I do think that the characterization of terrorism as an information war is a useful way of looking at things. It is less clear to me how the media should respond. The last thing I want is our media becoming an extension of our military. At the same time, the media is going to be on the front lines of any information based conflict.
Anyone have any idea as to what would be the best solution here?
At one end of the spectrum we get idiots such as this...
...how Democrats can be baited into ambushes and traps so easily that it is gross negligence on Bush's part that he refuses to engage in deception and propaganda operations. Unlike other Republicans or conservatives or neo-conservatives, I don't just say that Bush has failed in the propaganda and media war, I actually tell you what he should be doing.I will supply details of the source on request if I feel like it. It is a genuine post. It is a post that begins with a brief (one sentence) debunk of the news video item that purportedly showed the immediate aftermath to the Gaza Beach incedent, and that the media are "very very gullible" for reporting it.
Of course, this couldn't - just wouldn't possibly - be happening right now, could it?
The Federal Communications Commission is investigating a watchdog group's report that WBFS-TV UPN 33 and 76 other TV stations around the country aired video news releases without disclosing their sponsors.
The FCC warned stations a year ago that they should inform viewers of the origin of VNRs, which are produced by companies to tout their products and services in reports that closely resemble TV news stories. They are free to stations for use.
But in a study presented to FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein last month, the Center for Media and Democracy found 77 instances where TV news releases were aired with no sourcing, said report co-author Diane Farsetta.
One instance occurred March 20 on WBFS. The study says WBFS anchors Jade Alexander and Angela Rae introduced a VNR provided by management consulting firm Towers Perrin as if it were a genuine station report on ``Work Woes.''
Subsequent reports stated that FoxNews had on several occasions used VNR "news items" direct from the White House also without disclosure of source or sponsorship.
But let's leave that specific instance for a moment and return to the implications of the Zarqawi document. Almost universally the debate arises from the "use of the media" to promote the terrorist cause.
In that light, I like Dave's question but my attempts to answer it in brief have been ineffective. In my last attempt I tried to put it this way -
If those who are “responsible for making friends and enemies” at a national level adopt the approach of making friends by screaming abuse, calling the “enemy” names, making him look small and stupid, by threatening to shoot rather than finding a rational solution to an obvious problem then should the news media adopt the same, follow the party line?
Or should the MSM and blogiverse be responsible for ensuring the truth is known, that the electorate is well informed with the truth no matter how unpalatable that truth might be.
What is apparent from the FCC inquiry is that my hope in that last para is in fact a fairly forlorn hope.
Since writing that, I have (hat tip to Arts and Letters Daily) this piece which, while apparently unrelated does in fact give a detailed exposition on one of the points that I was trying to make to Dave. The intermediate "argument" is through the debunking of two Islamic women who have made their fifteen seconds of fame and a bit more through their books. That is not the matter for this debate.
But her conclusions certainly are.
So now what? Where does this leave feminists of all stripes who genuinely care about the civil rights of their Muslim sisters? A good first step would be to stop treating Muslim women as a silent, helpless mass of undifferentiated beings who think alike and face identical problems, and instead to recognize that each country and each society has its own unique issues. A second would be to question and critically assess the well-intentioned but factually inaccurate books that often serve as the very basis for discussion. We need more dialogue and less polemic. A third would be to acknowledge that women--and men--in Muslim societies face problems of underdevelopment (chief among them illiteracy and poverty) and that tackling them would go a long way toward reducing inequities. As the colonial experience of the past century has proved, aligning with an agenda of war and domination will not result in the advancement of women's rights. On the contrary, such a top-down approach is bound to create a nationalist counterreaction that, as we have witnessed with Islamist parties, can be downright catastrophic. Rather, a bottom-up approach, where the many local, homegrown women's organizations are fully empowered stands a better chance in the long run. After all, isn't this how Western feminists made their own gains toward equality?
Muslim women are used as pawns by Islamist movements that make the control of women's lives a foundation of their retrograde agenda, and by Western governments that use them as an excuse for building empire. These women have become a politicized class, prevented by edicts and bombs from taking charge of their own destinies. The time has come for the pawns to be queened. "
To summarize -
1. A good first step would be to stop treating Muslims as a silent, helpless mass of undifferentiated beings who think alike and face identical problems, and instead to recognize that each country and each society has its own unique issues.
2. Question and critically assess the well-intentioned but factually inaccurate news that often serves as the very basis for discussion.
3. Acknowledge that people in Muslim societies face problems of underdevelopment (chief among them illiteracy and poverty) and that tackling those problems would go a long way toward reducing inequities.
4. As the colonial experience of the past century has proved, aligning with an agenda of war and domination will not result in the advancement of people's rights. On the contrary, such a top-down approach is bound to create a nationalist counterreaction that, as we have witnessed with Islamist parties, can be downright catastrophic.
5. Rather, a bottom-up approach, where the many local, homegrown people's organizations are fully empowered stands a better chance in the long run.
If the US administration is determined to follow the path in 4. with "an agenda of war and domination " is it your expectation that the MSM should concentrate solely upon the promotion and support of that policy and not in any way suggest that the alternative paths exist or may succeed?
As critically important in terms of the role of the media in the war against terror, should the MSM and blogiverse be responsible for ensuring the truth is known, that the electorate is well informed with the truth no matter how unpalatable that truth might be.
I emphatically and totally believe that it should.
Continuation - now that dinner is in the oven
Now it might not seem relevant - the connection between MSM publishing the truth; a woman, Islamic woman no less, debunking the writings of two authoresses lionised in the US for their "anti-fundamentalist and anti-Islamic" views; and Dave's question "Anyone have any idea as to what would be the best solution here?" and my answer that the MSM has the responsibility to ensure a well informed electorate.
I see it like this:
If we consider the American media - after all that is where the question arose - then the first responsibility is to the American electorate. No question about that. The responsibility is to report the truth. At this moment the question is WHOSE truth? There are several -
There is the truth that readers of FoxNews, USAToday, and the supporters of the Bush administration want to hear; America the Great winning the war against terrorism, bringing democracy to Iraq, facing down the mullahs in Iran...
There is the truth that readers of MSN, NY Times, WaPo, and opponents of the Bush administration want to hear; Bush is failing, Bush is killing the pride of our youth with an unwanted war...
There is the truth that the real opponents of the US want to hear; the success of the latest terror actions, the terrorist actions in Indonesia, the terrorist actions in Palestine...
There is the truth that I want to hear; what is going on, who is saying what, why they are saying it, who is attacking whom and why, who is trying to construct peace and how...
So, when I read something like the Zarqawi memo, when I see something like the Gaza beach video, or read a blog like Lawrence of Cyberia, or Riverbend, or any of those written by US Marines in the field my first filter is "what credence does this have?" So the Gaza beach video has gone - it is a lie - before I finish seeing it for the second time. The Zarqawi memo at the moment has no more reliability in its provenance than having been translated by a Security official in the Iraqi government. When I read Riverbend, I give thought to the events reported through the media from Baghdad and how they reflect in her writings. And so I can work my way through the list.
The unfortunate thing is the suspicion that most (I suspect probably less than 10% of the population of NZ) take the "broadcast news" far less sceptically than do I. From reading blogs across the spectrum from the US, I would say that very few would get past believing what their prejudices and confirmation bias tells them can only be so. Not only is the MSM and the blogiverse equally guilty in its filtering of "truth" to its audience, the audience expects the MSM to do that for them, without ever questioning the reality presented to them. The "audience" only reads those blogs and commentaries that present what is already believed, and hence confirms the truth expected by the audience.
The proponent who suggested Bush should lie to the MSM "in order to trap them" does have a very twisted point. I have already said to him that Bush has been lying to the media, and to the US electorate, for six years. OKOK that is not the point of this discussion!!! But, Bush and his administration ARE THE INTERNATIONAL FACE OF THE USofA. No matter how factually, truthfully the US media might want to portray him, the words and actions of the administration are the international face of the US. When I said earlier
If the US administration is determined to follow the path in 4. with "an agenda of war and domination " is it your expectation that the MSM should concentrate solely upon the promotion and support of that policy and not in any way suggest that the alternative paths exist or may succeed?that is exactly what I meant. Is it productive for the US MSM to unquestioningly parrot the pronouncements of the administration when those reports are then re-published (with equally little question) throughout the world? Do you think that the US MSM should write solely for the US public? I am certain that at the moment that is the case, without question. But what happens when the likes of Al Jazeera, or Saudi Post, or Jakarta Times republish those articles? What happens when Bush's words - that he might intend for American consumption only - are used by Islamic MSM to show the true intents of "the Great Satan"?
So, it is not only a matter of what the MSM should - or should not - publish. There is a far deeper matter here of whose truth needs to be heard.
If the US is at war with Iran, does the US public need to be reminded of that every day? What about the reportage of US media in Iran news?
It used to be called "winning the hearts and minds".
Now it is called "right imposed by might".