Sunday, December 11, 2005

Soldiers vs. the Press: Round II

From StrategyPage

Journalism Versus Reality in Iraq
by James Dunnigan
December 3, 2005

American troops are developing a hate-hate relation with journalists. The basic problem is that soldiers and marines in Iraq have access, usually via the Internet, to what the mass media is saying about what they think is happening in Iraq. These news reports, all too often, do not reflect what the troops experience. It gets uglier when the troops realize that reporters are spending most of their time in the Green Zone or some well guarded hotel, leaving it to local Iraqi stringers to collect information and photos for the reporters stories. Relations are a bit better with the few embedded journalists who still travel with the troops out in field. But even the embeds are often mistrusted and disliked, because some of them are blatantly out for dirt, not an accurate story.

Few of the troops understand that the news business is driven by dramatic events, not the tedious kind of process the troops go through every day to defeat the terrorists. To the troops, the war is being won. They see bad guys killed in large numbers, and few Americans getting hurt (it’s fairly common for their to be about twenty enemy dead for each American loss). The troops see tangible evidence, every day, of Iraqis having a better life. The troops cannot understand why that is not news, and why journalists always seem to be looking for a negative angle. To the average G.I., the attitude is, “what are these reporters looking for?” They are looking for a story, and bad news is a story. Good news is not. As a result of this clash of cultures, reporters are increasingly seen as a potentially dangerous enemy. For the troops, this is already accepted as true for many Arab journalists. Some of those have been arrested for hostile activity, or later revealed as al Qaeda agents. European journalists are seen as particularly clueless, so wrapped up in their anti-American fantasies, that communication is nearly impossible. But after watching a CNN clip on the net, or viewing an online story from the New York Times or Washington Post, it’s hard to view U.S. journalists as fellow Americans.


1. US journalists are fellow Americans...who just happen to be bad reporters.
2. Dunnigan writes: "They are looking for a story, and bad news is a story. Good news is not." But there's nothing inherent in journalism that mandates this attitude to America's wars. This is a post-Vietnam phenomenon: the reporters of World War II had higher standards than our current generation of celebrity-journalists.
3. The bottom line here is that current journalists are simply poor critical thinkers: skeptical of anything good that comes out of Washington, but ready to believe the crudest propaganda from Middle Eastern terrorists.
4. September 11th was a shock because the leading voices of the American press (ABC/CBS/NBC/NYTimes) failed in their responsibilities to the American public. 4 years later, far too little has changed.

4 Comments:

At Monday, 12 December, 2005, Anonymous saveliberty said...

I would agree that American mainstream news media has a lack of critical thinkers, but I disagree that they are skeptical of anything that would have come from Democratic Leadership in Washington.

It would appear that the greater divide is between conservatives and the MSM.

I would also point out that rightly or wrongly, the MSM in the early 1970s claims credit for bringing down the Nixon Administration. What's not discussed very much is how the MSM perceives that it influence the American public to support the withdrawal from Vietnam (while in the comforts of home, ignoring those in Vietnam who recanted their support of the communist regime).

This is important to understand the established media.

I think that it would be helpful also to look at the reasons why individuals seek a job as a reporter, editor, etc. I seem to recall (but memory fails on occasion) that there had been a study that illustrated that quite a number in the industry has the idea that he or she is champion of "the little guy" rather than having a role in reporting the news as it happens.

 
At Tuesday, 13 December, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ever since Woodstein and Bernwood, reporters have seen their job as "exposing corruption/inefficiency/evil in government/corporations/military".
The temptation is clear; if I point an exposing finger at powerful people doing bad, it makes ME look GOOD. I'm a hero. And my future books will SELL. It's simple careerism, enhanced by a leftist mindset. Reporters used to see their job as reporting the facts, but now their job is exposing the powerful, even if they have to exaggerate or make up facts to support their story.

 
At Tuesday, 13 December, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I caution against anyone putting weight in body counts (even 20 to 1) as a measure of winning the war. The whole war of attrition theory (kill enough of them and there won't be enough left and they'll have to give up) just doesn't work. Didn't work in WW1, didn't work in Vietnam, won't work in Iraq.

There's always more coming of fighting age every year than we can kill. That was true in Vietnam and that's even more so in Iraq.

 
At Saturday, 17 December, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The American Military did not lose the Viet Nam War. The Democrats in Congress did by cutting off the money for Vietnamization and to gain political advantage at the expense of the nation.
The only way the US will lose this war is if the democrats and their lapdogs in the media get this to happen. They had the media that consisted of only 3 major outlets on their side in Vietnam so it worked because no other information was available to the average citizen.
That is not true now and democrats and the media are not having much success because they are no longer in charge of the information. Also 150,000 military emailing their friends and neighbors what is going on undermines the control of information that the MSM arrogantly think they have. Add to that talk radio, the internet and milblogs and you have a situation where both the democrats and MSM look biased and incapable of having the nation's interest at heart.
Further, you add the fact that many of us who have contacts with people in the military add our voices by emailing, commenting on the internet and writing Letters to the Editors and you have a growing force with which to reckon. And we grow larger each day as the dems and the MSM make bigger fools of themselves.
By the time the 2006 election comes around I would not be suprised to see that the Dems and the MSM have very large negatives.
The US military has never lost a war. Only politicos and an arrogant press can do that.
The military has every right to distrust they arrogant incompetent scribblers.

 

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