Not long ago, as I was listening to a BBC reporter describing the latest terrorist outrage in Baghdad—scores killed … deteriorating security situation … Iraqi government helpless … military untrained and disorganized … terrorists operating at will, etc.—it occurred to me that, even if all that the reporter had said were perfectly true it was also exactly what the terrorists would have said if they could have written his script for him. Did this matter? Was it just a coincidence that the “reality” of the Iraq war, endlessly repeated and identified as such by the news media, so closely resembled the terrorist “narrative,” as our brainy students of textual deconstruction would put it? Or—the question seemed just worth asking—was reality itself being shaped by the terrorist narrative because of, first, the media’s predisposition to believe it and, second, the lack...


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