Thursday, March 13, 2008

Salon.com is Right: The Media Has Failed the American People on Iraq

A war without any dead bodies portrayed, a war without any caskets allowed to be photographed, a war with nary a question of its motivation by the media: These are the hallmarks of the continuing and illegitimate war in Iraq and how it has played out in American public discourse and media. Salon.com writer Greg Mitchell argues in today's edition that the media, to use another writer's term, was basically a "lapdog" for the Bush administration in the run-up to the Iraq War and, to make matters worse, still parrots the talking points of the administration when it comes to the war.

Mitchell is right, of course. In rightly decrying the media's lack of questioning of the war and framing of the war, what Mitchell calls "sleepwalking into the abyss," he makes the provocative claim that the media is merely confirming whatever paradigm the administration pushes for continued conflict. Mitchell says, in quoting a colleague, that the framing goes like this: " "1) If X does not happen, there is no justification for staying; 2) X has not happened; 3) we must stay." This is the current justification for the success of the surge strategy. Since the surge has helped abate violence, we must stay in Iraq to sustain that, so the pro-war argument goes; but the previous justification for staying in Iraq was to abate the violence and give the Iraqi government a window of opportunity. So much for that justification (the Bush administration will conjure up another one soon enough).

A military reporter for The Washington Post is quoted as saying about their paper's pro-war editorial stance: "There was an attitude among editors: Look, we're going to war, why do we even worry about all the contrary stuff?" Well, that "contrary stuff" is just what the media, the fourth estate, should be involved in, whether it contradicts an administration's call to war or not. The media simply did not do its job in the run-up to the Iraq War and continues to be light on the reporting and on the coverage. A war without any dead bodies, a war with daily changing justifications that are hardly questioned by the media, a war that has been sanitized for the American public: Welcome to the media coverage of the Iraq War, circa 2003-2008.



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