Hussein-o-vision: Citizen Video Undermines State Rhetoric

saddam hussein is hangedIn a backhanded testament to the usefulness of citizen journalism as a voice of dissent, the Iraqi government announced the arrest of (up to three?) two guards and an official who supervised the hanging in connection with the unauthorized videorecording of Saddam Hussein’s execution. The video, apparently made by cellphone, was posted to the Internet on Saturday.

While it appears that a low level guard stands to be charged (name[s] of the arrested have yet to be released), Will Bunch and others find reason to believe the guilty party to be none other than Iraq Nat’l Security advisor Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, the virtual equivalent of the White House’s Stephen Hadley. Oh, the irony of an investigation of a sensitive and untimely leak — this time, not Bush needing to point his finger away from Hadley, but al-Maliki needing to find a scapegoat for his rebel with or without a cause.

While al-Rubaie was installed mostly at the discretion of the U.S. — al-Maliki’s insistence on interrogating and bringing justice to whomever posted the video is yet another example of his unwillingness to cooperate with U.S. interests and to foster his own independence from being the partner that the Bush Administration has so fervently tried to create. It’s now crystal clear that Maliki has little interest in appeasing the U.S. — after all, he has his own life and family to protect while posing as a crucial figure in a civil war and, as the BBC reports, he just wants his nightmare term as PM to end.

Josh Marshall is tracking all developments on this story at Talking Points Memo.

How Does the New York Times Moderate User Comments?

The Times’ site has amassed over 2,000 comments regarding the execution of Saddam Hussein in the last 36 hours. The sentiment of the majority appears to denounce the practice of execution and the rapid manner in which Hussein met his fate following a “farcical” trial. Reactions ranged from: “bin Laden is next,” to “this is a sad, sad day.”

There are a TON of comments. Most are devoid of hyperlinks (although a couple odd ones from the shady-right partisan informationclearinghouse Web site snuck into a couple) and despite an abundance of typos and poor spelling, I didn’t notice any “bad words” at first glance.

However, my interest is piqued by comment #2032:

P.M. Alessandrini:

I submitted, today at 11:20 am, a comment criticizing the fact that links to videos concerning the execution of Saddam Hussein in yesterday and today’s web edition of the New York Times are coupled with advertisements, in video and image form, for the new film about Idi Amin, “The Last King of Scotland”. Criticism of coverage and its presentation is absolutely pertinent to this issue, and should not be suppressed. Let us not forget that support among the US public of the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was due largely to a campaign of misinformation by the Bush administration, made possible – with only too few exceptions – by cooperation from the US media. Nonetheless, after seeing my comment listed as number 1953 below the heading, “Your comment is awaiting moderation”, it has not appeared on the page of comments one hour later, despite the fact that numerous comments submitted afterwards have been posted. I therefore invite your readers to see my comments about the coverage of the New York Times in the coming days on the website of the Atlantic Free Press, to which I am a contributor, if this criticism continues to be censored from the NYT comments page.
posted on December 31st, 2006 at 12:29 pm

The commenters originally moderated comment 1953 has not since appeared. Minutes later, another commenter adds, “It seems that the NYT has decided to take side rather than just delivering news and let Americans speak their mind.”

Shortly after that, theh posting of comments appears to have been halted. As I write this (5:57pm EST) the last posted comment is from 12:40pm EST, despite a standing invitation on the NYT Home page for fresh comments.

I’m very interesting in learning about the Times’ policies regarding readers’ comments and who/what disqualifies particular content from being posted. Anyone? Calame, are you reading?

A happy, healthy new year, readers!

Public Diplomacy Press & Blog Review Gets Props From USNews

Congrats to John Brown for a solid year of blogging and compiling the PDPBR for the USC Center on Public Diplomacy Web site (of which I am managing editor).

U.S. News‘s David E. Kaplan named the PDPBR one of the top ten blogs of ’06 in his “Bad Guys” column.

Brown, who served for over twenty years as a foreign service officer before resigning in protest of the Iraq War, has really come into his own with the Review — a thrice weekly aggregation of news and commentary on issues pertinent to Public Diplomacy. He also penned several essays for the Public Diplomacy Blog and online publications including TomPaine.com and Commondreams.org in 2006.

Congrats, JB!