You'll recall that in Lesson 1 we looked at simpering coverage from the Mail (and Mirror) of 'our boys' blowing up some brown people.
The message of those who wanted the story published - and the message they got, thanks to no questions being asked about the facts whatsoever - was that this was the kind of 'surgical strike' that happens on a regular basis, and that only the guilty need worry (although of course a couple of people who may not necessarily have been terrorists did get incinerated, but c'mon, you can't have everything!) about our laser-guided precision fly-by-wire technological marvels.
Isn't it strange, then, that the Mail can be very sceptical and cautious indeed about this story, concerning dozens of civilians having been blown to bits by 'our boys' in Afghanistan.
They don't have any more access to facts about this story than they did to the other - yet while they believed everything claimed about a 'successful' UK/US military operation and never felt the need to ask a question, going so far as to recreate the 'event' with a cartoon vignette showing just how brilliantly it all happened, now they're more circumspect. Why might that be, then?
Afghan commission says 47 civilians killed by U.S. airstrike
'Says'? But don't we just completely believe our sources? Don't you remember...?
Taliban chief who killed Cpl Sarah is taken out by laser-guided missiles
Where's 'says military source' in that headline? Wasn't there the room for it then?
A U.S. military airstrike this week killed 47 civilians traveling to a wedding, the head of a government commission investigating the incident said on Friday.
The airstrike on Sunday in Deh Bala district of Nangarhar province also wounded nine other civilians, said Burhanullah Shinwari, the deputy chairman of the Senate, who led the delegation.
Immediately afterwards, the U.S. military denied that any civilians were killed in the incident. At the time Afghan officials said 27 civilians had been killed.
So in those paragraphs, the idea of this having happened has the caveat of being revealed by a source - we don't know for sure. (Also note the 'traveling'. The Mail may be many things, but it's never usually shoddy with its English, and doesn't often let Americanisms slip through if it's copying and pasting off wire copy. However, you have to conclude that this could be what's happened here.)
Compare it with this:
The fanatical Taliban mastermind behind recent attacks in which six British soldiers died in Afghanistan has been killed in a missile attack by an Army Apache helicopter.
In what military chiefs described as a 'deliberate and surgical strike', the 35-year-old rebel leader - known as Sadiqullah - died alongside nine fellow Taliban fighters after the Apache fired two laser-guided Hellfire missiles at their red pick-up truck and destroyed it.
The rebel leader had been tracked down after weeks of secret intelligence work.
No doubt of the facts there, is there? But how can the Mail be so sure of this when it's so uncertain about the bombing of innocents at a wedding?
The BBC's report of the wedding bombing explains that 39 victims were women and children - yet the Mail is happy to print, unquestioningly, the US military view that no civilians were hurt - even though in the light of new information this looks a totally untenable position.
We've seen before how the Mail refuses to update stories in the light of new information - including the story about an 'eight-year-old' suicide bomber who, er, wasn't eight, but was still described as such long after new information made that clear.
It is simply bizarre to do this. In the age of newspaper editions, stories were updated in the dead-tree press during the day as new information came along. Now, in the supposed 24-7 era, the reverse is being done, with false information being left in the archive. Why on earth is this happening? Look at the examples I've found before: the 'eight-year-old' suicide bomber, the Al-Qaeda 'vision of terror' that turned out to be a complete hoax, and now this. See a pattern developing? Facts are left un-updated when they point in a particular direction. Is there a reason behind this or is it just bad luck?
There's another point to be made. In the Mail's story about 'our brave boys blow up some bad brown bastards because they killed a blonde girlie', you might have been forgiven for getting the impression that US/UK weapons are so advanced and accurate that only the guilty are killed. As some of 'our boys' discovered themselves recently at the wrong end of an Apache helicopter, this isn't always the case.
Nonetheless, it's a pretty big mistake to blow up a wedding party - the second one that's been blown to smithereens in Afghanistan since the invasion 2001. Or is it? At first, it was claimed that all the victims were 'militants' - we now know, if we don't read the Mail, that isn't the case and that civilians were hurt and killed. But certainly, a gathering was targeted with pretty big and clumsy weapons.
So here's an alternative scenario: you know your targets will be at a wedding party, so bomb it. Claim afterwards that the victims were all militants, even the women and children - the compliant news media will be happy to put that in without questioning it, even if they know it's likely not to be true - and they won't change their stories in the light of new information. It'll take time for an investigation, and besides, your compliant news media will be so suspicious of any negative stories, while promoting every single positive one you feed them without question, that the flow of information only goes in one direction.
Now I have no idea if that's true or not. But it could only happen that way if news media unquestioningly promoted 'their' side in a conflict, while being suspicious about any negative stories. But as we've seen, that's just what appears to be happening.