2.25.2006

complicity

Some time ago, there was a long argument on wmtc about the US media's complicity in the junta and the war in Iraq. One lone reader, a Canadian, claimed that the media had nothing to do with it, a position that left the Americans on the verge of stroke.

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.

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.
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.

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.

10 comments:

redsock said...

Media Matters is also great at documenting the lies and crimes of the US media.

Tresy said...

While the constant drumbeat of propaganda emanating from US media outlets shows that certain interests don't count on the public doing as they're told without indoctrination, the fact is that the public re-elected that bastard by more votes than 2000, even after no WMD were found, even after Abu Ghraib, even after the obvious politicization of the war on terror as a tool for bludgeoning Democrats and dissent. People knew what they were buying, unlike 2000. Of course they were complicit.

I get really tired of our side counting how many liberals vs conservatives appear on US airwaves, as if the public is some lab rat that will choose one type of cheese or another depending on an exceedingly delicate calibration of reinforcements. If people really are that incapable of figuring things out on their own, then they are truly undeserving of calling themselves citizens of a democracy. Fact is they knew, and voted for evil, apparently because It promised them a tax cut. That's when we knew we could leave our native country in good conscience.

Too many Americans are morally unserious. Pretty soon that's going to catch up with them. Meanwhile, I don't feel like our family ought to pay that collective price. Which is why we're here, and grateful for it.

L-girl said...

the fact is that the public re-elected that bastard by more votes than 2000

This is not even remotely a fact. You should know better.

If people really are that incapable of figuring things out on their own,

How will they know the facts on which to base their opinions? Who will tell them?

L-girl said...

Also, it's not a question of how many liberals or conservatives are on the airwaves.

It's a question of the media being indepedent from the government. That's a fundamental requirement of democracy.

Lone Primate said...

This is not even remotely a fact. You should know better.

Oh, come on. I'm sorry, Laura, but there's no getting around the fact that the man made the cut this time. Say whatever you want about jiggery-pokery; Tresy's right. In spite of everything, in spite of all that Tresy just laid out, STILL at least half the people in the US agree with this guy and what he does, and think he's the right guy for the job. It's not 10%, it's not 25%, it's not 33%, it's fully half, at least. It makes one wonder, what would it take to make this man an anathema? Frankly, I believe the realization the US is fusing its helium is quietly starting to settle in, and like all great powers in decline before it, extreme times warrant extreme measures in the minds of those who feel their advantage slipping away. I really do sympathize with the minority who see through this, but we have to face facts: they're slightly atypical (even so, I'm not convinced the Democrats would be hugely different... though they might not have begun the war in Iraq had they been in power, I've seen little indication they'd have taken strong measures to change things had they won in 2004, either). If an election is meant to be representative of the normative will of a polity -- and it is -- George Bush represents what the average American, at large, wants for the United States to be, and do, and have. There's no point in having elections at all if you're going to say they don't mean that when the result's distressing.

L-girl said...

There's no point in having elections at all if you're going to say they don't mean that when the result's distressing.

Lone Primate, I don't say the election doesn't mean what it means because the results were distressing. I say the results don't mean much because the election was fixed.

There are millions upon millions of Americans who hate everything W stands for. Millions more voted for him out of ignorance, thanks to the media machine. And yes, many millions voted for his package. That is undeniably true. But what percentage to assign to each of these groups, we do not know. You do not know, Tresy does not know, and I do not know.

But this --

George Bush represents what the average American, at large, wants for the United States to be, and do, and have.

-- I do not believe.

It doesn't matter how many times you say "oh come on" or claim to know what the average American wants. I lived in that country all my life, and I do not believe that the direction this regime has taken it is a fair representation of what the majority of Americans want. I do believe the country's been hijacked.

And I have every reason to believe that both elections were fraudulent.

Sorry. That's my take on it.

Every time Tresy posts, he says the exact same thing. And I say the same thing in response, only he's not there to read it. I think it's kind of boring, but I keep saying it nonetheless.

Lone Primate said...

I can understand why you'd feel this way; it's natural. But the US hasn't been hijacked, it's given the nod to someone willing to say and do what much, perhaps most, of the US is thinking. Things are in decline, others challenge, frightening change is coming. Who will hold back the darkness? And how?

We've seen this before. People generally think the British Empire folded up after WWII. But in reality, it began to fail in the latter third of the 19th century. The British were losing market share to the rising United States; to economize, they were exporting their productivity to their colonies. Sure, they were getting cheap goods, but it meant they were losing jobs at home, and exporting knowledge, technology, and liquidity. A few people in Britain got very rich, but most lost ground, and many left the country. Those who remained grew increasingly restless. It was more or less at this point that the really acquisitive, short-lived last act of the Empire began... mad grabs for cheap resources. The Boer War. The cementing of all of East Africa. The promotion of Victoria to Empress of India. Young men were stuck in red jackets and sent off to every corner of the globe to "spread British values", take up the white man's burden, spread democracy... to die, and make the folks back home proud. Solved a lot of the problem of joblessness into the bargain. No one, Conservative or Liberal, questioned the wisdom of this for decades. No one dared to. It was the natural order of things.

If it sounds familiar, it should. It's on again.

If you could have laid it all out for people in advance, no, I don't think they set out to subvert the Constitution, or undermine the Bll of Rights. I don't think they particularly had anything against the Iraqis. But step by step, they've gone pretty willingly down these paths because they don't know what else to do. They want the cheap oil. The want a lifestyle that bucks reality and makes SUVs a viable option in a world where most people pay the equivalent of $5 a litre for gasoline. They want cell phones and Nintendos and 54" HDTVs and quarter-million-dollar homes for a nickel a ton to the tune of two-thirds of a trillion dollars a year they don't have. It's red-lining, right now. That lifestyle is now only possible so long as there's someone playing whack-a-mole with anyone else who pokes their head up in any way that threatens that fantasy. To me it doesn't matter a bit if Bush got elected or not. Kerry would be largely the same; he would have stayed the course in Iraq. He would have built the ships. He would have mortgaged the future to feather the nest of the present. Both candidates said pretty much the same things on issues outside the United States. They had to. They were both trying to lead a people used to standing highest on a sandbar, who are now feeling the tides of history scouring the sand out from under their feet. It's inevitable for any great power, sooner or later... and they're reacting, understandably, as any other people long comfortable with the idea of pre-eminence, and disquieted by the idea of its erosion. I simply cannot see a special case in this. It's one more cycle in human history; it's how people behave when power, influence, and wealth migrate from one old capital to a new one. What will end it is when the fever breaks, and Americans become realistic about their place in the world and their station in life; quit calling themselves and thinking of themselves and spending and comporting themselves as "the sole superpower" and just relax. Until that psychic break, that catharsis, epiphany, whatever... the fever's only going to get worse, and the remedies more extreme.

There's a movie, largely overlooked, that came out a few years ago called A Simple Plan. In it, three humble men stumble across a fortune, guarded only a dead man in a crashed plane. They'll hide the money and split it up later. What's the harm? But each deed to hold the scheme together leads to the next more extreme action, and on and on. No one sets out to be a monster. No one believe they're being, doing, promoting evil. They're just doing what they believe they must to protect what they have and what they love. The two telling lines in the movie, at odds with each other, are "Do you ever feel evil?" and "Goddamn it, this is what it costs!" For the most part, the US is currently in the latter frame of mind, it seems clear to me... I don't suggest happily, but with stark determination, for the moment.

The idea the American people are a nation of innocent naifs being duped by something sinisterly evil is an understandable face-saving fiction... but not one, I think, most people outside the United States would credit.

L-girl said...

The idea the American people are a nation of innocent naifs being duped by something sinisterly evil is an understandable face-saving fiction...

If you don't agree with me, that's fine. But please don't reduce my beliefs to psychobabble.

I can't stand the US, that's why I left it. I have no need to paint it in a flattering light to save face.

I would never describe the American people as innocent naifs. Dumb sheep, many of them. No more or less innocent than people anywhere else. I don't blame "the American people" for Bush any more than I blame the Iraqi people for Saddam Hussein.

Your rap about cheap oil and SUVs applies to the entire developed world, Canada included. However, most Americans don't understand the war in Iraq as having much to do with oil. Sounds incredible, I know - but it's true.

To me it doesn't matter a bit if Bush got elected or not. Kerry would be largely the same; he would have stayed the course in Iraq.

I always said that. As you know, we applied to emigrate before the election. The fact that the US is governed by a duopoly and the people have little choice about who they vote for, and nothing ever changes, goes to my argument, not yours.

I'm too tired to flesh this whole thing out. And basically, we've driven around and around this block too many times for me. But please don't tell me that my beliefs about the US are constructed as a face-saving mechanism. They are based on the sum total of all my experiences, reading and thinking - same as yours.

By the way, I loved that movie.

L-girl said...

To me it doesn't matter a bit if Bush got elected or not. Kerry would be largely the same; he would have stayed the course in Iraq.

I always said that.


Oops, I did want to clarify that.

It would have made a very big difference at home - in civil liberties, personal freedoms (which includes abortion rights), social programs - in many ways. Internationally, it would not have mattered, but to Americans' lives on a daily basis, it would have.

In that sense, I cared very much who was elected. And I still believe, and will always believe, that it was probably John Kerry.

redsock said...

I usually agree with LP, but he's way, way, way off on this one.

Anyone who doesn't believe the 2000 and 2004 US elections were fixed is either in denial or ignorant of the facts.

Those are the only two possibilities. There is a veritable Mount Everest of evidence.

(And please remember that neither of us had ANY desire to vote for Al Gore and we had applied to leave the US for Canada long before people went to the polls to vote for Bush/Kerry.)

...

Does George Bush represent the average American like Stephen Harper represents the average Canadian?