

I have only one response to that. Which is a) laughter and b) disgust.

I have only two responses to that: ROTFL!

Really, who is this? Faf? Gib? Al? The Editors? Great parody, whoever it is.



anonymusrex 08.04.04 at 8:12 am



Anon Kitten 08.04.04 at 10:07 am

Well http://www.erinoconnor.org/movabletype/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=991 is a great link discussing catty things that are good news to some.


Illuvatar 08.04.04 at 6:58 pm

Morgoth wrote:
“The question is serious:”

And yet your posts are utterly ludicrous. This thread is about the media coverage of the events in Iraq–what do you think you are doing, besides trolling?


ebarrett 08.05.04 at 12:52 am

andrew boucher wrote: “I suppose this answers the question whether jroth is young or not.”

>Abner Louima- 1997
>Anthony Baez- 1994
>Nathaniel Levi Gaines, Jr, -1996
>William Whitfield- 1997
>Antonio Rosario- 1995
>Hilton Vega- 1995

All in New York City alone- now that’s ancient history for you.


Morgoth 08.05.04 at 6:47 pm

Get back to Valinor, Illuvatar.

Why is it when the leftist paradigm is questioned for the sham it is, that it’s always “trollish” or indeed, that other favourite, “racist”?

It is a serious quesiton: why exactly was the liberation of Iraqi “illegal”?


Alaska Jack 08.06.04 at 12:54 am

Crooked Timber always surprises me. Given the supposedly high-level tone of this weblog, the authors say a remarkable number of stupid things. The Volokh Conspiracy they ain’t.

Re Waring’s comments, just an observation: If you have to egregiously distort someone’s argument in order argue against it, then maybe they have a point after all. I mean, really — kittens?

Just something to consider.

– Alaska Jack

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