Announcement: United for Peace and Justice is Partnering with MediaChannel.org to Focus Attention on Media Complicity in the Iraq War.
Last week, new photographs of detainees abused by US soldiers in the infamous Abu Ghraib gulag in Iraq surfaced. They were discovered by the American Civil Liberties Union. The story was covered on TVS in Australia.
The most elaborate statistics on the abuse scandal appeared in the press.
- 1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse
- 93 video files of suspected detainee abuse
- 660 images of adult pornography
- 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees
- 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts
This information made headlines in the Guardian newspapers in England.
Meanwhile, in the United States, all of the networks covered a speech by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the man who once famously said, "As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know."
Now, the Pentagon's Rumsfeld is declaring a new war - on the press. The Washington Post reports:
"Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Friday called for the U.S. military and other government agencies to mount a far more aggressive, faster and nontraditional information campaign to counter messages of extremist and terrorist groups in the world media. Rumsfeld Š lashed out at the U.S. media, whose coverage he blamed for effectively halting recent military information initiatives, such as paying to place articles in Iraqi newspapers."
Rumsfeld's attack on the media for mildly questioning propaganda posing as news is consistent with the Administration's management of war news through a billion dollar "information warfare" program that engineered positive media coverage for the invasion.
That continuing coverage documented by critics, including in my own new book, "When News Lies: Media Complicity and the Iraq War," is on its way from being a public complaint to becoming a political issue.
America's largest anti-war coalition, United For Peace and Justice, is broadening its anti-war protest to include targeting a US media system that has largely substituted jingoism for journalism and backed the war - often in the name of supporting the troops.
UFPJ Coordinator Leslie Cagan announced that her organization is partnering with MediaChannel.org and other media groups to organize a Media Day of War Coverage Protest on March 21, 2006. It takes part during a week of organizing and activism marking the third anniversary of the war. Plans are also underway for forums and film screenings on March 20th.
"We are thrilled that anti-war activists will now be connecting with media reform activists to challenge mainstream media 'coverage' that has underreported civilian casualties and much of the costs of the war," says MediaChannel Director David DeGraw.
"Sadly, the media helped make the war possible, and despite mea culpas about flawed pre-war coverage, the coverage has basically not changed, an approach which treats every Administration claim seriously, while marginalizing the anti-war movement."
Even as public opinion shifted against the war - only 37% of the American people are said to still back the war - most of the media downplay reporting on demands for troop withdrawal.
Focusing on the media role is a departure for the anti-war movement that helped organize the protests that brought 30 million people to the streets on March 15, 2003. Until now, protesters have focused almost entirely on government policies and practices.
Recognizing the media role indicts a corporate America that has, in some cases, profited from the war with rises in ratings and revenues. This includes General Electric (GE), owner of NBC-Universal, who received $600,000 in Iraq reconstruction contracts.
Before the war began broadcast networks lobbied the FCC for rule changes to allow them to buy more stations. At the time, Washington insiders spoke of a quid pro-quo with the networks asking the FCC to waive their rules while their news shows waved the flag. In that period, then FCC Commissioner Michael Powell justified a need for more media concentration with the claim that "only big companies can cover a war like the one in Iraq."
Many journalists and media organizations have since blasted one-sided coverage. Editor & Publisher, a media industry trade magazine, has consistently documented and criticized pervasive media practices that boosted the war with more "selling than telling."
Mediachannel.org launched a "Tell the Truth About the War" campaign months ago, calling for better and more consistent coverage. Thousands of emails from readers have gone to media executives.
If the war is to end, the coverage has to change. We need to press the press and move the media.
Now MediaChannel plans to organize meetings between critics and media companies. Planning for protests and panels is underway - not only in New York, but at local newspapers, radio and TV stations across the nation as part of a national effort. A national email campaign will be launched as well.
If you would like to endorse or participate in this effort, or help in your community by organizing meetings, house parties - including screenings of WMD (Weapons of Mass Deception) and other films critical of the war media coverage - contact Priya@mediachannel.org
"News Dissector" Danny Schechter edits MediaChannel.org. For more on the protest: www.UFPJ.org. For information on his book, "When News Lies" and the film "WMD," see www.wmdthefilm.com. Comments to Dissector@mediachannel.org