February 09, 2004


The SMH's Paul Sheehan compares the real world with Media World, where omission syndrome is rampant:

The invasion of Iraq has provided a paradise for omission syndrome, and the latest fabrication is that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq at the time of the invasion, thus the entire premise for the invasion was wrong, was almost certainly known to be wrong before the war began, and politicians have lied to us.

Everything about this mantra is a half-truth, and I write this as someone who opposed the invasion of Iraq (in columns on February 6, 24 and March 31). I have not changed my mind. In recent days the anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-Howard hunting pack has leapt upon the admission by Dr David Kay, a war hawk sent to Iraq by the Bush Administration as chief investigator for weapons of mass destruction, that "we were almost all wrong" about the threat from such weapons in Iraq.

While his admission has been given prominence, omission syndrome required that other significant observations by Kay be ignored, such as his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 28 when he said: "Let me be absolutely clear about it, Iraq was in clear material violation of [UN Resolution] 1441. They maintained programs and activities, and they certainly had the intentions at a point to resume their [weapons] programs. So there was a lot they wanted to hide because it showed what they were doing that was illegal.

"... I think the world is far safer with the disappearance and the removal of Saddam Hussein. I actually think this may be one of those cases where it was even more dangerous than we thought. I think when we have the complete record you're going to discover that after 1998, it became a regime that was totally corrupt ... in a world where we know others are seeking WMD, the likelihood at some point in the future of a seller and a buyer meeting up would have made that a far more dangerous country than even we anticipated..."

Those lines haven’t run in any Australian report to date (apart from this Andrew Bolt column), at least so far as I’m aware. Sheehan concludes:

This latest campaign is the biggest media world try-on in this country since the children overboard crusade, when omission syndrome presented the carefully narrow narrative that the Howard Government lied about a child being thrown overboard from a boat people's vessel and used the lie to help win an election. Omitted from this version of events was that every child on the boat - 76 of them - ended up in the water, forced off a scuttled boat in an act of reckless brinkmanship. This was moral blackmail at its worst, and the tactic was rejected, emphatically, in the real world, even as it was endorsed and embraced in Media World in an attempt to turn the election.

Posted by Tim Blair at February 9, 2004 12:39 AM

Media World, isn't that where the Griswolds went in National Lampoon's Vacation?

Posted by: S Whiplash at February 9, 2004 at 01:10 AM

Wonderful article. I liked the following quote:
"Media World no longer reports the political agenda, it seeks to set the political agenda."

It's so sad that at such great news organizations like the BBC and NY Times this is all too true.
People who have tried to point this out have not been very successful, to say the least.

I don't care if the agenda is left or right, I detest being preached at by the news media. Opinion and other columnists fine. This is where you should expect to find the preaching. But, it's disgusting when you see it in, what should be, straight news stories.

I knew it existed and just used to ignore it. Now with a bunch of radical Islamists declaring war on the West, it's not possible to ignore. I write more letters to the editor than I ever have before. I know many others do as well. Sad to say, I don't think it makes too much difference.
But, I'll continue writing anyway. (I love banging my head against a wall!!)

Posted by: Chris Josephson at February 9, 2004 at 02:30 AM

This guy takes the blue ribbon for "omission" reporting.


Posted by: John at February 9, 2004 at 04:07 AM

Dear Tim:

Don't know if you noticed this in crikey.com.au:


Andrew Bolt's Herald Sun column last Thursday was one of the most over the top efforts we’ve seen in a long time as he tried to justify the lies told by Bush, Blair and Howard.

Subscriber Barry Everyingham writes: “Bolt was more strident than usual – it must have been a full moon. The guy really is out of control and his columns are worth reading for their sheer impudence and madness.”

This one will go down with his ripper before the last federal election claiming the media shouldn’t have questioned kiddies overboard claims because he’d seen the pictures and it was true:


Is not the subscriber mentioned (Everingham not Everyingham) the Phantom of Gough Whitlam's office discovered by the Great Man rifling through his correspondence? What a delightful irony for Baz to be lecturing anyone on the subject of "impudence".

Posted by: Peter at February 9, 2004 at 08:51 AM

And next to Bolt's column arguing The Greens=Nazis.

He's getting loonier and loonier.

Posted by: Adam at February 10, 2004 at 12:55 PM