WATCHING THE WATCHMEN….In popular legend, one of the blogosphere’s greatest strengths is its ability to expose media bias and malfeasance and hold the press accountable. For a long time I’ve disagreed: God knows the press deserves its share of criticism, the same as any other large institution, but with few exceptions blogosphere criticism tends to be both ignorant and juvenile.

Instapundit, for example, has written a seemingly endless stream of contemptuous posts about the media over the past year, but when I click the links and read the stories in question, there’s usually nothing there except trivia: a tendentious reading of one word in a headline, unhappiness that a favored group wasn’t quoted, etc. There’s just no there there.

Today he offers up an almost self-parodic example. Newsweek reports that the Pentagon is considering something called “The Salvador Option”:

Now, NEWSWEEK has learned, the Pentagon is intensively debating an option that dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration?s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported “nationalist” forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers. Eventually the insurgency was quelled, and many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success?despite the deaths of innocent civilians and the subsequent Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal.

Glenn’s complaint? The contras were Nicaraguan, not Salvadoran! The editors at Newsweek are idiots!

This is like something a triumphant fourth-grader would say, and it’s unfortunately typical of blogosphere media criticism. In fact, the Reagan administration believed from the beginning that Nicaragua was supporting the Salvadoran rebels, and this was one of their reasons for opposing the Sandinistas in the first place. What’s more, contra-resupply efforts were based at Ilopango air base in El Salvador, a fact that became public after Eugene Hasenfus’ flight from Ilopango was shot down in 1986. The government denied that it was involved, of course, but Hasenfus and Ilopango ? which was a center of U.S. support for both the Salvadoran government and the Nicaraguan contras ? were nonetheless the early sparks that set the Iran-Contra investigation in motion in the first place.

El Salvador was a key part of Reagan’s obsession with Central America and was also a key part of the Iran-Contra investigation. The editors at Newsweek, many of whom were probably covering this story when it happened, are undoubtedly well aware of this. Would-be media critics ought to be aware of it too.

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