Yon Vs. Kos

An interesting and informative battle of the citizen journalists popped up on two very different blogs this week, even if the bloggers involved didn't acknowledge it.

First comes this entry from Daily Kos lauding the book "Unembedded," "a stunning book of photographs from four photojournalists roaming Iraq without U.S. military escorts." Kos points to this page featuring pictures from the book, most of which document bleak scenes: terrified and dead children, angry residents confronting U.S. soldiers, militants, psychiatric patients, devastated streets. "Much of what is shown in Unembedded will probably disturb many Americans who have generally watched a sanitized version of the war and occupation unfold on their TV screens," according to a blurb from Peter Bergen.

Next we have this entry from Michael Yon, "an independent, informed observer chronicling the monumentally important events in the efforts to stabilize Iraq." Yon writes that he visited "at least 50 schools all over Iraq," and the pictures he offers up are of smiling, happy, "wonderful" children who "love to talk with soldiers" and "have better school manners than I ever did!" One cute little girl is "[l]ost in a dream." The photo essay ends with a single sentence: "These children and their families are our allies."

Both sides do make cursory acknowledgements the diversity of life in Iraq. But their points of view are clear. One of the few happy pictures from "Unembedded" shows young men and women socializing, but comes with the disclaimer that "mixed-gendered public outings are increasingly discouraged by religious conservatives' censure." Yon, meanwhile, shows an uplifting photo of "Iraqi commanders consoling a child after an 'event,'" but not the event itself.

Whose version of reality is correct? Probably neither. One could tour America and come up with two very different sets of photos: One that depicts a bleak, depressing wasteland and another that showcases a beautiful land of opportunity. Neither would fully capture the reality on the ground. And the same is true in Iraq. There may be some truth to the notion that we're not hearing enough good news out of Iraq, and there may not – we discussed the issue in detail here. I'm not sure which side has it right. But there's one thing I can tell you: If you're only listening to Daily Kos or Michael Yon, you're probably not getting the whole story.