The current Presidential administration continues its offensive on the media in a calculated attempt to convince Americans that the media is, in large part, to blame for continued violence in Iraq. They point out that the terrorists know that if they blow up a building, kidnap someone or behead someone that it’ll get major coverage in the media.
First, this argument is, as noted, nothing more than a calculated plan of diversion from the truth. Media coverage of these sorts of events is absolutely a democratic hallmark. It’s every bit as American as baseball or apple pie. This sort of media coverage is the largest check we have to keep administrations in balance that consider war as an option.
This administration has brainwashed a large number of Americans into believing that the act of simply covering such stories works against the effort. While there is a bit of truth in that viewpoint, it misses the bigger picture. Media coverage of this type is essential. Imagine if this administration were calling the shots during the Vietnam War. The war would have gone on far longer than it did. It was the breadth of continued media coverage that finally exposed the situation for what it really was—a complete mess and waste of human lives. It was such a powerful force that President Johnson realized he’d lost the PR campaign when Walter Cronkite came out against the war.
Media coverage of the violence that comes with war needs to be protected at all costs. It is exactly that coverage that future administrations need to consider when they start thinking about war as a possible option. How many times in history have we avoided war because past administrations realized that the American people would never stand for it based on what they’d be seeing and hearing in the media? I’m sure it’s been a factor many times.
The counter argument that the media needs to cover the positives is nice, but it carries little weight. The public has little interest in good news, period. You don’t see the major news networks covering positive stories and that’s because we’ve proven that we don’t care. You don’t see 30 minutes of positive stories on the evening news and you’re not going to see them with respect to a war either. The only positive news the American public wants to hear out of Iraq is that the war is over and that our soldiers are coming home.
The next time someone tells you that the media is to blame for our troubles in Iraq, call them on it and remind them of Vietnam and how badly things would have gone there if not for the media coverage. How much worse would it be in Iraq if the press were muffled entirely? Does anyone actually believe things would be better???