|Issue #82 • July/August, 2003|
How many of you were tightly tuned to the TV like I was during Gulf War II. I hope a lot because it was a great education. Not just about the war, but about politics and the mass media.
The UN debate preceding the war was the most instructive view yet for the American public about where the UN stands when it comes to U.S. interests. Prior to this strident display of anti-Americanism, it was just a handful of malcontents like me saying that the UN was nothing but a collection of 3rd world countries working actively against America at every turn. Now most Americans know it.
France’s participation in the debate was particularly edifying. This has-been nation that was freed with American blood from the Nazis in World War II frantically flew its diplomats around the world in an effort to garner UN Security Council votes that would defeat any American proposal about Iraq. America’s diplomats have watched France work against U.S. interests for years, so it’s about time that their anti-Americanism was put on public display for the entire American public to see.
Throughout the UN debate, America’s mass media—with notable exceptions like Fox TV News and U.S. News & World Report magazine—featured “the fact” that “most of the world” was against President Bush’s desire to go to war against Iraq. CNN et al highlighted the anti-American views of all the third world countries in the UN like they really mattered when it came to American strategic interests.
Just before the war commenced, Newsweek magazine featured a cover that screamed: “Why America Scares the World” and displayed a giant 21,500-pound MOAB bomb next to it. Inside the issue, the main article was titled: “The Arrogant Empire” with an introductory paragraph that read, “America’s unprecedented power scares the world, and the Bush Administration has only made it worse.” At the same time, U.S. News & World Report’s cover featured an American soldier under the headline “Ready to Go,” and its inside articles gave an in-depth account of America’s preparations to topple a brutal dictatorship that may be a threat to America. U.S. News was engaged in reporting the news while Newsweek was engaged in anti-Americanism.
When President Bush finally went to war over UN objections, the UN faded into the background but the mass media kicked into high gear. I was glued to the TV with my 20-year-old daughter, Annie, whose Marine Corps husband was on the front lines, so I had a keen interest in what was going on. But even I was unprepared for the distorted view of the war that CNN gave.
If you watched CNN, you’d have thought America’s war plan was thrown into disarray by the “unexpected Iraqi defense.” There was no cheering in the streets to welcome the Americans as liberators, as President Bush had promised. Something must have gone terribly wrong!
But all you had to do was switch to Fox TV News to learn that the war plan was on track. It seems that Fox had no axe to grind, and no anti-Americanism to vent, so they reported the news as it unfolded. The first week of war was just that, Fox reported—the first week of war. It was not anticipated there would be an instant victory, and the Iraqi people needed assurances they would not be executed by Saddam’s Fedayeen before they cheered for the liberating American troops.
I channel surfed my way through the war, switching among all the news channels—CNN, CNN Headline News, CNNfn, Fox, MSNBC. The CNN channels had America’s “shock and awe” campaign failing, but showed Iraqi civilians, especially Iraqi children, being maimed and killed. Fox News had America’s battle planning “stunningly successful” with little collateral damage and few civilian casualties.
At the beginning of the war, MSNBC seemed to follow the CNN line with much negative reporting about America’s war efforts, but as the war went into its second week, for some reason MSNBC began reporting the war like Fox News. They simply dropped their anti-American bias. Newsweek magazine, meanwhile, during the second week of the war, ran a special report issue with a cover featuring a bloodied American solder in obvious agony under the headline, “How Bloody?” while U.S. News’s cover ran a photo of an in-control Marine firing his M-16 under the headline, “Taking Baghdad.”
The difference in the war coverage was obvious for all Americans to see. CNN and its affiliates, along with news outlets like Newsweek, paraded what they perceived as American setbacks throughout the war, while Fox and news outlets like U.S. News paraded American success.
Guess who was telling the truth?