Everyone now knows about Newsweek’s preposterous Koran-down-the-toilet story. That little escapade, based upon the Great Source Anonymous, ignited a tinder box in Afghanistan and, at last count, had claimed seventeen lives. Honest mistake? Well, remember Newsweek’s reticence when the same reporter got hold of the Monica Lewinsky story? At that time, with Bill Clinton in office, caution was the name of the game—to such an extent that Newsweek was scooped. But now George W. Bush is in office, American troops are in harm’s way, and the administration’s efforts in the Muslim world seem to be bearing fruit. Why not knock it? That seems to have been the motivation, though, as Mark Steyn has pointed out, one has to be pretty credulous to believe that a book the size of the Koran can be flushed down a toilet:

In a way, both the U.S. media and those wacky rioters in the Afghan-Pakistani hinterlands are very similar, two highly parochial and monumentally self-absorbed tribes living in isolation from the rest of the world and prone to fanatical irrational indestructible beliefs—not least the notion that you can flush a 950-page book down one of Al Gore’s eco-crazed federally mandated low-flush toilets, a claim no editorial bigfoot thought to test for himself in Newsweek’s executive washroom.
Newsweek formally retracted its story and apologized, if grudgingly. (What a consolation that must be to the families of those killed in the riots.) Naturally, Newsweek presented the Koran-down-the-toilet column as an unaccountable aberration, something that somehow slipped through the cracks of its generally reliable, dispassionate, non-partisan fact-checking department. Alas, an enterprising weblogger from RidingSun.com has pointed out that on the cover of its Japanese edition for February 2, Newsweek ran a picture of a garbage can into which a dirty American flag, its staff broken, was stuffed. The headline reads, “Amerika ga shinda hi,” which translates to “The day America died.” The corresponding international edition of Newsweek had a picture of President Bush and the legend: “America Leads … But Is Anyone Following?” Both editions, RidingSun noted,
featured a cover-story article by Andrew Moravcsik, titled “Dream on, America.” (This was translated into Japanese as “Yume no kuni Amerika ga kuchihateru toki”, which is even harsher; it means, roughly, “America, the dream country, is rotting away”.) According to Newsweek itself, the article described “the world’s rejection of the American way of life.”
But this article did not appear in the American edition. The cover of that edition? No garbage can, no Bush, just some Hollywood actors and a story about the Oscars. In other words, it’s virulent anti-Americanism abroad, a more vanilla version for home consumption. “Mainstream” media? “Out-of-steam” media is more like it.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 23 Number 10, on page 2
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