Selective Reporting: Shaping public opinion by using “The Spike”
By Steve in Wisconsin
November 13, 2010
Back in 1980 former Newsweek reporter Arnaud de Borchgrave collaborated with Robert Moss and wrote a fictional novel titled “The Spike”. In addition to being a story about Russian shenanigans, the underlying thread running through the novel is how newspaper editors are able to shape public opinion by using “the spike” — the spindle on which news articles are impaled when “killed” instead of being published. Exaggerating the importance of some articles (by putting them on the Front Page, for example) while relegating other (more important) articles to obscure locations in the middle of the newspaper — or simply not publishing them altogether — can shape public opinion in a particular direction. This can then influence elections, domestic and foreign policy, government funding, etc. as the citizenry rallies in support or against certain issues or positions.
My purpose in publishing Inteltrends is to overcome “the spike” and allow readers access to news and commentaries that offer different viewpoints not widely reported in mainstream media. Ideally, Inteltrends should be used in conjunction with your favorite news publications and sources. In most cases there are at least two sides to every story — and readers deserve an opportunity to access as much information as possible when formulating their opinions.
A case in point…
Today the BBC website featured the headline Afghanistan: Taliban insurgents in attack on Nato base. The article reads in part:
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said 14 suicide bombers had been involved.
“They entered the airport. Some of them have blown themselves up,” he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
It is interesting that the BBC mentions Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid (but this is all that they wrote about him}. What the BBC does not mention, however, is that Mujahid’s statement was taken from a Taliban press release titled “37 American invaders along with 35 puppets killed, 11 enemy aircrafts destroyed in Jalalabad battle”. I don’t normally republish military reports of this nature, but I’ll make an exception here simply to prove my point. Here is the full text of the statement as obtained by Inteltrends:
37 American invaders along with 35 puppets killed, 11 enemy aircrafts destroyed in Jalalabad battle
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
13 November 2010 10:42
NANGAHAR, Nov. 13 – More than 37 U.S. invaders and 35 puppets were killed with 9 U.S. attack helicopters and 2 unmanned aerial vehicles or drones destroyed in a large scale attack carried out by Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate on Jalalabad airbase early Saturday morning at around 6:00 am, Zabihullah Mujaid reported from the area.
According to the details, a group of 14 martyr-seeking Mujahideen equipped with heavy and small arms and explosives vests rocked the airbase. Witnesses told Zabhullah Mujahid that Mujahideen divided into different groups some of them kept attacking the enemy outside the airbase, while the others carried attacks using heavy and small fire drawing the enemy into firefight and conducted martyrdom attacks targeting the U.S. invaders and Afghan cowardly soldiers inside the airfield, however one group of Mujahideen began targeting the helicopters and the fighter jets.
As many as 37 U.S. invaders were killed and 35 Afghan cowardly soldiers were killed or wounded during the face-to-face fighting and martyrdom operations, while 7 of the enemy trained dogs were killed.
11 of the group of 14 martyrdom-seeking Mujahideen became martyrs carrying martyr attack on the enemy and in gun battles, whereas 3 Mujahideen have made a safe return.
Last Updated (Saturday, 13 November 2010 14:01)
The ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan released the following official statement of the incident (as linked from the BBC article):
ANA, ISAF Repel Insurgent Attack
ISAF Joint Command – Afghanistan
For Immediate Release
KABUL, Afghanistan (Nov. 13, 2010) — Afghan National Army and International Security Assistance Forces repelled an insurgent attack on an ISAF forward operating base in Behsud district, Nangarhar province Saturday.
The forward operating base received small arms fire from an unknown number of insurgents and after gaining positive identification of insurgent fighting positions, an ANA and ISAF quick reaction force was sent to the area.
According to initial reports, eight insurgents were killed by the combined force. One was wearing a suicide vest.
Initial reports indicate no ANA or ISAF servicemembers were killed.
More information will be released as it becomes available.
Which version is true?
It is likely that each version contains some elements of truth. Ironically the ISAF version reports 8 insurgents killed, while the Taliban put their losses at 11. So 11 is probably correct. Both the BBC and ISAF fail to report losses on the coalition side, but it seems improbable that 11 suicide bombers failed to inflict any casualties whatsoever during a martyrdom operation. The extent of the losses are likely being withheld.
Regardless, the point I am making is that you, the reader, deserve an opportunity to read different versions of the same encounter. This is really what press freedom is all about.
As you read the daily newspaper or watch the news on TV, keep in mind that “the spike” continues to be used today — probably more now than ever — and the glaring omissions in the BBC’s reporting of Mujahid’s statement are proof positive.