Today on the homepage, Rich Lowry writes, “Conservatives need to realize that something is not dubious just because it’s reported by the New York Times.” Rich’s larger point is not that the media are unbiased when it comes to war reporting, but that their preferred narrative (“any military conflict [is] a quagmire and another Vietnam”) happens to be coinciding with the reality of this war, and conservatives’ mistrust of the media is blinding them to that reality.
The point is well-taken, but I wonder how much of this problem is about the media and how much of it is just disagreement among conservatives over how bad Iraq really is. Many conservatives who think Iraq is better than the media are portraying it are basing that opinion on alternative sources of information, not an instinctive mistrust of the media. The rise of new media has given us the reporting of Michael Yon, Bill Roggio, and Michael Fumento; none of whom are wide-eyed naifs about what we’re up against (Yon in particular has written some devastating critiques of U.S. policy), but all of whom give us a more optimistic assessment of our chances in Iraq than the MSM’s quagmire chorus.
Trust me, I feel the same way Rich does when I read conservative media criticism that I think is overwrought, blind to reality and sometimes just plain paranoid. But conservatives need to separate this out from media criticism that stems from genuine disagreements over whether we are winning in Iraq. Such disagreements lie at the heart of the debate over what steps to take next, such as whether to increase troops, redeploy them or withdraw from Iraq entirely. In that context, it’s not only legitimate but essential to ask whether the MSM is getting it right.