October 22, 2007

The Dogma Dome

Michael Yon has grown frustrated with American and European coverage of the war in Iraq. He has experienced the vast gulf that has opened between the reality of his own observations throughout the Iraqi nation and the depictions of doom that the Western media create out of whole cloth -- and he has reached the boiling point in his latest dispatch. Yon writes of a "dogma dome" which insists that Basra has descended into chaos when it hasn't, and that Iraq has collapsed when it has actually started to coalesce into a real nation:

I was at home in the United States just one day before the magnitude hit me like vertigo: America seems to be under a glass dome which allows few hard facts from the field to filter in unless they are attached to a string of false assumptions. Considering that my trip home coincided with General Petraeus’ testimony before the US Congress, when media interest in the war was (I’m told) unusually concentrated, it’s a wonder my eardrums didn’t burst on the trip back to Iraq. In places like Singapore, Indonesia, and Britain people hardly seemed to notice that success is being achieved in Iraq, while in the United States Britney was competing for airtime with O.J. in one of the saddest sideshows on Earth.

No thinking person would look at last year’s weather reports to judge whether it will rain today, yet we do something similar with Iraq news. The situation in Iraq has drastically changed, but the inertia of bad news leaves many convinced that the mission has failed beyond recovery, that all Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, or are waiting for us to leave so they can crush their neighbors. This view allows our soldiers two possible roles: either “victim caught in the crossfire” or “referee between warring parties.” Neither, rightly, is tolerable to the American or British public. ....

Anyone who has been in Iraq for longer than a few months, visited a handful of provinces, and spoken with a good number of Iraqis, likely would acknowledge that the reality here is complex and dynamic. But in the last six months it also has been increasingly hopeful, despite what the pessimistic dogma dome allows Americans and British to believe.

I wasn’t back in Iraq three days before this critical disconnect rocketed up from the ground and whacked me in the face. There I was with British soldiers, preparing for a mission with a duration of more than ten days in the southern province of al Basra, when someone asked me about the media reports alleging that Basra city had collapsed into violent chaos. Not wishing to trust solely to my own eyes and ears, I asked around and was able to quickly confirm what I’d already noted: conditions in this region had improved dramatically in the months since my previous embed with the Brits. ...

No one who’s actually been to this area in the last month could honestly claim it was swarming with violence. I’ve been with the Brits here for more than two weeks, during which time there have been only a few trivial attacks that could easily have been the work of an angry farmer with extra time on his hands and a mortar in his backyard. As to serious attacks on British forces, in the last eight weeks, there have been exactly zero. So, any stories that make it sound like Basra is in chaos are shamefully false.

Yon wants to transform his independent reporting into something more akin to a wire service, using others who are stationed in Iraq as correspondents. Major news agencies tend to have only one correspondent in Iraq, and that person usually stays in the Green Zone. Yon has been in Iraq for most of the period from the end of 2004 onward, but it's difficult for independents to remain there because of the high costs.

So Yon is doing something rather unusual -- he is offering his reports for free to members of the National Newspaper Association. Rather than charge for his dispatches as most independents would of syndicators, Yon will allow them to use the reports for free. He is putting his money where his mouth is, in order to give newspapers no excuse to recycle old stories or print new falsehoods, as he puts it. He wants an end to the dogma dome and the truth about Iraq to get to the American people.

In order to do this, he's asking readers to contribute to his site to keep his embed afloat. He has several ways for readers to drop some money into his coffers to keep him in Iraq and reporting from the ground on Coalition progress, or lack of it when he finds that as well. For those of us who appreciate fresh and accurate reporting, it seems like a great tradeoff.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Dogma Dome:

» Michael Yon offers to help the press find Iraq from The Anchoress
Ed Morrissey explains: Michael Yon has grown frustrated with American and European coverage of the war in Iraq. He has experienced the vast gulf that has opened between the reality of his own observations throughout the Iraqi nation and the depictions ... [Read More]

» Michael Yon: What the media won’t tell you from Sister Toldjah
We’ve all become familiar with the wonderful work of frontlines-blogger/writer/photographer Michael Yon over the years. So many times he has brought to life the stories of soldiers and civilians in Iraq that the media ignores in favor of their &... [Read More]

Comments (33)

Posted by rbj | October 22, 2007 7:25 AM

Free news reports from people who are actually there? AS long as such stories don't fit the Narrative, the MSM won't touch them. After all, now Bush is responsible for the decline in business for cemetery workers in Iraq.

Posted by TomB | October 22, 2007 7:43 AM

Can't wait for a spin, lecture on what the good journalism really is and defense of the MSM.

Posted by Richard Aubrey | October 22, 2007 8:01 AM

Won't help.

Posted by VA Voter | October 22, 2007 8:40 AM

The best way to counter the false reporting is to out the individual byline reporters by name. Continuing to lambast the "MSM" is useless because it too large and anonymous by that name alone.

Posted by AnonymousDrivel | October 22, 2007 8:50 AM

As has been noted endlessly throughout this overseas event and so explicitly just recently with the reportage about the MoveOn/NYTimes "Betray Us" culminating with the ABCNews misreporting of the Rush smackdown of Reid et al, the MSM will misreport, selectively report, or outright lie to the American public.

I'll sing Richard Aubrey's refrain. Yon's noble gesture won't help. The MSM knows all too well what it's doing and why. Appealing to their ethics is a lost cause. Only when a competing commercial entity that is not staffed with generational academic bias has wedged itself into the press will source news change. It will take deep pockets to finance the endeavor to see that an alternate message is carried. Another Murdoch heavy on news and light on tabloids is what the industry so desperately needs.

I'll tip Yon's jar a bit but know it won't do much. Yon should get an award for his work. Do you think Columbia's School of "Journalism" would agree? Ever? Even if their lives depended on it?

RE: VA Voter (October 22, 2007 8:40 AM)

"The best way to counter the false reporting is to out the individual byline reporters by name. Continuing to lambast the "MSM" is useless because it too large and anonymous by that name alone."

A good point, so here goes my first:

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf for his and ABC's atrocious reportage of the Reid/Democrat attempt to smear and censor a U.S. citizen and misreporting said citizen's contribution to philanthropy.

We can call it the "George Orwell Honesty in Reporting Award."

Posted by TomB | October 22, 2007 9:10 AM

VA Voter,
Targeting individual reporters is no good, since they don't decide what gets printed, or goes on air. There is a faceless mob of well connected and interconnected editors behind each "overlook", lie, spin, or misrepresentation. "Free Spirit" journalist doesn't live long in this kind of environment, have his, or her voice heard, unless it follows the party line. Even the dissenting voices are under some kind of scrutiny.
Yes, it is that bad.

Posted by Frank | October 22, 2007 9:17 AM

Yeah right:

Before the war, Baghdad had a 65 percent Sunni majority. It is now 75 percent Shi'a. More than half of all Baghdad's neighborhoods are now Shi'a dominated as compared to a handful just a year ago.

I always see that happen just before stable constitutional democracies form.

Posted by Reg Starling | October 22, 2007 9:57 AM


Before the US ratified the current Constitution, a large number of Crown Loyalists fled for Canada. Thanks for bringing up another datum to support the notion that large displacements of people who either abide or abet tyrranies is required before the foundation of stable republics.

Posted by arch | October 22, 2007 10:02 AM

During Tet, WaPo had an experienced reporter in Saigon named Peter Braestrup. He was a USMC Korean and Vietnam combat veteran who had also covered the French war in Algeria before being sent by the Post to Vietnam.

Like most of the press corps, he lived in the Chinese quarter - Cholon - were much of the fighting took place. Unlike his contemporaries, however, his experience let him recognize the massive losses the communists were taking far exceeded their gains. Braestrup also reported that most of the civilian casualties were inflicted by the VC not US or South Vietnamese. Unfortunately, his rational and experienced observations were ignored.

When the war was over, Braestrup could not understand how the media had gotten the Tet story so completely wrong. He collected every story and tape he could find and did an objective analysis. In his book, the Big Story, he lays it out. It's going to sound very familiar.

1. The Vietnam press consisted of 179 people including camera men, photogs, stringers and sound crews but only about 60 journalists. Few had the military experience to assess the situation.

2. The press knew there was an offensive coming, but chose to ignore the military's warning. They were not prepared to deal with their personal safety, much less observe an urban war.

3. The press viewed the localized fighting around their hotel in Cholon as a national collapse. They reported the initial VC success, but ignored the US and ARVN counterattack under which the VC collapsed. They reported Saigon was like Dresden, when 95% of the city was undamaged.

4. They characterized the South Vietnamese forces as lazy and unreliable. That message caused their readers to question our support of the war and it also undermined their efforts in country.

5. They mischaracterized the US use of firepower as indiscriminate. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Our forces did not have the urban warfare weapons such as recoilless rifles and rocket launchers, forcing us to clear enemy troops from areas house by house. This was particularly true in Hue, the old Imperial capitol, where we lost Marines rather than calling in air or artillery.

6. They reported that sappers overran the US Embassy. Actually, 19 VC breached the perimeter wall. Their two officers were killed immediately and none survived 8 hours. The enemy never set foot inside the Embassy building.

7. The Vietnam press corps and their liberal, anti-war editors decided to interpret the news rather than reporting the facts.

Have they learned anything? I don't think so.


Posted by Frank | October 22, 2007 10:19 AM



Comparing the violent forced displacement of the Sunni population in Baghdad by the Shiites to the Crown Loyalists moving to another country.

I'm not going to touch that one.

By the way, in the Revoutionary war you had the Tories/British against the Patriots.

Who plays the role of the United States caught in the middle of those two?

Posted by hunter | October 22, 2007 10:30 AM

This is the same MSM that ignroes the largest charity auction in history.
The only way this actually works is for the MSM to continue to collapse and for Yon and other real journalists to pick up the pieces.
I wish him well.

Posted by hunter | October 22, 2007 10:33 AM

I guess you would be successfully illustrating that historical illiteracy is a requirement for lefties.
Keep up the good work.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 22, 2007 10:35 AM

Nice post, arch.

I get a lot of "ya gotta look at history" from the lefties...seems they ignore history most of the time if it doesn't meet their script.

I am hoping, soon, that karma will meet dogma.

The NYT, WaPo and others will become nothing but free advertising sheets, the kind that fill my mailbox daily, as they have shown consistently that they are not at all interested in covering the news, only covering "stories" that back up their dogma, and are too full of ads to warrant space for serious stories in any case.

My son, a Marine, a combat photographer and combat journalist, found it to be true many many times that the reporting from the Green Zone rarely matched what was going on on the ground outside of Baghdad, and in many cases inside Baghdad.

The MSM reporters by and large never leave the Green Zone, and when they do they are part of large convoys, and get out of their vehicles usually for no more than a few minutes. They rely on paid stringers, local nationals, who get paid for stories, and if the stories don't match the MSM conventional wisdom, they are used less frequently if not at all.

Yes, Iraq has some serious ongoing problems, but things are being addressed...and it is a long process.

Such plodding forward lacks the spectacular fire across the sky stuff the Green Zone journalists love.

Therein is the major problem. It doesn't bleed, so it doesn't lead.

I have noticed more and more often lately, that the television media is using more and more footage from a year or two ago. One easily recognizes locales, troops and situations if they are put on the TV screens often enough. Where is the new footage?

What is most striking is that there are far far fewer fire across the sky stories and film footage coming out of Iraq over the past several months. And this means?

If Iraq is as bad as the MSM would love for us to believe, where are those fire across the sky stories?

Where are the photos and video of the hundreds and hundreds and thousands of dead and dying, hours of video of the burning mosques, burning towns, and hundreds and hundreds of jihadis, Ba'athist hold-outs and local militias fighting out in the open along all the streets and avenues across Iraq?

They can't have it both ways.

IF there is widespread carnage, I want to see it. If there is a true story out there of massive upheavals, be it Baghdad or Basra, I want to see it, up close and personal. If there is none, then I want to see that even moreso.

But dogma does get in the way. I hope karma meets that dogma...sooner rather than later.

Posted by Derek | October 22, 2007 10:37 AM


"I always see that happen just before stable constitutional democracies form."

Pray tell, how many stable Middle Eastern democracies have you witnessed so far?

Besides those evil joos of course.

Posted by unclesmrgol | October 22, 2007 10:39 AM

Reg Starling,

Actually, the Revolutionary War was not about tyrrany -- it was about the taxes that King George was exacting to make the colonies pay for their own defense -- but without George providing the troops actually needed for such defense. In essence, the Patriots rebelled against unjust taxation (or, as the British would have it, payment in arrears for the previous defense of the Colonies against the French and Indians). The "taxation without representation" meme came much later. If you consider, for example, the percentage of value the Tea Tax represented, as opposed to any state's sales tax today, you would, from a economic standpoint, feel far better paying the Tea Tax than the sales tax.

In essence, you had a set of colonies who really no longer needed the mother country to survive, and used warfare to achieve their independence. It was more about a group of men wanting power to themselves than about a tyrant king.

As to whether we are better off as a result, look to the North, where they didn't rebel. Except Quebec -- don't look at Quebec because it's entirely peopled by the French. If we had still been governed by England, we would have gotten rid of slavery much sooner, and without the ultimately inconclusive Civil War, whose real cause took another 100 years to be resolved.

That said, I have profound disagreement with Frank's position too. A large bunch of bad Iraqis and foreign Islamists with guns tried to impose their anarchistic will on a defenseless population and had some successes (which Frank trumpets) but they have mostly failed. The nation building process is working. Like our Civil War, the time to heal will be measured in decades, but it will occur.

Posted by TomB | October 22, 2007 10:39 AM

Sunni population in Bagdad was there as governing class to support operations of the grossly skewed Government (in plain English - governing Clique). Once the plum jobs were gone, so were the workers.

Posted by HillaryC | October 22, 2007 10:43 AM

I want to send my sincere thanks to supporters of the neocons who hijacked the Republican Party.

Without the efforts of this Trotskyite group in running the Republican Party off course, I wouldn’t have had much of a chance next year.

Thank you again.


Posted by Frank | October 22, 2007 10:45 AM

Yeah, they just left their homes voluntarily because there was no work.

Have you read the details as to how some of the people were murdered as they voluntarily left their homes?

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 22, 2007 10:46 AM

Where was the outrage, from the Left, righteous indignation, when the minority Sunni, loyal to a T to Saddam, were ruling the nation, subjugating the Shia, the Marsh Arabs, and all the other non-Sunni's who constituted the majority of the country?

Posted by Frank | October 22, 2007 10:55 AM

The Sunnis and Shiites are not interested in Jeffersonian Democracy with each other.

They want to set up their own societies.

If they want to do that, we should let them.

Posted by coldwarrior415 | October 22, 2007 10:59 AM

So, Sunni leaders in Anbar and Diyala going to talk with Ali al-Sistani to coordinate efforts and programs is a move toward separate societies?

Posted by RudyG | October 22, 2007 11:00 AM

I want to send my sincere thanks to supporters of the liberals who have formed todays Democrat Party.

Without the efforts of this defeatist and self loathing group in keeping the Democrat Party on course, I wouldn’t have had much of a chance next year.

Thank you again.


Posted by G. Moore | October 22, 2007 11:01 AM

I spent 30 years in the MSM (B.S., Journalism, M.A., Mass Communications) and I can tell you what's beeen going on. Before I do, however, I urge everyone to support Michael. He's performing a great service.

Now then, here are some of the problems:

(1) Reporting by the MSM (wire services and the larger papers, in this instance) is affected by the liberal bias of the people in charge. Reporters intuitively know what kind of reporting their bosses want, and they're happy to oblige because they want to advance in the business and win praise from their colleagues and trade organizations. A prize in a journalism contest is a great resume booster.

(2) Institutions of higher learning are not doing a very good job of training young journalists. You would be amazed at the ethical and knowledge gaps in young reporters fresh out of colleges and universities. I worked with such people regularly, and time and time again, I was shocked by how little they knew.

(3) The economics of the industry is creating unhealthy pressures on performance. The entire industry is in a downsizing mode, and that means cutting back on newsroom personnel and offering buyouts to the "old hands." The result: Too few people with too little experience.

(4) The art of editing has disappeared. Give a critical read to just about any story, wire or local, and you'll see the problems.

(5) As new technology evolved, newspaper owners transferred more and more of the production responsibilities into the newsroom, without adding enough newsroom people to do the work. In the "old days," a bunch of people were engaged in setting type, composing pages, pouring lead, etc. With the advent of the computer and pagination, all of that was moved into the newsrooms, without a commensurate increase in newsroom personnel. The change created a windfall profit for newspapers, and that profit made obscene profit margins possible. That has all changed, of course, with the growth of the Internet, blogs, etc.

Bottom line: Don't rely on MSM for accurate information on complicated or controversial topics. It may not be there.

Finally, and again, I urge everybody to support Michael in his efforts to practice good journalism. I've read many of his dispatches, and he's doing a fine job.

Posted by NoDonkey | October 22, 2007 11:07 AM

"Institutions of higher learning are not doing a very good job of training young journalists."

I'm not sure they're doing much of a job training anyone.

And if you're a professor who requires the kids to learn and to work to get a "B", and to really excel to get an "A"?

You'll be trashed in your student surveys and the parents of the kids will be complaining to the administration, "I'm paying $20,000 a year for THIS"? He needs to get into XXX grad school."

Much easier to pass the kids through without requiring much and to give most of them an "A" for effort.

How about that survey a few months ago, that revealed college seniors in many cases actually knew LESS about American civics than they did when they were high school seniors?

Posted by TomB | October 22, 2007 11:14 AM

Thank you very much!

Posted by unclesmrgol | October 22, 2007 11:51 AM


Or, in the case of the LA Times, laid off half the newsroom and required the others to take up the "slack".

Posted by Reg Starling | October 22, 2007 12:23 PM

Touche, Unclesmrgol. Thanks for bringing up some of the stuff I'd forgotten in the sloganeering of the day. About the US Civil War, I'd counterargue that the violence was a necessary and good thing down the road, despite the bloodshed and pain at the time. Incidentally, you see that a lot in history, that a little bad blood cleared now saves a lot of blood spilled down the road. Frank, you should take note of that. Those who left Baghdad did not leave voluntarily because there was no work--the Shia'a had no work either and they didn't flee. The Sunnis left two steps ahead of the lynch mob--due to their own actions in some cases, in more cases due to the actions of their coreligionists. Is that just? In the case of the latter, probably not, and I won't even try to argue that. I will argue that the facts on the ground are what they are (sorry for the Berra-ism).

The massive displacement of Sunnis (most of whom fled to Syria) from Iraq hampers the proxy of my nation's main regional opponent, and that's good enough for me. Bloodless? Sure, and I make no bones about it. My sympathies do not lie with those who would kill me--whether they think they have grievance or not. Despite the cariacature from the Left, I derive no pleasure from the pain and suffering omnipresent in the mideast. What is a child's birth but pain and blood, giving way to something better? And that's what we're helping the Iraqis (those who stay at least) through.

Posted by Otter | October 22, 2007 12:54 PM

Michael Yon, meet 'Dogma Dome' Frank. Dogma Dome Frank, meet a well-educated, On-the-site, Honest reporter.

Posted by John | October 22, 2007 1:13 PM

I just posted this to Michael Yon's website, and also made the small contribution referred to below:
To quote a current television theme song, “A little less conversation, a little more action, please.” Let’s contribute!

Having worked for the wrong company for 20+ years, I’m retired on a pretty crummy pension and can’t afford $125. But as soon as I post this comment, I’m making a small Paypal contribution. Ten thousand people contributing $12.50 works just as well.

Let’s also make sure this keeps circulating in the blogosphere, which is where I found this dispatch linked. And how about a few (or maybe few hundred) forwards to Rush, Hannity, et.al.? The mere mention of this dispatch on those sites will bring in the money.

Michael’s right, the current state of the media is not just scary, it’s dangerous.

Posted by Jose | October 22, 2007 1:35 PM

The reporting here in the UK with respect to Basra was that violence dropped after the British pulled out. That's not from an obscure source either that was on the BBC.

However Iraq isn't a place any sane person would want to live in right now. Hopefully they're on the road to recovery but with four million refugees and nearly one million dead it's hard to be overly cheerful about their good fortune.

Posted by whippoorwill | October 22, 2007 2:49 PM

"By the way, in the Revoutionary war you had the Tories/British against the Patriots."

Frank, nothing has really changed, it's like that now in America. I say say let them have their fantasies for a time. Reality will be around shortly.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | October 22, 2007 6:48 PM

Jose says:

"The reporting here in the UK with respect to Basra was that violence dropped after the British pulled out. That's not from an obscure source either that was on the BBC."

These days, the BBC IS "an obscure source". Especially when it comes to "reporting" news from Iraq. They're even more biased to the left than their American counterparts, despite the fact they are supported by license fees and thus are supposed to be "objective".

Posted by justgoto | October 23, 2007 5:37 AM

"Who plays the role of the United States caught in the middle of those two?"
The French?

Post a comment