by John Hawkins | January 21, 2003 11:59 pm
Robert Fisk On Pro-Government Media Bias: I was reading Robert Fisk’s latest column and of course, since it is a Fisk column, there were a half-dozen things I could have beaten Fisk worse than an Afghan refugee over. However, let’s focus on one particular claim that Fisk makes that has been echoed in other places on the left…
“…Don’t ask who is resisting forthcoming US censorship of the Iraq war. Ask who is first to climb aboard the bandwagon.
…Journalists are being attacked for telling the truth, for trying to tell it how it is. American journalists especially…
…Meanwhile, rest assured, the journalists are getting onside, to tell you the story the government wants you to hear.”
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Feel free to read the whole thing if you want to wade through Fisk’s usual tripe. But the long and short of Fisk’s argument is that the press is for all intents and purposes drastically censoring itself in order to please the government.
The problem with this whole idea is that the American press can be incredibly irresponsible about the things it publishes. Consider this story from Time about America’s “ultra secret weapon,” “high-power microwave” weapon. Time goes into detail about what the weapon will do and casually mentions, “the HPM is a top-secret program, and the Pentagon wants to keep it that way.” It’s not top secret anymore is it? Could it be that they wanted to keep it “top secret” because they didn’t want the Iraqis to be prepared for these weapons? That’s out the window now.
We’ve also had various papers (New York Times, I’m looking at you) publishing “secret” war plans all throughout the last year. That’s totally and utterly irresponsible. All that does is help Saddam prepare for the invasion. Even if we totally change our tactics, it gives him an idea of what to expect and allows him to better plan for what he might throw at him (which means more Americans may die).
I know the response to that is, “Well the public has right to know and since we’re a news agency, we have to be neutral.” Excuse me, but that’s horsepuck. The government is not obligated to tell the press about the details of missions our men are on, what weapons we’ll be using, and when we’ll be executing attacks. And if the US press somehow manages to acquire that information it’s improper for them to publish it. Moreover, in a war, American journalists need to remember which side they’re on. I’m not suggesting that they lie, I’m not suggesting that they ignore evidence that the government is lying, and I’m not suggesting that they pass on propaganda. But under no circumstances should they be publishing information that might put our troops in the field in risk. In short, they need to practice responsible journalism — something that seems to be in short supply these days.
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