December 18, 2003

Oceania Has Always Been at War with Eurasia, Part CII

The sharp-eyed Billmon notices a certain... pro-administration bias in the New York Times's rewrite department:

Whiskey Bar: According to both Yahoo and Google, this is how today's New York Times story on Jim Baker's Iraq debt relief mission looked when it was originally posted on the web:

France Gives Baker Lukewarm Commitment on Iraqi Debt

By CRAIG S. SMITH

PARIS, Dec. 16 -- Former Secretary of State James Baker III received a tepid commitment from France and Germany today to help reduce Iraq's towering foreign debt, a legacy of Saddam Hussein's ruinous wars and the crippling economic sanctions that followed them.

The French did not offer to go beyond their previously announced plan to negotiate a debt reduction plan for Iraq within the framework of the Paris Club, a group of 19 industrialized countries that have jointly worked to alleviate the financial obligations of over-indebted countries since 1956.

And this is what the same story looks like now...

France and Germany Join U.S. in Effort to Reduce Iraq's Debt

By CRAIG S. SMITH

PARIS, Dec. 16 -- France and Germany agreed Tuesday to work with the United States toward a "substantial reduction" of Iraq's towering foreign debt next year. The accord marked a significant step forward in the United States' effort to rebuild Iraq, as well as progress in mending ties with the two countries most opposed to the American-led war there.

The former version (which was also picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle)... would seem to suggest a repetition of the pattern set during and after the Coalition's much promoted "donor's conference" in Madrid back in October.

As you may recall, the administration extravagantly touted the success of that conference -- which, it was claimed, had produced over $13 billion in new assistance. And the media, by and large, dutifully reported the party line, ignoring the fact that many of the supposedly "new" aid commitments weren't really new, and that most of the new money actually raised was in the form of loans, not grants.

Later -- enough later so that the vast majority of the Fourth Estate had forgotten there had even been a donor's conference -- it emerged that even the rather modest pledges made in Madrid in all likelihood would not be honored.

Likewise, promising to support Uncle Sam's, or rather, Uncle Jim's debt relief campaign is one thing.... Following through on those promises is another.... It seems like the truth -- or at least, the version provided by the reporter paid to find out the truth -- has been sacrified to the greater goal of protecting Jim Baker's reputation as a diplomatic wizard.

Posted by DeLong at December 18, 2003 05:36 PM | TrackBack

Comments

Speaking of bias ... whenever you see other stories revised in later editions of the Times, do you equally assume that the revised versions are the *less* accurate versions?

Posted by: Jim Glass on December 18, 2003 09:12 PM

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Nope, we leave assumptions to you, Jim. We use our reliable intuition, and the consistent failures and deceptions of this Administration makes it all the safer to do so. If only they were a little less predictable…

Oh, and by the way, did we really expect that Baker's wizardry would forgive locking out donors out of reconstruction contract, just because a disheveled and subdued Saddam was escorted out of his cave? Actually, that WAS the purpose of this PR exercise: to make everyone think that Saddam's capture has magically changed and justified everything. But, you know, reality doesn't yield to pressure as easily as the 4th estate.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on December 19, 2003 06:33 AM

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Watching the evolution of articles and headlines at the Times is a facinating hobby of a good friend of mine.

The trend in reporting about the administration does seem to be that the articles consistently travel from negitive to positive administration spin.

My sense is that isn't because the editors push them in that direction. My sense is that the adminstration has a well oiled machine that sees to it that when the first version is posted they go and pressure the sources and the reporter to update the story. I.e. the sources call the report and revise their remarks. "Yeah, thats not accurate - what I meant to say was..."

Posted by: Ben Hyde on December 19, 2003 06:54 AM

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If there were any bias at work here, I'm sure we would have heard about it from Andrew Sullivan or Instapundit or Kaus by now. So it must be a purely objective revision based on the facts.

Posted by: Fabio Lanzoni on December 19, 2003 11:13 AM

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Over in Crooked Timber (www.crooketimber.com),
D^2 has a post titled, 'Le Club de Paris', about
the way in which the debts are handled.

Posted by: Barry on December 19, 2003 12:25 PM

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Sorry, http://www.crookedtimber.org/

Posted by: Barry on December 19, 2003 12:27 PM

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