Controversy can be found all over the news, and our government is usually right in the heat of this. Sunday’s speech by president Bush on our position in Iraq was no exception. While making a comparison between two news articles on this same subject many differences can be found. One article is taken from the supposed neutral Chicago Tribune while the other is taken from a liberal biased website. Two totally different approaches are taken in reporting this information between the two articles, one being more objective and factual, while the other seems to be more opinionated and biased. The emphasis each author takes on certain elements guides the reader to understand the current argument over Iraq. However, it is easy for a reader to take what is given in each article as fact without actually testing the validity of its claim. The more bias in the article the less likely it will be seen as a legitimate source.
The opening line of “Shell Game Speech” sets the tone for the entire article in that the authors Robert Jensen and Rahul Mahajan begin by condemning the Bush administration and leading you to believe that they constantly disdain the intelligence of the American people. His remark about how the administration “hit a new low” already shows that he is bias towards some aspect of the administration (Jensen 1). On the other hand the “Senate Panel scrutinizes Bush’s Iraq strategy” article begins with hard evidence about Bush’s speech. The author Stephen Hedges starts out by telling us that Bush’s plan “to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan” are going to cost American taxpayers $87 billion (Hedges-3). In this instance the author gives us something to work with; he gives us an idea about what the speech was about. This allows us as the reader to form our own opinion rather than have one pushed upon us.
As Hedges” article goes on he talks about how and where the money plans on being spent. He notes that $71 billion will be used for reconstruction and military protection in Iraq. The rest of the money will be used for the same ideas in Afghanistan (Hedges-3). Now we begin to see where this proposed $87 billion is going to go. Hedge continues to give us more facts rather than opinions. As the article continues we see two quotes from leading democrats Sen. Ed Kennedy and Sen. Carl Levin. Both obviously second guessing the President’s plan to exert such a large sum of money from our increasing budget deficit. Kennedy is quoted as saying “Before the Congress writes a blank check to the administration, we need to know what the broader plan is (Hedges 3).” Now if this was the only quoted material in the article one might be swayed to take the Democrat position on Bush’s ideas, but just before Sen. Kennedy’s quote we see another quote. This one being from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a person who would be in favor of military spending of the tax dollars. “The costs are large but it is a battle we must win because victory in this battle will be a major victory in the war on terrorism and a major defeat for the global terrorist networks (Hedges 3)” said Wolfowitz. This adds to the legitimacy of the spending and opposes skepticism quoted from Sen. Kennedy. By the author adding both of these quotes to the article he gives the reader balanced opinions about President Bush’s proposal.
In Jensen and Mahajan’s article the basis for every argument made is that of their personal opinion on the issues. Nowhere in the entire article can we see an outside source being used. In fact the arguments made by them are very weak with little support. In the second paragraph of their argument they make a remark saying “And, as it becomes clear how little time the Bush administration spent planning for the postwar occupation, people are increasingly concerned about the ongoing suffering of Iraqi people and the risks faced by the U.S. military personnel. (Jensen 1)” Yet he gives no explanation of how he came to the conclusion that the Bush administration did not spend adequate time preparing for the postwar. Is it because we still have troops protecting the Iraqi people and they are not completely self-sufficient yet? Or, is it because he does not agree with way we are going about rebuilding Iraq? He does not tell the reader this information; he just assumes that his audience agrees with him. Furthermore he uses the vague term “people” on many occasions in his article. Here are a few ways he uses this word throughout the reading, “People around the country are asking themselves about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” and “People want- and have a right to expect – the President to come clean about the lies and distortions used to lead the country to war. (Jensen 1)” The reader sees this term “people” used but the author never explains who these people are. He gives us no evidence that these people’s opinion are even worth reading about. The term people could mean a variety of things. He could be speaking about the anti-war groups or even the governments of our enemies. We as the reader just don’t know enough about whoever it is that the writer is writing about to be able to discredit or believe the argument he is trying to make.
One of the bigger issues in the argument over our status in Iraq is over the safety of our soldiers in hostile territory. Stephen Hedges addresses this issue at the end of his article. He reports that some feel we may have miscalculated the amount of force that would be needed for post-war in Iraq and that we may need more troops to counter this. He then goes on by saying that Wolfowitz “cautioned that sending more troops to Iraq would not necessarily increase security there” and “repeated that U.S. commanders said that the 130,000 U.S. troops in the country are adequate. (Hedges 3)” Again we see some valid arguments from people with credentials. The author is tackling the issues and giving the opinions of people who are more knowledgeable on the subject than he is. This information builds on the facts that we have learned throughout the article and gives us more of a sense of what the government is doing to answer the questions of the skeptics.
An additional problem I found with the “Shell Game Speech” article was the obvious bias against the Bush and his administration. The first thing the reader notices at the top of the article is the website that it is taken from. ZNet is the site it came from and right next to their name is their slogan which reads “A community of People Committed to Social Changes.” Without even reading a single word of the actual article the reader can see that the author already has a preconceived notion that things need change. Jensen and Mahjan would not be writing for this website if they did not believe in what the website stands for. As one moves into reading the article it is easy to see that this assumed bias is true. When the reader looks at the way Jenson and Mahajan use certain words or phrases these biases stand out. In one particular paragraph he describes how Bush should “come clean about lies and distortions used to lead the country to war (Jensen 1).” These are pretty harsh accusations especially considering there is, again, no information support this. The author makes an assumption that all readers have seen President Bush’s previous speeches. In addition to these more obvious ways the author implements his bias one can see it by his focus. His focus in the article is way off. Instead of focusing on issues and new information he spends three lengthy paragraphs on how many times certain words are used in President Bush’s speech. His main argument is that Bush mentioned “weapons of mass destruction only twice” during his speech. He goes on by saying that he used terms such as “freedom or free” along with “terror terrorism or terrorist” to avoid speaking about the lack of finding weapons of mass destruction. This is over-analyzed by the author. The reason these words came up so often is because the current issues deal with these terms. The country wants to know how we are working towards freedom for Iraq and how we are working to keep the U.S. troops free from terror. Second guessing the reasons for going ahead with a war that is over and done with is not on the fore minds of the American public.
Despite all the differences between the two articles some similarities can be found. Although the majority of Hedges” article is fair and balanced upon deeper analysis one can see the author implementing his own personal bias. Although these are more subtle than that of the “Shell Game Speech” they are still present. One particular example can be found towards the end of the article. The author chooses a quote that refers to the administration as “go-it-alone chickens” that are “coming home to roost (Hedges 3). This is in reference to the way the U.S. went in Iraq without the support of the U.N. It is very easy for a reader to overlook this as just another quote when in fact it is the author implementing a less obvious bias.
Another reason for the differences between the two articles is their typical audience. In each case the author writes in a style that most of his readers are going to tend to agree with. The Chicago Tribune article is supposed to take a fairly neutral stance tending to a wider variety of people, where the ZNet article which is from a liberal website is going to be geared towards an audience of smaller proportions. In the case of the Znet article Jensen and Mahjan are writing for a group of people who are going to be looking for articles about social change. For this reason he distorts some of the information and focuses on issues that his audience would be more interested in. In the Chicago Tribune article the audience is broader; hence the content is less biased. The goal of the writer is inform rather than influence the reader on the topic of Iraq. However this is not to say that the article is completely free from bias. As with most news subtle biases can be seen if one looks deep enough into the article.
The initial stance one would take from reading the two articles is that Tribune article is purely fact based and the Znet article is filled with nothing more than opinions. This is true to an extent, but whether or not the article can be seen as legitimate is up to the audience. The typical news reader would dismiss Jensen and Mahajan’s article as nothing more than propaganda, but in the eyes of the audience it is intended for the article is seen as informative. So ultimately it is up the audience to state whether or not the information at hand is valid. What one person views as a trashy editorial another may see as an enlightening work of art.