The war rolls on. People — many of them innocent civilians — continue to die. And yet, it seems the carnage barely registers a blip on the radar of national consciousness.
With U.S. troops largely unscathed, our attention is focused, if at all, on sideshows. For example, as this was being written Monday, far more media play was being devoted to the death of that brave old lion in the Kabul zoo than to reports that American forces mistakenly killed 21 anti-Taliban Afghan forces, a couple of whom were said to be found dead with their hands bound behind their backs.
What’s going on?
Writing for the Columbia Journalism Review (www.cjr.org), Neil Hickey reports: “Bush administration policy has kept reporters from combat units in a fashion unimagined in Vietnam, and one that’s more restrictive even than the burdensome constraints on media in the Persian Gulf.”
“An unstated reason for the Pentagon’s determination to control the flow of news from the front,” explains Hickey, “is a concern that images and descriptions of civilian bomb casualties — people already the victims of famine, poverty, drought, oppression, and brutality — would erode public support in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.”
Or, to quote the Marine commander played by Jack Nicholson in the flick A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth.”
The media, meanwhile, appear largely content to join in the flag waving. A study released last week concluded that coverage of the war has “heavily favored pro-Administration and official U.S. viewpoints.”
The study, conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (www.journalism.org), looked at 2,496 television, magazine and newspaper stories produced during key periods in mid-September, mid-November and mid-December. The survey determined that nearly 50 percent of those stories “contained only viewpoints that favored U.S. policy.” Another 13 percent were predominantly pro-U.S. policy. Fewer than 10 percent of the stories focused on providing “another side” of the issue.
But then, who wants to march the risky high road of dissent when public opinion is so overwhelmingly in favor of George Bush and his handling of the war effort.
“On talk shows,” notes the PEJ report, “journalists often seemed to luxuriate in sounding not like knowledgeable experts on TV stages, but like anyone else standing in a barroom.”
So, you gotta a problem with that, bub?
We didn’t think so. Now, belly up to the bar and join us in hoisting a drink to the memory of that poor, dead lion.News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette, Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail [email protected]