December 29, 2004

Adventures in News-Doctoring

I’m sure it’s fun taking a quote out of context and sticking it in a headline. You can make it seem like anybody said anything if you limit your excerpt to only three words.

Here's an AFP wire story titled Insurgency in Iraq 'will not end': Powell.

And here's a snippet:
[Colin] Powell reiterated that Iraq's January 30 elections will take place as scheduled and that the US and Iraqi forces are working to have security in place for the polls.

But, he told CBS television, “the insurgency will not end.”

The very same article quoted Powell as saying “the insurgency will be defeated.” Instead of writing a headline that said Insurgency in Iraq 'will not end': Powell it could just as easily have been written this way - Insurgency in Iraq 'will be defeated': Powell. Both are technically accurate.

If you want to know what Colin Powell actually said about the insurgency, what I wrote above is as worthless as the AFP headline and the story's first couple of paragraphs. But, hey, at least the reporter fills in some of the context around one of those contradictory quotes. Too bad he or she didn't do the same for the primary quote. [That would have wrecked the headline - ed.]

Here's the relevant context:
“These insurgents are determined to have no representative government. They want to go back to a tyranny,” Powell said. “And so the insurgency will continue and the insurgency will have to be defeated by coalition forces, but increasingly the insurgency will be defeated and brought under control, if not completely defeated, by Iraqi forces that we are building up as rapidly as we can,” he added.
I can only guess at the context of the primary quote, the one that appears in the headline. The reporter never did bother to tell us.

UPDATE: Spartacus has fun with subordinate clauses.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 29, 2004 7:12 PM
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