Friday, August 11, 2006

Compare versions for yourself: AFP waters down its story on Bush benefiting politically from British airline terror plot

This is priceless. Agence France Press came out Thursday with a scathing report on White House manipulation of the news of the foiled British airline plot. Reading it was like lifting a rock and seeing some very unpleasant creatures scuttling around. The article documented how Cheney, Bush and other officials coordinated their partisan statements around their foreknowledge of the arrests in London, to the obvious delight of Republican partisans.
"Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big," said another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, adding that some Democratic candidates won't "look as appealing" under the circumstances.
Nothing was edited out in the later, softened version. Far from it. Instead, they simply balanced the Cheney and Bush quotes with some Democratic comments by Harry Reid and John Kerry. That seems fair enough, doesn't it?

Not really. Think about it -- the first article made a pretty strong case that the White House used its inside information about the terror plot for partisan gain. The Democrats didn't have any inside knowledge. By adding some Democratic commentary -- and changing the headline to reflect the new, more "balanced" approach -- the revised article made the whole thing look like just another example of partisan political bickering.

Here are the URLs of the two versions, labeled with their two different headlines. Comparing them provides an interesting vantage point on so-called "objective" mainstream journalism as it's practiced today. Judge for yourself.

"Bush seeks political gains from foiled plot"

"Bush, foes seek political gains from foiled plot"

And that, kiddies, is how the game is played.

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