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<nettime> Fwd: Newsspeak USA
Phil Graham on Sun, 23 Sep 2001 20:30:22 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> Fwd: Newsspeak USA


From: "Han Speckens" <persgal {AT} casema.net>
To: "Phil Graham" <phil.graham {AT} mailbox.uq.edu.au>
Subject: Newsspeak USA
Date: Sun, 23 Sep 2001 11:39:01 +0200
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3) WHEN JOURNALISTS REPORT FOR DUTY

By Norman Solomon   /   Creators Syndicate

In Time magazine's special issue about the events of Sept. 11,
chilling photos evoke the horrific slaughter in Manhattan. All of
the pages are deadly serious. And on the last page, under the
headline "The Case for Rage and Retribution," an essay by Time
regular Lance Morrow declares: "A day cannot live in infamy without
the nourishment of rage. Let's have rage."

Exhorting our country to relearn the lost virtues of "self-confident
relentlessness" and "hatred," the article calls for "a policy of
focused brutality." It's an apt conclusion to an edition of the
nation's biggest newsmagazine that embodies the human strengths
and ominous defects of American media during the current crisis.

Much of the initial news coverage was poignant, grief-stricken and
utterly appropriate. But many news analysts and pundits lost no
time conveying -- sometimes with great enthusiasm -- their eagerness
to see the United States use its military might in anger. Such
impulses are extremely dangerous.

For instance, night after night on cable television, Bill O'Reilly
has been banging his loud drum for indiscriminate reprisals. Unless
the Taliban quickly hands over Osama bin Laden, he proclaimed on
Fox News Channel, "the U.S. should bomb the Afghan infrastructure
to rubble -- the airport, the power plants, their water facilities
and the roads."

What about the civilian population of Afghanistan? "We should not
target civilians," O'Reilly said, "but if they don't rise up against
this criminal government, they starve, period." For good measure,
O'Reilly urged that the U.S. extensively bomb Iraq and Libya.

A former New York Times executive editor, A.M. Rosenthal, was able
to top O'Reilly in the armchair militarism derby. Rosenthal added
Iran, Syria and Sudan to O'Reilly's expendable-nation list, writing
in the Washington Times that the U.S. government should be ready
and willing to deliver a 72-hour ultimatum to six governments --
quickly followed by massive bombing if Washington is not satisfied.

In a similar spirit, New York Post columnist Steve Dunleavy demanded
oceans of innocent blood: "As for cities or countries that host
these worms, bomb them into basketball courts." The editor of
National Review, a young fellow named Rich Lowry, was similarly
glib about recommending large-scale crimes against humanity: "If
we flatten part of Damascus or Tehran or whatever it takes, that
is part of the solution."

More insidious than the numerous hothead pundits are the far more
numerous reporters who can't stop providing stenographic services
to official sources under the guise of journalism.

We've heard that it's important for journalists to be independent
of the government. Sometimes that independence has been more apparent
than real, but sometimes it has been an appreciable reality and a
deserved source of professional pride. But today, judging from the
content of the reporting by major national media outlets, such
pride has crumbled with the World Trade Center towers.

More than ever, as journalists report for duty, the news profession
is morphing into PR flackery for Uncle Sam. In effect, a lot of
reporters are saluting the commander-in-chief and awaiting orders.

Consider some recent words from Dan Rather. During his Sept. 17
appearance on David Letterman's show, the CBS news anchor laid it
on the line. "George Bush is the president," Rather said, "he makes
the decisions." Speaking as "one American," the newsman added:

"Wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where. And he'll
make the call."

Media coverage of U.S. military actions has often involved a
duplicitous two-step, with news outlets heavily engaged in
self-censorship and then grousing -- usually after the fact -- that
the government imposed too many restrictions on the press.

Two months after the Gulf War ended a decade ago, the Washington
editors for 15 major American news organizations sent a letter of
complaint to then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. They charged
that the Pentagon had exerted "virtually total control" over coverage
of the war.

Now, as CNN reported in passing the other day, the Defense Department
intends to impose "heavy press restrictions." For example, "the
Pentagon currently has no plans to allow reporters to deploy with
troops or report from warships, practices routinely carried out in
the 1991 Persian Gulf War."

Here's a riddle: If the U.S. government's restrictions on media
amounted to "virtually total control" of coverage during the Gulf
War, and the restrictions will now be even tighter, what can we
expect from news media in the weeks and months ahead?

Restrictive government edicts, clamping down on access to information
and on-the-scene reports, would be bad enough if mainstream news
organizations were striving to function independently. American
journalism is sometimes known as the Fourth Estate -- but Dan Rather
is far from the only high-profile journalist who now appears eager
to turn his profession into a fourth branch of government.

____________________________________________________

Norman Solomon's weekly syndicated column -- archived at
www.fair.org/media-beat/ -- focuses on media and politics. His
latest book is "The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media."


______________________________________________________
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Opinions expressed in this email are my own unless otherwise stated.
If you have received this in error, please ignore it.
Phil Graham, Lecturer
Business (Communication)
University of Queensland

"Those who would trade liberty for security will get and deserve neither."
Benjamin Franklin
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