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April 30, 2004

As you may have heard, tonight's edition of Nightline (ABC) will solely be a reading of names and showing of images of American soldiers who have been killed in the war on Iraq.

As you may have also heard, the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a multimedia conglomerate that owns 62 television stations (reaching 24% of the US population) has told its 8 ABC affiliates not to air the Nightline program.

The Sinclair Group says that it is refusing to air this broadcast because it "appears to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq." It then "proves" its case by pondering the question, "why [Ted Koppel] chose to read the names of 523 troops killed in combat in Iraq, rather than the names of the thousands of private citizens killed in terrorist attacks since and including the events of September 11, 2001." Which seems to be incorrect; ABC asserts that it did read all of the names of the 9/11 victims on the one-year anniversary of the attacks, leaving Sinclair with nothing but an unsubstantiated insinuation.

It is posible that Sinclair's motives are genuine, thinking that they are protecting the American people from ABC's harmful political agenda. But Sinclair has a history of supporting the Bush administration and a right-wing agenda. Some of these actions include: forcing their news anchors read statements of "full support" for President Bush after 9/11; refusing to air a Democratic campaign ad critical of Bush; and just donating lots of cash to Bush and the Republicans.

This shows the danger of media consolidation: censorship. Eight regions of the US will not see this commemoration of the dead because of the political views of some corporate bigwigs.

What's also interesting is the assumption that remembering the dead will cause harm. It is reasonable to think that the public, faced with a stark reminder of all of this death, may turn against the war and its supporters. Or, contrariwise, viewers could see all this death and be even more determined that the United States win the war, so that all these soldiers will not have died in vain. Honestly, poll data seems to support the latter; the worse we do in Iraq, the more Americans seem to want to rally behind the president.

Although it's a bit of a tangent, I also wanted to remark upon today's USA Today front page. The key headline was "Iraq's Deadliest Month", followed by an article about the large numbers of Americans killed in Iraq in April: 134. But to me, that shows an amount of America-centrism that's somewhat insulting. Iraq has existed as a nation since the 1930s, is home to 25 million Iraqis, and it's "deadliest month" just happened, and when 134 foreigners are killed? The article doesn't even mention the number of Iraqis killed this month (which the Associated Press claims is 1361-- ten times the number of Americans). It's as though Iraq is only visible when Americans are in it, and the deaths of people there only matter if those people were born under an American flag.

I'm thinking that Iraq has had "deadlier months", possibly including the final days of Gulf War I, one of the months of the embargo when people were dying of starvation and lack of medicine, or even the opening days of the latest war, thanks to Shock and Awe.

I understand that this USA Today article was not trying to be about the suffering of the Iraqis, or about the general suffering of war. And I'm not trying to say that the death of an Iraqi is more important than the death of an American. All of the deaths on all sides are tragic. I feel bad for all of the people who's lives are being cut short by the conflict, and for all of the brothers, mothers, wives, husbands, fathers and friends who will have to live the rest of their lives with a hole where their loved one used to be.

The idea that one life, or one death, is more important than another, is one of the main reasons we still have war.

Posted by Jake at 05:38 PM | TrackBack (0)
Comments

It's a shame that political partisanship surrounded this event, propogated by the likes of O'Reilly and Fox News. How O'Reilly spinned it against Koppel was revealed in this excellent piece at Flak Magazine:

http://www.flakmag.com/opinion/omission.html

Posted by: Sarah at May 10, 2004 08:06 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."

Posted by Jake at 10:09 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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