September 13, 2004
More on Jakarta
*This post has been updated and shifted to the top of the page.*
* Arthur Chrenkoff has a good summary of further developments and reactions.
"Blogs as living history". That's an intruiging idea.
Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit is the central blog of blogs, the divine linker. Like major media, his is the first amongst equals and thus usually the one who determines the agenda of the blogosphere in terms of politics. He has earned that position through respect, constant good work and interesting linkage. So it comes as a major disappointment that there is not a single mention of the Jakarta bombings on his site. Others such as Michele and the Command Post team did report on it but the major central clearing house of the blogosphere ignored it, as did many others.
Now I realise the blogosphere is abuzz with the exposure of the faked CBS memos. For more just look through Instapundit and follow the links, starting here. Blogs have proved themselves worthy in exposing a fraud; it's a blow both for blogs as a new medium and in breaking the story itself. However the world hasn 't stopped. A few articles have metioned blogs and exposing them to a greater audience. But the world hasn't changed. We are three years on from America's eyes being opened to the changed reality of the world. There's a famous dictum that generals always fight the last war - that is, each is fought based on the patterns of the previous conflict. But this battle is nothing like the Cold War. The Cold War was a clear us-and-them mentality based, to a large extent, on a common set of rules and beliefs. Now the war is a fragmented, nebulous and ongoing engima. There are wars within Islam, between religion and secularity, between and within the West, to name but a few. Everything is changing in rapid and unpredictable ways.
Australia, rightly or wrongly, has been a strong supporter of the USA in this new war. Following the events of 9/11 (but also the earlier terror attacks such as the earlier WTC bombings and the bombings of the American embassies in Afica) many nations pledged support for the USA. However few followed through in joining what became the "Coalition of the Willing". Joining this alliance did not involve a quid pro quo: it was simply considered fighting for what is commonly believed to be worth defending. America has always been the main embodiment of those values: liberal capitalist democracy.
But America can make itself hard to love. Feelings of support that the world showered on America are reciprocated at times like now. It doesn't matter that no Australians were killed. What matters is terrorists killed innocent people in a clear attempt to attack a Coalition member. The US Government quickly pledged support and sympathy, as was to be expected. That too is not the point. What matters is what the American people themselves believe. Using the major media and the blogosphere as (an admittedly imperfect) proxy, there has been some expressions of sympathy and interest, but far broader indifference and ignorance. Instead there's much concern over whether George Bush dodged a medical 30 years ago and whether the proof was faked. I agree it is an issue. So is John Kerry's Vietnam record. But there are nowhere near as important an issue as what does need talking about. Where are Bush and Kerry planning to take America in the next 4 years? What are they planning to do in the war on terror? On Iraq? On helping allies like Australia? On defeating Al-Qaeda, JI and their ilk? There seems to be a major case of not seeing the forest for the trees at the moment in American polity. The losers are not just Americans, but the world.
It's hard to disguise my dissapointment and disgust. Obviously different frames of reference mean different events are viewed with different priorities. But in terms of relativities an Al-Qaeda offshoot attempting to destroy an ally's embassy would normally rank as an important news story. Clearly these are not normal times. I am still a firm believer that what America and Australia are doing is right both in the war on terror and in Iraq (although I don't believe the war in Iraq is directly related to the war on terror; rather it was an indirect linkage based on maintaining some sence of global law, giving UN sanctions teeth, backing up efforts to disarm potential holders of WMD and genuinely trying to transform a despotic and twisted Middle East country with potential flow-on effects to others in the region).
Despite its unilateralists tendencies, America isn't alone. Just as that means receiving support from allies, it also means reciprocating. And support isn't always in the form of money, military might or men. Sometimes it's as simple as a link on a blog.
UPDATE: In reference to the memo scandal, Glenn disputes his "centrality" in the blogosphere. He's right, to a degree. While he might hate the analogy, he's the New York Times (or perhaps WaPo) of the blogosphere: he doesn't always break the story but he sets the agenda and acts as a focal point. There are very few issues in blogging that live for long regardless, but if Glenn isn't linking it then it is likely a non-issue before it started.
I'm not telling Glenn or anyone else what to put on their sites. It's their site, their money and their effort. Rather I'm using him as a key example of the widespread (with some significant exceptions) apathy that's greeted the significant events of Jakarta last week. While Australians may have a great reputation with Americans, this kind of ignorance, when terorrists make an attempt on Aussies, from their key ally in the war is part of the reason the feelings are not always reciprocated to the same extent.
UPDATE 2: Kevin gets it, too. I should note that while I've generalised, there are many Americans who recognise and sympathise and are talking about Jakarta (in this example). However the broader point remains.
UPDATE 3: * An article detailing the contested paternity of injured 5 year old Manny Musu. Embedded Update: It turns out the Australian is her father but it looks like a messy custody battle is coming.
FINAL UPDATE: Glenn has corrected his overlooking of Jakarta with a generous link back to here. I tried to avoid making him the sole subject of my frustrations, but when you've got a lightening rod as an icon...it is a lightning rod, isn't it?
Welcome Insta-visitors; please have a look around.posted by Simon on 09.13.04 at 04:44 PM in the
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Remember Your Allies
Excerpt: A legitimate, somewhat poignant complaint from Simon about blog coverage of the Jakarta bombing: Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit is the central blog of blogs, the divine linker. Like major media, his is the first amongst equals and thus usually the one...
Weblog: Ilyka Damen
Tracked: September 13, 2004 02:06 AM
… AND TERROR AND THE MEDIA RESPONSE
Excerpt: Of course the renewed interest in Indonesia was sparked by last week’s bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta. Simon is irritated that this event is not getting the traction in the media and blogosphere the way it should and
Tracked: September 13, 2004 04:31 AM
Excerpt: whilst an indonesian bairn lay fighting for her life in a private hospital here, two fellas - each claiming to be her biological father - slugged it out, calling each other's bluff. i'm not going to say anything lest i'd...
Weblog: my innermost sanctum
Tracked: September 13, 2004 02:15 PM
Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit is the central blog of blogs, the divine linker. Like major media, his is the first amongst equals and thus usually the one who determines the agenda of the blogosphere in terms of politics. He has earned that position through respect, constant good work and interesting linkage. So it comes as a major disappointment that there is not a single mention of the Jakarta bombings on his site.
I think I'm a bit harsh on IP sometimes--after all, he's just one guy, a human being with preferences and prejudices about what to post, what to skip--but it is things like this that prevent me from being the huge fan of him that so many other bloggers are. I just do not like his selection process as much as that of other bloggers.posted by: ilyka on 09.13.04 at 01:51 AM [permalink]
'tis a shame that more attention has not been given to the significance of the jakarta bomb. but i am not surprised. australia is, after all, at the "arse end of the world".
perhaps more attention will be given if howard loses the election (fingers crossed that he does lose, in my case), and the usa will suffer a blow in the form of another nation withdrawing its troops from iraq. however the blogosphere's ranks of political pundits is dominated primarily by right- and ultra-right- leaning bloggers, who may gloss over the issue, so as not to give it too much exposure.
the usa will be so heavily absorbed in its own election. come october 9, that the outcome, howard or latham, will not find much space in the news media as well.
in the time that i have been living in Spain, however, australia has made the front page of 'El Pais' three times: Downer accusing spain for increasing the threat of terrorism worldwide; ian thorpe at the olympics, and; the jakarta bomb which earned a full page complete with the image you posted.
we are now not only a nation of sports lovers, but a nation more involved in the war on terrorism than any nation on continental europe (excl. russia).posted by: mikeyinbarcelona on 09.13.04 at 07:00 AM [permalink]
I must comment again that the CBS memos story should not be seen as trivial. The details regarding GWB's long-ago service are certainly trivial. But if a major and very powerful media outlet like CBS are seen as using forged documents to influence an election that is not at all trivial.
Issues of media integrity, whether CBS, BBC, or Al-Jazeera, will be absolutely vital in the struggle against terrorism.
I do think the Djakarta bombing and Indonesia in general should definitely be receiving more attention here in America. The recent interesting events in North Korea probably should also be receiving more attention.
If Howard does lose, I think the American media will make a great deal of it, because it will be seen as a blow against Bush. If the Jakarta bombing could be spinned as more specifically anti-Bush it would have gotten more attention here.
Australians, and Australia in general, are very, very favorably regarded and appreciated in America. Much more so than Americans are in Australia.
Toppenish: I agree the CBS memo story is significant in exposing media bias and a fraud. My point is the world is not a one issue place. I'd like to think people who blog and follow the news are capable of dealing with several issues at once, rather than single mindedly focus only on the memos to the exclusion of all else. It simply seems there's been a loss of perspective.
Ilyka's right that Glenn is only one person and cannot always be expected to "get it right", and as I said in the post some significant US blogs are covering the story. But from what I can gather this isn't just off the radar of bloggers, it's not even a story in "big media".
That's why Toppenish, you're right. The US may view Aussies very favourably, but the return view is favourable but not quite as solidly so, particularly because of events like this.posted by: Simon on 09.13.04 at 12:13 PM [permalink]
If we Americans are showing signs of apathy towards terrorism that isn't directly inflicted upon us, it's the same apathy that plagued and blinded us before 9/11. I certainly hope it isn't on the rise...posted by: Shawn on 09.13.04 at 01:20 PM [permalink]
The Jakarta bomb suffers from a key lack-of-interest point: it's in Indonesia, which is a Bad Place™ in the American mind.
Most Americans view Indoneisan attacks the same way they view terrorist attacks in the Philipines - not a surprise. It's unfortunate the Australians were attacked in another bombing on a SE Asian island (like Bali). But Americans have already written off Indonesia as a Terrorist Place - which makes the story sad, but not surprising.
I'm not going to touch the war-terrorism-allegiance aspects, but I will say this: just this past weekend I read an article about the war in the Sunday Times, written by blogger Andrew Sullivan. It was well-written, informative, a good style...but the point is, blogs are NOT journalism. Bloggers can be journalists, oh yes, but blogs take one view-the bloggers. So if Dan Rather runs a blog, fine. But at that point, it's a blog, not journalistic gospel.
It's why I avoid political blogs, right-wing, left-wing, no-wing. I want my opinions to be my own, not shaped after a centralist bloggers. Too many people, I think, take political blogs as the stance, as the truth, as "the way it is", when the truth is, it's only the way it is for THAT blogger. Bloggers have no responsibility to reflect the truth, and if history teaches us nothing, it's that some of them often don't.posted by: Helen on 09.13.04 at 05:34 PM [permalink]
Instapundit's success is due to his linking to other blogs as well as his own. He's like the entrance door to the world of political blogs. The CBS story is major because it reveals in detail why the mass media can't be trusted. Similar revelations have shown the BBC and the New York Times to be equally flawed. The poster above who says she won't read political blogs might as well say that she wants to be fooled. The only way to find the truth is to root it out, and that's what blogs can do.
Re your telling Americans yet again why you hate us and why the world hates us--you know what? I used to care, and now I don't. Feel free to hate us. If you don't want to work with us to maintain your own freedoms, well that's your choice. I'm tired of pundits telling us how bad we are, and how everyone would like us so much better if only we did this or that (like mentioning you more in our newspapers). In fact, wasn't I just writing about newspapers in the previous paragraph? If so, then read again what I wrote about them. End of rant.
Now that you've been linked to Instapundit, you're on my bookmarks bar. So to those who don't like political blogs, keep in mind that you're missing out on a lot of material.posted by: Promethea on 09.13.04 at 11:44 PM [permalink]
I couldn't disagree more with Promethea - It is crucial that we in the U.S., and particularly the U.S. public, reciprocates the friendship shown by Australia and other nations who stand with us in the war on terror, regardless of dissenting voices in those countries. We must be as angry with terrorism when Australia and other free nations are attacked as when we in the U.S. are attacked. Terrorists and pacifists must be shown that we stand with our friends, both as national policy and in public opinion.
Ironically, the terrorists show great savvy in using public opinion to force their agenda around the world. Were Promethea's point of view to predominate, we would basically cede the international mass media to Al-Qaida and those too afraid to fight. Simon's call for more attention to attacks on Australia is a powerful and pointed wake-up call to all of us in the United States.posted by: kamatoa on 09.14.04 at 12:01 AM [permalink]
Maybe I'm being entirely too black-helicopterish here, but my perception has been that coverage of terrorism worldwide gets very short shrift from an American media strongly aligned with Mr. Kerry - perhaps because an American populace confronted with clear and constant stories of such danger will be "misled" into thinking that Mr. Kerry's lack of resolve concerning the issue might be a danger for us.
In short, unless we pick our news sources carefully, we're not getting the news. We're getting a presentation.
So, please do not take this lack of reaction as comment on our thoughts concerning you. It reflects, instead, the priorities and philosophies of our liberal press. To them, your story is disquieting, and so must be avoided.posted by: Bob F on 09.14.04 at 12:21 AM [permalink]
Count me as another American grateful for Australian support in the War on Islamofascism. Please accept my condolences for the dead and wounded in last week's embassy bombing. To whatever extent those lives were lost because of Australia's political courage, we Americans (especially if we support the Bush/Blair/Howard policy line) must shut up and accept some responsibility.
If you are driving a car in which someone is injured or killed, though the accident is not your fault, you would not let a bereaved family member or friend of the victim(s) pick a fight with you, would you?
While it does not excuse the relative paucity of coverage in the US media (what could?) I'll just echo what some other commenters have said by noting that geography is destiny in the MSM's eyes. A strong wind close by counts for more than a terrorist massacre far away. And the fact is the media paid relatively little attention to the bombing of our own embassies in 1999.
After the Atocha bombings in March I brought flowers to the Spanish Embassy and stood in line to sign the condolence book. I admit that after the elections there I sort of wondered why I had bothered. But the victims of that attack had no say over how they died and they surely deserved my paltry show of respect, even if the Spanish electorate as a whole did not.
How much more so, then do Australians merit a sincere show of support on our part? I no longer live in Washington, but via this blog at least I can say something to that effect. If you give me an address, I'll even send flowers.
Thanks.posted by: Kelli on 09.14.04 at 12:42 AM [permalink]
I sorta agree with Promethea, and sorta not. One does get tired of hearing how other nations hate you, or disdain you, but at the same time a show of support by us to our friends after they are being attacked is needful.
We are primarily concerned with our closer circle, and our MSM is a filter that often obscures for the benefit of illegitamate goals (and this is why the CBS memo is so important. One of the mainstays of the terrorists is getting destroyed), but Australia is a good friend in dire hurt, and we should stop from our busy lives to express our deep concern for them, and our gratitude for their courage.
May the God of Mercy watch over those souls lost, and those still living in need. And may the God of Justice bring vengeance down upon the evil ones who afflicted the innocent without cause in Jakarta.
Tadeuszposted by: Tadeusz on 09.14.04 at 01:22 AM [permalink]
As Prometha above said: The poster above who says she won't read political blogs might as well say that she wants to be fooled.
*Shrugs*. Whatever blows your skirt up, babe. I just prefer to get my news from real journalists, not blogs. Life is too short to get imbued with people's opinions that should be taken as fact.
Now, if you'll excuse me, there are a load of personal blogs I would like to check before I sit down and watch the BBC news. You know. THe real news.
I'm grown up enough to have my own political opinions, I don't need a blogger to feed mine to me.
*ends rant, slams door behind her*posted by: Helen on 09.14.04 at 02:17 AM [permalink]
I was deeply moved by your piece and sincerely regret my, and my countryman's, ignorance on this issue. Please accept my apologies and be aware we are primarily focusing right now on trying to make sure that all the victims of the past few years did not die in vain. The current Tet offensive replay in Bahgdad should prove that our enemies know the stakes of this election as well.posted by: wayneseib on 09.14.04 at 02:34 AM [permalink]
"Most Americans view Indoneisan attacks the same way they view terrorist attacks in the Philipines - not a surprise. It's unfortunate the Australians were attacked in another bombing on a SE Asian island (like Bali). But Americans have already written off Indonesia as a Terrorist Place - which makes the story sad, but not surprising."
You are totally correct and however I wonder as you're typing those words you consider Indonesia a more effective location to combat global terrorism than Iraq? Indonesia has been the host of more terrorist activities (and I'm taking a generalist opninion on the defintion of 'terrorist'), save for Israel/Palestine and Russia in the last few years. Furthemore, more Australians died in Bali, per capita, than total number of people who perished on 9/11. So regardless of the location of the terrorist activity, the significance on the people impacted should be the same.
I just wish I read more from Americans who realised that if this is truly a global war on terrorism, then more global references are needed. Australia is poised to elect a new govermnent that will withdraw our troops from Iraq.
President Bush acknowledging PM Howard is one thing. But actions speak louder than words. Australia, Australian interests, and sadly Australia's reputation has gone downholl since we became involved in the Iraq invasion/liberation; not just in the Middle East, but in Asia and Europe as well.
Australia's geography and history relates to those two continents, so perhaps it's time people started thinking about where we came from, because where we're headed doesn't look like too much fun.
Maybe my opinion doesn't count. I am one of those Australians who has been told: "well if you don't like it here, then leave"... which is exactly what I did. Five percent of Australians call another country 'home' ... the highest rate in the developed world.
But I still have a vote, and a hope that Australia will return to the happy, no-wuckin-furries place it use to be :)posted by: miss k on 09.14.04 at 09:11 AM [permalink]
Check out the 9/13 comments thread called The Horror Brigades on littlegreenfootballs.com re the kidnapping of Australians in Iraq. You'll find that Americans and others greatly admire Australians.
Little Green Footballs is an important website for information regarding the War on Terror (Islamofascism) not generally covered in the mass media. Remember, the American mass media hasn't accepted the fact that terrorism a real threat to civilization--that's why they don't pay much attention to foreign massacres and kidnappings.posted by: Promethea on 09.14.04 at 12:36 PM [permalink]