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Show The War, Tell The Truth Campaign
By Danny Schechter
With the Bush administration on the defensive, with rationalizations for the war fading, with public opinion shifting, with talk of troop withdrawals all the buzz even as the Pentagon hardens "permanent" bases in the mess it has made of 'Messopotamia,' it's time for those who oppose the war to think about where our pressure and protest might hasten the war's end.
The Administration is locked into its own imperial logic with Condoleezza Rice even now refusing to rule out new wars in Iran and Syria. It is incapable and unwilling to listen to any voice other than its own, even as its forward thrust has been put on the defensive by scandals like the Valerie Plame affair and the Katrina catastrophe.
Protests to the ideologues and neocon warheads, in what a former Colin Powell aide now calls "The Cabal," are fruitless. That seems clear.
The Democrats as a party also seem too compromised and incapable of mounting the kind of opposition that is needed. We all know why, they drank the "Kool Aid" of war early on and uncritically backed the invasion. Some have now moved away from their earlier positions. Some politicians have admitted they were wrong, but as the war machine grinds on, most remain, uncomfortably perhaps, part of it.
We need to move beyond narrow partisanship. We need a new citizen-based campaign to make the war and its coverage an issue. We need to reach out to the existing anti-war movement, and beyond it.
Who should be targeted? Who can we turn to, and who can we turn on?
Why not the media!
Without TV and press cheerleading the war could never have won support. With pressure, we can encourage the media to move in the other direction.
Its time for a "SHOW THE WAR, TELL THE TRUTH" campaign aimed at unmasking media collusion and pressing for better coverage.
AS PUBLIC OPINION SHIFTS, THE PRESS WILL FOLLOW
As public opinion shifts, the media will shift too. It is already starting to, although not quickly enough. Many media outlets remain out of step with the public because they are in lockstep with the war.
Readers and viewers are rebelling against what they've been seeing and reading. Viewing levels on TV news shows are down and newspaper circulation is down as well. There is a reason that some "fake-news" programs outdraw "real-news" programs.
One by one, the newspapers and journalists that backed the war are backing down. The pro-war media consensus has cracked, and not just because Judith Miller of the NY Times now admits she was "wrong, wrong, wrong." Miller was not alone in pumping the rationale for war, and even as her muddled story comes out, there are bigger fish to fry in the higher ranks of media corporations where group-think rules.
There is now an opening to press the press and move the media to change the political climate by challenging politicians to abandon a war that has already been lost.
The media has the power to do it and we have the power to make them do it.
War reporting has become tougher than ever with the US military and insurgents targeting reporters in Iraq. Veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk says the situation in Iraq is now so dangerous that he doesn't know whether he can go on reporting from the country. Britain's Press Gazette reports:
"Fisk, who has previously accused colleagues of practicing 'hotel journalism' in Iraq, said that 'mouse journalism' is now the best he can do in the country."
But there is more than a 'mice option.' Other ways to report exist, including use of stringers, collaborative projects, alternative video sources, Iraqi media outlets, bloggers, aid agencies, and so on. Unfortunately, too many media outlets believe that the only news worth covering are reports by their own reporters.
l. Inside-Out Reporting
Media companies are too locked into an old paradigm of "outside-in" journalism, when what's needed is "inside-out" coverage. Lets hear from the Iraqi people and more diverse sources.
2. Reports That Question Official claims
We need more aggressive reporting like a recent Washington Post story that clearly showed that many civilians were killed in air raids that the military insisted were only targeting insurgents. Commented a reader who sent us the link to the story: "the US media may be more willing to expose US atrocities in Iraq as Bush's war popularity sinks into the mire."
3. Independent Assessments of Political Developments
When US elections seem shamelessly rigged, why would we assume US stage-managed voting in Iraq is clean? Example: Most of the US media claimed that the new Iraq constitution won by a landslide. However, historian Gareth Porter did some digging and found evidence to contradict that spin.
"The final official figures for the province, obtained by IPS from a U.S. official in Mosul, actually have the constitution being rejected by a fairly wide margin, but less than the two-thirds majority required to defeat it outright."
"Both the initial figures and the new vote totals raise serious questions about the credibility of the reported results in Nineveh. A leading Sunni political figure has already charged that the Nineveh vote totals have been altered."
Nineveh is being pictured as the Ohio of Iraq. With electoral scandals common in the US, why should occupied Iraq be any different?
4, Unembedded Photography
There are images of the war that media outlets are not showing. A French newspaper did a whole spread of graphic photos demonstrating what the war really looks like, that could as easily be run here.
And don't miss a powerful new book, "Unembedded" from Chelsea Green Publishers offering gripping photography from the war by four outstanding independent photojournalists. Why not press to get every newspaper and magazine in America to run spreads with these pictures?
5.Footage, Footage, Footage
It's there. Why can't we see it? At a recent protest at CNN HQ in Atlanta, network staffers told me that they get dramatic footage in from the conflict everyday that they do not put out. Why?
It is time to end censorship and self-censorship. A CNN producer told protesters with signs demanding "Show the War" that they should be there every day. Media insiders know that pressure can move PR sensitive executives to respond to public demands. They don't want to be challenged as toadies of a bankrupt Administration.
We need to insist that our media does its job, and when it won't, let's shame them. Their first amendment rights implies a duty to democracy. The Society for Professional Journalists should be pressed to join this campaign rather than give Judith Miller an award for courage.
Sometimes it takes a small motor to get a big motor going. The media will listen if we push hard enough. My own experience in writing about the war coverage and making the film WMD (Weapons of Mass Deception) has persuaded me that there is enough of a sizable demand out there for better reporting. People prefer truth.
The public is waiting for leadership. Media companies will respond when put on the defensive.
We can back media freedom and demand media responsibility at the same time.
Journalists, authors, photographers and filmmakers can document problems, but it takes activists to make it an issue, to put it on the agenda.
THE TIME IS NOW
Why not now?
It's time for a high-impact "Show The War, Tell The Truth" campaign. Let's keep the shocking cost of this conflict in people's faces. At this writing, the cost is: $203,348,700,989 and going up by the second. See costofwar.com.
Will you join us? Can't we build a coalition of conscience and consciousness around the public's right to know? Can we reach out to many organizations and individuals and invite them to take part? This effort and efforts like it are not the property or province of a few. It demands a united effort. All are welcome.
Will you help organize this campaign where you live? There are plenty of articles, books and films you can use to move the public, to move the media, to move the politrick-ians to end the war.
We know the problem. It's time to act on it, to talk back to journalists who don't get it, and support journalists who do.
It is time to appeal to the media industry: "SHOW THE WAR, TELL THE TRUTH!"
Send your responses to Dissector@mediachannel.org
- News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs on these issues daily for MediaChannel.org. For more on his new book, WHEN NEWS LIES: Media Complicity and the Iraq War, and his film WMD see http://www.wmdthefilm.com.