People in the US who oppose the anti-democratic policies of the W regime feel very strongly that the US media has been a huge factor in keeping the public ignorant and misinformed, re-packaging the administration's motives, and drumming up support for their policies. This has taken many forms: paid government spokespeople posing as journalists, actual journalists accepting government bribes, media running government press releases as news stories without disclosure, smear campaigns against people who publicize the truth, and a laundry list of distortions, deceptions and outright lies.
MediaChannel.org, an excellent group that monitors mainstream media coverage, and United for Peace and Justice, the umbrella organization for hundreds of anti-war and social activism groups, are teaming up to focus attention on media complicity in the Iraq War.
A Media Day of War Coverage Protest is planned for March 21, 2006, as part of a week of activism marking the third anniversary of the war.
Danny Schechter, editor of MediaChannel and author of When News Lies, among other books, writes on Common Dreams:
Last week, new photographs of detainees abused by US soldiers in the infamous Abu Ghraib gulag in Iraq surfaced. They were discovered by the American Civil Liberties Union. The story was covered on TVS in Australia.Whenever I blog about activism like this, I receive a flurry of comments about how none of this will do any good. I understand cynicism, and I understand feeling helpless and overwhelmed. But I don't think the response to evil is to lay down and declare defeat, nor to complain but never take action.
The most elaborate statistics on the abuse scandal appeared in the press.
1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse
93 video files of suspected detainee abuse
660 images of adult pornography
546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees
29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts
This information made headlines in the Guardian newspapers in England.
Meanwhile, in the United States, all of the networks covered a speech by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the man who once famously said, "As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know."
Now, the Pentagon's Rumsfeld is declaring a new war - on the press. The Washington Post reports:
"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Friday called for the U.S. military and other government agencies to mount a far more aggressive, faster and nontraditional information campaign to counter messages of extremist and terrorist groups in the world media. Rumsfeld lashed out at the U.S. media, whose coverage he blamed for effectively halting recent military information initiatives, such as paying to place articles in Iraqi newspapers."
Rumsfeld's attack on the media for mildly questioning propaganda posing as news is consistent with the Administration's management of war news through a billion dollar "information warfare" program that engineered positive media coverage for the invasion.
That continuing coverage documented by critics, including in my own new book, "When News Lies: Media Complicity and the Iraq War," is on its way from being a public complaint to becoming a political issue.
America's largest anti-war coalition, United For Peace and Justice, is broadening its anti-war protest to include targeting a US media system that has largely substituted jingoism for journalism and backed the war - often in the name of supporting the troops.
UFPJ Coordinator Leslie Cagan announced that her organization is partnering with MediaChannel.org and other media groups to organize a Media Day of War Coverage Protest on March 21, 2006. It takes part during a week of organizing and activism marking the third anniversary of the war. Plans are also underway for forums and film screenings on March 20th.
"We are thrilled that anti-war activists will now be connecting with media reform activists to challenge mainstream media 'coverage' that has underreported civilian casualties and much of the costs of the war," says MediaChannel Director David DeGraw.
"Sadly, the media helped make the war possible, and despite mea culpas about flawed pre-war coverage, the coverage has basically not changed, an approach which treats every Administration claim seriously, while marginalizing the anti-war movement."
Even as public opinion shifted against the war - only 37% of the American people are said to still back the war - most of the media downplay reporting on demands for troop withdrawal.
Focusing on the media role is a departure for the anti-war movement that helped organize the protests that brought 30 million people to the streets on [February] 15, 2003. Until now, protesters have focused almost entirely on government policies and practices.
Recognizing the media role indicts a corporate America that has, in some cases, profited from the war with rises in ratings and revenues. This includes General Electric (GE), owner of NBC-Universal, who received $600,000 in Iraq reconstruction contracts.
Before the war began broadcast networks lobbied the FCC for rule changes to allow them to buy more stations. At the time, Washington insiders spoke of a quid pro-quo with the networks asking the FCC to waive their rules while their news shows waved the flag. In that period, then FCC Commissioner Michael Powell justified a need for more media concentration with the claim that "only big companies can cover a war like the one in Iraq."
Many journalists and media organizations have since blasted one-sided coverage. Editor & Publisher, a media industry trade magazine, has consistently documented and criticized pervasive media practices that boosted the war with more "selling than telling."
Mediachannel.org launched a "Tell the Truth About the War" campaign months ago, calling for better and more consistent coverage. Thousands of emails from readers have gone to media executives.
If the war is to end, the coverage has to change. We need to press the press and move the media.
Now MediaChannel plans to organize meetings between critics and media companies. Planning for protests and panels is underway - not only in New York, but at local newspapers, radio and TV stations across the nation as part of a national effort. A national email campaign will be launched as well.
If you would like to endorse or participate in this effort, or help in your community by organizing meetings, house parties - including screenings of WMD (Weapons of Mass Deception) and other films critical of the war media coverage - contact Priya@mediachannel.org.
Has no fascist regime ever been brought down by democracy? Has no people's movement ever succeeded? Shall we just throw up our hands and do nothing? Doesn't that just give them the unchecked power they want? If nothing else, it's our duty, our responsibility, to protest.
Of course, it's easier to sit and sneer.