Skip to comments.Slanted News Reports A Growing Concern
Posted on 07/19/2005 9:58:14 AM PDT by kas2591
Slanted News Reports A Growing Concern
By William F. Sauerwein
The term "yellow journalism" arose from the media competition surrounding the events leading us into the Spanish-American War in 1898. It highlights the use of sensational reporting and public manipulation, which influenced public policy and resulted in war.
And "yellow journalism" is back today in an even more virulent form.
While news media members view themselves as the "watchdogs" of politicians, circumstances today suggest that we now need a "watchdog" for the news media itself. In particular, that is because today's journalists seemingly disregard concerns for national security or the lives of our troops in their search for the "scoop."
It's almost a replay of the dog-eat-dog journalism of the late 19th century.
In 1896, a fierce "war" existed in New York City for newspaper readership between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. One of the events sensationalized by them was the revolution in Cuba against Spain's rule. In January 1897, Hearst dispatched famous artist Frederic Remington to Cuba supposedly stating, "You furnish the pictures and I'll furnish the war." (One recent scholarly account now suggests the telegram exchange probably did not occur, but the incident, even if apocryphal, still captures the essence of the push for results by Hearst and Pulitzer as they battled for newspaper readers).
Today's 24-hour media cycle has likewise increased the competition among media sources, and the public responds to those images. Televised reports of starving children in Somalia prompted the deployment of American forces into the region. Several months later stark images of dead American soldiers following the battle in Mogadishu hastened the American withdrawal, leading to the phrase, "the CNN effect," to describe how TV images could drive foreign policy.
The news media's longstanding liberal bias has also influenced both public opinion and U.S. government policy toward foreign leaders. The New York Times' Moscow correspondent, Walter Duranty, covered up the 1932-33 Ukrainian Famine and won a Pulitzer Prize for that coverage. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin orchestrated this famine, which resulted in the death of about six million people. Duranty's cover-up influenced thousands of Americans favorably toward Stalin, including that of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
When Baghdad fell in April 2003, CNN's Baghdad correspondent, Eason Jordan, revealed his own cover-up that favored a dictator. For maintaining CNN's "access" in Baghdad, Eason suppresses news reports of atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein's regime. That is, over the 12 years from the end of Operation Desert Storm through Operation Iraqi Freedom, CNN (and other western media organizations in essence served as propaganda organs for the Iraqi regime. Never mind that much of this effort was self-preservation as Saddam frequently terrorized journalists who offended him by denouncing them as CIA plants.
Feeling no similar threat here at home, Jordan went on to openly denounce the war in Iraq and President George W. Bush. In February 2005, Jordan publicly accused American forces of "targeting" journalists and killing at least twelve. The resulting furor forced Jordan to soon "back-pedal" his story, especially since he provided no evidence for his accusation. He subsequently resigned from CNN.
CNN had already established a record of accusing American troops of atrocities using sensationalized reporting that included outright lies. In June 1998, a joint CNN-Time magazine investigation targeted American Special Forces troops who participated in a 1970 raid into Laos (Operation Tailwind). The show's producers lied to the veterans, obtaining their cooperation by stating they would focus on their courage and heroism in the mission. Then, they accused them of using Sarin nerve gas against American defectors, charges that were later proven false. The producers later apologized for this, claiming their "journalistic checks and balances had failed."
Time Managing Editor Walter Isaacson and CNN News Group Chairman, President and CEO Tom Johnson subsequently retracted the story and apologized to the veterans.
The mainstream news media has seemingly failed to learn from these mistakes, and continues applying "spin" to events. Had I recently arrived from Mars I would assume some foreign power called the "Bush Administration" was waging an unprovoked war. I would further assume that all American troops were sadists employed for subjugating the "poor and oppressed."
President Bush was sharply chastised in the media for using the 9/11 attacks as justification for expanding the war against terrorism. Yet the media does not show the horrific images of 9/11, including victims leaping to their death rather than burning alive, because they are "too inflammatory." However, they have no problem displaying images for inflaming our enemies, such as the Abu Ghraib "atrocities" and the current Guantanamo "torture" scandal.
Many local veterans returning from the combat theaters have appeared in local news media outlets, complaining of the negative media coverage. A local radio talk show recently advertised for calls from returning veterans on how the "media gets it wrong." One of these callers stated that the constant negative media hammering is beginning to affect troop morale.
These negative media images have also hindered our military operations as the war becomes more "politically correct." First we had the very public congressional hearings and courts-martial of those involved in Abu Ghraib. This swept any potential coverage of atrocities committed by the enemy, such as beheading innocent civilians, from the airwaves.
American troops caught in the heat of combat became part of this desire for a better public image. The murder charges filed against Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano resulted in an Article 32 proceeding as a precursor to a general court-martial. This public ordeal resulted in Pantano's family receiving death threats over the Internet, including images of his staged beheading. Though Marine Corps officials eventually cleared Pantano of any wrongdoing, he has subsequently resigned his commission, denying our troops an effective and dynamic young leader.
The same journalists who enthusiastically vilify our troops also have a tendency to present our enemies in the best light. Before the campaign in Iraq began, CBS anchor Dan Rather gave a very deferential interview to Saddam Hussein. Recent coverage showing Saddam in jail in his underwear provoked a mini-storm of controversy over such humiliating images, but failed to mention decades of atrocities that he committed and the hundreds of thousands of victims he put in mass graves.
Consequently the media "beat the war drums" for our military campaigns in the Balkans. That coverage "persuaded" the United States to use its superpower status for intervening in the Balkans. Today, many mainstream journalists urge that the United States use "restraint" in waging the war against terrorism. It should come as no surprise that the mainstream media suffers from a growing "credibility gap" with steadily eroding public faith in journalism.
On the national level, it has become clear that we must not rely on the mainstream news for determining our foreign policy commitments. We must also be skeptical of media-generated polls, since critics have found that the data is often slanted for achieving a desired result. Instead, American policymakers must rely on accurate intelligence gathered by agents on the ground.
But on the day-to-day level, something more important must be done: We must re-establish the strict principle of operational security to place troop safety ahead of the "public's right to know." The Pentagon has become too complacent regarding troop movements and ongoing combat operations. Once this information is broadcast, it becomes available to our enemies, jeopardizing the operation and our troops' lives.
Since today's "yellow journalism" is directed against us in particular, the safety of our troops instead of against our enemies, it is time that the American people themselves give voice to a healthy skepticism toward those self-appointed journalists who act recklessly with information that is critical toward the conduct of the occupation in Iraq and the larger conflict against international terrorism.
Fortunately, with the rise of the Internet we no longer need rely on the "mainstream" news media for information and news, and can obtain a more diverse flow of information through the "new" media sources.
Finally, the American people can use Internet-based sites to counteract the onslaught of negative and slanted news by directly contacting the troops and voicing our support for them and their mission.
William F. Sauerwein is a Contributing Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send Feedback responses to email@example.com.
So what else is new? Yellow journalism from the liberal press has been in full swing since the 60's. Did somebody just now notice it?
'Fortunately, with the rise of the Internet we no longer need rely on the "mainstream" news media for information and news, and can obtain a more diverse flow of information through the "new" media sources.'
A big AMEN to that!
It's really disgusting how the MSM shamelessly erode the morale of the brave men and women of the military who risk their lives just so these weasels can have the freedom to print their garbage. Sickening.
Oh, it's been noticed in the military ever since the 60s; I think this might be an attempt to get the government and DOD to pay attention to OPSEC when dealing with the media now that they have aligned themselves with the enemies of our republic.
I would imagine that a lot of Vietnam vets that previuosly were middle of the road or liberal were turned against the press. The liberal press just keeps pissing people off and alienatinig them.
I imagine you're correct; they see it all happening all over again. I live in a Town with a Marine Coprs Base and the guys coming back can't believe they way things are being reported here. Sure, Iraq sucks, but the job needs to be done and done right.
One of the important aspects of this piece are the author's list of crap the media has gotten us into and out of. Somalia, Bosnia, Kosevo, (I'd add Lebanon). None of those places were better off for our intervention and neither were we.
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