Corporate media cheerlead the U.S. slaughter in Iraq
By Eric Ruder | April 4, 2003 | Page 2
WAR IS peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. In 1984--George Orwell's nightmarish novel about a totalitarian society--government doublespeak and media manipulation are captured in these three slogans.
The nightly news in Bush's America seems to embody the same ideas. The U.S. is at war against Iraq--to bring peace. Washington's plan to occupy Iraq is called "Operation Iraqi Freedom." And the media--anxious to please the high-level government officials that they depend on for their stories--rarely deviate from the script, for fear that they would be attacked for "undermining the war effort."
When a U.S. general held a press conference to denounce the airing of a videotape of captured U.S. soldiers by Iraqi television, British reporter Geoff Meade asked what the general would say to those in the Arab world who might welcome such images.
The general glared at Meade, and shocked reporters craned their necks to get a look at the person who asked such an "aggressive" question. "Somebody joked to me that I'd find myself at the back of the room along with the French and the Germans," Meade said later.
Newspapers are using acres of newsprint to report on the war, and several cable news channels devote every moment of the day--minus the ads--to their coverage. But because of the government's intimidation tactics--and the self-censorship of reporters and editors--the range of stories and opinions in the U.S. media is incredibly narrow.
Consider the following statistics about U.S. media coverage of the war drive against Iraq, compiled in early February by the watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
--Former or current government officials made up a whopping 76 percent of all on-air sources, essentially crowding out dissident opinions.
--At a time when 61 percent of the population was telling pollsters that more time was needed for diplomacy, only 6 percent of sources on the four major television networks were even skeptical of the need for war.
--On the four networks combined, just three of 393 sources were identified as being affiliated with antiwar activism--less than 1 percent.
"In Germany," wrote the Wall Street Journal, "the press has engaged in lengthy discussions of U.S. news organizations, often concluding that the U.S. media has gone through 'Gleichschaltung,' an ominous word used to describe how the Nazis took over public institutions, including the media."
Fired for telling the truth
VETERAN JOURNALIST Peter Arnett was fired by NBC News for the "crime" of telling the truth in an interview on Iraqi television. "It was wrong for Mr. Arnett to grant an interview with state-controlled Iraqi TV," NBC said in a statement. This from an American TV network that might as well be state-controlled--to judge from its cheerleading of the U.S. war on Iraq.
"I said in that interview essentially what we all know about the war--that there have been delays in implementing policy, there have been surprises," Arnett said on NBC's Today show. Arnett went on to apologize anyway. But that wasn't good enough for the bosses at NBC--or the other media blowhards, like the right-wing fanatics at Fox News, who smeared Arnett for "celebrating" a U.S. "war failure."
This isn't the first time that Arnett got the boot. After gaining renown for his live reports for CNN from Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War, Arnett was fired after the Pentagon complained about a documentary that accused the U.S. of using sarin gas during the Vietnam War.