TEARING DOWN THE STATUE….I’m hesitant to throw any cold water on the fully justified euphoria that many of us feel about the fall of Baghdad. It’s happened quickly and with remarkably little bloodshed, and ending Saddam Hussein’s barbaric rule is cause for cheer.

But it’s hard to ignore the duplicitous role of the media in hyping yesterday’s main Kodak moment: the destruction of the statue of Saddam in central Baghdad. The camera shots all gave the very deliberate impression that this event was played out in front of a huge mob of cheering Iraqis, and these video images were played incessantly, at least three or four times an hour.

But as the photo below shows, the truth was rather different: there was a gathering of at most a hundred, and more likely only a few dozen Iraqis present in the square for this event. I don’t blame the government for staging something like this, but the job of the media should be to explain the reality of what’s going on, not simply act as cheerleaders for whatever the Pentagon tells them. There are some serious questions about how quickly and easily we will be able to gain control of Baghdad, and a lot of this depends on just how friendly the populace turns out to be toward us. Hopefully things will go well, but the media should be giving us the best information possible about the reaction of the Iraqi people, not deliberately cropping their images in a Pollyannaish effort to make things look more cheerful than they really are.

(Via Atrios and Indymedia.)

UPDATE: Is it possible that it’s the wide angle photo that’s actually the deceptive one? I think it’s unlikely, but there’s more analysis here.