Media Disconnect: The Winter Olympics and the War on Terror
The media called the US Olympic Team's performance "disappointing." They focused on the inability of guy who skis drunk to win a medal, and the failure of the jump up in the air and turn over and over skiers to dominate, and I guess Michelle Kwan's injury or something. But let's take just a second for a little perspective.
For the second straight Olympics (and the second time ever), the US finished second in the overall medal count. The previous medal record (not counting Salt Lake City) was 14--and the Torino count was 25. For what it's worth, Germany, the top medal winner, also saw a marked drop in their total from Salt Lake City. The US Team broke our old foreign site games record by more than 75%, and it's a "disappointment." We should all be so lucky in our failures.
I think there's a correlation between the Olympics coverage and the way the media views the war on terror. The Olympics coverage didn't have the same knee-jerk opposition that the war does, but it did display the same lack of historical perspective and sense of balance that have marked the media's coverage of the War on Terror, and the war in Iraq in particular.
There was an attempt by Al Qaeda to spark a civil war in Iraq last week with the mosque bombing. But while there was sporadic fighting and violence, there were also unity marches with thousands of participants across the country...guess which one got more attention? Cooler heads appear to be prevailing, and even radical Shiites like Al-Sadr are calling for peace and protecting Sunni sites. What a "disppointment."
There have been three elections in Iraq now. A government is being formed (more slowly than I'd like, but still) that is a reflection of the mixed nature of the Iraqi population. The horse-trading between the various factions is creating an atmosphere of power that comes at the negiotiating table rather than from the barrel of a gun. What a "disappointment."
The Iraqi Army is growing and becoming much more effective. Despite repeated bombings and attacks, courageous Iraqi are still standing in line to enlist. According to the latest Pentagon report this past week, the number of Iraqi battalions rated Level 2 (able to lead a fight but still needing logistical support) rose from 36 to 53 since last September. What a "disappointment."
The list goes on and on. While the press is trying to figure out how many shotgun pellets can dance on the face of a lawyer, progress is happening around the world. The media seem unwilling or unable to place events in any context, and as a result, many Americans are pessimistic about the war and our future. But hopefully events--and the ability of the new media to convey the truth--will catch up with the heirs of Walter Cronkite, and the "disappointments" will continue until morale improves.