CNN has a habit of devouring its own whenever the right-wing flak machine cranks up.
The resignation last Friday of CNN's top news executive, Eason Jordan, should be seen in the context of CNN's previous abandonment of its top journalists, all of whom raised the right's ire by revealing unflattering facts about the military.
But the resignation is also being hailed as more evidence of the power of right-wing bloggers to fell their perceived enemies.
In recent weeks, the "blogsphere," as it likes to call itself, has been abuzz with vitriol over Jordan's remarks in a panel discussion at the Davos Economic Forum, in which he seemed to suggest that U.S. troops in Iraq shoot at journalists.
According to Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who was also on the January 27 panel, Jordan said "he knew of 12 journalists who were killed by coalition forces in Iraq." Jordan's exact wording remains unclear. He later attempted to clarify that he didn't know if any journalists in Iraq were deliberately targeted.
But, like CBS's truthful though bungled exposé of the president's unflattering war record, the facts of the story are all but lost when the conservative flak machine attacks the messenger.
Since the U.S. invasion, 60 journalists, more or less, have died violently in Iraq while attempting to do their work.
Credible reports of the killing, torture, and harassment of journalists by "coalition" forces in Iraq have been well documented by respected press freedom organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Sans Frontières and the International Federation of Journalists.
The historical record suggests a pattern of these activities, but government has no need to defend itself from criticism when popular media like Fox and its countless devotees in the blogsphere do so for them.
News executives like Jordan and senior figures from the BBC and Reuters have spoken about their concerns for some time, and leading British journalists like Robert Fisk of the Independent and Janine di Giovanni of the Times have written of the pattern of violence against journalists they've witnessed.
The killing of two journalists by a U.S. tank crew as they took pictures from their Baghdad hotel in 2003 was thoroughly described by veteran journalists - dozens of whom were present - and was the subject of a public battle waged by Reuters to hold the military to account.
As with every other incident involving journalists, the U.S. military exonerated itself.
But the presence of the world's media in the hotel was well known to military commanders, leading to the suspicion that the killing wasn't accidental. Another possible murder of journalists was reported in the British press, though it - perhaps for lack of corroboration - has inspired less outrage.
At the outset of the invasion, the U.S. military warned journalists not to operate independently in Iraq, and one British TV reporter, with his crew, died attempting to do so. The Mirror newspaper in the U.K. reported that witnesses watched a U.S. military helicopter kill the journalist.
U.S. troops detained other journalists attempting to operate independently in Iraq, and, in the early days of the invasion, U.S. forces threatened - according to a senior British reporter - to launch missiles against media organizations transmitting pictures out of Baghdad.
U.S. missiles had already killed dozens of reporters in Afghanistan (where Al-Jazeera, Radio Kabul and the BBC were attacked in 2001) and Serbia (where Serbian TV, along with CNN facilities, were attacked in 1999).
Both the Arab television media and international news agencies have borne the brunt of the violence. CPJ and the other journalists organizations record a large number of lethal and non-lethal attacks by U.S. troops on Arab journalists.
A senior Al-Jazeera correspondent was arrested, released and re-arrested in Spain without clear charges, and an Al-Jazeera cameraman has been detained in Guantánamo Bay for four years.
In Iraq, two Iranian journalists were detained for four months without charge. Two Al-Jazeera employees reported that they were tortured by U.S. troops last year, and the Associated Press reported that an Arab cameraman working for a European broadcaster said, after being attacked by U.S. troops, "They checked our identity badges and then let us go, saying they thought we were with Al-Jazeera...."
Several Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya journalists have been killed by U.S. forces in well-documented incidents. Robert Fisk wrote with alarm about a U.S. attack he witnessed against a clearly marked press vehicle, again driven by Arab journalists.
In addition to believing that three of its cameramen have been killed by U.S. troops (two in view of other journalists), Reuters also complained to the U.S. military that four journalists working for them and NBC were abducted by U.S. troops and tortured for three days in January of last year. Jordan referred to that incident, which was documented by Reuters, the news organization most journalists trust above all others, in Davos.
Ann Cooper, director of the CPJ, writes that in late 2003 "30 international media organizations wrote to the Pentagon to complain of numerous examples of U.S. troops physically harassing journalists and, in some cases, confiscating or ruining equipment, digital camera discs and videotapes."
Journalists in Iraq are so concerned that they've organized their own International News Safety Institute to discuss whether international legal protections for journalists need to be strengthened.
The major press freedom groups have also been shouting as loudly as they can, but as with the ignored advanced warning about Abu Ghraib from the Red Cross and Amnesty International, their shouts will be in vain until policy-makers and major media accept the need for comprehensive, independent investigation.
Jordan might have thought that raising the issue with the world's top decision-makers would put it so fully into the public eye that news media and U.S. lawmakers could no longer ignore it. He may even have expected to take the fall to accomplish that goal.