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Mar 21 2012

Afghan shooting as a simple litmus test of media credibility

Category: Bad News Author:

On the night of March 11, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales walked out of the Kandahar Army base in which he was stationed and (allegedly) murdered 16 civilians – nine children, four men and three women. Mostly children. While I’d like to say that the Western media’s approach to covering this gruesome saga is surprising, it’s sadly merely enlightening in serving as a crude litmus test of journalism. Which organisations approached the issue with a view to making sense of what happened and why; and which ones approached it with a view to making excuses for Bales’ behaviour so as to engender sympathy for him and avoid losing support for our occupation? Let’s find out.

I searched for “Kandahar shooting” (without quotes) on several different major media outlets, and the top five results for each are below. Results relating to other shootings in Kandahar have been excluded. I think it gives an interesting flavour of the types of stories and the depth of journalism you’re likely to find at each portal. I’m not trying to claim this is unbiased or scientific, but I think it’s interesting.

Al Jazeera (English)

BBC News


Fox News

The Guardian




…and so on. This is the face of rolling, 24-hour, always-on news-noise. It’s far too easy for many Western organisations to take the path of least resistance, both in challenging the still-dominant idea that America is Doing Good overseas, and in venturing abroad to get the other side of the story. Nobody wants to hear about which Afghan shooters had traumatic brain injuries, or were ‘family men’. Only Al Jazeera even did the deceased the simplest courtesy of finding out the names of those who had been killed.







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