Monday, January 17, 2005

Media Aiding the Enemy In Iraq?

Tip o' the hat to Dean's World for directing me to Blackfive, which posted an essay by Lieutenant Colonel Tim Ryan. The essay carries the straightforward title: Aiding and Abetting the Enemy: the Media in Iraq

The lead:

What if domestic news outlets continually fed American readers headlines like: "Bloody Week on U.S. Highways: Some 700 Killed," or "More Than 900 Americans Die Weekly from Obesity-Related Diseases"? Both of these headlines might be true statistically, but do they really represent accurate pictures of the situations? What if you combined all of the negatives to be found in the state of Texas and used them as an indicator of the quality of life for all Texans? Imagine the headlines: "Anti-law Enforcement Elements Spread Robbery, Rape and Murder through Texas Cities." For all intents and purposes, this statement is true for any day of any year in any state. True -- yes, accurate -- yes, but in context with the greater good taking place -- no! After a year or two of headlines like these, more than a few folks back in Texas and the rest of the U.S. probably would be ready to jump off of a building and end it all. So, imagine being an American in Iraq right now.
This essay is absolutely loaded with great stuff. Here are a few samples:

The journalistic adage, "If it bleeds, it leads," still applies in Iraq, but why only when it's American blood? ...

Earlier this year, the Iraqi government banned Al Jazeera from the country for its inaccurate reporting. Wonder where they get their information now? Well, if you go to the Internet, you'll find a web link from the Al Jazeera home page to CNN's home page. Very interesting. ...

Strange, when the enemy is the instigator the media does not flash images across the screens of televisions in the Middle East as they did with Abu Ghuraib. Is it because the beheaded bodies might offend someone? If so, then why do we continue see photos of the naked human pyramid over and over? ...

Did it ever occur to the media that this type of notoriety is just what the terrorists want and need? Every headline they grab is a victory for them. Those who have read the ancient Chinese military theorist and army general Sun Tsu will recall the philosophy of "Kill one, scare ten thousand" as the basic theory behind the strategy of terrorism. ...

And for all of those who read all they can regarding Iraq from MSM sources and feel informed, we are offered this insight:

I believe one of the reasons for this shallow and subjective reporting is that many reporters never actually cover the events they report on. This is a point of growing concern within the Coalition. It appears many members of the media are hesitant to venture beyond the relative safety of the so-called "International Zone" in downtown Baghdad, or similar "safe havens" in other large cities. Because terrorists and other thugs wisely target western media members and others for kidnappings or attacks, the westerners stay close to their quarters. This has the effect of holding the media captive in cities and keeps them away from the broader truth that lies outside their view. With the press thus cornered, the terrorists easily feed their unwitting captives a thin gruel of anarchy, one spoonful each day. A car bomb at the entry point to the International Zone one day, a few mortars the next, maybe a kidnapping or two thrown in. All delivered to the doorsteps of those who will gladly accept it without having to leave their hotel rooms -- how convenient.

The scene is repeated all too often: an attack takes place in Baghdad and the morning sounds are punctuated by a large explosion and a rising cloud of smoke. Sirens wail in the distance and photographers dash to the scene a few miles away. Within the hour, stern-faced reporters confidently stare into the camera while standing on the balcony of their tenth-floor Baghdad hotel room, their back to the city and a distant smoke plume rising behind them. More mayhem in Gotham City they intone, and just in time for the morning news. There is a transparent reason why the majority of car bombings and other major events take place before noon Baghdad-time; any later and the event would miss the start of the morning news cycle on the U.S. east coast. These terrorists aren't stupid; they know just what to do to scare the masses and when to do it. An important key to their plan is manipulation of the news media. ...

As for the "quagmire" talk:

Also bothersome are references by "experts" on how "long" this war is taking. I've read that in the world of manufacturing, you can have only two of the following three qualities when developing a product -- cheap, fast or good. You can produce something cheap and fast, but it won't be good; good and fast, but it won't be cheap; good and cheap, but it won't be fast. In this case, we want the result to be good and we want it at the lowest cost in human lives. Given this set of conditions, one can expect this war is to take a while, and rightfully so. Creating a democracy in Iraq not only will require a change in the political system, but the economic system as well.
As he wraps up his essay, LTC Ryan makes this important observation:

This war is not without its tragedies; none ever are. The key to the enemy's success is use of his limited assets to gain the greatest influence over the masses. The media serves as the glass through which a relatively small event can be magnified to international proportions, and the enemy is exploiting this with incredible ease. There is no good news to counteract the bad, so the enemy scores a victory almost every day. In its zeal to get to the hot spots and report the latest bombing, the media is missing the reality of a greater good going on in Iraq. We seldom are seen doing anything right or positive in the news. People believe what they see, and what people of the world see almost on a daily basis is negative. How could they see it any other way? These images and stories, out of scale and context to the greater good going on over here, are just the sort of thing the terrorists are looking for. This focus on the enemy's successes strengthens his resolve and aids and abets his cause. It's the American image abroad that suffers in the end.
Obviously, go read the whole thing.

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