I understand Media Matters’ point that Katie was helpful. That’s because, before she got there, traditional media had mostly fallen sleep on Iraq this summer.
Still, I’ve gone through Couric’s last few reports “on the ground” at CBSnews.com Video, and her reinforcement of Administration framing — down to the indiscriminate repetition of the propaganda term “surge,” and the incessant designation of all unidentifiable antagonists as “al-Qaeda” — more than cancelled out any good that might have come, given her follow-up free token inquiries in the face of the Administration’s “good news” walking-and-talking point offensive.
In contrast, WAPO’s piece on Tuesday (Weighing the ‘Surge” – link) outlines how much the military is waging a perceptual war, specifically throwing cash at residents and merchants to open stalls in the markets, such as the one in Dora. Listening to the military folks talk, the census of how exactly how many stores are open (whether cash registers are ringing or not) sounds to be one of the major narrowcast criteria for determining if the “surge” is working — and apparently, the local brass keeps count down to the last flat bread stand.
Although Gen. Ray Odierno and his staff bent over backwards to give Katie Couric a thoroughly rosy market tour in East Baghdad, the pictures have trouble passing muster. For example, Katie’s entourage was crowded and armed to the teeth; the market (unless it was cleared for security, or it was just the time of day) seemed very much on the empty side; and the scene just outside (note the soldier, poised with rifle, walking backwards) felt especially precarious.
(The other point that was telling regarded the supposedly dramatically-improved security situation involved the fact that the Couric team captured so little video, the same snippets had to be used and reused over multiple reports.)
The oddest scene, however, involved Odierno making a completely big deal over a guy sweeping up garbage. This to him was a major sign that the tide was turning in the battle to restore civilization. It’s a good omen, I’m sure. But, in a the larger scheme of things, a trifling one in relation to the problems at hand, and, more immediately, the dimensions of the sale.
(screenshots: cbsnews video. Revitalizing Baghdad. September 2007)