People who are concerned about the state of the U.S. news media in
2006 might pause on Memorial Day to consider those who have lost their lives
in the midst of journalistic neglect, avoidance and bias.
We remember that while TV and radio news reports tell the
latest about corporate fortunes, vast numbers of real people are struggling
to make ends meet -- and many are in a position of choosing between such necessities
as medicine, adequate food and paying the rent.
We remember that many Americans have lost their limbs or their
lives in on-the-job accidents that might have been prevented if overall media
coverage had been anywhere near as transfixed with job safety as with, say,
marital splits among Hollywood celebrities.
We remember that the national and deadly problem of widespread
obesity is in part attributable to constant advertising for products with empty
calories and plenty of fat.
We remember that despite public claims by tobacco companies,
the ads that keep trying to glamorize smoking continue to lure millions of young
people onto a long journey of addiction to cancer-causing cigarettes.
We remember that superficial news reports and commentaries,
routinely describing war in flat phony antiseptic terms, are helpful to the
U.S. war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq -- where the deaths of American troops,
while horrific, are small in number compared to the civilian deaths as a result
of daily slaughter catalyzed by U.S. military activities.
We remember that each war death takes a precious life, and
media outlets rarely convey more than surface accounts of the actual grief of
loved ones left behind.
We remember that massive amounts of front-page space and unchallenged
air time on television and radio are used by the president and other top administration
officials, who speak glibly about patriotism and sacrifice while their long
records of deception continue to underlie insistence that sacrificed lives must
be honored by sacrificing more lives.
We remember that lies from the White House, widely parroted
and commonly touted as credible by news media, have preceded every major U.S.
military action in the last five decades, including invasions of Vietnam, Laos,
Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan and Iraq.
We remember that after the United States led the NATO bombing
of Yugoslavia for 78 days in the spring of 1999, more than a few American journalists
joined with Pentagon commanders to hype the fact that no American lives were
lost in combat during that time -- as if the killing of people on the ground
was of scarcely any human consequence.
We remember that onslaughts of media spin followed by exuberant
coverage of high-tech U.S. air attacks can shift public sentiment drastically
almost overnight. That's why opponents of reckless and deadly policies should
draw little comfort from the Pew Research Center's mid-May report that at the
moment "the American public strongly prefers non-military approaches to
dealing with Iran's nuclear technology program," with just 30 percent in
favor of "bombing military targets in Iran."
We remember that, no matter how much glorious rhetoric and
how many chronic euphemisms are brought to bear on public opinion, most of war's
victims are not -- by any definition -- combatants or enemies. As New York Times
reporter Chris Hedges, a former war correspondent, has pointed out, "In
the wars of the 1990s civilian deaths constituted between 75 and 90 percent
of all war deaths."
We remember that, although it received scant and fleeting
U.S. media coverage when released by the Lancet medical journal in late October
2004, a study using sample-survey techniques found that about 100,000 Iraqi
deaths had occurred over an 18-month period as a result of the U.S.-led invasion
and occupation of Iraq -- and, according to the study's data, more than half
of those who died were women and children killed in air strikes.
We remember that it's easy for hot-dogging pundits to sit
in TV studios or in newsrooms to cheer on the use of cutting-edge technology
by the Pentagon. Those pundits leave it to others to bury the dead and to deal
with the anguish of losing relatives and friends.
We remember that standard journalism fails to do much to put
us in touch with human realities of war.
Norman Solomon is the author of the new book "War
Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." For
information, go to: www.WarMadeEasy.com