If President Bush had stood on the steps of the White House with a megaphone
when he set out to sell the Iraq War, he might have convinced a few people about
the imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein. But he had something far more powerful
that convinced far more people: He had a compliant press corps ready to amplify
his lies. This was the same press corps that investigated and reported for years
on President Clinton's lying about an extramarital affair. The difference here
was that President Bush's lies take lives.
In order to be able to get that all-important leak from a named or,
better yet, unnamed "senior official," reporters trade truth for access.
This is the "access of evil," when reporters forgo the tough questions
out of fear of being passed over.
And then there is the embedding process. Journalists embedded with US troops
in Iraq bring us only one perspective. How about balancing the troops' perspective
with reporters embedded in Iraqi hospitals, or in the peace movement around
the world? Former Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke proclaimed the embedding
process a spectacular success. For the Pentagon, it was. More powerful than
any bomb or missile, the Pentagon deployed the media.
During the Persian Gulf War, General Electric owned NBC (it still does). A
major nuclear weapons manufacturer--which made parts for many of the weapons
in the Gulf War--owned a major television network. Is it any surprise that what
we saw on television looked like a military hardware show? According to the
New York Times, CBS executives "offered advertisers assurances that the
war specials could be tailored to provide better lead-ins to commercials. One
way would be to insert the commercials after segments that were specially produced
with upbeat images or messages about the war."
After the Gulf War, Pentagon spokesperson Pete Williams jumped ship,
but he was hardly crossing enemy lines. He became a correspondent for NBC. Just
over a decade later, another Pentagon spokesperson, Victoria Clarke, gave up
her position to work as a CNN commentator.
During the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, MSNBC, NBC and CNN--not only Fox--called
their coverage Operation Iraqi Freedom. We expect the Pentagon to research the
most effective propagandistic name to call its operation. But the media's adoption
of Pentagon nomenclature raises the question: If this were state media, how
would it be any different?
While the big players in the National Entertainment State deserve much of the
blame, other major news outlets have truly outdone themselves in their total
affront to the role that an independent media should play in a democracy. The
New York Times and its former national security reporter Judith Miller were
critical to the successful promulgation of the WMD lie, with repeated front-page,
above-the-fold articles pumping the false stories about aluminum tubes and buried
weapons caches, to name a few, all reliant on unnamed sources.
Sinclair Broadcast Group, which controls close to sixty TV stations, acts like
a junior version of Fox News, with right-wing biases in its lackluster coverage.
Sinclair refused to broadcast an ABC Nightline segment on which the names of
killed US servicemen and -women were read, continuing the Bush Administration
campaign to deny to the American public bad news about the War on Terror. Sinclair
also broadcast with much fanfare a Swift Boat Veterans-inspired smear piece
against John Kerry at a critical moment in the 2004 presidential race.
And then there's the Clear Channeling of America. Enabled by the Clinton/Gore-backed
1996 Telecommunications Act, the Bush-connected Clear Channel Communications,
which began with a dozen radio stations, ballooned into a 1,200-plus-station
radio network. According to South Carolina's 2002 Radio Personality of the Year,
who believes she was fired for her antiwar beliefs, Clear Channel led prowar
rallies, forbade certain songs from being played and silenced critics.
In 1997 the late George Gerbner, former dean of the University of Pennsylvania
Annenberg School of Communication, described the media as being "driven
not by the creative people who have something to tell, but by global conglomerates
that have something to sell." And almost ten years later, it still rings
true. We need an independent media. Democracy Now!
Read from Looking Glass News
Consent for Corporate Wars – in the Land of the Free and the Home of the
Doors Of Perception: Why Americans Will Believe Almost Anything
Techniques for Truth Suppression
The Subversion Of The Free Press By The CIA
Battle for Your Mind: Persuasion & Brainwashing Techniques Being Used on
the Public Today