Information Warfare: The Iraq War Fades Away

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March 16, 2008: The war in Iraq is passing from the American memory, before it's even over. Analysis of news reports on the war, show that 15 percent of news stories were about the Iraq war last Summer, but are only three percent now. It's out of sight, out of mind. For example, a recent survey asking people how many U.S. troops had died in Iraq, only about a quarter knew the number (4,000). That's half the number who knew the correct number all the way back to 2003.

 

News directors say they are putting more effort into covering the presidential election, and the usual stories (celebrity scandals, disasters of any sort, notorious criminals). But there are other reasons for ignoring Iraq. Since last Summer, more good news than bad news began to come back from the front. This was not useful for news organizations. Bad news makes money (by attracting larger audiences for advertisers), good news is useless. Moreover, only about five percent of Americans (military personnel and their families) have any personal interest in Iraq. There are even fewer Iraqi Americans to care. There are also fewer veterans. Only nine million American actually served in the armed forces during the official Vietnam war period (1964-1975, most U.S. troops were out of Vietnam by 1972, and the big build up didn't begin until 1965). And only 30 percent of those were actually in Vietnam. That's 2.7 million troops. Those who served in Vietnam represented nearly ten percent of the men of their generation. The current war on terror will probably only involved a few percent. Veterans of older wars are dying off at a rapid clip. The Iraq war is something most people simply can't relate to.

 

In a word, the war has no constituency. News stories about how much the war costs, which impacts all tax payers, tend to flop, so news directors have come to think of Iraq as a poorly performing subject. The war won't go away, it will just seem like it has, if all you do is pay attention to the mass media.

 

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