Thursday, May 17, 2007


Unwitting Propagandists?

Jonathan Foreman presents a convincing indictment of the media, writing at National Review Online. Foreman faults a “selective skepticism,” in which western journalists accept every enemy propaganda claim at face value, while at the same time, discounting any statement from US or other Coalition spokesperson as necessarily biased.
Make no mistake, the Taliban and their allies, like the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, know perfectly well that they don’t have to defeat the Coalition militarily; all they have to do is undermine the political will of the Western electorates.

You might expect journalists to take some note of these practices and of the propaganda element of the war, and accordingly to exercise a little caution, if not skepticism, before they unquestioningly parrot an allegation of mass civilian deaths. (Surely they must be aware that reports of an atrocity can have enormous real world effects? Surely they have some sense that various Afghan players might lie in order to advance their cause?) Generally, however, they do not. For the most part, Taliban claims are assumed to be true. Statements by Coalition spokesmen, on the other hand, are a different matter. Such officials are said to make “claims,” and they are essentially assumed to be propagandists, if not flat out liars, by many correspondents (who won’t say as much in print, of course, but ask them about it over a drink). It is one of the ironies of our time that members of the media are so hypersensitive to being used or manipulated by any official person from their own society — military officials, government spokesmen, etc. — but can be as naïve as children when it comes to voices from other cultures. This would almost be laughable, if it weren’t so pathetic — and so poisonous. For instance, the BBC loves to quote Iraqi doctors about Coalition-inflicted casualties, apparently oblivious of the fact that the Iraqi medical profession was open almost exclusively to Baathists, is predominantly Sunni, and did extremely well under Saddam.
He’s right of course, but MILBLOGS and other conservative media have been blasting away at the MSM for years. They pretend a kind of “neutrality” or objectivity, but that’s just a guise for an adversarial stance towards anything military, or American, and especially, American Military.

I find it harder and harder to accept, as years go by, that the media workers complicit in propaganda are unwitting participants. How much naiveté, ignorance, or outright stupidity would be required on their part, not to realize how they advance the causes of our enemies?

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