April 18, 2003

THE GREAT Media Watch brawl

THE GREAT Media Watch brawl continues! Cornered, frightened, and wrong in so many ways, the Media Watch collective is fighting back like a shack-bound survivalist down to his last bullet.

Earlier rounds in the battle may be viewed here and here. Various folks have subsequently confronted the blame-evaders on Media Watch's own turf. This came from N.J. Smith:

I detect a Media Watch wriggle going on here.

The nub of your original claim was that it was seemingly implausible for the Tele to say that the flag which happened to adorn Saddam's face could have somehow been one from the Pentagon when it was attacked on September 11. It has since come to light, quite extraodinarily, that it may indeed have been the case. AP says so, Cpl Chin's family says so, and other reports such as the Daily Telegraph in London say so.

The Tele may have stretched the truth and placed the flag under the debris - but are you really that surprised a tabloid would do that?

For Media Watch to now start splitting hairs about the flag being "recovered from the Pentagon" rather than "under the debris" damages Media Watch's reputation.

If that flag WAS recovered from anywhere at the Pentagon, then acknowledge it. You expect better of others, and we are entitled to expect better of Media Watch.

The unnamed moderator at the Media Watch guest board - I suspect the anxious hand of Media Watch executive producer Peter McEvoy - snapped back:

Go back and read the transcript or see the video to find out what we actually said rather than making up your own nub for our claim.

While you're at it check the other sources as well. The Daily Telegraph (London) and The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) talk about the flag being "recovered from the Pentagon" or found "under the debris". AP doesn't say that and the quotes attributed to Lt McLaughlin and his family don't either.

When will Tim Blair apologise?

Short answer: never. Long answer: never, you wrongness-committing, poor research-doing tax drain! I sent this note:

The Daily Telegraph claimed:

"The Stars and Stripes used by US Marine Corporal Ed Chin to cover the statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square was under the debris at the Pentagon following the September 11 al-Qaeda terrorist attack."

Media Watch described the entire claim as "incredible", wondered if it could be true, and asked a Navy PR man in Qatar about "the Tele's claim". He "seriously doubted it".

It now turns out the claim is true, with the only point of dispute being whether the flag had been under debris. Is that why you called the US Navy in Qatar - to ask about debris? How could Ensign Luckett in Qatar be expected to know about debris in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001? What questions did you put to him? And what element of the claim was he addressing with his answer? Awaiting your response, and your correction.

Mr Moderator's cranky answer didn't address my questions:

So the claim is true except for the bit that's false.

That's not really much of an apology for someone who has got it so wrong.

The bit that's false is the bit that matters. The Tele claimed that a flag rescued from under the rubble of the Pentagon, found its way to Baghdad to be wrapped around Saddam's statue. That was, and remains incredible.

The Tele can't back that up and neither can you.

What was that you said about us being a disgrace?

I'll spell it out: D-I-S-G-R-A-C-E. Media Watch's report didn't point out any isolated "bit that's false". It presented the whole claim - the Pentagon, September 11, flag to Baghdad - as false.

But the flag did come from the Pentagon. It was there on September 11. And it covered the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad. All Media Watch has left is that the flag wasn't beneath debris - in which case we can assume it was at least nearby to debris, because it was in the Pentagon.

In light of Media Watch's reaction to their error, this quote from Media Watch host David Marr - uttered when he was first appointed to the godless job - is hilarious:

Marr agrees that in the past Media Watch was quicker to point out others' mistakes than correct its own. He aims to redress that. "We've got to let our critics have a bit of air."


Posted by Tim Blair at April 18, 2003 11:38 AM