....LMB: "I Don't Know, But I've Been Told, the Press is Easily Controlled"....

January 15, 2003

Very interesting debate on Democracy Now! yesterday.

The U.S. military has fucking OWNED the press corps since the early 1990s. They controlled what reporters saw, where they went, and what made the news for the Gulf War. This tight control led to amazingly positive coverage of every aspect of the Gulf War, and similar controls were instituted for every U.S. conflict through the war on Afghanistan (to the point that when Washington Post reporter Doug Struck tried to investigate the results of a U.S. missile attack in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers prevented him from doing so at gunpoint, threatening to shoot him). The goal of course is to prevent any negative news from reaching the American public, as it could lead to popular opposition to a particular military campaign and make its continuation politically difficult for the folks waging it.

But now the military seems to be changing tactics. They are now talking about bringing U.S. reporters along with the troops for the pending war in Iraq. And to that end:

"Over the last few months the Pentagon has held a series of journalist-training programs at military bases. One hundred twenty journalists trained last November at the Quantico Marine Corps Base and the Norfolk Naval Station; another wave of reporters trained last month at Fort Benning, and another session is scheduled this month at Fort Dix in New Jersey."

Tuesday's Democracy Now held a roundtable discussion on this issue, made up of three journalists and a Pentagon spokesman. Go listen, it's the second item on the page, in Real Audio format.

There's a few different interpretations of this change in Pentagon policy:

- the Pentagon has done an about face, and feels that hard-hitting and honest coverage of the war will not harm the war effort, or might even aid it.

- the Pentagon is lying about letting the reporters coming to the war and this reporter boot camp is just a distraction.

- the Pentagon is hoping to make the reporters identify with the soldiers' point of view, so that they will naturally write stories favorable to the military.

I dismiss option #1 out of hand.

The more experienced war correspondents on the DN show "guaranteed" that the reporters would never ever get close to battle, so it sounds like they suport option #2.

But I wouldn't count out option #3. It's much riskier than #2, but if it worked properly, it would pay off big: this would be a long-term investment that could permanently affect the journalists' point of view, the experience making them forever sympathetic to the trials and tribulations faced by soldiers in wartime. And this sympathy could easily shape every story that reporter writes for the rest of their career. The Pentagon no longer needs to spend time and energy spinning that reporter, that reporter is now a friendly face in the media.

I recommend listening to the clip above, it's maybe 20-30 minutes long. At the very least, listen to the exchange between the cynical reporter and the Pentagon guy about "respect for journalists." Pentagon guy gets reamed, and rightly so.

Posted by Jake at 11:05 PM
Comments


Now that's one inspired fucking title.

Where DO you come up with these?

;)

Posted by: michele at January 16, 2003 03:25 AM

Don't forget that putting journalists on the front lines ensures that, statistically, a few of the most annoying thorns in the military's side will be permanently censored, lead-style.

Posted by: jeremy at January 16, 2003 11:43 AM

I happen to know a few soldiers, and I can tell you that if they are going for option #3, it will NOT result in good press for the Bush administration.

Pro soldier coverage isn't at all the same as pro-Shrub coverage. Rather the opposite, in fact.

On the other hand, there is a possible option #4. which is a variant of option #3, the intent is to allow the military to push its point of view through a back channel not controlled by their civilian masters. This gives them them a chance to reign in some of the excesses of the chikenhawks.

Posted by: tj at January 16, 2003 06:23 PM
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Media News

December 01, 2004

Media Mambo

The Great Indecency Hoax- last week, we wrote about how the "massive outcry" to the FCC about a racy Fox TV segment amounted to letters from 20 people. This week, we look at the newest media scandal, the infamous "naked back" commercial. On Monday Night Football, last week, ABC aired an ad for it's popular "Desperate Housewives" TV show, in which one of the actresses from the show attempted to seduce a football player by removing the towel she was wearing to bare her body to him. All the audience saw, however, was her back. No tits, no ass, no crotch, just her back.

No one complained.

The next Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh told his shocked viewers how the woman had appeard in the commercial "buck naked".

Then, the FCC received 50,000 complaints. How many of them actually saw this commercial is anyone's guess.

The article also shows the amazing statistics that although the Right is pretending that the "22% of Americans voted based on 'moral values'" statistic shows the return of the Moral Majority, this is actually a huge drop from the 35% who said that in the 2000 election or the 40% who said that in 1996 (when alleged pervert Bill Clinton was re-elected). This fact is so important I'm going to mention it over in the main news section too.

Brian Williams may surprise America- Tom Brokaw's replacement anchor, Brian Williams, dismissed the impact of blogs by saying that bloggers are "on an equal footing with someone in a bathroom with a modem." Which is really funny, coming out of the mouth of a dude who's idea of journalism is to read words out loud off a teleprompter. Seriously, if parrots were literate, Brian Williams would be reporting live from the line outside the soup kitchen.

In related news, Tom Brokaw has quit NBC Nightly News, and it appears that unlike his predecessor, the new guy can speak without slurring words like a drunk.

PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror- in February of 2002, Donald Rumsfeld announced the creation of the Office of Strategic Influence, a new department that would fight the war on terror through misinformation, especially by lying to journalists. Journalists were so up in arms about this that the Pentagon agreed to scrap the program.

Don't you think that an agency designed to lie to the public might lie about being shut down, too?

This article gives some examples about the US military lying to the press for propaganda and disinformation purposes.

Tavis Smiley leaving NPR in December- African-American talk show host Tavis Smiley is opting to not renew his daily talk show on National Public Radio. He criticized his former employers for failing to: "meaningfully reach out to a broad spectrum of Americans who would benefit from public radio but simply donít know it exists or what it offers ... In the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multiracial America ever, I believe that NPR can and must do better in the future." He's 100% correct. NPR is white. Polar bear eating a marshmallow at the mayonaise factory white. And the reason it's so white is that it is trying to maintain an affluent listener base (premoniantly older white folks) who will donate money to their stations. This is a great paradox of American public broadcasting, that they have a mandate to express neglected viewpoints and serve marginalized communities, but those folks can't donate money in the amounts that the stations would like to see.

U.S. Muslim Cable TV Channel Aims to Build Bridges- it sounds more positive than it is "Bridges TV" seems to simultaneously be a cable channel pursuing an affluent American Muslim demographic, and a way of building understanding and tolerance among American non-Muslims who might happen to watch the channel's programming. I was hoping it would be aimed more at Muslim's worldwide, but it ain't. Still, I'd be interested in seeing how their news programs cover the issues.

Every Damned Weblog Post Ever- it's funny cuz it's true.

Wikipedia Creators Move Into News- Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia, created collectively by thousands of contributors. It's one of those non-profit, decentralized, collective, public projects that show how good the internet can be. Now, the Wikipedia founders are working on a similar project to create a collaborative news portal, with original content. Honestly, it's quite similar to IndyMedia sites (which reminds me, happy 5th birthday, IndyMedia!). I'll admit, I'm a bit skeptical about the Wikinews project, though. IndyMedia sites work because they're local, focused on certain lefty issues, and they're run by activists invested in their beliefs. I'm not sure what would drive Wikinews or how it would hang together.

CBS, NBC ban church ad inviting gays- the United Church of Christ created a TV ad which touts the church's inclusion, even implying that they accept homosexuals into their congregation. Both CBS and NBC are refusing to air the ad. This is not too surprising, as many Americans are uncomfortable about homosexuality, and because TV networks are utter cowards. But CBS' explanation for the ban was odd:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples...and the fact that the executive branch has recently proposed a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast."

Whoa, what? First of all, the ad does not mention marriage at all. Second, since when do positions opposite of the Executive Branch constitute "unacceptable"? This doesn't sound like "we're not airing this because it's controversial", this sounds like "we're afraid of what the President might say."

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