Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars
I just finished Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy, an excellent book by John Nichols and Robert McChesney. Here's an excerpt:
"The vast amount of suffering and death endured by civilians as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has, for the most part, been carefully kept out of the consciousness of the average American," Bob Herbert noted in April 2005. "As for the press, it has better things to cover than the suffering of civilians in war. The aversion to this topic is at the opposite extreme from the ecstatic journalistic embrace of the death of one pope and the election of another, and the media's manic obsession with the comings and goings of Martha, Jacko, et al."
The matter of U.S. casualties is even more striking, as there is a clear interest in this subject on the home front. One the one hand, as Editor & Publisher reported in November 2004, the Bush administration has been revealed to "routinely undercount" U.S. casualties, especially of those soldiers and pilots seriously injured by not killed. On the other hand, following a policy put in place by the first President Bush, the press was barred from covering the arrival of caskets at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. To insure the success of this policy, soldiers' corpses were flown to the United States in the dead of the night. When Ted Koppel's Nightline devoted an entire program to honor the dead soldiers by simply reading their names and showing their pictures over the air, Koppel was accused of being unpatriotic, and several ABC affiliates, in particular those owned by the Sinclair chain, refused to carry the program. One of the few major U.S. newspapers willing to violate the government's ban was the independently owned Seattle Times, which alone showed photographs of the returning dead soldiers on its front page.
The message has been sent explicitly and implicitly that the U.S. government does not want the American people to see the human cost of this war, and our media, with only a handful of exceptions, has obliged. The government said, "jump." And the media responded, "how high?"