Sunday, April 3, 2005

Bias? What Bias?

Let's do a little exercise in comparative media analysis, shall we?

According to the BBC,
Insurgents attack Abu Ghraib jail
Dozens of insurgents in Iraq have carried out an attack on Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

The US military said the assault began after dark with two car bombs, followed by small arms fire and grenades.

Soldiers fought back, and the Americans say they have now restored control. At least 20 US soldiers and 12 prisoners were reported wounded.

More than 3,000 detainees are held at the jail, which was at the centre of a scandal last year over prisoner abuse.

Between 40 and 60 insurgents are thought to have taken part in the assault - described by one official as a very big, very well-organised attack.

Audacious attack
Some witnesses have said the second car bomb went off while US troops were trying to evacuate the casualties from the first.

The jail has been targeted before with mortars.

This latest attack comes as both US and Iraqi officials say the level of violence has gone down since January's elections.

Nine weeks since the vote, the Iraqi parliament is due to make another attempt to appoint a speaker, the first stage in forming a government to end the political limbo here.

Correspondents say MPs were hoping to break a deadlock over the post at last-minute meetings on Friday.
Aljazeera reported the incident this way:
US troops wounded in prison attack
Dozens of fighters have attacked the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, detonating two car bombs and firing rocket-propelled grenades at US forces before the assault was repelled, the US military said.

At least 20 US soldiers were wounded in the fighting, which lasted about an hour, a US officer said. At least 12 detainees were also wounded, some severely.

It was not known how many fighters were wounded or killed.

"A group of between 40 and 60 insurgents attacked the US forward operating base at Abu Ghraib," Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill, spokesman for detainee affairs, said, adding the attack began about 11am (1500 GMT).

"They detonated two VBIEDs [vehicle-borne improvised explosive devise] and also fired rocket-propelled grenades into the prison camp. It was a sustained attack," he said.

Sustained attack
US forces responded with heavy weapons, and the situation was under control by 3pm, Rudisill said.

"The attacks were intermittent. They would fire RPGs and then stop, then they would attack again," he said. "It is under control now."

Witnesses said the second car bomb was detonated against US forces as they were evacuating casualties from the first car bomb blast.

Rudisill said US troops had sealed the prison grounds and it was not thought that any fighters had penetrated the jail's perimeter.

Abu Ghraib, notorious for the prisoner abuse scandal that emerged last year, is on the western outskirts of Baghdad. It is one of three US-run detention facilities in the country.
Meanwhile, CNN had this report:
Insurgents attack Abu Ghraib prison
At least 20 U.S. soldiers and 12 detainees were wounded when an estimated 40 to 60 insurgents attacked the infamous Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad on Saturday.

Two of the detainees were seriously wounded, a military spokesman said.

The soldiers were treated on site, and the two seriously wounded detainees were being treated at a hospital facility at the prison.

The attack occurred at 7:20 p.m. (10:30 a.m. ET) and involved two car bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, the spokesman said.

"Fortunately, no multinational forces were killed in this attack, and they're continuing to protect the welfare of the detainees," said 1st Lt. Adam Rondeau, the U.S. military spokesman, about the people being detained in the prison.

The spokesman did not know whether they were suicide attacks, or how many insurgents were killed or wounded.

Abu Ghraib gained notoriety amid revelations U.S. soldiers abused prisoners there.
Do you see any anti-American bias in any of these reports? Any pro-American bias anywhere?

Aljazeera certainly has the most detailed coverage. This is nothing new; it's par for the course with most stories from Iraq lately.

I see very little, if any, anti-American bias is evident in any of the three reports. Aljazeera mentioned that Abu Ghraib is "notorious for the prisoner abuse scandal that emerged last year". But then CNN said virtually the same thing this way: "Abu Ghraib gained notoriety amid revelations U.S. soldiers abused prisoners there." And in any case it's true. Telling the truth is not a form of bias. It's all the other stuff that shows the bias, if there is any.

There is probably some pro-American bias in BBC and CNN both using the term "insurgents". Notice how Aljazeera avoids the use of this term.

My conservative friends may argue that Aljazeera is guilty of "anti-American" bias for failing to use the term "insurgents". They can argue anything they want. But I don't think I am going to take their argument very seriously. Not this time. Iraq needs a legitimate government before it can have "insurgents". But I digress.

I see even more pro-American spin in CNN's including a quote reminding its readers that "they're continuing to protect the welfare of the detainees". The other two news providers have omitted this detail. I wonder why. Maybe they thought mentioning "the detainees" would prompt their readers to think: "Oh yes, the detainees! I remember now. Are these the same "detainees" I saw in the photos? It's just like at the football games, right?"