Who controls how we remember the war in Iraq? : Indibay
Orwell and Newspeak against history and democracy
As the mainstream US media pause to remember the US invasion of Iraq, it’s clear they hope we will forget a lot – most notably, the active complicity of the media itself in stoking public support for the war.
But the more you dig into the mainstream news of the period, as our documentary team did last week when we put together this five-minute montage from our 2007 film, War made easy
it is all the more difficult to forget how blatantly the news networks in the broadcast and cable space uncritically propagated Bush administration propaganda and actively excluded dissidents.
The numbers don’t lie. A 2003 report by media watchdog Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) found that a total of 267 American experts were featured in the two weeks before the invasion, ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News and PBS Newshour . , analysts and commentators on camera to ostensibly help to understand the meaning of the march to war. Of these 267 guests, an astounding 75% were current or former government or military officials, and in total one expressed some skepticism.
Meanwhile, in the fast-growing world of cable news, Fox News’s hardline, propagandistic jingoism set the standard for the ratings-averse executives of most of the more “liberal” cable networks. MSNBC and CNN, sensing the intensity of what industry insiders were calling the “Fox effect,” were desperate to outflank their right-wing rival – and each other – by actively suppressing critical voices and seeking out the loudest drummers of war.
At MSNBC, as the invasion of Iraq approached in early 2003, network executives decided to fire Phil Donahue despite his show having the highest ratings on the channel. A leaked internal memo explained that top management considered Donahue to be a “tired left-wing liberal” who would be “a difficult public face for NBC during a war.” Noting that Donahue “seems to take pleasure in introducing guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives,” the memo ominously warned that his show could end up being “home to a liberal anti-war program at the same time that our competitors wave the flag at every opportunity.”
Not to be outdone, CNN news chief Eason Jordan boasted on air that he had met with Pentagon officials in preparation for the invasion to get their approval for the on-camera war “experts” that the network would rely on. “I think it’s important that experts explain the war and describe military equipment, describe tactics, talk about the strategy behind the conflict,” Jordan explained. “I myself went to the Pentagon several times before the start of the war, met important people there and said … . . Here are the generals we are thinking of hiring to give us advice on warfare on and off the air, and we commend them all. It was important.”
As Norman Solomon points out in our film
War made easy
, which we took as the basis of his book of the same name, the fundamental democratic principle of an independent, competitive press was simply thrown out the window. “Journalists often blame the government for the inability of journalists themselves to report independently,” says Solomon. “But no one forced major networks like CNN to make so many comments from retired generals and admirals and all. . . After all, it was even nothing to hide. It was something to say to the Americans: “You see, we are team players. We may be the media, but we are on the same side and on the same page as the Pentagon.” . . . And that really directly contradicts the idea of an independent press.”
The result was a barely discussed, deceit-based, rush into a war of choice that would destabilize the region, accelerate global terrorism, siphon trillions of dollars from the US treasury, and kill thousands of US troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, most of them innocent. civilians. Yet two decades later, as we move ever closer to potentially catastrophic new wars, there was little to no accountability in the mainstream media, no sustained reporting to remind us of their own decisive role in selling the war in Iraq.
It’s an act of forgetfulness we can’t afford, especially since many of the same media models from 20 years ago are now repeating themselves at an accelerated pace, from a full-blown reboot and rehabilitation of the leading architects and cheerleaders of the Iraq War to continued overpressure. mass media. reliance on “experts” drawn from the revolving doors of the Pentagon and the military industry (often without disclosure).
“Memory is a strategic resource in any country, especially the memory of wars,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen. “By controlling the narrative of the wars we’ve fought, we justify the wars we’re going to fight in the present.”
As we mark the 20th anniversary of the bloody US invasion of Iraq, it is imperative to bring back the memory of that war not only from the Bush administration officials who fought it, but also from the corporate media system that helped sell it and tried to control it. storytelling ever since.
Jeremy Earp is director of production at the Media Education Foundation (MEF) and co-directed, with Loretta Alper, the MEF documentary The Light War: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, starring Norman Solomon. To commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Iraq Invasion, RootsAction Educational Foundation will host a virtual screening of War Made Easy on March 20 at 6:45 pm ET followed by a panel discussion with Solomon, Dennis Kucinich, Kathy Kelly, Marcy Winograd, India Walton and David Swanson. Click here to register for the event and click here to watch War Made Easy in advance for free.
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