Friday, May 05, 2006

The ABCs of propoganda
Wow, I've caught Nightline a couple of times this week, and was just looking at the ABC News website, and it's all pretty disgusting.

First, they had a horrific report on the use of Predator Drones in Iraq. I think the letter I wrote them gives a sense of some of the most sickening elements:
Dear Editors and Reporters at Nightline:

I found your report on Predator Drones disturbing, even offensive, for many reasons.

First, I resent the general approach to war reporting - a kind of sub-genre of such reporting - that highlights the U.S. military's war-making machines and technology. The Gee-Whiz is capitalized, the (violent death) becomes parenthetical. Tonight's report was no exception. You pointed out the weirdness of soldiers being "in combat in Iraq" in Nevada, and the pilots themselves talked about the different kinds of stress they experience. There was no real exploration of what happens to the psyche, role, understanding, and social place of the soldier when he/she continues to kill for us, but ceases to risk harm to self for us (and never comes any closer to the people they kill than I did watching you report). You interviewed only the young
men and women engaged in this new and remote killing. Somewhere I recently heard the keen observation that the U.S. media show us the missile to be dropped, the plane to drop it, and the computer to guide it; foreign media show us the house upon which it's been dropped and the neighbors mourning in the rubble. Your report tonight is a case in point.

That brings me to the most shockingly offensive moment in your report. On national television tonight, you showed the execution of three human beings. The gravity of this moment was marked with the voiceover, "A direct hit," and an immediate jump to a new section of the report. Was there any discussion of whether or not to show this clip, or how to present it? Of course, we were told the dead men were insurgents. Was it their role in the war, or the fact that the same technology that allowed our military to kill them also made the video of their death feel less-than-dramatic, that led to the decision to treat their death and the broadcast of it so casually?

Finally, I was deeply troubled by your closing comment mentioning that Air National Guard units in some states are training to use Predator Drones on the U.S.-Mexico border to enforce immigration laws. Was it as a kind of teaser for some future report that you declined to mention whether or not these Predators will be used to kill their targets? It occurs to me that they may only be used for their surveillance capabilities. But tonight's report was largely about the deadliness of the Predator. In the midst of the current immigration debate, it seems highly irresponsible to imply - as a kind of afterthought - but not confirm that (before the House bill making illegal immigration a felony has even been passed into law) we are preparing to start attacking poor Latin American families with missiles from military aircraft in our own deserts. I understand that, with your new post-Koppel, multi-story, magazine-style format, you had to move on to other important topics (like the raging controversy over the board game Monopoly). I still think a bit of clarification may be in order.
Then I saw their report last night, which addressed the life-without-parole sentence of Zacharias Moussaoui. They began with the spin I've seen in a few other places - that We, The United States of America, proved our fairness, our mercy, and our sense of justice by sparing the life of this man who would not spare ours. Then, completely undermining that spin, they mentioned the embarrassing failure of the prosecution (for failing to get the death penalty), and questioned a defense attorney (Terry Moran not hiding his contempt) as to how he could try, in the course of the trial, to "humanize" his client. Then they did a snide and triumphalistic tour of the "Supermax" prison where Moussaoui will spend the rest of his days (more Gee-Whiz), along with an A-list of other most-hated celebrities.

Now, I find their coverage of Ray McGovern's confrontation with Donald Rumsfeld in Atlanta (as mentioned two posts ago). They refer to his respectful-yet-challenging questioning of Rumsfeld as "heckling," lumping him in with others who simply shouted slogans. They also fail to explain the substance of McGovern's claims, or the flailing, dishonest, and shameless (troop-blaming) way in which Rumsfeld responded, let alone the fact that McGovern was, of course, correct (for all of this, see the blog post I linked to below at Crooks and Liars). Pathetic.

I know it's become common to satire "the left end of the blogoshere" for it's obsession with the failings of the "MSM" (mainstream media). But it's hard not to be sickened.

UPDATE: CNN ain't no better. Through the Huffington Post I found this Think Progress post about McGovern's interview on Paula Zahn. Lame. But, as always, Mr. McGovern's responses are right on.

UPPERDATE: A quick Google News search of "ray mcgovern" shows some interesting coverage, and coverage of the coverage. Not surprisingly, Wolf Blitzer spun hard despite his own fact-checking. More interesting to me, the Voice of America - a U.S. government-run international news service frequently dismissed as nothing more than a blatant propaganda tool (by people who've never seen/heard their reporting -- like the military's Stars and Stripes, VOA is surprisingly objective relative to corporate media) - has one of the best reports. They distinguish between "hecklers" and a "tough questioner" (McGovern), as well as pointing out that McGovern was right, making Rumsfeld's response yet another lie. Also, some of the best coverage of the coverage actually comes in the form of an attempt to uncover "liberal media bias" at NewsBusters. I don't agree that this is all "liberal bias," but they do have a good rundown of the coverage.
(edited for clarity)

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