Hollow reports and embedded journalism

Never in the past did so many journalists had to mortgage their freedom of press to the predatory whims of the US President George Walter Bush. Most of the news mailed or wired by these hollow reporters – no matter even if they weren’t “hollow men” were front-paged but the senders had buckles on the neck carrying a tag, “embedded”, a brand name for new kind of subservience to the US imperialism.

Michael Moran, senior producer for special projects at MSNBC.com, who worked as the US affairs analyst of the BBC in London between 1993 and 1996, in a lengthy analysis on Bush’s Iraqi invasion observed, “For the past 10 years, roughly since the idiotic O.J. Simpson trial, the language of marketing has entered American newsrooms like a badly targeted cruise missile. Talk of plot lines and demographics, sexiness and “water-cooler” appeal have polluted a mission that is protected by its own constitutional amendment. Celebrity journalists interview celebrity dimwits about their sex lives, while American foreign policy is left running on auto-pilot.”

There was no exaggeration at all as the Iraqis, including those who were opposed to the Saddam regime, expressed their chagrin against the occupation army of the USA, the UK and their bent-down allies. Moran went on to say, “The hard truth is that the US media left America as unprepared for these terrorist attacks as any Air Force general or CIA bureaucrat. As we dropped bombs on Iraq for 10 years running – justified or not – the U.S. media failed to report on it. Then suddenly, on Sept. 11, we think ‘We’re at war’ when in fact there hasn’t been a day since the Gulf War ended when an American aircraft hasn’t locked onto a target with a missile or bomb. We were at war, it’s just that the media didn’t think it was interesting enough to tell you about it. That’s our lesson to learn.”

Moran wrote the piece months before blatant aggression by the Coalition forces Operation Iraqi Freedom. In fact, the MSNBC.com published it in October. The name, Operation Iraqi Freedom reminds me of a sharp jibe by a highly talented communist journalist of yesteryears, the late Niranjan Sengupta, wellknown to the readers of CPI’s Bengali Weekly, Kalantar, through his pseudonym Nafar Kundu two decades back. He was bantering the christening of the warship of the infamous Seventh Fleet of the US Navy, Independence. Niranjanda wrote, ” As if a despicable whore presenting herself as an idol of fidelity to her husband”.).

However proving Moran’s prophetic insight, wrote John Vinocur in International Herald Tribune unwittingly on 10 April last from Paris in bestial ecstasy: “An American flag covered Saddam’s head, hoisted by a clambering U.S. Marine. An Arab brought an Iraqi flag to replace it. Then a cable was attached from a tank recovery vehicle to the statue, and it was hauled down in two tries. The crowd of young men pelted the collapsed hulk and danced alongside it until dust rose over their heads.” The scribe did not stop there, perhaps to prove his loyalty to the Pentagon overlords. He quoted an embedded television correspondent of BBC, Regeh Omaar.”This is a moment of enormous, enormous symbolism, breathtaking.” The IHT journalist described the pulling down of President Saddam’s statues as crystallization of “all the years of hatred and rage”.

Chris Hedges whose experience in covering war and insurgencies is enviable exposed the inspired and conducted journalism of the Iraqi war in the latest issue of The Nation :” The embedding of several hundred journalists in military units does not diminish the lie. These journalists do not have access to their own transportation. They depend on the military for everything, from food to a place to sleep. They look to the soldiers around them for protection. When they feel the fear of hostile fire, they identify and seek to protect those who protect them. They become part of the team. It is a natural reaction. I have felt it. But in that experience, these journalists become participants in the war effort. They want to do their bit. And their bit is the dissemination of myth, the myth used to justify war and boost the morale of the soldiers and civilians. The lie in wartime is almost always the lie of omission. The blunders by our generals–whom the mythmakers always portray as heroes–along with the rank corruption and perversion, are masked from public view. The intoxication of killing, the mutilation of enemy dead, the murder of civilians and the fact that war is not about what they claim is ignored.”

Those “hollow reports from Iraq” contain images but very little of information. Actually a serious cultural degeneration has gradually engulfed the US polity and the US imperialism wants to re-colonize the world not only politically and economically but culturally too. This mood is reflected in Washington’s nuances especially after the ascension to the seat of power at the White House by an ominous combine of war-mongering Republicans with Bush at the helm, surrounded by equally cowboyish honchos like the defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and secretary of home, Colin Powell. Take Rumsfeld’s statement on 10 April after the entry of Coalition forces in Baghdad. He said Saddam Hussein would join others in the annals of the history books as a failed dictator and named “Hitler, Stalin, Lenin and Ceausescu”. According to this great historian, Lenin came to power on a message of “bread and peace”, setting in motion a process which was to bring a Medieval state to the front line of development and give to an oppressed, illiterate population with a near to zero chance of social mobility every opportunity for a good education, a guaranteed job, house, retirement pension, food, vodka, health care and cultural and sports opportunities second to none.” Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey, reacted sharply in her report, carried in Pravda online edition on the same day, saying ,” to compare him to Hitler is wholly inappropriate and demonstrates a degree of arrogance and ignorance shocking in a person at the political level which Rumsfeld has somehow attained. At least Vladimir Ulyanov did not flout international law and launch a murderous campaign against a sovereign nation, massacring civilians, leaving women and children without limbs. Maybe Rumsfeld forgot to add Bush to the list. For Rumsfeld’s information, Lenin was Vladimir Ulyanov’s pseudonym.”

Even if we ignore Rumsfeld’s pompous ignorance about the role of Lenin, who can ignore the decisive importance of the victory of Red Army in the Battle of Stalingrad 60 years ago ? None but Sir Winston Churchill admitted without hesitation that the Battle of Stalingrad determined the course of history of the mankind .It is apparently a stupid howling but we cannot ignore the statement as it was an official statement. It marks the beginning of a new aggression against the accepted perception of history and culture. Pravda online edition carried a short comment from Derrick Steven, a freelance American writer living overseas on 14 April. Those who are still enamored of the American democracy will be shocked to know that the American culture is trampled under the boots of whoever calls the shots from the White House.

The US overseas citizen wrote, “In its longing for American culture to take some major steps backwards, the Republican Party wants for its own repressive values and so-called “norms” to be mirrored by the rest of the country. When presidential candidate Al Gore shared a prolonged kiss on with his wife Tipper before a worldwide television audience at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, it met with much applause and criticism. Following the Vice President’s public display of affection, women came out in droves for Gore on election day. The unsubtle embrace gave voters a glimpse of what American life under a Gore administration might be like, and offered a stark contrast of how women are treated by Democratic men versus their Republican counterparts.”

Steven was among those American citizens who believed that had Gore been elected, the militaristic overtone of Washington would be under check and longed for “a more loving and tolerant America, where individuals may feel unafraid to openly show their feelings for one another”. While disagreeing with his penchant for the Democrats who masterminded the invasion on the Gulf of Tomkin. But he is genuinely shocked at the barbaric act of the Bush administration that crushed the freedom of the Iraqis to choose their path – even if it would be ouster of Saddam regime in the future and demolition of priceless remnants of Babylon civilization. He went on to state, “Much resentment stemmed from the fact that any conservative moral code dictates respectful citizens would never dare treat their significant others so flamboyantly at any time, let alone in front of a national television camera. Gore’s boldly open display was seen by some as a slap in the face to the pre-1960s values and Victorian era society many Republicans wish to recreate.

Indeed, on that day when Gore had kissed his wife Bush stayed in a hotel room with wife Laura during his party’s convention. “A small camera caught a glimpse of the then-Texas Governor offering a peck that may have been longer and deeper had he been kissing his mother before leaving for school”, wrote Stefen, adding, “In its longing for American culture to take some major steps backwards, the Republican party wants for its own repressive values and so-called “norms” to be mirrored by the rest of the country. This means restricting exposure to anything having the potential for inconveniently provoking an emotional response, as the Gore kiss clearly did for such a sizeable majority of women (and perhaps some men) in the voting population.” One thing remains beyond certainty, Stefen believes strongly.” America’s cultural values, including what actions, speech, and even thoughts may be deemed acceptable, are determined in large part by he or she who holds the title President of the United States. “

These embedded (read mendicant) reporters knew well about the ignominious record of chemical and biological warfare of the US army. Instead they turned “necrophiliacs”. We produce below the real state of WMDs, which are owned, managed and used by the Pentagon.

Let me end with the words of Hedges.” For war, when we confront it truthfully, exposes the darkness within all of us. This darkness shatters the illusions many of us hold not only about the human race but also about ourselves. Few of us confront our own capacity for evil, but this is especially true in wartime. And even those who engage in combat are afterward given cups from the River Lethe to forget. And with each swallow they imbibe the myth of war. For the myth makes war palatable. It gives war a logic and sanctity it does not possess. It saves us from peering into the darkest recesses of our own hearts. And this is why we like it. It is why we clamor for myth. The myth is enjoyable, and the press, as is true in every nation that goes to war, is only too happy to oblige. They dish it up and we ask for more.” Can you hear, ho embedded ( or estranged) fellows ? As incorrigible optimists, we look forward to your conscientious comeback, at least to get back your precious freedom of press that you have buried in Iraq alongside the torsoes of Iraqi children, women and old people.

Mr. Sankar Ray contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Calcutta, India.