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ON POPULAR OPINION THE MEDIA ARE CLUELESS AND THE EXPERTS ARE EVEN MORE CLUELESS | 2003-04-05

I was in a hotel behind the Iron Curtain when I got on an elevator with a British girlfriend. There was only the girl, the operator and me. The elevator operator didn't even look at us as we got on.

When the door closed and we started to move between floors, all that changed. He smiled and said, "English?" I replied, "American." He smiled broadly and said "Good, good."

A moment later we reached our floor and the elevator operator resumed his stuffed frog imitation.

This kind of thing happened to me a lot in totalitarian lands. This kind of thing happened to everybody I knew in Communist countries. But I have never seen a single reporter mention this sort of thing happening in a Communist country. Every report I ever saw indicated that nobody behind the Iron Curtain ever gave this sort of indication that they were personally unhappy or felt afraid.

Today the experts and the media insist that Cuba loves Castro. Until about 1990 they insisted that Eastern Europe was not all that upset with Soviet rule.

People were not allowed to leave Communist countries and they shot people trying to escape. But if you go by what the media DID NOT say, nobody in those countries felt particularly oppressed.

When Moscow cut back on its total suppression of dissent in the 1980s, the entire Soviet Empire collapsed completely. The media and the Soviet experts were completely astonished. The only people more astonished than the media were the experts on Communist countries.

So the media and the experts are now telling us what the Iraqi people want.

Once again the media and the experts have not the vaguest idea what the Iraqis feel. Any logical approach to how Iraqis react is denounced as "simplistic."

For example, media commentators were comparing three villages. In two of them some people who came out to see the American troops go by smiled and waved. In one village the people who turned out to meet the Americans were glum. Media experts are both media and experts, which mean that they are doubly clueless.

So the media experts concluded that Americans were popular in two villages and not popular in one. Then they proceeded to discuss why one village liked us and the other hated us.

Newsmen report on places where people are terrorized, but they get their reports by pleasing those in charge. Peter Arnett could never have gotten all that access if Iraqis didn't know he genuinely loves Saddam. Dissidents don't come up to the media the way they did to me because they know the media could turn them in.

You can get a lot of cooperation in a Communist country by informing on dissidents.

Back to those three Iraqi villages.

If you have ever been in a terror environment, it would be pretty obvious what was going on: two villages didn't have terrorizers in town and the other one did. There is no evidence whatsoever that two villages were friendly. There is no evidence the other one was hostile.

Let me explain a very simplistic fact to you. Outside of Western countries, people do not usually turn out and yell insults at heavily armed troops in tanks. As Al Capp pointed out about the "students" who got shot rioting at Kent State, "It doesn't take a college education to know that the best way to get killed is to throw a rock at an armed man."

So the simple and simplistic fact is that the people who greet the troops at first tend to be the friendly ones. When the tanks first arrive the hostile people stay home.

Those who show up to greet the troops tend to be friendly. If they show up and are glum, chances are they were told to show up and be glum.

But the media never understand how real people react when they have a gun in their backs.