May 30, 2004

MEDIA

We citizens have to start thinking of news reporting as being about as reliable as advertising.

Thus ends Den Beste's new post on the media. The other day a new student came into my office to ask about our degree programs. When she said that she was majoring in journalism, I felt myself balk. I actually stuttered as I was handing her information. The old joke is that lawyers are the root of all evil, but these days I extend the prize to journalists. This girl's simple mention of wanting to become one of those loathesome creatures was a shock to my system.

I have said here before how I think that movies are a reflection of our values. What we believe about the world is echoed in our popular entertainment (in fact, this is one of my teaching units in my writing class). In the absolutely fascinating article Den Beste links to, called "Why We Hate the Media", James Fallows makes the same point. Way down at the bottom he talks about the Hollywood portrayal of journalists:

Since the early 1980s, the journalists who have shown up in movies have been portrayed, on average, as more loathsome than the lawyers, politicians, or business moguls who are the traditional bad guys in films about the white-collar world.

He gives many examples from specific movies and then goes on to say

Movies do not necessarily capture reality but they suggest a public mood--in this case, a contrast between the media celebrities' apparent self-satisfaction and the contempt in which its best-known representatives are held by the public. "The news media has a generally positive view of itself in the watchdog role," said the authors of an exhaustive survey of public attitudes toward the press, released in May 1995. But "the outside world strongly faults the news media for its negativism.... The public goes so far as to say that the press gets in the way of society solving its problems, an opinion that is even shared by many leaders." According to the survey, "two out of three members of the public had nothing or nothing good to say about the media." As American institutions in general have lost credibility, few have lost it as fully as the press.

Movies do not propose new values; they simply reflect existing ones. We in the blogosphere have long since lost any respect for journalists. Those like my mom's friend aren't there yet, but hopefully it's a matter of time. If we all reject the way journalism is handled, then perhaps we can see some changes.

In my class this term we spent a full two hours speaking about media bias and statistical manipulation. We used the LT's Story as a starting point, but my soldier students knew firsthand the danger of trusting the media: they have all recently returned from Iraq and have seen how the situation has been misrepresented here at home. I'd be ashamed to point them in the direction of the beginning part of the "Why We Hate the Media" article though.

You have to read the first section, Washing Their Hands of Responsibility: "North Kosan". That is how dangerous I consider the media for my personal life. That hypothetical situation, that could be my husband and his soldiers. And were I ever to find out that a journalist had chosen not to interfere, I would "remain detached" myself as I killed him with my bare hands.

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May 28, 2004

BLIFFLE

I thought this comment by bliffle to this post was interesting:

Are conservatives so inarticulate and bereft of argument that we must resort to these ancient charges of press bias instead of telling our message? If the press reports bad news, is it because they are biased or because the news is bad? If there is good news that goes unreported, well shouldn't we report it? Istead of wasting bandwidth flailing at the NYT? Good grief!

First of all, I would like to point out that part of the reason bloggers "waste bandwith" pointing out inaccuracies and bias in the mainstream media is because many Americans just don't believe it exists. I wasn't joking when I said that many people I know think that Fox News is the only biased news source. In fact, my mom just had a conversation with one of her friends, and her friend was shocked to hear that my mom thought the news channels were biased. The more we dig up on the lies in the mainstream media, the better able my mom is to provide accurate examples to her friend and inform her that the media is in fact biased.

And we bloggers are trying to report on the good things that are happening. That's Tim's raison d'etre. But the majority of people do not sit at the computer for 2-3 hours in the morning before work like I do. The majority don't read news or blogs online. We who blowdry our hair in front of the monitor are misled into thinking that others do the same.

The truth is out there. Spectra just linked to a great round-up of positive news out of Iraq, but bliffle is kidding himself if he thinks that my mom's friend is going to stumble across it. We're trying to make the truth heard, but the mainstream media is not interested in our message.

MORE TO GROK:

Beth is trying to get the word out too.

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May 25, 2004

DRIPPING

I'm with Den Beste today on the media bias. Since the networks thought our President was less important than Fear Factor, and since he spoke in the middle of the night, I had to try to find the transcript of his speech today. I did manage to find this MSNBC article that's positively dripping with disdain. You can hear the liberal bias that Tim wrote about:

President Bush, seeking to convince skeptical Americans that he has a plan to bring stability to Iraq, outlined a five-step program calculated to articulate his objective of a sovereign Iraqi government, and to begin to reverse the damaging fallout over U.S. soldiers’ abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

Positively dripping. It gets even worse when they talk about his poll ratings.

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May 18, 2004

TRASH

The other day I said I was tired of caring and planned to just stare at the puppy instead. But then I read this trash, and I remembered why we do this.

Perspective is great.

MORE TO GROK:

Bunker found a good bit on the media.

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May 16, 2004

SEMANTICS

Our 1SG just returned to Germany from Iraq; he's on his way to Sergeant Major school. We went to dinner with him Friday night and got to ask lots of questions.

"Sometimes we get Iraqis hiding in palm groves around our camp," he began, when he was interrupted by Oda Mae. "Insurgents. They're insurgents, not Iraqis," she said. "Right," the 1SG said, smiling, "insurgents."

There's a big difference, and Oda Mae was right to argue semantics with him. Insurgents are the ones who come after our soldiers with RPGs; Iraqis are the optimistic citizens of a crippled country. Insurgents hang burnt bodies from bridges; Iraqis say things like “who did this crime is a stranger and he’s not of us for sure.”

If you think the American media is showing you who the Iraqis really are, you need to go read this post at Iraq the Model and check your assumption.

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May 14, 2004

NOPE

Brain Terminal has a great post comparing Abu Ghraib and Nick Berg. Highlight:

One day the media was telling us we had to see the pictures from Abu Ghraib so we could understand the horrors of war. But with Berg's beheading, we're told we can't handle the truth. It kind of makes you wonder which masters the media serves: images that cast us in a negative light get a full airing; images that remind us of the savagery of our enemies are hidden from view, lest we get blood lust. But is it possible to win a war without a little blood lust?

Nope.

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May 12, 2004

GRRR

Here's a sneaky headline.

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May 08, 2004

BROADCAST

I watched Fat Man and Little Boy tonight; I hadn't seen it since high school physics class. Then I got online and started listening to WWII speeches. And now I'm depressed.

One news broadcast in particular has caught my attention: the announcement of the end of the war in Europe.

Here is the great news for which the world has been waiting for almost six long years.... Thus it is that eleven months to the day since the invasion of Normandy...the Allies have utterly smashed the German enemy that came close to enslaving the world.

The rest of the report is just the facts -- who signed the surrender, the terms of agreement -- and does not contain 1) any effort to give the Nazis credit for being "freedom fighters" or "opposed to the American occupation" 2) any mention of a body count for Allied soldiers or 3) any interviews with so-called experts about why it has taken so long for the war to end and whether it could be considered a quagmire.

I'd give anything to hear a broadcast like that today.

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May 07, 2004

OUTRAGE

I woke up too late today.

This week I've been absolutely exhausted, and when the alarm went off at 06bloggingtime, I shut it off and went back to bed until 0730. And then I found all these things I wanted to write about.

First of all, I expressed outrage last week at the events at Abu Ghraib prison. However, a lot of that outrage has subsided by now, and I'm left being angry at the rest of the world. My feelings were mirrored today on LGF, when Charles Johnson responded to the following paragraph:


Bush spoke as his administration sought to counter a worldwide wave of revulsion over photographs showing Iraqi prisoners, some of them hooded, naked and in sexually humiliating poses, in an American-run prison in the Baghdad area.

Remember that “worldwide wave of revulsion” when a pregnant Israeli mother and her four daughters were murdered in cold blood by Arabs who videotaped the atrocity? Remember the “worldwide wave of revulsion” when four security contractors helping to rebuild Iraq were burned alive, ripped apart, and hung from a bridge by Arabs in Fallujah? Remember the “worldwide wave of revulsion” when an Italian hostage was murdered by Arabs on video?

You don’t?

Yes, I'm still disgusted at the soldiers who abused their position of power in the prison. But I'm getting more disgusted at the way the news can't stop talking about this story, as if none of the other atrocities in the world matter when ten Americans do something stupid. Der Speigel ran this magazine cover and called Americans "The Torturers of Baghdad"; did they run a cover of these photos under the headline "The Torturers of Fallujah"? That's what I thought. See, I was under the impression that Uday was the torturer of Baghdad, but apparently that's not newsworthy. That's like sooo 2003, Sarah.

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May 04, 2004

IGNORED

the disgrace in Abu Ghraib prison = something that certainly deserves our attention
the murder of three Americans in Kosovo by a nutcase Palestinian on the UN Peacekeeping force = something largely ignored by the media

The Palestinian carried an M-16, from which he apparently discharged 400 rounds, leading NATO investigators to examine whether his four colleagues in a Jordanian detachment assigned to guard the prison had helped him by feeding his weapon as he fired.

Excuse me? 400 rounds? Four other Jordanians making sure he didn't run out of ammo before he pulverized these American soldiers on their first day on the job? This guy -- suspected of having ties to Hamas -- killed three Americans and wounded 11 others when he went on a shooting spree killing soldiers who were supposedly on the same side as he? Where is the media outrage? Where are the magazine covers? Why isn't the investigation blasted all over the tv?

Oh yeah, because no one cares.

No one cares when Americans die because they're usually getting what they deserve. Three measly Americans got killed in Kosovo; so what, have you seen what the Americans are doing to the helpless, defenseless women and children in Fallujah? "After all, you guys started it," as one of my European friends said when I explained my husband would go to Iraq for a year. And now it's your fault for ticking the Arab street off by training your "barbarian invader" soldiers to make naked pyramids. It was "only a matter of time" before the Americans were revealed as the oil-hungry, Muslim-hating, unilateral torturers they really are.

Sheesh, I'm getting as sarcastic as Amritas. Time for bed.

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May 01, 2004

COVERS

I very firmly believe that our media can easily sway public opinion with photographs. A few of us were talking yesterday about how we didn't like the cover photo on Friday's Stars and Stripes, which showed an American soldier leaning over one of the children killed in the mortar attack on Thursday. We shouldn't turn a blind eye to the real deaths this war is causing, but showing the soldier with the dead child seemed to ignore the fact that it was the insurgents' mortar that killed the children and not the Americans. A simple photo like that speaks volumes, sometimes putting fuel on the anti-war fire.

Mrs. du Toit posted a comparison of Life Magazine covers during WWII and Vietnam. The covers accurately reflect society's views on those two wars...or perhaps society's views reflected what was seen on the covers. Which caused which, the cover or the national mood?

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