October 29, 2004

SPARE US ANY GOOD NEWS

"Arthur Chrenkoff has made it his mission to report the good news [out of Iraq]," writes John Quiggin. "A lot of the time this consists of impossibly cute kitten stories ..."

And Tim Dunlop complains that Chrenkoff avoids Iraq's "crucial truth" (that Iraq is a disaster, and Bush is idiotic, incompetent, must be defeated, etc.):

You either accept that crucial truth or you can spend your time linking to dopey "stories about cats" and continue to pretend that the biggest threat to civilisation is the New York Times.

Dunlop and Quiggin have invented a new argumentative tactic: the straw cat. Take a look through Arthur's exhaustive compilations, which cover all manner of developments in Iraq, from investment and rebuilding to diplomatic agreements and humanitarian aid. No kitties, however; for evidence of that, John and Tim point to this mocking August 3 post at Crooked Timber, by Belle Waring:

Like that one time in Mosul, when the kitten pretended to stalk and pounce on that dented beer cap, like it was a mouse or something, and everybody laughed. Remember that? Right before the mortar attack, remember?

At least Quiggin acknowledges that there "is some real good news" emerging from Iraq; Dunlop, however, simply demands further confirmation of his existing beliefs. "Sanity insists that we concentrate on what is going wrong," he cries. "Look, if things are so relatively wonderful, go spend some time there and give us some firsthand reporting from the country itself instead of sitting at home and picking through what various media are already providing." Yet when Chrenkoff supplies a firsthand report from Iraq, by Chicago Sun-Times reporter Annie Sweeney, Dunlop -- writing from his home, presumably -- condemns it as "crap" that is "just insulting".

Insulting? Try this Dunlop notion on for size:

Life went on pretty normally for a lot of German people while Jews were rounded up into ghettos under Nazism but was there an Arthur Chrenkoff blogging away somewhere in Australia telling us all that we shouldn't put so much emphasis on all that nasty stuff? Would there have been a chorus of other bloggers happily linking? And tough luck if you find the comparison offensive.

I only find the comparison pathetic (more valid would be to compare coverage of post-war Germany, during which many proto-Dunlops "concentrated on what was going wrong"); Chrenkoff, whose Polish grandmother lived through the Nazi occupation of her homeland, might find it offensive.

In any case, its not as though Chrenkoff claims a mortgage on truth. As he wrote in a recent Good News edition:

Read the stories below in addition to - not to the exclusion of - all the bad news. Only by knowing both sides of the story you can make an informed judgment about how things in Iraq are really going.

Quite why Dunlop and Quiggin should be so worked up about this is beyond me. Chrenkoff is an impressive, understated talent whose work quickly won notice throughout blogdom and in the Wall Street Journal; Id hate to think that such bitter responses were inspired by his success.

STRAW CAT UPDATE. In comments, John Quiggin clarifies his definition of "an impossibly cute kitten story"; apparently that means a story about "farmers tilling fields and women walking on roads".

STRAW CAT UPDATE II. Snappy John ("the cats of Australia have made their choice!") claims he was attempting irony:

In my recent post about good and bad news from Iraq, I referred to impossibly cute kitten stories. This is Belle Waring's ironic description of the kind of good news story that relies on the fact that even in the midst of war, and even under oppressive dictatorships, life goes on. Farmers plant their crops, children (and kittens) are born and play, and so on.

Not even Thomas Hearns has a longer reach than Kitty Quiggin.

Posted by Tim Blair at October 29, 2004 04:32 AM
Comments

It's less his success than their exposure. Balogna always rejects the grinder.

Posted by: luciferous at October 29, 2004 at 04:51 AM

Apparently they're objecting to nuance and sophistication, preferring a simple-minded, one-sided view of Iraq.

Posted by: Robert Crawford at October 29, 2004 at 04:55 AM

These fools just want Iraq to collapse back into a sordid tyranny, don't they? So much for their much vaunted support of democracy. Stupid wankers.

But I have an idea. Instead of a straw cat, could we opt for a plastic cat?

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 29, 2004 at 04:57 AM

Quite why Dunlop and Quiggin should be so worked up about this is beyond me.

The technical term is called penis envy.

Posted by: Roger Bournival at October 29, 2004 at 04:58 AM

Can I get me a straw cat here?

Posted by: John Forbes Kerry at October 29, 2004 at 04:59 AM

I'm siding with Chrenkoff on this one. There are a lot of reporters out there who don't see the forest for the trees. Iraq still has security problems and violence, but the progress they've made has been under reported.

Posted by: Jeremy at October 29, 2004 at 05:01 AM

John Quiggin: Man of Cats.

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek at October 29, 2004 at 05:05 AM

Life went on pretty normally for a lot of German people while Jews were rounded up into ghettos under Nazism but was there an Arthur Chrenkoff blogging away somewhere in Australia telling us all that we shouldn't put so much emphasis on all that nasty stuff?

Is Dunlop equating the Iraqi thugs, insurgents, fascist ideologues and terrorists (who are blowing people up when they are not beheading them and who are just all round causing misery and mayhem to thwart an independent and democratic government from fully forming and who are being rounded up by Coalition troops) with the persecuted Jews of Europe? Does he really not know how offensive his unintended but clear comparison is?

Let's try a rewrite and a better moral equivalence:

Life went on pretty normally for a lot of Americans, Aussies and Europeans and some Iraqi people while many Iraqi dissidents and innocents were gased, executed en masse and rounded up into torture chambers and prisons under Saddamism, but was there a Tim Dunlop blogging away somewhere in Australia telling us all that we shouldn't put so much emphasis on all that nasty stuff?

Posted by: c at October 29, 2004 at 05:11 AM

Brookesnews.com just updated their site with a few opinions on thir work. Quiggin's there whining about how those evil Austrian-schoolers there (Shostak, Jackson et al) deigned to poke holes in Quiggin's pet theories. Tim's there too though!

Has Quiggin ever had a non-public sector job? I'd wander over to his site and look around but that picture of him with that fuckin beard and stunned expression is just too distractingly funny.

Quiggin needs a mullet to go with that beard.

Posted by: Anonymous at October 29, 2004 at 05:13 AM

They're resentful because Iraq isn't still the idyllic kite-flying nation it was before Bushitler and Halliburton teamed up with the lying Jewi- er, "neocons" - to murder brown people and steal their peaceful, loving oil without a plan for winning the peace. Even thinking about so-called good news just isn't right. Because of Bush nothing will ever be right again.

Posted by: Bryan C at October 29, 2004 at 05:14 AM

No, Mr. Dunlop, there wouldn't be any bloggers in Nazi Germany trying to tell the good side of things, just as there wouldn't be any trying to tell the world about the Holocaust either. They'd all be executed or locked away by the SS, unlike America in 2004 where we have free speech and can say what we want about our government and media.

Posted by: Jeremy at October 29, 2004 at 05:15 AM

Arthur C. does good work. What ever the reason for the hysterical criticism of him Dunlop and Quiggin certainly show them self off to be very small minded individuals.

Posted by: mike. a at October 29, 2004 at 05:21 AM

The "Bush is incompetent" drumbeat is getting louder here in the US because that's how Kerry supporters want to sway moderate voters into their camp at the last minute. Any evidence that Iraq is not a complete and utter disaster works against this strategy. The disproportionate anger at Chrenkoff and others who report progress is a sign of panic.

Posted by: NJ Sue at October 29, 2004 at 05:23 AM

It's obviously a trick by Karl Rove to insert cute kittens into the news from Iraq. NO BLOOD FOR BALLS OF YARN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Some Seppo at October 29, 2004 at 05:35 AM

People still bother to read Crooked-Timber-Related things?

I pretty much gave up after it was unavoidably clear that all that was there was Leftism, and generally flimsy argument that often appeared to be based on mere Academic bias.

It's all a pity, as the Timber people are all pretty smart. Just terribly, terribly wrong.

Posted by: Sigivald at October 29, 2004 at 05:50 AM

They may be book-smart, but I doubt any of them could find their own ass* with a map and a flashlight.

*That's "arse" to some of you.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at October 29, 2004 at 05:59 AM

Still more evidence of the curious journalistic belief that it's not news unless it bleeds.

Posted by: Rebecca at October 29, 2004 at 06:19 AM

Real Jeffs:

"...vaunted support of democracy"?

I hadn't noticed anybody on the left recently saying anything much in favor of democracy at all (except w/r/t the US, and what they mean by it in that case is something about lawsuits as a substitute for voting).

Are there lefties into democracy, and I just missed it?

Posted by: hideous bouncing brain at October 29, 2004 at 06:27 AM

The Nazi comparison is especially disgusting. Few people were covering the pogroms before WWII, and most would have been indiferent to it.
And to dimiss Chrenkoff's work as 'kitty' stories is the height of laziness, and dare I say, arrogance?

Posted by: Geoff Matthews at October 29, 2004 at 06:50 AM

John Quiggin: Man of Cats

how many posts and NOONE has called him a pussy yet?


geesh.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at October 29, 2004 at 06:57 AM

hideous bouncing brain:

I'm really not sure about the lefties being into democracy and all. I just assumed it because of their whinges over the "crushing of dissent", BUSHITLER!!!, Gulag America, AmeriKKKA, RWDB, OOOOIIIIILLLLLL!!!!!, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

[sarcasm]
But it's vaguely possible that the lefties are somewhat biased against a democracy where they don't have exclusive control over public opinion.
[/sarcasm]

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 29, 2004 at 07:17 AM

And while I am thinking about it......how about the glowing reports by some western media of the Soviet Union under Stalin, while Stalin staged a famine in Poland?

How's that for a comparison that Dunlop and Quiggin can use?

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 29, 2004 at 07:19 AM

Arthur's next project:

The Good News from the Left

- Some nice folk music

Posted by: Quentin George at October 29, 2004 at 07:19 AM

Excuse me, I meant the Ukraine, not Poland.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 29, 2004 at 07:20 AM

Aah, just a quick update from Iraq. My nephew--SGT in 1st Cav 39th BCT--just returned to Iraq after his 10 day leave home in the States following 6 months in the big sandbox, only 6 more months to go. He's at Camp Taji, which is just north of Baghdad. His biggest complaint is boredom--not enough to do. He says the terrorists, insurgents, jihadists, whatever, are lousy shots, and terrible engineers (IEDs). The locals like them, except for some of the old timers--who've lived through so much they're just extremely jaded and wary of the soldiers. Also, most of the soldiers in Iraq refused to watch the news because the media is so biased, and dreary--they just can't believe their eyes what the media puts on the air. As someone else commented--if it ain't blood, it ain't news. Yeah, he's got his complaints about their mission, he thinks they should be killing a lot more of the terrorists, and going after them more aggresively, but that's mostly because there nothing much to do on their one day a week off duty. Most of them want to get the job done.

What's amazing about the Chrenkoff angle is that he's the only one aggregating the positive developments. Because you know, if it's not in the NYTimes it's not news;-)

Posted by: Forbes at October 29, 2004 at 07:23 AM

I happen to love Chrenkoff's work, but who the hell am I? Too bad CBS and NYT don't have researchers even half as good as he is. Maybe then they'd get at least some of their stories right. Maybe, just maybe, I'd pay attention to them again!

Posted by: EddieP at October 29, 2004 at 07:25 AM

Sorry, the locals like them--the US soldiers!

Posted by: Forbes at October 29, 2004 at 07:26 AM

I suspect that these two individuals are jealous of Arthur for being able to raise people's spirits and interest through good news stories rather than being an ambulance chaser like they undoubtedly are.

What I find most disturbing about the organisations and individuals that present information to us via tv, film or newspaper, is that they portray black as white, and willingly distort any story to obtain the angle they desire.

Posted by: Lofty at October 29, 2004 at 07:33 AM

Jeffs: Well, I guess what they mean by "democracy" is that they get to vote. If anybody else gets to vote, that's either bad (if it's in their country), or at best irrelevant (if it's anywhere else). And the UN, of course, is "democratic", meaning a) each dictator gets to appoint his own ambassador, and b) a majority of them are anti-American. If they weren't, the UN would again be denounced as a lapdog of the Yankee imperialists.

What's interesting is that what the left is now advocating is such old-fashioned realpolitik: Repressive dictatorships are okay, just as long as they keep their countries stable. That sort of thinking is "humanitarian" and "progressive" -- except when somebody else does it, in which case it becomes "cynical" and "amoral".

Posted by: hideous bouncing brain at October 29, 2004 at 08:04 AM

Tim doesn't like brookesnews.com - it can be a bit rabid at times. But Tim is not alone. Even Gerry Jackson admits he is despised by the conservative establishment in Australia, especially the Institute of Public Affairs. Still, Gerry does put the boot into lefty journalists reguarly. Good reading even if rather over-the-top.

Posted by: walterplinge at October 29, 2004 at 09:17 AM

It never stops giving me a laugh how you dump on any criticism by NYT of post war Germany et al as some sort of episode in liberal sour grapes. The so called 1945 beat up is just that a beat up. Then again it really does show how completely stupid Tim and his gang are.

The fucking Marshall Plan was developed specifically to counter the growing problems in post war Europe. Marshall was a master of manipulation and all through these reports, and especially the big comment piece you lot always quote, it becomes quite clear Marshall and his underlings were assisting in these stories. (But of course, the Marshall plan only proves that Marshall was a communist and he deserved to be purged a few years hence by people just like Tim and his gang of right wing bullies.)

Oh and what was that line of the great general himself. No not the one about "I will return" the other one.... "send me rice or send me bullets"

Yes he was full of it, but General Douglas MacArthur in the face of a civil collapse in post war Japan sure knew what the bottom line was. A bit like all those pissed off generals and administrators who are bitching about the failure to supply enough of anything to win the Iraq War.

Come on Tim spin this with a bit of cut and paste. Or even better just make something up. It is just a blog so what do you care about any real facts.....

Posted by: Marshall Man at October 29, 2004 at 09:27 AM

C'mon, gang, we all know "Bushitler" is wrong.

It should be "Chimpler".

Standards, men, standards!

Posted by: R C Dean at October 29, 2004 at 09:50 AM

Anybody have a clue what the f*** Marshall Man is talking about ? I don't see the relevance at all - both Germany and Japan were rebuilt, successfully, after years of dictatorship, principally by the US. Is that not what the IS is trying to do now, or am I just not "nuanced" enough to see it ?

Posted by: Andrew at October 29, 2004 at 10:02 AM

US, not IS.

Posted by: Andrew at October 29, 2004 at 10:03 AM

"Marshall was a master of manipulation and all through these reports, and especially the big comment piece you lot always quote, it becomes quite clear Marshall and his underlings were assisting in these stories."

Marshall was a manipulator, eh? How do you know this? You are stating your opinion as a fact. Well, OK, it's your conclusion, but since you failed to back it up with real facts, I consider it an opinion, and therefore subject to rejection.

And I reject it; your conclusion is wrong, as shown by the wailing of the NYT immediately after WWII, which were usually negative about the occupation.

"But of course, the Marshall plan only proves that Marshall was a communist and he deserved to be purged a few years hence by people just like Tim and his gang of right wing bullies.)"

No, the Marshall Plan worked; we rebuilt Europe after WWII. It was a successful plan; for proof, look at the post WWII recovery. That it worked, short and long term, and in favor of Western Europe is proof that Marshall was not a communist. This in spite of the fact that German guerillas were active until 1948.

The rest of your screed simply demonstrates that you are an ass, and an ignorant one at that. Germany/Europe and Japan recovered from WWII.

PS: George Marshall was not a communist, nor was he purged. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953...after 45 years as a soldier, with final promotion to General Of The Army in 1994. Since Arrafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago, I can only conclude that the standards have fallen since 1953.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 29, 2004 at 10:15 AM

hideous bouncing brain said:

What's interesting is that what the left is now advocating is such old-fashioned realpolitik: Repressive dictatorships are okay, just as long as they keep their countries stable. That sort of thinking is "humanitarian" and "progressive" -- except when somebody else does it, in which case it becomes "cynical" and "amoral".

For clear evidence of your statement, go read the screed by "Marshall Man" above. 'Nuff said!

BTW....love your blog name! It's cool!

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 29, 2004 at 10:19 AM

I'm glad someone posted the BrookesNews link. That is the only website where I have seen Quiggins snake-oil "economics" systematically demolished.

Posted by: Niobe at October 29, 2004 at 10:39 AM

"Come on Tim spin this with a bit of cut and paste."

Come on, people, don't you recognize the dead hand and desiccated mind of Miranda Divide at work? Welcome back to the Blogmire, Miranda -- oops, I mean "Marshall Man." (I guess the sex change operation was a success, eh?)

Posted by: Andrea Harris at October 29, 2004 at 10:50 AM

Hmmmmm.......

Yep, Andrea, I think you're right! Although I wonder who donated the male genitalia for his/her/its operation.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 29, 2004 at 10:53 AM

I shouldn't have mentioned her name earlier in the week, should have I? Bad, bad, bad!

JeffS,
You can get the genitalia at any abattoir that's knocking off pigs.

On the positive side of having a sex change, she doen't need to shave off her moustache anymore.

Posted by: Lofty at October 29, 2004 at 11:10 AM

Is it too late to thank the Australian media for doing their best not to distract us with good news out of Australia?

Posted by: richard mcenroe at October 29, 2004 at 11:21 AM

"Sanity insists that we concentrate on what is going wrong"

I believe what Tim Dunlop really meant to write was, "My sanity requires that we concentrate on what is going wrong." Lest he become the next victim of this. Can you really fault the man for desperately hanging on to his last remnants of sanity in the face of overwhelming evil (i.e. the impending Bushitler re-selection), even if it means he needs to tear down any and all progress being made in Iraq?

Posted by: PW at October 29, 2004 at 11:25 AM

So, TimD and John are saying that there *is* no actual good news from Iraq - or is it just that the good news should not be reported?

Remembering that Chrenkoff clearly states that he is not saying that there is no bad news, just that he is detailing what good news there is, this looks surprisingly like a case of the green eyed monster rearing its ugly head. I say surprisingly because I would have put these two bloggers above the sort of pettiness that others (such as whichever lefty blogger Miranda Devine really is - although I've always suspected Miranda is actually one of the more "classy" lefty bloggers using the nondeplume to spray his/her invectives while keeping his elitist, scholarly persona intact) indulge in when confronted with the reality of conservative bloggers like Tim Blair and Chrenkoff eclipsing their meagre readerships.

Posted by: Michael at October 29, 2004 at 11:31 AM

Can I just say that Arthur is not the only good news in Iraq Bloke. Rich Galen from Mullings.com , who spent 6 months in Baghdad also has a thing to say about the good that is being done in the country. Definately worth a read.

Posted by: Todd at October 29, 2004 at 11:54 AM

In Australia we have Aboriginals living in third world conditions. What the fuck do we think we are doing reporting on horse racing and the AFL?

Chrenkoff is an international heroe. I hope he is justly rewarded with a shit load of cash.

Posted by: Razor at October 29, 2004 at 12:10 PM

Here's some good news from Australia: The reliably unreliable Chris Shiel has delivered his official kiss of death for the Kerry campaign.

"JFK may be gathering a little of the momentum ..."

Chris has a perfect record of being wrong.

Posted by: EvilPundit at October 29, 2004 at 12:12 PM

Lofty! BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

You just made up for invoking The Name That Must Never Be Invoked!

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 29, 2004 at 12:16 PM

Perhaps Dunlop and Quiggin are racist and don't like people from place slike Poland or Iraq contradicting their expressed views. just a thought.

Posted by: mike.a at October 29, 2004 at 01:05 PM

Andrea go with "buttocks", it's multicultural and stuff...

Posted by: richard mcenroe at October 29, 2004 at 03:00 PM

'The Truth':

'Rightwing' internetters have established an amateur informal network to gather facts about Iraq from soldiers and Iraqis who are firsthand witnesses.

'Leftwingers' rely on career journalists like Robert Fisk, then on professional ratbags like Tariq Ali and Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky, John Pilger... vested interests all.

Seems the Left can't handle the Truth!

Posted by: Bruce at October 29, 2004 at 05:44 PM

Tim, admit it - this is another one of the "flags under the rubble" mistakes of yours. Quiggin's irony was clear to anyone with half a brain. Stop digging!

Posted by: Tom N. at October 29, 2004 at 06:04 PM

Tim's irony is evident to anyone with a quarter of a brain, Tom N. So you don't measure up on that scale eh?

Poor fellow. And your fellows.

Mere parrots. Clever parrots, performing monkeys.

Posted by: Bruce at October 29, 2004 at 06:16 PM

"Buttocks" is no good. Apart from being an astonishingly ugly word it is also plural. Even if you do have two of them neither has the hole.

Arse is a perfectly good word (O.E. rs with cognates in Greek and even Hittite!) and Americans who say horse rather than hoss and curse rather than cuss should feel at liberty, if they so wish, to say arse rather than ass.

Posted by: Janice at October 29, 2004 at 06:53 PM

"Sanity insists that we concentrate on what is going wrong ..." ?????

WHAT?

What planet is this guy from, anyway?

The last time I checked, sanity called for a balance view of the situation, which means looking at both the good AND the bad, not - as Chrenkoff pointed out - seeing one at the exclusion of the other.

Sheez! This needs to be explained?

See, this proves there really is a growing need for drug therapy!

Posted by: Scribbles at October 29, 2004 at 07:19 PM

Quite why Dunlop and Quiggin should be so worked up about this is beyond me. Chrenkoff is an impressive, understated talent whose work quickly won notice throughout blogdom and in the Wall Street Journal; Id hate to think that such bitter responses were inspired by his success.

Posted by: uberTim at October 29, 2004 at 08:16 PM

sanity calls for agreeing with me on all things!

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at October 29, 2004 at 10:56 PM

re: no good news (aka "war is bad")

It's unfortunate we have to relearn this every generation. Representative democracy in our republic is a terrible form of government (save when compared to every other). War is terrible (save when compared to the alternative).

Seems we need to find a way to (peacefully) put each other "off the island" (i.e. give these socialists who believe in the perfectability of humans their own country, and the remainder of us the same, and see how it works out.). Hmmm. Pity we stopped teaching history. Else we'd know how it would work out. Lenin (and Marx) only cost us 100M lives and 1B enslaved and productive lives ruined. Now if only we could limit the costs to these loonies, we'd see evolution in action.

Posted by: Ari Tai at October 30, 2004 at 09:21 AM

It must be something about this that gets on the nerves of die-hard lefties, I mean, how else do you explain the rather amiable and gentle Mr Chrenkoff being voted "most annoying right-wing blogger" on Atrios (or Kos, can't remember).

Posted by: Quentin George at October 30, 2004 at 09:59 AM

Mr. Chrenkoff was voted most annoying, and not tim? Must have been bribery involved, somehow.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at October 30, 2004 at 10:56 AM