Media and War
Media coverage of the violence taking place during the two Iraq Wars was neither balanced nor objective . One assumes that in a liberal democracy, citizens should be informed of the activities of its government. This is so that a given society can be accountable for them. True democracy can’t work without the general public’s ability to be informed about the actions its government is taking and why. Arguably, one of the reasons the media even exists is so that it can be an agency that properly inform the public about al that is going on. In a liberal democracy, the media should not be used as leverage for the Government but it often is. The media should provide different views in regards to social and political issues so that people have the power to form their own opinion of government actions. In times of war it is very important to have an informed population. Unfortunately often times, the freedom of information is takes a back seat to the need for national security. The 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq show what happens when media neglects its responsibility.
It is often argued that the ruling elite has complete control over the media and that media only represents the specific perspectives of these elite. The article Gulf War Coverage claims that “The euphoria at the beginning and the end of the Persian Gulf War bracketed one of the most disturbing episodes in the U.S journalistic history.” This resulted in the fact that the line between the journalists and the government was almost done existent. The journalist weren’t holding their usual neutral ground. Every media outlet was portraying this war as “we” (U.S military forces) versus “him” (Saddam Hussein). The journalists created the illusion that we weren’t fighting a nation but rather an individual. The general public was mostly receiving information about the status of the target Hussein, instead of what happening to the rest of the Iraqis. They also portrayed Hussein as the only “fighter” and neglected all the ways in which Bush was instigating fighting with bombs. Public perception of the war was skewed.
In the 2003 Iraq War, the information was filtered through ‘embedded’ reporters, inspected by the military, and then censured by the media outlets. The media, as a sort of war propaganda, used emotion and strong symbolism. The fact that the 2003 war came after the events of 9/11 also changed the behavior of the media outlets and its reporters. The public generally misunderstood the actual events that were taking place and only understood that the war was happening for vaguely-defined security reasons.
The media had an enormous impact on the public interpretation of the events in both wars. The press should be investigative and independent from the government. Many are unaware of the extent to which reporting is controlled by the government especially during the Bush administration. As a person of the press, the journalist’s main goal should be to report their findings and not what they are encouraged to or pushed to report. Clearly it was difficult for media entities to retain their independence and objectivity during these two wars, whether it had to do with patriotism toward America, emotionalisn, or strong-arming by the government. Ideally there should be a wide range of media outlets accessible that publish diversity in their coverage.