April 8, 2004
Mosque hit! Mosque hit!By Michael Morris
The British media continue to sink deeper and deeper into a quagmire of baloney.
The supposed bombing of the al—Kubaysi Mosque in Fallujah has been misreported with unabashed vigor. And this time, it isn't just the usual suspects, such as the BBC, The Guardian and The Independent, behaving like bin Laden's best friends. The London Times and the Daily Telegraph have also hopped onto the bandwagon of unadulterated media slime.
Their over—the—top reaction to this non—event in Fallujah demonstrates just how far they will stretch the truth in order to provoke more hysteria and rage amongst Muslims living in the West.
It's as if they've been desperate for this very moment, when they can report —— erroneously as it happens —— that the Americans have violated Allah, by blowing up a mosque, any mosque, anywhere in the world. It doesn't really matter if it's true or not. The media know that by simply implying it, they provoke the next big chunk of volatile news: a vicious cycle of provocative innuendo and violent reaction.
Far from being in any way helpful by reigning in their sensationalist urges, the British press insists on aggravating the situation by putting out bum headlines, which are in fact just plain lies.
This was the Independent Online's, Wednesday headline, for events at Fallujah's Al—Kubaysi Mosque:
''40 dead' as US rockets hit Fallujah mosque'
US rockets hit the mosque? Well, they must have bounced harmlessly off the skin of the building, because the latest reports confirm that the mosque itself was left undamaged. Either the Fallujahns have developed some type of technologically advanced roofing material, which mysteriously repels guided missiles, or humanity has witnessed a modern day miracle of Biblical proportions in the sleepy Saddam—built city of Fallujha.
The BBC News Online's headline was marginally more appropriate:
'US bombards Iraq mosque complex'
At least the BBC mention that there is a mosque complex — which could be the first indication that it wasn't the actual mosque that got hit, as alluded to by The Independent's histrionics.
On the other hand, why not just say: 'US bombards outer wall'? It's not as exciting, but it does happen to be the truth, and it may collaterally stop some radical maniac from self—exploding on the next train to Waterloo. But of course, such a fanatical response would make great news, and by the manner in which most of the media are behaving, one would think that is exactly what they'd like to see happen.
The Thursday morning Daily Telegraph print headline for the same story was:
'US aircraft in deadly attack on mosque'
Good going guys: let's see how many suicide bombers you can activate with your misleading headline. This kind of froth is expected from the liberal anti—war media but it is surprising to see The Telegraph getting its kicks with the same flavor of irresponsible shock reportage. The fact is: if a US military aircraft wanted to attack the mosque, it wouldn't be standing anymore; but lo and behold, this morning's footage shows it still towering above the low rooftops of Fallujah, unscratched.
Wednesday's online versions of The London Times and The Guardian had similar lede lies emblazoned on their homepages.
All the newspapers mentioned are advertised as sophisticated left or right—wing broadsheets. They often make arrogant and demeaning remarks about the UK's two main tabloids, The Sun and The Daily Mirror, which are supposed to be at the low—brow end of Fleet Street. Well not anymore, because that impression of media superiority has evaporated quicker than a drop of dew on an Iraqi camel's hump.
The editors of the broadsheets should be ashamed of themselves. The garbage they are printing does untold damage to the Coalition's efforts, and those of the Iraqis who are actually trying to do something practical for the reconstruction of Iraq. It appears as if these editors are only too happy to see more violence erupt through the use of their overtly massaged headlines.
The British press has a duty to report in a responsible manner and not inflame passions with wildly exaggerated headlines intended to elicit a spectacular response from the unbalanced minds of which there are plenty in the West, let alone Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. It's as though they are trying to compete with the emotional bilge put out by the likes of al—Jazeera.
This has nothing to do with the noble principle of freedom of expression. The UK media have an obligation to maintain accuracy at all times, and double and triple check their stories.
Almost none of the newspapers mentioned here have followed those basic tenets of professional journalism. And there isn't much point in complaining to them about it because they just don't care. Below is the email which I sent to the editor of The Independent yesterday, asking for some clarification of their lies:
'Your headline of 'US rockets hit Fallujah mosque' is comprehensively erroneous. Can someone please explain how the 'US rockets hit the mosque', when they actually hit a surrounding wall of the Mosque *complex*?
Can someone also explain how it was that if the '"US rockets hit Fallujah mosque" no damage was done to the Mosque?'
Of course, forget about a reply with explanation. They won't elaborate because they know they are dead wrong and there is no way to justify their erroneous headline.
So there you have it folks and suicide bombers. It's not quite time to pull the rip cord on that suicide bomb just yet, because the press has got it wrong again. And rest assured that the next good reason to self—immolate is only another bogus headline away.
Michael Morris is our London correspondent