Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Optimism Doesn't Sell

I turn on the radio on my way to work and what do I hear? According to Jenn, of 94HJY, about 60 percent of eligible voters in Iraq yesterday came out to the polls to vote – a higher percentage, she noted, than the voter turnout during the 2004 U.S. presidential election. So, I go to work, I get online, and what do I see? Sure enough, the headline on the MSNBC web site reads, “Iraqis Count Ballots.” A subtitle adds a quote from Prime Minister Allawi: “Terrorists now know they cannot win.” My eyes drift over to the right. There is a list of related articles. These four headlines grace the page:

• NBC: Low turnout in insurgent city
• NW: Joy in Baghdad • Mich., too
• Handicapped child a suicide bomber?

These headlines make me think. If voter turnout is as high as Jenn said, why is there so much bad news from that area of the world? I decide to read the articles.

First, the “good news.” Joy in Baghdad! But wait – the actual headline, once the link is clicked, reads thus: “The Cities Were Not Bathed in Blood.” Oh good. So for this one day of the year, the streets of Baghdad didn’t run with the blood of its citizens and the U.S. troops sent there to protect them. What are the American public supposed to infer from a headline like that? Here we have the first example of optimism that is really pessimism/cynicism at its worst.

The sad thing is, once you get past the harrowing headline, the rest of the article is informative, honest, and even encouraging. Newsweek’s Rod Nordland, a reporter embedded in Iraq, goes through the day of the election in Iraq, describing the citizens’ doubts and fears, as well as their courage and momentous joy. He talks of how an Iraqi man proudly tells Nordland that his wife voted, too, for a different candidate than he had voted for, “and that was her right too.” But you wouldn’t know this from the headline. It turns out the headline chosen comes from a quote taken from Independent Iraqi Elections Commission spokesman Fareed Ayar, featured on the last page of the article. A little farther down the same page, an independent monitoring group, the Iraqi Election Information Network, issues this statement: "Today, Iraqis have shown both insurgents and the world that they are ready to join the international community of democratic nations.” Not enough undermining of the article’s actual theme? Smack dab in the middle of the last page, a “Related Article” is hyperlinked in blazing, bold red: “Washington: A Grim March Of Missteps; U.S. forces went into Iraq with no coherent strategy to run an occupied country—or defeat an insurgency.”

So that “good news” was not really good news at all. What about Michigan? Thankfully, the news in Michigan is much better. Iraqi-Americans, who voted via absentee ballots – though the article makes sure to note less than 10 percent of those eligible actually cast those ballots – are truly full of joy over the election. The article’s subtitle reads: “‘I’m so proud, so excited, so happy, it is a big joy for me,’ Iraqi says.”

Good, good. But what about these other two, not-so-encouraging articles listed on the MSNBC front page? The first one leads to an article titled, “Marines put best face on 'no-shows' in Ramadi: Few Iraqis brave threats in main city of Sunni-dominated province.” The rest of the article is pretty straightforward, detailing the lack of voters in the city of Ramadi, which has been a major target for insurgent threats and violence. To be fair, this article contains information of which the American public should be made aware. It is completely irrational to ignore the power of the insurgency in Iraq over the people there. However, it is just as irrational to pretend nothing good is happening there at all. Fortunately, this particular article relents in the end, naming other cities – including Fallujah – in the province that had higher voter turnout during the course of Election Day.

We are now brought to the final article in our little study – “Handicapped child a suicide bomber?” This last article is different. It is concise, to the point, and contains no obvious spin. It simply states the horrific facts. In this instance, grief in the face of the facts is, without a doubt, warranted. In an attack at a polling place, insurgents strapped a bomb to a little boy who allegedly had Down’s Syndrome. What else can be said? The citizens of Iraq are up against people who place no value on human life – people who do not care about what is right or wrong. The danger is real.

The important thing to remember is that the atrocities committed by the insurgents in Iraq are not the fault or result of the Iraqis’ desire for freedom, democracy, and free elections. The media will have you believe that the U.S. efforts in Iraq are failing, or that the attempts of the U.S. to aid the democratization of Iraq are causing the violence there. But the Iraqis themselves will tell you otherwise – just find the direct quotes in those articles you read! Democracy is not the evil, the insurgency is. The elections – and their unpredicted success – brought great hope to the citizens of Iraq. The insurgency was unable to stop over 60 percent of Iraqi citizens from voting last Sunday, despite its best efforts. There is something to be said for the bravery and determination of the Iraqi people. There is something to be said for optimism, for faith, in victory over a malevolent foe.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]