March 16, 2006


Sweet merciful crap.

Right now on MSNBC on TV, they're announcing that the US has launched the biggest "air strike" in Iraq since 2003. This would be news if it were true, but what is really going on is an air assault, which is nothing like an air strike. An air strike is planes dropping bombs; an air assault is helicopters dropping troops onto the ground so they can kick down doors. Big whopping difference, news folks. Maybe you should get your damn terminology straight before you start blabbing your mouths.

As of right now, the MSNBC homepage has this graphic:


Which leads to this article: U.S. launches largest Iraq air assault in 3 years
Correct information in the article, which the military spoonfed them; incorrect information in their flashy photo.

Oh media, how I roll my eyes at you.

This is not just a nitpicky difference. The two words are completely not interchangable. Why didn't someone correct the anchorwoman, who repeated "air strike" several times? Oh, that's right, because no one at MSNBC has the first clue about the military.

Posted by Sarah at March 16, 2006 06:21 PM | TrackBack

I had no idea about the difference between an "air assault" and an "air strike". I had assumed it was the latter and thought, "wow, the US is getting tough." Not that an air assault is exactly a knock on the door either.

Maybe the MSNBC graphics person couldn't find a striking enough image of troops being dropped and went with this image. Dramatic but inaccurate.

Posted by: Amritas at March 16, 2006 07:37 PM

I realize you didn't say this, but this isn't just some antiwar ignorance on MSNBC's part. Journalists can't know everything, though the better ones try. One would think that MSNBC had a dedicated military affairs editor* by now who'd catch these sorts of errors, but maybe that person took the day off ...

*Mistakes in, say, occasional science articles are one thing. No journalist can be expected to get all the details right about some specialized field they briefly encounter for one article only. But mistakes in an ongoing topic like the war are another.

Posted by: Amritas at March 16, 2006 07:42 PM

Yeah, I too don't think that journalists should know everything, but I think *someone* should've spelled out that they shouldn't call it a strike. And the military analyst (a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel) corrected the anchorwoman, but it apparently went right over her head because she continued to use the word "strike". I just think someone should've corrected her in her earpiece before she said it umpteen times...

Posted by: Sarah at March 16, 2006 09:58 PM

Who in their right mind watches that lame network? Their hoping the assault fails miserably so they can tell us how “it’s turning into Vietnam”. “It’s a quagmire”, “What’s our exit strategy?”, blah, blah, blah…


Posted by: tim at March 16, 2006 10:30 PM

The station I was watching got it right. Although does it have to be one or the other? AC-130s are involved, and I thought I saw pictures of Apaches, so isn't it an air strike and an air assault both? And if the vast majority of the audience doesn't know the difference anyway, does it matter?

Posted by: Pericles at March 17, 2006 03:04 AM

And if the vast majority of the audience doesn't know the difference anyway, does it matter?

Oh Pericles, that's such an irresponsible statement. Isn't that what journalists are actually for???? Their whole raison d'etre is to explain the news to people in language they can understand so that they know what's going on in the world. That's the Whole Point of the news!

I'm not trying to just argue semantics here about the difference between "strike" and "assault". The more important issue is that the anchorwoman was doing a TERRIBLE job of explaining what was going on. For the first 40 seconds of watching, I too thought that we were dropping bombs. Even if she didn't use the right term, she should've been explaining that soldiers were riding in Blackhawks (definitely not Apaches) to the destination and being inserted into the situation from the air to provide them with a tactical advantage. As it was, her reporting was in Panic Mode, claiming that we were currently in the middle of air strikes, which is going to make any American think that it's Shock & Awe II.

It most certainly is important for journalists to get their facts and terms straight so that they can explain the news to us viewers. That means that they need someone in their newsroom who has knowledge about the military so the anchorpeople understand what they're trying to explain!

Posted by: Sarah at March 17, 2006 07:29 AM

P.S. From the article I linked to:

"the U.S. military said there was no firing or bombing from the air."

So it was never "both", and there wouldn't have been any need for Apaches. It was only an air assault.

Posted by: Sarah at March 17, 2006 07:32 AM

The international BBC website has the best news coverage, in my opinion:

"The operation was described as an air assault, a term the US military uses for bringing in troops by helicopter, although many people initially took the phrase to mean aerial bombing.

However, it involves more helicopters airlifting American and Iraqi troops into the target area than any similar campaign in the three years since Saddam Hussein was toppled."

Posted by: Will Somerset at March 17, 2006 06:53 PM

Why does it matter that they get it right? BECAUSE WE LISTEN TO THEM!!! There is a hell of a difference between being in the air and being on the ground kicking in doors. Keep them in your prayers people....

Posted by: monique at March 18, 2006 02:57 AM

I take your point. I wasn't talking about anything beyond the two terms "air strike" and "air assault." I do sort of question whether enough people know the difference that it is worth getting bent out of shape over an occasional misuse. Of course the substance of their remarks should be accurate, though. I think that I'm starting to feel about the media like you probably do about the military. Of course I can see real problems there. At the same time, bashing them has become such an automatic reflex for so many people that my automatic reflex is now to look for ways to defend them. Sometimes it is possible, sometimes it isn't. An example of what I mean about bashing the media reflexively: The other day ABC reported that the head of the Department of Health and Human Services is advising that Americans stockpile three months of food and water for the bird flu. This came right from the government. An acquaintance of mine started going off on the media for being alarmist. The MEDIA? All they did was report what a member of Bush's cabinet said. But when he saw something in the news he didn't like, his first thought was to criticize the networks.

Posted by: Pericles at March 18, 2006 02:05 PM

Yeah, you're right: I don't like the media as a rule. But this time is not just that I think they spin left or anything; I really think they did the public a disservice. The BBC quote from above is MUCH better at explaining the events in Iraq as they happened.

I talked to my mom on the phone today. She has been on the road for work and hasn't been online in a few days. She said, "Did you hear something about how we're bombing in Iraq?" The overall impression about what happened the other day is WAY OFF, entirely because the media didn't report it accurately.

Posted by: Sarah at March 18, 2006 09:51 PM

That could well be true, although someone without much background knowledge hearing just a little bit of a completely accurate report could also be confused. I don't know about your mother, but if my mother heard "air assault" she would assume bombing, because she doesn't know from Blackhawks.

I know you dislike the media because they are too critical of the war. Part of my problem is just the opposite. I don't think they've been critical enough, if not of the war itself, then of the Bush Administration's decision-making process. Who said this, do you reckon? "If you're going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein, you have to go to Baghdad. Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?"

Answer---it was Dick Cheney, in 1991. No reporter, though, has put a mike in front of his face and said "What has changed, Mr. Vice President? If a regime put in power by the American military would have lacked legitimacy in 1991, what is going to give it legitimacy now?" I've never heard officials like Rumsfeld grilled over their previous support for Saddam.

Maybe at root we've got the same problem with the media, though. Too much sensationalism, not enough intellectual content. I want to see the media asking tougher questions all of the time, regardless of who is in charge, and then let us hear the answers. The American people can listen to the answers, and decide what to think. Pro-sensationalism is the media's real bias, much more than any political bias right or left.

Posted by: Pericles at March 19, 2006 02:57 PM

As a Soldier who earned his Air Assault Badge, I am thankful to have someone point out the difference between air assualts and air strikes. An air assault is very unique in the amount of firepower and troops that can be brought into a fight very quickly. It is an important weapon in any army's arsenal, and the 101st does it amazingly. Thanks for pointing out the error of the media, and giving credit to the brave Soldiers carrying out this important mission.

Posted by: The Boy at March 19, 2006 05:29 PM

Actually, Pericles, having a son-in-law in the military has made me learn as much as possible, not only about the military itself, but also what is going on in Iraq, aside from the fact that I have always kept up on news events (politics, war, world events, etc.,). I get most of my news from the internet, but because I was traveling I relied on the TV and radio for information. I do know that airstrike means bombing, and I had heard there were "the biggest airstrikes occurring north of Baghdad since the war had begun." Consequently, I thought they were dropping bombs. As important a topic as the war is, one would think the media would have made this call correctly.
Sarah's Mom

Posted by: Nancy at March 20, 2006 06:30 AM

I had to go back and check my own post on the subject to see if I got it right. I did, whew. So did the AP reporter I quoted, btw.

Thanks for encouraging accuracy, Sarah.

Posted by: annika at March 26, 2006 07:04 PM