Media and war


The Yellow Press
by William S. Lind
Antiwar.com, 2008-06-27

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

A person my age has watched many things decline in America,
and few get better.
As one of my neighbors says, everything good is gone or going.
In that category we must now include good reporting.
When I started work in Washington in 1973,
it was axiomatic that a newspaper reporter talked to many sources for any story.
The story, in turn, reflected a number of viewpoints and perspectives.
No reporter worth his bourbon would have dreamed of
just printing some press release put out by the government.

But that is now what they all seem to do,
especially in covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Forgetting that the phrase “to lie like a bulletin” is military in origin –
the reference is to bulletins issued by Napoleon’s grande armeé
they print verbatim the happy talk
the U.S. military is obliged by the Bush administration to spew.
To the degree the war in Iraq is still covered,
the American public is assured over and over that “violence is down.”
For the moment, that is true,
but the implication that we are on a roll is not true.
Fourth Generation wars do not move in linear fashion.
Violence is down because
the constantly shifting network of deals and alliances among Iraq’s warlords
has created a stable interlude.
Those alliances will continue to shift,
and as they do so violence will rise again.
How many reporters are asking the talking-dog majors who brief the press
the central strategic question,
namely whether there is any evidence a state is reemerging in Iraq?
[And is that really an appropriate question for the military?]
As best I can tell, none.
The same number appears to be trying to answer that question
from other, more reliable sources.
[I would change the word “reliable” to “appropriate”.]

The reporting on Afghanistan is if anything worse.
On Sunday, June 22, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a paper I like,
printed an AP article under the headline,
Marines Drive Taliban From Volatile Province,” namely Helmand.
The article itself more modestly claims victory in one Helmand town, Garmser.
If the 24th MEU has driven the Taliban out of Helmand province,
I’ll eat my yurt.
One town, maybe, but what does taking a town mean in a guerilla war?
When the Marines leave, which they will, the Taliban will return.

The fact of the matter is,
the whole NATO/American effort in Afghanistan
is circling the drain.

[That is what Michael Scheuer has been predicting since 2004, at least,
with hardly anyone in the chattering classes bothering to notice.]

The American papers should be full of
in-depth, multi-sourced stories about the war there.
A friend just back from Britain reports that
the British press is full of just such stories.
In one recent 10-day period,
the Brits lost nine soldiers killed, including their first woman.
Was that reported anywhere in the U.S. press?

What lies behind the decline in the quality of American reporting?
Cutbacks in the size of newsrooms are part of the answer.
As the electronic image replaces the printed word, newspapers are dying.
To those who know that perceiving reality
requires more than shadows on the cave wall,
that is bad news.

Lazy reporters are another part of the answer.
It is easy to print the bulletins.
Reporters have always been lazy,
but now their editors let them get away with it.
[Note David Halberstam.]
Not too many decades ago,
any reporter who single-sourced a story
would have been sent back on the street to get more sources,
with a richness of invective editors seldom lacked.

But the biggest reason, I suspect, is intellectual cowardice.
After the defeat in Vietnam,
many supporters of the war blamed the press for our failure.
By printing the bad news,
the press supposedly undermined popular support for the war
and thereby caused our defeat.
It’s poppycock, of course.
The Vietnam War was lost early in the game when MACV,
at the demand of Gen. William Depuy,
ordered an end to efforts to control the populated coastal lowlands
in favor of fighting formal battles against enemy main force units
in the highlands.
Those units were sent there as bait, which MACV took.

But the American press was scarred by the accusations.
Now, it is afraid to be accused of “not supporting the troops”
if it does anything but print the bulletins.
So the American public gets the mushroom treatment,
and two failed wars continue ad infinitum.
When the roof falls in both in Iraq and in Afghanistan,
the shock will be considerable.
America’s yellow press will deserve no small share of the blame.

The Narrative Versus the News
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-08-20

Journalism in the age of perpetual war

The Bailout, the Media, and the War Party
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-11-26

Yes, they're connected…


A "debate" on Afghanistan?
by Stephem M. Walt
ForeignPolicy.com, 2009-09-22

[The reason for my posting this here rather than in my collection on Afghanistan
is that it points out how
the media biases the public dialogue towards perpetual war.]

Yesterday, the New York Times online service
hosted a “debate” about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan,
in response to the leaking of commanding general Stanley McChrystal’s memo
stating that more troops were necessary to avoid defeat.
Unfortunately, the six people they asked to debate the issue
(Gretchen Peters, James Morin, Vanda Feldab-Brown,
Frederick and Kimberly Kagan
[Both Kagans? You’ve got to be kidding.
How much more can the media do to stack the deck for war?
How much “diversity” does having both Kagans bring to the dialogue?
Talk about Tweedledee and Tweedledum.]
and Kori Schake)
all seemed to be open supporters of the U.S. military commitment there.
So when asked
“how should additional troops be deployed?
What types of specialized personnel are needed now?”
none of the Times’s chosen panel responded by saying
“more troops are not the answer.”
In short, the six panelists managed to avoid
the real question that President Obama (and the nation) faces:
should the United States increase its presence
in the hopes of reversing the situation,
or should it cut its losses and get out?
Would it really have been so bad
to have at least one genuine skeptic of the war
included among the respondents?

[Walt is far too gentlemanly in his observation.]

War Fever at the Times: A Five-Day Log
by David Bromwich
Huffington Post, 2009-10-20

When five days pour forth
  1. a lead story on the way
    “a coordinated assault” of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan
    has caused a grave risk to American interests;

  2. a lead about the serious counter-offensive mounted by Pakistan;

  3. a flash suitable for any date but run as a lead
    concerning the heroin trade of the Taliban
    (“Vast Network Reaps Millions from Drugs”);

  4. the launching of a serial memoir
    by a reporter “Held Captive by the Taliban,”
    which will extend to five parts;

  5. a flattering stoic-soldier profile of General McChrystal
    in the Times Magazine;

  6. a Pakistan follow-up suggesting that Pakistan’s army’s now fights well
    but is “meeting strong resistance” from the Taliban
    and cannot win without help;

  7. a sequence of three stories by different hands,
    tracing with approval
    the acquiescence of President Hamid Karzai in calls for a run-off
    (the very agreement the administration made a precondition
    for expanded American commitment);

  8. two op-eds over three days by military men not of the highest rank,
    urging escalation;

  9. a reckless “scoop,”
    filled sparsely with random and often anonymous interviews
    regarding the supposed discontents within the armed forces
    at the length of the administration’s pause;

  10. [a Week in Review article trying to debunk the idea that
    Afghanistan resists central authority and foreign domination] --
when all this is the fruit of five days’ harvest at the Times,
the conclusion draws itself.

The New York Times wants a large escalation in Afghanistan.

The paper has been made nervous by signs that
the president may not make the big push for a bigger war;

they are showing what the rest of his time in office will be like
if he does not cooperate.


[Note: The last numbered item, about the Week in Review article,
was not in Bromwich’s column, but is the addition of the author of this blog.]

The Awards!
The good, the bad, and the downright ugly
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-12-23


A Credit Score for Pundits
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2010-08-27


The LA Times notices the “double standard” on Iran
How can the U.S.'s global practice of "state-sponsored assassination"
be reconciled with outrage over Iran?

By Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2011-10-13

[An excerpt:]

Actually, a significant chunk of the world has long rejected
the asserted American
“right to behave as it wishes without accountability all around the globe
and that other nations do not.”
In fact, the only ones who still affirm that right —
to the extent that they are even aware that it’s at the center of their worldview —
are Brookings “scholars,”
Washington Post Editorial Page Editors,
the scam industry calling itself “Terrorism experts,”
and other similar Washington hangers-on such as
think tank and academic mavens of the Foreign Policy Community,
Pentagon reporters,
and assorted neocon and “liberal hawk” nationalists
whose purpose in life (and careerist fuel) is to supply justifying theories
for any and all U.S. Government conduct undertaken
to sustain its crumbling imperial rule.