Saturday, July 26, 2008

No News Is ... No News

Last Saturday I posted on how carefully the Pentagon has managed the news of the Iraq War. This Saturday, I'm pleased to announce that the NY Times has noticed the same thing and finally published an article about the Pentagon practices and how they are enforced.

The case of a freelance photographer in Iraq who was barred from covering the Marines after he posted photos on the Internet of several of them dead has underscored what some journalists say is a growing effort by the American military to control graphic images from the war.

Zoriah Miller, the photographer who took images of marines killed in a June 26 suicide attack and posted them on his Web site, was subsequently forbidden to work in Marine Corps-controlled areas of the country. Maj. Gen. John Kelly, the Marine commander in Iraq, is now seeking to have Mr. Miller barred from all United States military facilities throughout the world. Mr. Miller has since left Iraq.

If the conflict in Vietnam was notable for open access given to journalists — too much, many critics said, as the war played out nightly in bloody newscasts — the Iraq war may mark an opposite extreme: after five years and more than 4,000 American combat deaths, searches and interviews turned up fewer than a half-dozen graphic photographs of dead American soldiers.

Two things about this article struck me, the first of which is that it took so long for the NY Times to display some outrage at how "the paper of record" has been manipulated in its coverage of the war. The second notable factor was that the article was accompanied by some of those "graphic images" that so disturbed Maj.Gen. Kelly that he wants to end Mr. Miller's career.

Now, I'm tempted to argue that this is too little and 4,000 deaths too late, because in a very real sense it is. The NY Times and all of its news media colleagues were only too happy to along with the embed rules, figuring that at least their reporters would have some access to the war. They also meekly acceded to the rule against publishing photos of flag-draped coffins, lest the Pentagon start pulling press credentials. As a result, the US public has been given a very sanitized view of war, one in which brains and intestines are not spattered on the ground and faces are not ripped apart by bullets and fragments from bombs. The war just never, ever got shown in all its brutal reality. As a result, the American public didn't see just why this war, and every other war, is the result of tragic mistakes, usually made intentionally.

Still, however, the article was published today. In some respects, it's never too late to inform the public and to rouse it from its 7+ year coma. For that, and for the spine to publish those "offensive" pictures, I am grateful.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course while the American public was able to avoid the reality of war it was fed an endless supply of unreal gore via movies, games and television, increasing it's capacity to nod off when figures of Iraqi and American deaths were mentioned on the news.
And so it is now positioned nicely for an invasion of Iran or whoever is deemed to be responsible for economic pain.

5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the nyt or other news outlet had really wanted to report on Iraq, they could have bought from Al-Jazeera or the many free-lancers doing actual reporting. Instead, they choose to half-heartedly complain about the situation to whcih they voluntarily acquiesed. They presented this war to us in the most dishonest terms, and do not deserve any of our sympathies. That they are viewed as propaganda lap-dogs is entirely of their own making. They chose not to be reporters. (I am not writing about Knight-Ritter)

7:15 AM  
Blogger shrimplate said...

It's "Knight-Ridder."

Knight Ritter was a comedic actor.


But I quibble. Your point is well-taken. The NYT is shedding crocodile tears that come too little and too late. If they had chosen to actually practice journalism then perhaps this grand mistake of a war could have been avoided.

8:38 AM  

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