Howling Dog Graphic
Point. Click. Search.

Contents: Archives:

Search this weblog
Search WWW
Howler Graphic
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
Socrates Reads Graphic
A companion site.

Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to Marc.

Howler Banner Graphic
Caveat lector

SLICING APPLE (PART 1 OF 2)! Apple said the war was won. And then, Brit Hume started spinning:


SLICING APPLE: Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve long bashed “Johnny” Apple too. In January 2000, the Timesman offered truly comical thoughts about the shape of the Iowa caucuses (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/21/00). In September 2000, he gave a ludicrous account of polling in Ohio, which we debunked at And his 1999 profiles of Candidates Bush and Gore were marvels of Official Press Corps CW; Apple lavished praise on the “Madras Cowboy,” Bush (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/17/99), and rolled his eyes at Hapless Gore. Conservative pundits had no complaints when the Timesman penned that prize press corps palaver. Nor did they moan when Apple praised Bush’s error-strewn performance at Bush-Gore Debate I (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/22/02). This was another Standard Spin which Apple served and the pundits munched down.

But bashing Apple has become de rigeur—and it’s getting more phony and fake by the minute. As usual, Brit Hume took things around the bend last night, presiding on Special Report. Those savvy all-stars were letting us know who had been right—and wrong—on the war. Brit cited Johnny. It’s the law:

HUME: Let me mention one other person who deserves special mention. And it’s R.W. “Johnny” Apple, legendary reporter of the New York Times. This is what he wrote today! “News of fierce fighting in Hilla, 50 miles south of Baghdad, and on the eastern and southern sides of the capital belies talk of collapse.” [End of statement]
Wow! Apple had been crazily wrong once again! (The exclamation point is right in the Fox transcript!) As usual, Morton Kondracke and Michael Barone were savvy enough to pile on:
KONDRACKE (continuing directly): Poor Johnny Apple has been so wrong about this because he has a Vietnam quagmire image of what happens when America goes to war. I mean he was Vietnam War correspondent and he can’t get that defeat out of his head.

BARONE: Well, and the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and the editor of the New York Times, Howell Raines have been using its news page to conduct a propaganda war against the Bush administration’s conduct of this war. So, you know, New York Times reporters are operating at a disadvantage.

All Standard Spin-Points were duly expressed. “Poor Johnny Apple” had done it again!

Unfortunately, Hume had clipped Apple’s quote in an extremely slick fashion. One would have thought from Hume’s presentation that Apple was still predicting defeat! In fact, Apple’s “News Analysis” was headlined “Bush’s War Message: Strong and Clear,” and the scribe did not see defeat near at hand. Here was Apple’s overview of the military situation:

APPLE: As Mr. Bush spoke this morning, British troops moved almost unhindered through Basra, and American troops had thrown a noose around Baghdad. Infantrymen from the Third Division held a long stretch of the west bank of the Tigris River in the heart of the capital and several of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. The Iraqi Planning and Information Ministries were burning.
“Military victory begets political strength,” he continued. “Mr. Bush has carried the country with him, and most of the second-guessers among Washington’s policy experts are keeping their voices down these days.”

Was Johnny Apple proclaiming defeat? Sorry. Apple proclaimed Bush’s “military victory”—and Hume was just faking once again. Eventually, Apple assessed the position of anti-war voices, and we finally reached the part of his piece which Hume so baldly distorted:

APPLE: [A]ntiwar forces…must now bear the additional burden of arguing with success. American losses are relatively small: 96 dead to date, compared with 200 a day at the height of the Vietnam War.

That this should be so despite stubborn Iraqi resistance not only in Baghdad but also elsewhere must rank as one of the major surprises of a surprising war. Those who expected light casualties expected the enemy to collapse.

News of fierce fighting in Hilla, 50 miles south of Baghdad, and on the eastern and southern sides of the capital belies talk of collapse, though the ability of Iraqi commanders to control their forces is shrinking fast.

Once again, Apple described the “success” of the war in Iraq—“success” which antiwar voices would now have “to argue.” But Hume was determined to spin his viewers, so he got out his clippers and started distorting. Indeed, Hume was too baldly dishonest even to quote a single complete sentence from Apple. He used the part of that final sentence where Apple described continued fighting. He dropped the part of the very same sentence where Apple noted that Iraqi commanders were on the way out.

For the record, Apple wasn’t the only observer who noted that fighting persisted. Even today, Cent Com spokesmen are warning one and all that the fighting is far from done. But Hume was fighting another war—the sleazy, dishonest propaganda war increasingly fought inside your “press corps.” It isn’t the first time he’s played this slick game—and there’s no reason to think it’s the last.

TOMORROW: Mocking Barry—and quagmires are fun.

How bad has it gotten on Special Report? After Hume’s baldly dishonest presentation, Ceci Connolly rode to the rescue, speaking on Apple’s behalf:

CONNOLLY: Just to be fair, though—and look, far be it from the Washington Post person sitting at this table to come to the defense of our main competition—but to be fair, for anybody who didn’t read that full story today, it was really—first of all, it was an analysis, and it was full of very positive things that he had to say throughout.

HUME: Right, there’s nothing—you can say a lot of positive things be—

CONNOLLY: Absolutely, but I just think it’s fair to look at it in its totality.

Sadly, that was the full discussion. Connolly put up a partial defense, but viewers had no way of knowing the truth. Hume—rapidly becoming a pure propagandist—had baldly deceived them once again.

The Daily update

THAT FORGOTTEN VILLAGE: Some readers were surprised by a comment we made about Marc Fisher’s Post magazine piece (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/7/03). Does the press like to write about “schools that work?” In fact, the press corps loves to run down public ed, these writers wrote to tell us. But these writers were thinking of public ed in general, and we were talking about urban schools. Over the course of the past several decades, the press corps has avoided reports like Fisher’s—reports that detail the dismal state of our troubled urban schools. Instead, they tend to offer feel-good reports about urban schools whose test scores have shot up. One such implausible feel-good piece appeared in the New York Times just last week. The public is poorly served by these standard stories. More on these topics to follow.