John Leo
When The New York Times ran a front-page report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan ("Flaws in U.S. Air War Left Hundreds of Civilians Dead"), bloggers descended on the article like ants on a picnic.

Bloggers, Web loggers who run commentary and stray thoughts on their own Internet sites, like to play "gotcha" with the established media. A favorite target is the Times, which has developed the habit of running front-page editorials posing as news reports. Hundreds of civilians dead? Don't that many civilians perish in nearly every war? Stuart Buck at www.stuartbuck.blogspot.com asked: "Has there ever been another war in history where civilian casualties were so few that journalists could track down virtually all of them individually?"

On his site, The Politburo, blogger Michael Moynihan noted that the Times' source for the toll of 812 dead was Marla Ruzicka, identified as a field worker in Afghanistan for Global Exchange, "an American organization." What the Times didn't say, Moynihan wrote, is that Global Exchange is a "far-left" group that opposes globalization and the U.S. military. Ruzicka, he said, is a fan of Fidel Castro's Cuba and the winner of an award from "the Marxist group Refuse and Resist."

Oddly, after deciding to run a shaky article on civilian deaths, the Times seemed to take it all back, reporting that the "extraordinary accuracy of American air strikes" has produced few of the disasters seen in previous wars. If that's true, why run the article? The Times also featured a series of artistic photos of children wounded in the war, titled "A Legacy of Misery." This is the way the Times expresses its resistance to the war -- equating the liberation of Afghanistan with misery, pain and dead civilians.

The mighty Times may not have noticed that a lot of bloggers -- some with small reputations, some with no reputations at all -- now swarm over its news columns searching for errors and bias. The established media learned long ago how to marginalize critics and shrug off complaints of bias as the ravings of right-wing fanatics.

But the bloggers aren't so easily dismissed. They don't bluster. They deal in specifics and they work quickly, while the stories they target are fresh. They link to sources, to one another's sites, and to the articles under attack, so readers can judge for themselves. The blogging revolution, says commentator Andrew Sullivan, the best-known blogger, "undermines media tyrants."


John Leo

John Leo is editor of MindingTheCampus.com and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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