While the general population is going on with its everyday activities, 15,000 troops are fighting to retake Fallujah, Iraq. But just like previous military actions in Iraq, the public is unlikely to see any of the things that are really taking place, aside from heroic action shots and glamorous footage of troops in moody lighting.
Saturday radio host Amy Goodman spoke at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, addressing these very concerns. She spoke about the fall of Baghdad, specifically the statue of Saddam being pulled down by American troops, a scene that played on TV over and over. While CNN displayed the clip repeatedly during the day, often without commentary, CNN International also showed the footage, but showed it on a split screen with photos of destroyed buildings, dead civilians and injured troops. Goodman suggested that the network knew precisely what it was doing when it shielded American viewers from images it thought Americans would not approve.
Goodman also criticized network news for relying too much on former military personnel and embedded troops to tell the public what was happening.
American citizens that want to know more about the war than the military and embedded media are willing to show them can increasingly fall back on reading newspapers and Web sites from abroad. The Guardian, a UK paper, recently stated that since the beginning of the war in Iraq the number of American readers of the online version of the paper has been increasing more than readers in the paper’s home country.
When Greg Palast, an American who works for the BBC in Britain and was called “the most important investigative reporter of our time” by the British Tribune Magazine, was asked why Americans have to rely on journalists from other countries to become informed about domestic issues, he said of networks such as FOX News, “I don’t care about the bias, I can live with bias. What I can’t live with is propaganda, misinformation and nothing (else). You know squat about what’s happening (when watching FOX News).”
Since American networks operate on airwaves that legally belong to the citizens, networks utilizing these airwaves have an obligation to inform the population.
When war footage of the Vietnam War reached American shores the support for the military action started to wane. This may be one of the reasons why the government and military are now carefully keeping tabs on what is reported and the way information is presented.
The simple truth is wars are messy. An honest depiction of war that puts military successes as well as failures into context may not be as popular and therefore may not get high ratings. This has nothing to do with respect or disrespect toward the troops, but is essential to give the American public a less skewed worldview than it now has thanks to biased, military and governenment-influenced journalism.