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imperialism & war | media criticism

Bush's Tame U.S. Media May Yet Have Teeth

I do not exaggerate when I say that much of the U.S. media from 9/11 to the present closely resembled the old Soviet media I knew and disrespected during my stays in the USSR during the 1980s.
September 21, 2003

Bush's tame U.S. media may yet have teeth

By ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor

MIAMI -- I've long considered CNN's Christiane Amanpour an outstanding journalist. Last week, my opinion of her rose further when she ignited a storm of controversy when asked by a TV interviewer about the U.S. media's coverage of the Iraq war.

Breaking a taboo of silence in the mainstream media, Amanpour courageously replied, "I think the press was muzzled and I think the press self-muzzled. Television ... was intimidated by the (Bush) administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News."

Right on cue, faithful to Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering's advice to attack all dissenting views as treason, Fox accused Amanpour of being a "spokeswoman for al-Qaida." I felt for Amanpour, having myself been slandered by the U.S. neo-conservative media as "a friend of Saddam" for disputing White House claims about Iraq - whose secret police had threatened to hang me on my last visit to Baghdad.

The warlike momma's boys at the neo-con National Review actually had the chutzpah to call me "unpatriotic." Columnists at my own paper pilloried me for opposing the Iraq misadventure.

Now, as White House lies and distortions are being exposed daily, these critics are not man enough to admit that their parroting of administration war propaganda - Amanpour politely calls it "high level disinformation" - was foolish and unprofessional.

Christiane Amanpour is absolutely right. The U.S. media was muzzled and censored itself.

I experienced this firsthand on U.S. TV, radio and in print. Never in my 20 years in media have I seen such unconscionable pressure exerted on journalists to conform to the government's party line.

Criticism of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, photos of dead American soldiers or civilians killed by bombing, were forbidden or downplayed.

The tone of reporting had to be strongly positive, filled with uplifting stories about liberation and women freed from repression. Criticism, sharp questions and doubt were verboten.

The bloated corporations dominating the U.S. media feared antagonizing the White House, which was pushing for the bill - just rejected by the Senate - to allow them to grow even larger.

Reporters who failed to toe the line were barred or had their access to military and government officials limited, virtually ending some careers. Many "embedded" reporters in Iraq and Afghanistan became little more than public relations auxiliaries.

Critics of administration policies in Iraq and Afghanistan were systematically excluded from media commentary, particularly on national TV.

Experts' fabrications

Night after night, networks featured "experts" who droned on about Iraq's fearsome weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent threat to the U.S., about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the urgency to invade Iraq before it could strike at America and a raft of other fabrications.

Such "experts" echoed the White House party line and all were dead wrong. Yet, amazingly, many are still on the air, continuing to misinform the public, using convoluted arguments to explain why they were not really wrong even when they were.

I do not exaggerate when I say that much of the U.S. media from 9/11 to the present closely resembled the old Soviet media I knew and disrespected during my stays in the USSR during the 1980s.

The American media, notably the sycophantic White House press corps and flagwavers at Fox, treated President George Bush and his entourage with adulation and fawning servility similar to what the Soviet state media once lavished on Communist Party Chairman Leonid Brezhnev.

When dimwitted Brezhnev made the calamitous blunder of invading Afghanistan, the Moscow media rapturously described the brazen aggression as "liberation" that recalled the glories of World War II. The U.S. media indulged in the same frenzied foot-kissing, and the same silly WW II comparisons over Bush's foolhardy invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

President Bush and his neo-conservative handlers led America into these twin disasters precisely because two of the key organs of democracy - an independent, inquiring media, and assertive Congress - failed miserably to perform their duty.

They allowed themselves to be cowed into subservience. They failed to expose and vigorously oppose the sinister, pro-totalitarian Patriot Act that so endangers America's basic liberties.

Or, like Fox, a reincarnation of William Randolph Hearst's jingoistic yellow press, they served as White House mouthpieces, eagerly stoking war fever and national hysteria, retailing to the public all the administration's wholesale disinformation about Iraq.

In a shocking attempt to silence dissenting voices, U.S. forces bombed the news offices of al-Jazeera TV in Baghdad, Basra and Kabul, killing and wounding some of its staff. "The CNN of the Arab World" had been contradicting too many White House claims.

Al-Jazeera's senior correspondent, Tayseer Alouni, has been arrested in Spain and charged with aiding terrorism by interviewing Osama bin Laden.

The U.S. previously accused Alouni of being pro-Iraqi; Iraq expelled him for being "anti-Iraqi."

In my books, that makes him an honest, courageous journalist, just like Amanpour.

So long as Bush was riding high in the polls, the media fawned on him. But now that many Americans are beginning to sense they were lied to or misled by the White House, Bush's popularity is dropping, and the media's mood is becoming edgy and more aggressive. The muzzles may soon be coming off.

homepage: homepage: http://www.canoe.ca/Columnists/margolis_sep21.html
address: address: Toronto Sun

All of This 21.Sep.2003 16:19

Metal Pancreas

may have something to do with Indymedia's rise in popularity since the beginning of the Bush Admin. Although at any given time in the day you can find a whole heaping helping of bullshit on Indymedia you can also find critical, intelligent and groundbreaking stories. This is more than you can say for ANY mainstream media forum.

Once again, thank you Indymedia, thank you people who post here and keep the dialogue alive. Who can tell how much influence Indymedia has had in removing the veil from the eyes of the masses.

the question is why. 21.Sep.2003 17:33

this thing here

>"I think the press was muzzled and I think the press self-muzzled. Television ... was intimidated by the (Bush) administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News."<

the question is why. oh look, here's one possible reason...

>The bloated corporations dominating the U.S. media feared antagonizing the White House, which was pushing for the bill - just rejected by the Senate - to allow them to grow even larger.<

you scratch my back, i'll scratch yours. you watch my back, i'll watch yours. power and influence and secret handshakes.

whether you are a c.e.o. of a media corporation, a "defense" corporation, an oil corporation, an auto corporation, an investment services/banking/finances corporation, you are part of an exclusive club. and it's not only your comrades in business who are members, it's also every politician who cares to be. as these ties become stronger, as the club uses harsher and harsher methods to look after it's interests, anything in the path of this exclusive club will be laid to waste. truth, democracy, civil rights, even capitalist notions of competition will become mere propaganda images instead of reality.

as the club becomes stronger, as the corporations and politicians become tighter and tighter wound together and intertwined, as the politicians write the laws to benefit the corporations and the corporations do their best to provide - in the case of the media, a false image of the government for the benefit of the government - everything else becomes weaker, and we can all begin to look forward to corporatism. or perhaps, especially if u.s. citizens try to fight it, just plain reactionary fascism. because this growing club doesn't give a fuck about anything.

of course, this could never happen in america, could it. no... not in a milion years...

Nothing new 21.Sep.2003 23:39

.

What's funny is all the whining and complaining about the Media that you hear from these people . American Media propaganda and manipulation are nothing new. The idea that this is somehow a new phenomena with the Bush Regime is bullshit.

There is a reason why the America Media has been called the "Mighty Wurlitzer" for decades--because it can and will be played by the American establishment like an organ. Glad you all finally figured it out--after several decades.

"you scratch my back, i'll scratch yours. you watch my back, i'll watch yours. power and influence and secret handshakes.
whether you are a c.e.o. of a media corporation, a "defense" corporation, an oil corporation, an auto corporation, an investment services/banking/finances corporation, you are part of an exclusive club. and it's not only your comrades in business who are members, it's also every politician who cares to be. as these ties become stronger, as the club uses harsher and harsher methods to look after it's interests, anything in the path of this exclusive club will be laid to waste. truth, democracy, civil rights, even capitalist notions of competition will become mere propaganda images instead of reality."

As for all this noise about corporations and media monopoly corrupting the process, this is only part of the problem.

Go read "Manufacturing Consent' by Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky to understand how the American--and indeed capitalist--media system work.

Its a lot more subtle and sophisticated than mere media corporations.