Information Warfare: Mass media Myopia

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June 27, 2006: One of the biggest disparities is the media coverage often given to opponents and supporters of the war on terror. In many cases, assertions of the opponents are presented, often without challenge, while those of supporters are ignored, unless they are to be taken apart to support the anti-war crowd.

 

For instance, the media has often given pronouncements, like those from Congressman John Murtha, without close examination or criticism. This is despite the fact that one of his pronouncements, suggesting that quick-reaction forces for the Middle East be stationed in Okinawa, just didn't make sense. The distance between Okinawa and Baghdad is nearly 8,000 kilometers. This is nearly twice the ferry range of an F-16C. Murtha's claims of a cover-up involving an incident in Haditha got a lot of press coverage, but were recently found to have no basis in fact. His latest claim, that the American occupation of Iraq is a bigger danger to world security than Iran under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or North Korea, which is planning a test launch of its Taepo-Dong 2 missile, has been highlighted by some internet sites (like the Drudge Report) and blogs, but played down by the mass media. 

 

Another often-unchallenged claims from anti-war activists is that the Bush Administration lied, particularly when it pertained to the relationship between Saddam's regime and al-Qaeda. It is presented, almost as an article of faith - and common knowledge - that there was no way for a "secular" Arab dictator like Saddam to work with a terrorist like Osama bin Laden, whose motivation for terrorism is based on a form of Islamic fundamentalism. Yet, the American mass media  has not only tried to ignore evidence to the contrary (like the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi fleeing to Baghdad for medical treatment as the Taliban was driven out of power in Afghanistan in 2001, and memos that have been discovered and reported on as early as April, 2003), it has actively tried to debunk these reports.

 

This has led to a high level of distrust of the media on military matters, a long slide dating back to Walter Cronkite's comments in the wake of the 1968 Tet Offensive, which were not only instrumental in killing public support for the Vietnam War, but which were also inaccurate (the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, according to their own analysis, lost the Tet Offensive). In fact, several media outlets arguing against the war have cited Cronkite's comments - hoping for a version of those comments in the war in Iraq.

 

That said, the mainstream media's power has declined relative to 1968. The rise of alternate media outlets like talk radio, internet-based news, and blogs have blunted the effect that a TV report can have. These alternate media have even trumped the major media. Recently, military bloggers (and others) proved that at least one of those who claimed they carried out atrocities was a phony. This changing media battlefield is probably one of the most important aspects of the war, and has kept public support of the war on terror from cratering as it did in 1968. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 

 

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