Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The "Downing Street Memo" and the Blogosphere

Fox News ran a story today on a British government memo “that critics say proves the Bush administration manipulated evidence about weapons of mass destruction in order to carry out a plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein.” The memo was first published in the Sunday Times of London on May 1st and is now referred to as the “Downing Street memo.” Fox’s story is about how the memo “has received little attention in the mainstream media, frustrating opponents of the Iraq war.” I did a little searching on some news web sites and found that the coverage was indeed sporadic. Fox had no articles this month while I found the most coverage on CNN with these articles:

White House challenges UK Iraq memo (05.17.2005)
Claims in a recently uncovered British memo that intelligence was "being fixed" to support the Iraq war as early as mid-2002 are "flat out wrong," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Monday.
'Fixed' facts? (05.16.2005)
A secret memo made public just before this month's elections in Britain, is leading to more pointed questions about the rationale for the Iraq war.
McCain: I don't agree with British war memo (05.15.2005)
Sen. John McCain said Sunday he doesn't "agree with" the secret minutes of a high-level British meeting in 2002 saying "intelligence and facts were being fixed" to support a U.S.-led war in Iraq -- well before the president sought approval on the war from Congress.
Bush asked to explain UK war memo (05.12.2005)
Eighty-nine Democratic members of the U.S. Congress last week sent President George W. Bush a letter asking for explanation of a secret British memo that said "intelligence and facts were being fixed" to support the Iraq war in mid-2002.
Blair, Howard play down Iraq issue (05.01.2005)
Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Conservative opponent Michael Howard tried to move the UK election battleground back onto the domestic agenda Friday after a week of wrangling over Iraq.

Fox ‘s article had information from both pro and anti-Bush perspectives and a link to the memo. But, they had additional information about coverage of the story and the role that blogs are playing. Here are some excerpts from the article:

The memo, which received sporadic reporting in major newspapers in the United States throughout May, has sparked an outcry from more than 88 Democratic members of Congress who have signed two letters to President Bush demanding a response. …

Conyers [D-Mich] says the mainstream media have ignored the story and let President Bush off the hook. He noted that liberal blogs and alternative media have been keeping the story alive. "But these voices are too few and too diffuse to overcome the blatant biases of our cable channels and the negligence and neglect of our major newspapers," Conyers said in a recent statement. …

But not everyone believes the Downing Street Memo represents a "smoking gun" and deserves more attention. "As a smoking gun it leaves a lot to be desired," said Kevin Aylward, a northern Virginia-based technology consultant who runs the conservative-leaning blog, Wizbangblog.com. "It's interesting, but it's probably fourth- or fifth-hand information."

Aylward added: "I suspect the more interesting story at this point, seeing it three weeks later, is who is behind the letter-writing campaign to push it in the media."

Several popular left-leaning blogs have taken up the cause to keep the story alive, encouraging readers to contact media outlets. A Web site, DowningStreetMemo.com, tells readers to contact the White House directly with complaints.

"This is a test of the left-wing blogosphere," said Jim Pinkerton, syndicated columnist and regular contributor to FOX News Watch, who pointed out that The Sunday Times article came out just before the British election and apparently had little effect on voters' decisions.

"In many ways that memo might prove all of the arguments the critics of the war have made," he added. "But the bulk of Americans don't agree, or don't seem that alarmed, so it is a power test to see if they can drive it back on the agenda."

Link to Fox’s article:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,158228,00.html

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