When television first became part of the American culture, network news professionals thought of themselves as journalists. They were taught to check facts, corroborate testimony of witnesses, stay unbiased, and identify the truth. When wars were covered, journalists covered the events as they saw and perceived them, good and bad, ugly and horrible. Even in remote places such as Vietnam, which most Americans knew nothing about, the general honesty of news reports and broadcasts came through to the American public, allowing them to grasp the realities of that conflict. The truth of that (Vietnam) conflict eventually became clearer to the American public, and the public began to understand that they had been lied to by their government for years and years on almost all relevant matters. Once that happened, with the Tet offensive and the Ellsberg papers revealing to the American public how false their government’s claims on the status of the war were, it was only a matter of a short time before American public support of the war caused a process that led to a termination of the war effort.
The U.S. military learned its lessons from that war, not only in a military sense, but in a public relations sense. So did the American government. And the U.S. media has changed drastically, including its self-perception relating to the role of journalism and news broadcasting.
I recall a few years ago on one of those Sunday morning news discussion broadcasts with CBS’ reporter Bob Schieffer at the microphone. Shieffer was leading an interview on some topic of national concern at that time, and he was interviewing someone. I will never forget Schieffer, now one of the “Deans” of broadcast journalism, asking his interviewee, “Can you share any rumors with us (on the subject at hand”? I knew then and there that broadcast journalism is not what it used to be or should be.
Now, broadcast journalism vacillates between two extremes — tabloid-style sensationalism, and “info-mation” style documentaries in which information is managed for an agenda. Little or no balance is provided, but the presentation is of a style, with authoritative-sounding pundits and “expert” witnesses, that would lead a non-questioning viewer to feel that they are being given the best and most accurate information available. And today’s busy American public has little time or desire to ask the questions that the pundits fail to ask, or investigate the “other side of the story”.
And it is critical to understand that American broadcast corporations have lost their corporate independence, now being owned by huge multi-national corporations with their own international agendas. The lack of corporate independence translates into lack of objectivity in the presentation of American news broadcasts. In fact, any sensible person watching the news on U.S. corporate-dominated television must instinctively realize that they are being told only a very small portion of the whole truth of any subject. This is called “information management”, or some would use the word propaganda.
The U.S. military benefits and works within this process. By “embedding” journalists and making very strict guidelines on what can be reported, the U.S. military prevents the sort of truths and information from reaching the U.S. public that led to public disapproval of the war in Vietnam. You will never see images and sound of American soldiers grimacing in pain, or crying over the death of a lost buddy. You will not see close-up images of dead Iraqi children, or even prostrate bodies of Iraqi soldiers in grotesque positions lying in the sun. You will see American soldiers with the look of grim determination as they execute their missions with crisp salutes. You will see American soldiers picking up injured Iraqis to transport them to medical treatment, perhaps even sharing a cigarette with them. You will see images of Iraqis rejoicing over their “liberation”, perhaps even kissing American soldiers as they pass by. Information management is the key to contentment of the American public.
The War of Conquest of Iraq was fought for American corporations. It is amazing that the U.S. military did not wear uniforms with corporate logos embroidered on them. In a future war, it might actually occur that one sees tanks with the Mobil Oil emblem on them, or soldiers with uniforms displaying the name of some other corporate sponsor. The fact that American corporations control the American government, media, and military objectives is certainly obvious in the way information is managed.
It is also of interest that Al Jazeera was hacked incessantly to prevent it from presenting an English-language website. Could the U.S. government be behind this hacking? We know from the military report of the Project for the New American Century that the U.S. military has its eyes on cyberspace, and long term plans to use the internet to attack military computer capabilities of “enemy” nations. We know that the U.S. law enforcement authorities would take criminal action against any U.S. citizen who hacked into or disrupted corporate or government computers in the U.S. The Federal Bureau of Investigation maintains a department to deal with computer crime, but there is no evidence that the U.S. Government showed any concern whatsoever over the hacking of the websites of Al Jazeera. If U.S. citizens were involved in that hacking, which is surely the case, the U.S. law enforcement agencies should be investigating the crime and bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Information management is the key to a content public in a democratic republic. American citizens have the greatest technological exposure to information of any citizenry in the world. But information management by the American government and media and military make it necessary for Americans to actively seek out information if they want to hear anything but the corporate version of the news. The degree of success by the corporate media, government and military in managing information on global politics and war has been very high for the past few years. The Internet does offer some ability of citizens to obtain more accurate news on their own.
The real challenge for the future is to “enlighten” the American public so that the information they receive is unbiased and honest and truthful. If the American public is given adequate exposure to the truth, they will bring about necessary changes.
The writer is a member of several falconry and ornithological clubs and organizations. He contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from California, USA.