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The Official Line

Reported by Nancy - August 11, 2004 -

FNL this morning (Aug 11) was basically 3 stories, repeated endlessly: Amber Frey testifying at Scott Peterson's trial; tropical storms/hurricanes; & the ongoing fighting in Najaf. It was in the coverage of the fighting in Najaf that Fox's adherence to the official line was clearly revealed.

There were multiple reports on Najaf filed over the course of the morning. Some were bannered "War on Terror" [comment: still pretending that the war in Iraq had anything to do with that]. Of the reports I saw, all used Fox correspondents (John Cookson in Iraq, Bret Baier at the Pentagon) & anchors (Brigitte Quinn & David Asman) & included clips from a single interview with US Marine Colonel David Holahan (presumably from somewhere in or near Najaf). Whether it was Quinn & Asman discussing the story, Lauren Green reading headlines, or Cookson & Baier filing their reports, all used the same phrases repeatedly, describing Muqtada al-Sadr as a "radical cleric", "outlaw cleric" or "radical Shiite" & using the word "shrine" to describe the Imam Ali Mosque [comment: is this to downgrade its status, so it won't seem so significant when our military blows it to smithereens?]. In multiple teasers for the story, Quinn said preparations are under way for the "final assault". Baier said we're "ready to take the gloves off". And of course Colonel Holahan delivered the usual military line, full of gung-ho "we're ready" rhetoric & assertions that we're proving they can't win because we've already killed so many of them. [Comment: he even claimed that the citizens of Najaf had cheered when the Marines arrived & began fighting -- shades of "they'll welcome us with flowers".]

Meanwhile, during the same time frame, CNN was reporting that Allawi's government is still "exploring options" like possible negotiations with al-Sadr, while the BBC was reporting that one of Iraq's deputy presidents, Ibrahim Jaafari, has called for US-led forces to withdraw & allow Iraqi security forces to take over.

General comment: "Embedding" reporters with troops is a problem for all media, not just Fox, but Fox seems more willing than most to regurgitate the "official" line. And other news orgs often solicit reports from other sources, especially on international stories (e.g., MSNBC will have a report from someone on staff at Agence France Press), while the furthest afield Fox goes is to reporters from other Murdoch-owned enterprises (e.g., BSkyB). Does anyone care to speculate as to why this might be?