Friday, October 08, 2004

The Media Always Takes Sides

When it comes to war and rumors of war why is the media consistently on the wrong side? This question just hit me today as I was doing a bit of research on the war in Bosnia (remember that one, I think we still have troops there).

Because of connections I have throughout the former Yugoslavia, I had always suspected that the U.N. case against Serbia was flimsy at best and totally off base at worse. Now I read that my ideas may have been correct and that the real bad guys in that conflict were the Muslim terrorists in Kosovo.

Now the general public would probably think that assertion preposterous for the simple reason that our media bombarded us with reports of Serbian atrocities for years and those attrocities have become the "truth" by virtue of repetition and selective film and sound bites.

But this is not the only time the media has decided which side we should be on. They wield immense power to shape which view of any conflict the majority of America and the world embraces. I am wondering what common thread exists between the following disputes and the side the media generally supports:

Israel versus Palestine. The media constantly portrays Israel as the bad guys when it seems to me that they are just defending themselves against horrific terrorist attacks. They don't even like that Israel wants to build a wall to keep out the homicide bombers. Heck, back in the day they used to call Arafat a terrorist, but next thing you know he meets with Clinton and wins the Nobel Peace Prize. I don't get it.

The current war in Iraq While not exactly taking the side of Saddam Hussein, our press sure seems to go out of the way to paint America as bad guys here. There is plenty of opinion to the contrary of the gloom and doom they are reporting, but they persist in painting every situation in the worst possible light.

Vietnam. The first conflict in which the media played a major role. Many feel that the American media won that war for the communists and I think they are proud of that. It didn't turn out too well for the Vietnamese, but Walter Cronkite got his way.

There are more instances I am sure. Maybe folks could add to this list and even connect the dots to explain how it is that the media decides these things.


Mr. Grim said...

I hope you don't think I'm picking on you, but. . .
My dad was in the 'Nam from 1960-1961. Army Special Forces. No rank insignia. Trained by the CIA to kill with his bare hands. There was NO MEDIA for the first half of that 10+ year war. NONE. What was there showed you only what was pleasent to the eyes. Even when things starting getting really bad, something Iraq has done in considerably less time, it still took months for those edited images to reach America sometimes.
I know from being family to it that there were acts of pure terrorism committed by Americans in that war and to think that we're better now is unwise.
The media DID have a hand in they way America's saw that war, but only after they got there. . .many years after the troops did.

Ugly Naked Guy said...

Thanks for the info, I wasn't sure when the media got really involved in the Vietnam war since I was busy playing with trucks in the dirt.

Also, you are right about atrocities. If you are looking for horrible things during wartime you are going to find it every time. This is not a particularly American problem, it is a human being problem. As long as there have been wars, there have been atrocities.

There will always be soldiers who succumb to their baser instincts while in middle of stresses I can't even imagine. There is never an excuse to act unhonorably, but human nature is what it is.

And of course, it is a good thing when the misdeeds of those unable to cope come to light because it is easy to do evil under the cover of darkness and anonymity. The big problem I have with the U.S. press is that it takes the discovery of such evil and uses it to smear an entire country and in this case, an entire war effort.

I find it hard to believe that it was U.S. policy to perform atrocities in Vietnam. But once some stuff got out, the media did not hesitate to make the exception the norm and use a glass half-empty approach to ultimately turn public opinion against our soldiers and our government.

I am not saying that the media should cover up anything. It is good that they reported the Abu Graib (sp?) prison abuses because it was wrong and it is not what America does. What was wrong is that they use things like that, blow them out of proportion (let's see, beheadings vs. dog leashes, hmm, I don't know) in an effort to undermine our country.

Our media seems to delight in trying to find bad things to say about us, as if they weren't part of "us." Ours is a culture where Judeo-Christian ethics still rule in the overall way we choose to conduct ourselves. The media loves to find the exceptions to that and gloat about it to the benefit of our enemies who have decidedly inferior ideas of how to treat people.

They magnify our exceptions and downplay the reality of our enemies human rights shortcomings. My question is why they want to do that when the result in Vietnam was incredible suffering for millions after the dominos fell just as we knew they would.

Oh, by the way, if your father is still with us, thank him for his service to our country.

Mr. Grim said...

He died in 2000, just short of his 57th birthday. After leaving the full time Army, he became a prison guard and later acting warden for well over 10 years. He remained active in the National Guard and did some "hush hush" work for the DEA from time to time. After successfully suing the state for workman's comp for metal stress, after the prison tripled the inmates and not the guards, he became something of a black sheep. He was denied disability when he got very sick with his cancer and fought uphill for years to maintain his healthcare, which he eventually lost.
He got his disability a week before he died.
The Army gave him a free funeral.
No official record exists of his time in Nam because he was an "advisor".
I do thank him for his service, as a soldier and for his time in law enforcement.

I learned from that experience that if you are a black man, a loud mouth, or a good person trying to right wrongs from within, you are dispossable.
If you are all three, you are forgotten before you die.

Ugly Naked Guy said...

Wow. Very sorry that you lost your father sooner than one would expect. I can't imagine the feelings that I will be flooded with when my father is no longer around. Sounds like yours left quite a legacy in many different ways.

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