Buzzwords that buy over US media
NEW YORK - The mainstream American news media, currently under fire
for being cheerleaders for US military forces in Iraq, are traditionally
known to go along with buzzwords defined by successive US administrations
to suit their own sinister political motives.
When most US
newspapers describe a foreign head of state as "a military
strongman", he is invariably a "dictator" who is
on a White House political hit-list. Cuba's Fidel Castro and Iraq's
Saddam Hussein were two military strongmen virtually every US administration
loved to hate.
And when a
head of state is labelled "a military ruler", he is obviously
a White House favourite-- no matter how politically repressive he
is at home. The late Shah of Iran and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines
were prime examples of leaders who were mollycoddled by Washington
while they clung onto power armed with US weapons and backed by
their American-trained military forces.
media in the US, more often than not, are suckered into accepting
these highly politicised definitions, say Martin Lee and Normon
Solomon, co-authors of "Unreliable Sources -A Guide to Detecting
Bias in News Media."
In 1989, when
the former Panamanian General Manuel Noriega was a "bad guy"
by US standards, he was dubbed "a military strongman".
But a few years later when he was on the payroll of the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA), Noriega was transformed into a "military
ad jingles, the drumbeat of repeated news lingo stays with us and
takes a life of its own," the authors of the book say. "In
the long run, what's repeated endlessly becomes a social reality."
And so was
most of the slanted reporting of the recent war on Iraq, Tony Jenkins,
president of the UN Correspondents' Association (UNCA), told a seminar
on "The Media and Armed Conflict".
the laziness in journalists accepting White House terminology such
as "coalition forces" when in real fact the US force attacking
Iraq was only an "Anglo-American" force, with marginal
support from Australia.
report in the mainstream media gave the mistaken impression that
the predominantly US military force attacking Iraq included the
49 so-called "coalition" members, including tiny island
nations such as Palau, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Tonga. But
this was far from the truth. And at times, even the lie was far
off the mark.
Just before the war began, the US State Department released a list
of 49 countries, including Slovenia which was to receive $4.5 million
as additional American aid for lending its name to the coalition
But the announcement
was followed by street demonstrations in the capital of Ljubljana
by Slovenians protesting their country's participation in the war.
However, there was one small problem. The Prime Minister of Slovenia
Anton Rop told reporters: "We're part of no such coalition.
We are part of a coalition for peace."
So when he
asked the State Department for an explanation as to why his country
was added onto the list, he was told it was a mistake. The US had
got two countries mixed up. The coalition partner was not Slovenia,
but Slovakia, the second half of the former Czechoslovakia. As the
Washington Post said rather sarcastically: At least they got the
"Slov" part right.
Foukara of the Qatar-based Arab television network Al-Jazeera said
that if one took a critical look of the war coverage, there was
an interesting paradox in the behaviour of the American and Arab
US was supposed to be a leading democracy, and the Arab world was
supposedly deficient in democracy, the American and Arab media had
mirrored each other, he said.
The Arabs were
more free to report what they saw than the Americans who virtually
abandoned the concept of a free press in favour of Pentagon handouts.
In its coverage of the war, most US newspapers and TV networks were
not only manipulated by the Pentagon but also filtered the news
given to the American public.
pointed out American television networks refrained from showing
most of the civilian killings and casualties of war. "If more
blood had been shown, people might have felt less triumphant,"
of the war by his own news organisation last month, the director
general of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said that
US broadcasters had swapped impartiality for patriotism.
He said that
the proliferation of US TV networks had also weakened coverage of
the war. "The effect of this fragmentation is to make government--
the White House and the Pentagon-- all-powerful with no news operation
strong enough or brave enough to stand up against it".
He said BBC
cannot afford to mix patriotism and journalism. But regrettably,
this is happening in the US, and if it continues it will undermine
the credibility of the US electronic media, he warned.