War correspondents: heroes or propagandists?
Whether or not war correspondents are heroes or propagandists is, in some ways, a false choice. War correspondents vary according to their personalities, the publication for whom they report, their country of origin, and so on, so to posit that either one, or the other, is true, with no space given for exceptions is almost always false, whenever the subject matter is human behavior. However, there are factors in play which make the statement, “War correspondents are propagandists” far more true than not. Some of these factors arise from basic human behaviour; others are by conscious design.
Reporters in wartime operate under the situational tension between two selves; their professional self, and their survival self. That is, if a country has been attacked, particularly in the manner in which the United States was attacked on 11 September, in an atmosphere charged and saturated with threat, they will identify themselves as being under attack, and they will position themselves to defeat the attacker. Thus, a war correspondent covering a war in which ‘they’ have not been attacked, might perceive, and thus report, differently.
If a war correspondent is covering a war in which they are positioned to defeat the attacker, then their coverage becomes about that defeat, and is then no longer an objective critique. So that when Britain and the United States believed that they were under imminent threat from Saddam Hussein, the reporting tended to be about the defeat of the enemy. In this way, although there is no intent to propagandize, reporting is certainly not what reporting should be, that is, (in the words of the Associated Press) ‘bringing truth to the world.
’The arena of truth has been a subject of much discussion. The AP further defines ‘truth’ in a press release on its web page by what is isn’t: inaccuracies, carelessness, bias, distortions, false information, conflicts of interest, misrepresentation, payment for interviews, and by what it is: source identification, responsibility and fairness. Being a war reporter in a war in which one of the ‘sides’ is ‘yours’ could taint the correspondent’s ability to report without bias or distortions, and could be called a conflict of interest.
‘Kenneth Bacon, a former Pentagon spokesman, wrote in the Wall Street Journal recently that: “You couldn’t hire actors to do as good a job as the press has done’ from the Pentagon’s point of view. ” ’ And in many cases, this was no doubt unconscious. When the war is a war like the current Iraq war, where there are now legitimate questions being raised as to whether or not this war was engaged upon based on misleading intelligence, possibly purposefully misleading intelligence, then that natural bias begins to look extremely problematic, because then, natural bias has been manipulated.
In that case, the reporters themselves are the victims of propaganda, and they become unwitting manufacturers of propaganda because of the survival-bias effect. Some time after it became clear that there was no WMD in Iraq, major newspapers began to criticise themselves for not being critical enough in the months before the war…but by then of course, it was too late. As Jim Naureckas put it in his Extra! article regarding the first Iraq war, ‘The Worst Censorship Was at Home’, about the ‘weakness of the Iraqi ground resistance’..; ‘people [were] surprised at the weakness of the Iraqi ground resistance.. [b]ecause they trusted the media, and the media trusted the U. S. military.
(Of course the language used here is entirely applicable, right down to the name of the president, to the current Iraq war. The fact that Naureckas’ article could have been written about both Iraq wars is perhaps the most damning fact of them all: it means that absolutely nothing at all was learned between the first and the second. ) So reporting can be propagandistic via unconscious bias.Sample Essay of Essayontime.com