Downing Street Memo, The Prequel

Downing Street Memo, The Prequel

Downing Street Memo, The Prequel

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
June 13 2005 6:46 PM

Downing Street Memo, The Prequel

Today, bloggers discuss the media's response to a new Downing Street memo. They also discuss a Los Angeles Times plan to allow readers to rewrite editorials online, as well as the apparent end of Mike Tyson's long and troubled boxing career.

Downing Street Memo, the prequel:The Times of London reported Sunday that "Ministers were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal." On their Web site, the Times simultaneously published the transcript of a briefing paper, prepared in advance of the July 2002 meeting whose minutes became known as the Downing Street Memo. That memo, made public last month, told of a report by the head of British foreign intelligence that, in Washington in July 2002, war "was now seen as inevitable," and that intelligence was "being fixed around [that] policy." The new document has received more coverage than the original memo. (Read the Washington Post report and New York Times story.)

"One of the reasons the previous Downing Street Memo hasn't gotten much traction with the press — and the reason these new memos will probably get limited attention as well — is that I don't think anyone really finds any of this a surprise," says stalwart California liberal Kevin Drum, writing at the Washington Monthly. "After all, previous evidence has already made it clear that George Bush was intent on war against Iraq almost immediately following 9/11."

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At Eschaton, leading liberal Atrios violently disagrees with Drum. "There are two sets of people here. One consists of inside the beltways types and assorted news junkies and the other consists of The Amerkin Public. The former knew the Iraq war was a foregone conclusion by early 2002, but didn't bother to tell the Amerkin Public. They still haven't," he writes.

For some, the media's silence isn't a clear-cut injustice. "All the memo shows is one individual's take on what was going on in Washington," cautions "conservative of doubt" Andrew Sullivan, pointing to this piece by the Los Angeles Times' Michael Kinsley. At conservative syndicate Power Line, John Hinderaker repeats his skeptical earlier analysis: "In short, this British memo, while it does provide a fascinating glimpse into high-level decision making in Blair's government, is far from being a 'smoking gun,' as Cole calls it. It adds nothing to our knowledge of the important issues surrounding the Iraq war."

Read more about the Times report and more about the original Downing Street Memo.

The age of the wikitorial:In a summary of upcoming changes to the Los Angeles Times editorial page, the paper announced "the introduction of 'wikitorials'—an online feature that will empower you to rewrite Los Angeles Times editorials." In future issues, "We'll have some editorials where you can go online and edit an editorial to your satisfaction," saidTimes editorial page editor Andrés Martinez in the New York Times.

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Most Webheads are skeptical. "Sounds like a cool idea... but I think it … probably won't work," predicts critic-cum-blogwatcher Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine. "Wikipedia brags about its NPOV (neutral point of view) enforced by the wisdom of the crowd and the desire to get the facts right and maintain a valuable resource. An editorial is, of course, not neutral. And so what you'll likely find is a never-ending wikiwar: yes he did, no he didn't, he did, no he didn't, yes he did, no he didn't, nya, nya, nya ..." At Weblogg-ed, Will R. agrees. "Probably going to be chaos," he writes. "Can't wait to see what happens with it."

Others see cause for guarded optimism. At Unfogged, Ogged says this might be a better way for newspapers to innovate than incorporating blogs into their coverage, since "as a forum for communication between an institution and its readers or customers, they [blogs] kinda suck," he writes. "Institutions can't readily adapt their voice to the informality of blogs, and there's too much noise in the feedback. I hope they come up with neat stuff."

Read more about wikitorials.

A mighty fall: Heavyweight head case Mike Tyson lost to little-known Kevin McBride Saturday night, quitting after six rounds in what the former champion later suggested was his last bout.

"This was sadly predictible. It had been clear for a long time that Mike Tyson was no longer a championship-caliber fighter," writesGeorge Coztanza, who applauds Tyson's retirement. "Boxers put their lives in jeopardy when they don't know when to hang up their gloves," he says. At BCBeat,Ben Grossman thinks Tyson still has a lucrative fighting future—as a part of Vince McMahon's vaudeville Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment.

Read more about Mike Tyson.

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