Courseworks

Often Wars

‘Often Wars (especially distant ones) and the object of winning them will have to be sold to the public. This often involves the manipulation of truth to maintain popular support’ (Taylor, P ‘War and the media’). Critically examine the role of television in the reporting of either the Falklands or the first Gulf War or the current war on terrorism in the light of this quote.’There’s no news, like bad news’. Since the days of reporting, the media has always known that bad news will sell more papers than good news. In the television world, it will always have a bigger audience. Scholars have concluded that we tune into bad news for many reasons. Mostly, as a self-esteem clause, by seeing pain in others, we feel relieved we are not experiencing the same afflictions. This makes us feel better, and therefore improves our state of mind.Another theory is that we like to prepare for the future, by learning what troubles others have, and we learn how to avoid those factors for ourselves. Others just expect that we like to tune into the latest gossip. When it comes to War, we tune in, as we feel the need to stay connected to the world. However the government, and media political parties have learned that this need for news can be a far greater weapon than any gun or bomb.Currently America is at war with Afghanistan. The American President has unfortunately been fighting a war on two fronts however, one with their country, and one with his own American people. When America went to war, if was not in the public belief that it was a good idea. One view for this, was even though there way of living was poor by our standards, they selected there own leaders, and have the option to revolt against them if they should want to. They have the power themselves to change there own country, and by doing the job for them, makes us a primary target for there attack. Which is what has happened. Terrorist movements working from within Afghanistan have struck European and American targets as a form of revenge for the seizure of there country.Many believe that getting involved in a war which had very little to do with us, will only harm the American people.Their president therefore has continuing to campaign that he is doing the right thing. He has done numerous press conferences and interviews to present his opinion. But still the world believes he is boycotting his opinions on the world. That he is simply wanting to get his name known in the history books as the president who started a war, and that he is willing to kill innocent people in order to do it.As a counter-measure he told the world that they were harbouring chemical and biological weapons, that they would use them against us. This was his main crutch for his support. In every conversation, he would find away to re-enforce his theory, in hope that it would be supported by fact as soon as they get find them.But now, two years later, they have still not been found. And the president is once again fighting a war against his own people. And is slowly gaining the reputation as a warmonger.So he turns to the media yet again. Trying to use the medium to get his views across. As a very important political figure, he has more control over what he can do.The media in Britain I believe has tried to give an un-objective view, especially with Tony Blair’s decision to Support America. It has broadcast all the American conferences and it has not been shy in expressing everybody’s view. However, it is struggling to keep an objective view with the failed attempts at finding the super=-power weapons. As it clearly shows that America has made a huge error in its primary reason for attacking the country.Since this fact was made clear, the coverage of the situation has lowered. There are no longer daily updates on the situation, and if there is something new to report, it is usually buried amongst other news articles.In the past, the television has been known to manipulate the news in order to make it more exciting. There was a report in a previous war, where the reporter claimed a rocket was fired from a navy boat, where it had not been. I believed he did this to make it sound like he was more involved with the situation, and made him more important. The television aired this, and it was speculated that the enemy believed this to be true, and targeted the boat for an attack. Therefore putting lives at risk.We later discovered that he was lying, but alas the damage had already been done. The manipulation of current events to make the news more interesting resulted in dire consequences.The Bush administration has had to contend with a new set of media forces arising from the “Information Revolution.” The war on terrorism is the world’s first war for the Internet and foreign news outlets. This presented itself as a problem for Bush, as he could not control the web articles as he could with television broadcasts.Every person around the world was able to give their opinions if they such wanted, and through the Internet, there would be an audience to listen. While he could get out his own message on this medium as well, it was just one voice in a crowd of millions, which quickly got swallowed up.This free form of public press also opened itself to lies and criticisms, which damaged the political parties involved. It was also the place newspapers could tell the story; they were not allowed to do in print.The military also feared the Internet, thinking that it would give the enemy access to our plans, strategies and general war tactics. But this is not the first time that the military has feared these outlets. Back in World War two, Britain decided to close down all TV station broadcasts for the duration of the war, believing that the enemy could use the signal as a locater, and ‘home’ in on it, to target their bombs. So as a military defence, they stopped all but the emergency radio broadcasts.In this war, the military, or ‘the pentagon’, as they are known as, bought up all access to all commercial satellite photographs of the region, preventing any news outlets from obtaining them. They did attempt to look good for the media, by allowing reporters to accompany soldiers on the non-important, safer missions. But were strict over where they could go, and whom they could accompany.Trying to control what the journalist are allowed to report is difficult, especially in countries, which claim to offer ‘Freedom of speech’. David Leigh, in his book ”The Frontiers Of Secrecy” announced a set of guidelines that were reached upon by news editors and the ministry of defence stating what they should disclose, and what information should be held back. The reasons for this were varied, but primarily they thought if certain information was released, it may endanger peoples lives.These rules are enforced as much as humanly possible, and should a journalist decide to break them in a live broadcast, they may very well find it will be the last broadcast they ever make.During the end of the war, a three-day conference was held at the University of California (Berkeley) School of Journalism. In attendance was Hans Blix, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, Joseph Wilson, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and a host of senior journalists and editors from the U.S. and abroad.The intension of this conference was not clear, but due to the lack of finding chemical weapons in Iraq, it was believed to be an attempt to try and answer some of the big questions journalist had, in order to gain back some creditability for there recent actions. And perhaps gain back the public support for the upcoming election.”Frankly our job is to win the war. Part of that is information warfare. So we are going to attempt to dominate the information environment. Overall we were very happy with the outcome,” Lt. Co. Richard Long, former Marine Corps’s public information director. He attended the conference with respect on his previous role. He was responsible for training 700 journalist basic military skills, so that they could be taken into Iraq safely, and know what to do should they be attacked.However, Todd Gitlin, professor of sociology and journalism at Columbia University responded to his comments by pointing out that “embeddedness” has a tendency toward propaganda because a reporter is effectively part of the military team. The reporter’s life therefore depends on the soldiers with whom he is embedded, and his desire to write negative stories is “quite diminished.” Therefore they were manipulating the media by showing them the traumas off being soldier, makes the reporter simpfectic towards them, and publishing stories that were more in favour of there actions.This entire conference didn’t achieve much, and most journalist left, having learnt very little, which they did not know at all. But it does prove that the Bush administration was attempting to win back the media, and generate a positive outlook to there actions. They continued to attempt this with numerous TV spots, almost to the extreme, as Bush was seen on TV almost every day of the war. It was theorised that this was another new attempt at winning over the media.The plan being that if he appeared on TV so much, and the question continued to be asked ‘where are the weapons?’ people would eventually find it repetitive, and grow bored of the situation. They would start to tune out, and no longer care if he answers the question or not. Therefore, it would take the limelight of this major mistake they had made, and make it seem trivial. And in my opinion, it worked. Not a day went by where Bush or Blair was not on TV. And eventually the journalist started asking different questions on other subjects, as they needed something to report. These new questions then took the headlines, and the weapon situation got left behind. I don’t believe it will ever be forgotten, but it is not considered today as high-rate news as it was a few months ago.Bush and Blair no longer appear as regulars on the big soap opera, the 10 o’clock news. Their roles in the public eye have been diminished. The war and there action have even been turned in satire comedy on shows such as ”2dtv”implicating that the war is no longer horrifying, but funny.But who won? The politicians or the media? In my opinion, I would say the politicians. They were one step ahead at all times. They controlled the satellite surveillance from day one, only allowing journalist to see what they wanted them to see. The reporters that went into the field, had to be accompanied by government-trained soldiers, who would control where they went, and what they were likely to see. After the war, Blair and Bush manipulated the media hounds so that being hounded by constant cameras became an aid for them, rather than for the journalist. They took what was normally negative situation, and turned it into a positive spin.We only saw what they wanted us to see. They manipulated our viewing to remove the emphasis that we were invading a country that was ant attacking us. They have kept vital details of interest secret, such as the number of Civilians killed during the war, and the amount in tax money spent on funding it.This is not the first time that Broadcasting has been used for political opinion, and it will definitely not be the last.I would like to leave with this final quote from Sharif Hikmat Nashashibi, chairman of Arab Media Watch who reported on the yelowtimes.org website (Oct 22ND 2003), which I believe fits quite well.”If this is press freedom, who needs repression?”

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