There were two wars in Iraq--a military assault and a media war. The former was well-covered; the latter was not. Until now... Independent filmmaker, Emmy-award winningTV journalist, author... See full summary »
There were two wars in Iraq--a military assault and a media war. The former was well-covered; the latter was not. Until now... Independent filmmaker, Emmy-award winningTV journalist, author and media critic, Danny Schechter turns the cameras on the role of the media. His new film, WMD, is an outspoken assessment of how Pentagon propaganda and media complicity misled the American people, while selling the war to influence international public opinion. Schechter compares and contrasts coverage on a global basis, including exclusive material and insider interviews. WMD is a serious film that exposes the media role--the biggest scandal of our time. Written by
This is an excellent documentary showing how the Bush administration cowed, seduced and used the media to sell the Iraqi war to the American public. It is also an indictment of the media for its failure to accurately report the news during the build up to the war and during the war itself. The media, from the lofty New York Times to the unfair and unbalanced Fox News, bought hook, line and sinker the administration's tale of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and helped Bush and the neocons prepare the American public for the invasion.
A nice piece of war-prep irony revealed in the DVD was the administration's disinclination to call the plan "Operation Iraqi Liberation" since that would have led to the unfortunate (and perhaps telling) anagram "OIL." The media turned the war into a "militainment." Bottom line, the news networks stood to make mass bucks by covering the war, by playing it up in red, white and blue sets, and playing on the public's need to escape from the usual TV fare. Exciting graphics were designed by people who worked in the computer game industry. Curiously the rule, "if it bleeds, it leads" was suspended because there was way, way too much gore to show the public, especially while they were eating dinner; and anyway it would not serve the purposes of the administration to show all those dead and dying Iraqis (especially the children) smeared with blood and gaping wounds, nor ironically would it serve to show the maimed American troops. In fact, it would be considered down right unpatriotic to do so. (You'll recall the flap over photos of flag-covered coffins of dead American soldiers.) The war had to be sanitized and made palpable. Consequently what prevailed was "best bomb" footage showing really awesome explosions--buildings blown to bits, cars flying into the air as Rumsfeld enthused over "shock and awe." The fact that the shock and awe resulted in human casualties was very much beside the point. As has been said, "In war the first casualty is truth."
The tactic of "embedding" reporters with the military was a stroke of genius by the Bush administration because it ensured one-sided and biased reporting on the war. Being embedded (not precisely to say "in bed with") the young, idealistic American soldiers for weeks at time, being supported and protected by those soldiers and sharing their experiences forced the reporters to identify with the soldiers and to assume a similar point of view.
Sadly, the media swallowed the administration's disinformation about the never-found weapons of mass destruction without noticing that the primary justification for the war was a sham. There was also no link between Al Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein. Osama bin Laden hated the B'athist regime of Saddam Hussein almost as much as he hates Israel and the United States since Saddam Hussein is about as Islamic as say Rupert Murdoch. And of course Saddam Hussein had no use for bin Laden since he would be uncontrollable and dangerous to his regime. So that rationale was also a sham. The idea that we would be doing the people of Iraq a favor by getting rid of Saddam Hussein was also a sham because (1) any invasion would bring more misery to the people than the continued presence of Hussein; and (2) the Iraqis would rather be ruled by a dictator than be occupied by a foreign power (which is the case for practically any country in the world, including our own).
And finally the idea that by invading Iraq we would be fighting the war on terrorism (which became the administration's johnny come lately justification for the war) is not only a sham and a lie, but is actually counterproductive. The invasion of Iraq has been a setback in the war on terrorism, and actually a diversion from it. It could be argued that Bush invaded Iraq because after the invasion of Afghanistan he had no plan to go after Al Qaeda and so created a diversion--a very costly and stupid diversion.
The mainstream media failed not only as news sources, but editorially, and as news analysts. Like Bush and the neocons in the White House, the news media failed to look beyond "best bombs" and "shock and awe" and "mission accomplished" to the aftermath. The media also failed to educate the public on just how absurd the idea is that you can force democracy onto a mostly Islamic country, especially a country artificially formed from such diverse elements as the Shi'a, the Sunni and the Kurds. Furthermore, because the Shi'a are in the majority, even if a democracy is formed, it may be voted out with an Iranian style theocracy the likely result--not exactly what the White House had in mind. Another likely result is another dictatorship following a bloody civil war.
Director Danny Schechter also points to how the press was controlled and manipulated during White House press conferences. Any reporter who asked a tough question of the press secretary or the president would not be called upon again. In order words, the press conferences were (and largely still are) propaganda opportunities for the Bush administration.
It should never be forgotten that however mainstream or "liberal" or enlightened the individual reporter may or may not be, it doesn't matter because the media is controlled by conglomerate interests (think Rupert Murdoch) that own the stations, magazines and newspapers, and those guys are conservative and want support for their man in the White House, and they will not long tolerate anything else.
Question: with the consolidation of media into fewer and fewer hands, are we witnessing the beginning of the death of a free press in the United States?
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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