Posts Tagged ‘Washington Post’

Washington Post in a manipulative Poll

July 16, 2008





Action Alert

Washington Post’s McCain-Friendly Poll
Deceptive question misleads on Iraq position


The Washington Post reported on July 15 that the public is evenly split between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama’s positions on ending the Iraq War. But the paper arrived at that conclusion based on a deceptively worded poll question.

Under the headline “Poll Finds Voters Split on Candidates’ Iraq-Pullout Positions,” the Post reported that their new poll “finds the country split down the middle between those backing Sen. Barack Obama’s 16-month timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and those agreeing with Sen. John McCain’s position that events, not timetables, should dictate when forces come home.”

In the second to last paragraph, the Post noted, “This is the first time the Post/ABC poll has squared the two candidates’ withdrawal plans against each other.” But the question the Post asked did not actually “square” the candidates’ plans; the Post offered a more or less accurate view of Obama’s position, contrasted with a description of McCain’s plan that seemed designed to attract increased support:

Obama has proposed a timetable to withdraw most U.S. forces from Iraq within 16 months of his taking office. McCain has opposed a specific timetable and said events should dictate when troops are withdrawn. Which approach do you prefer–a timetable or no timetable?

The implication, of course, is that Obama favors one sort of withdrawal, while McCain favors another. But that is a misleading characterization of McCain’s position, which can be read at his campaign website:

John McCain believes it is strategically and morally essential for the United States to support the government of Iraq to become capable of governing itself and safeguarding its people. He strongly disagrees with those who advocate withdrawing American troops before that has occurred.


It would be a grave mistake to leave before Al-Qaeda in Iraq is defeated and before a competent, trained and capable Iraqi security force is in place and operating effectively.

McCain added:

Our goal is an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighborhood. Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine. But I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for President that they cannot keep if elected.

From his own campaign statements, withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq would not seem to be a high priority for McCain, who has often stressed the need to “win” the Iraq War. Though he has cautioned against making predictions, McCain has said he believes victory will come by the end of his first term: “By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom. The Iraq War has been won,” McCain explained in a May 15 speech. Asked about his position later that day, McCain elaborated (Associated Press, 5/15/08): “It’s not a timetable; it’s victory. It’s victory, which I have always predicted. I didn’t know when we were going to win World War II; I just knew we were going to win.”

But even “victory” would not necessarily mean withdrawal for McCain; he has said that he would be happy with a 100-year military presence in Iraq (Think Progress, 1/4/08):

As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it’s fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al-Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.

The Post could have presented the issue the way other recent polls have done:

CNN (6/26-6/29/08)

“If you had to choose, would you rather see the next president keep the same number of troops in Iraq that are currently stationed there, or would you rather see the next president remove most U.S. troops in Iraq within a few months of taking office?”

Keep same number: 33 percent
Remove most: 64 percent

–Pew Research Center (6/18-6/29/08):

“Do you think the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized, or do you think the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible?”

Keep in Iraq until stabilized: 43 percent
Bring home as soon as possible: 52 percent

Time (6/18-6/25/08):

“Do you believe that the United States should bring most of the troops home from Iraq in the next year or two, or should the U.S. wait until Iraq is relatively stable, even if it takes four years or more?”

In next year or two: 56 percent
Wait until stable: 39 percent

Or the Post could have used language similar to its own previous Iraq poll (6/12-15/08):

“Do you think the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there, even if that means continued U.S. military casualties; OR, do you think the United States should withdraw its military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further U.S. military casualties, even if that means civil order is not restored there?”

Keep forces: 41 percent
Withdraw forces: 55 percent

Any of these formulations would be a more honest way of describing McCain’s actual view on the war. Instead, the Post seemed to prefer framing the issue in a way that seemed to validate the media’s position that withdrawing from Iraq any time soon is irresponsible (Extra!, 11-12/07).

Ask the Washington Post why it asked a misleading poll question about Obama and McCain’s positions on the Iraq War.

Washington Post
Deborah Howell

See FAIR’s Archives for more on:
Iraq Occupation
War and Militarism


Is the Solution to Hire More Muslim Journalists? – by Daniel Pipes

March 12, 2008 

Is the Solution to Hire More Muslim Journalists?

by Daniel Pipes


March 4, 2008

Philip Bennett, managing editor of the Washington Post, offered a franker set of views than perhaps he intended when he spoke on March 3 at the University of California-Irvine’s Center for the Study of Democracy about media coverage of Islam, as reported by Alan Blank in the Daily Pilot. Bennett, Blank writes,

 thinks news organizations ought to hire more Muslim reporters. To illustrate this point he drew mainly from quotes of notable colleagues and statistical polls, rarely giving his own opinion directly. “Six of 10 Americans, according to a 2007 ABC Poll, don’t understand the basic tenets of Islam,” Bennett said. He attributed this to the lack of Muslims working in American newsrooms. “At the Post I want more Muslim readers and I want more Muslim journalists.”

 Bennett assumes, with touching naïveté, that to be Muslim is know Islam. Less touching is the assumption that not to be a Muslim is not to know Islam. This fraudulent expectation of special insight from one’s status, religious or otherwise, needs strenuously to be rejected.

 Bennett’s thinking gets worse from here:

 Words poorly translated from Arabic to English are a big source of confusion caused by the lack of Muslim voices in the American media, according to Bennett. Zeyad Maasarani, 22, a Muslim reporter for California’s most circulated Muslim publication, Southern California in Focus, agrees with Bennett that terms like “jihad,” “madrasa” and “hijab” are a big source of the public’s misunderstanding of Islam. “Jihad means holy war, which is the definition that most Americans know, but it also means struggle, and valiant attempt,” Maasarani said

 Unreported here is that Southern California in Focus is affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the continent’s leading Islamist organization. More importantly, madrasa and hijab are simple terms that most politically aware readers understand, while jihad is more accurately understood by the simple “holy war” translation than through complex interpretations – as I have at some length argued elsewhere.

 Finally, Bennett unintentionally revealed the appallingly primitive state of understanding of Islam in his own institution:

 One such word that has been contentiously debated in newsrooms is “Islamist,” which generally refers to a political movement governed by Islamic law. Bennett said at the Washington Post editors still have not decided whether to add it to their style book. Some argue the word is a useful distinction for movements like Hamas and Hezbollah, but others at the Post argue that it is too vague and should be omitted in favor of a more specific description.

 Comment: It’s all very well for Bennett to sniff patronizingly at the knowledge of Islam among average Americans, but I am impressed with their learning curve since 9/11 as well as their common sense. Far less impressive to me is a group of sophisticated editors that cannot even, after all these years, decide to use the word Islamist. Someone has a problem understanding Islam, but it’s Philip Bennett, not his readers. (March 4, 2008)

 TrackBack URL for this post


   Posting on Dr. Daniel Pipe’s website: (not approved by Dr. Pipes yet)  

Monday, March 10, 2008 

1. Being knowledgeable about Islam and being malicious about Islam are two different and distinct criteria. The whole lot of non-Muslim scribes appears to be mixing the two to come out with distorted picture of Islam and Muslims. Muslim writers in Media, at least, leaving out the fringe and the bought out, can make good contribution to the subject which is now engaging the attention of the US and western world in general. I have no hesitation in accepting that hundreds and thousands of non-Muslims have spent their lives studying Islam, Muslim world and Arabic too, just to get some insight into the esoteric world that so differs from the Western society. Not all of them are bigoted and scare-mongers. Some do have made a career out of their hatemongering. A balanced view of Islam and Muslims promoting a more positive approach to the study and practice of Islam should be a welcome suggestion and should not be off-handedly rejected on distorted illogical argumentation. Philip Bennet’s suggestion is more accommodative. Dr. Pipes’ rejection is typical of his tangential logic to put down any unsavory initiatives. Readers can make their own judgments. 

2. Instances abound, where the wordsmiths are busy day and night in propagating the special meaning of any word, be that English or Arabic or any language, through constant usage and hammering their agenda to convey their own needs. Dr. Daniel cannot categorically deny that words from one language or country or region, travel to different language, country, group and region are not subject to such treatment of completely denuding the word of its original definitive meaning or usage. Brown has pointed out to that phenomena and he is on much solid ground than Dr. Pipes. 

3. The usage of ‘Islamist’ is user driven new meaning that some Muslim baiters have been promoting, just as an exercise in hair-splitting. This is an attempt to move from the obnoxious collective profiling of Muslims, to a more subjective definition to give a respectable color to their negative exercise in camouflaging their bigotry under the trappings of high scholarship. 

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai