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carl dick
10-04-2010, 04:20 AM
Media's Dangerous Use of a "Narrative"

I first want to congratulate 60 minutes for successfully pushing their Iraq 'narrative' on 3 October 2010, titled 'Unfinished Business". CBS news highlights that
Lesley Stahl goes to Iraq to report on the many possible sources of conflict that could erupt there once the U.S. military completely withdraws from the country by the end of next year. Second, I want to highlight 60 Minutes' lack of creative thinking and their dangerous lack of understanding when they push 'their' narrative.

60 Minutes personalizes the military effort with General Ray Odinerno. He has lived in Iraq over four years and has now turned over his job, while leaving the many problems that Ms. Stahl shows viewers. Electricity, trash, governance, and Kurdish problems. To a veteran of Iraq, they seem simple compared to 10 dead bodies found daily by route clearance teams and having to attend over 100 memorials throughout 27 months of service in the country. So why did the US allow him to leave with all these problems, Ms Stahl hints?

They show the transfer of authority for General Odinerno to "another officer" without mentioning his name. Four-Star General Lloyd Austin now has the problems that Ms. Stahl highlights, but that deviates from the narrative that General Odinerno did not succeed in his job. Even naming General Austin in the story would then force a discussion that America still has identified these problems, has identified a new 'military leader', that both were nominated by the U.S. President and then ratified by a democratically-controlled Congress.

So what is 60 Minutes' narrative? Its General Odierno's fault, that US money was wasted, that any military effort is bad no matter the dictator, genocide or humanitarian disaster. The military cannot use the word 'victory' anymore, but they can never even call the turnaround or the surge a success. See what is left over, Ms Stahl states? Those silly Iraqis cannot even choose a leader. She hints that Muslims cannot handle democracy and must have a dictator. That is what they are used to and she finds a pro-US "professor" to state the case.

Critical thinking would have Ms. Stahl quote Churchill with
democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the rest. I will bet money that General Odinerno stated this during the many hours of interviews that were not included in the 10-minute 'story'. He highlights that it took America eight years of failure under the "Articles of Confederation' and warfare to change our paradigm and create something that does work, our Constitution. General Odinerno asked if one wants to see gridlock and election problems, visit the United States. Ms Stahl does not bite. To her credit, she probably did, but the 60 Minutes' producers cut out any discussion that would deviate from the narrative, that seven years of effort and over 4000 deaths were for naught.

She kept asking why Iraqi streets do not look like Manhattan. Was that our mission? People kept complaining. Wow! They complain in Brooklyn and Phoenix. If you want to see complaints, visit the Gulf Coast, which happened to be the following 60 Minutes story where people were complaining to a subordinate-level authority. There was no mention of US responsibly, no mention of the lack of job growth, no mention of Congressional oversight, or the moratorium on drilling, or the many layers of bureaucracy between the federal government and an average fish captain. The Iraq story focused on one subordinate-level leader. She states up front he is the most powerful US person in Iraq, but never discusses the US Ambassador or that the General is one step in the national command ladder, and no mention of any other US "civilian" agency.

The media thinks Americans and especially military personnel are not that bright, but we watched eight years of the media blaming everyone on one person, the top one.

What did the 60 minutes story teach Americans? That it is all the General's fault. There are no other federal agencies involved (or held accountable). That military action is always bad. (We professionals know that there are other civilian agencies deeply involved, but no real responsibly is attached by the media and to Americans who are never reminded that foreign effort is a "Whole of Government" approach, as it should be.

I stepped back to critically question if my understanding is flawed. Maybe 60 Minutes was 'Machiavellian' by hinting and using metaphors that the current President was wrong on the campaign trail and the US should not pull out of Iraq if truly there is "unfinished business". If there are, then let us petition the House Speaker for more Iraq funding, increase development, improve governance and economic capacity and remain past 2011. Is this the case that CBS is making?

The context is that CBS has sold their soul to the Democratic Party. They focus all effort on military leaders and military action, not on American leaders, American action and American interests. Improving 'Governance' responsibly is actually run by the US State Department through the Ambassador in Iraq and Afghanistan (check their web site), but we never hear about their action, or inaction. Critics will say that PRTs are fully engaged and the embassy has over 1000 civilians. However, there is a difference between responsibly and accountability. PRT leaders and Ambassadors are never fired. USAID leaders are not trumped through congress to explain the 'unfinished business.' It was never security problems Ms. Stahl showed; it was economic and governance. I did not know the DOD was charged with making economic and governance problems go away throughout the world, and I believe the budget for that "mission" would be slightly higher than the current rate.

Now is this article my form of "narrative"? Yes. I am highlighting that the American elite do not want to apply responsibility to any agency outside of the DOD. They are isolationist and do not want to use military action for any reason, like in Sudan or Rwanda, no matter how ugly a genocide might become. I feel sorry that Americans are fed these stories daily, which never apply critical thinking to American national interests, or on the state department, Ambassador, Congress or any other federal agency.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on 60 Minutes the week prior (Sept 26, The People behind the Mosque) stated that America was only conducting "military" effort in the Middle East, and he was attempting to solve the crisis by non-military means. My first response is that he was completely wrong, that many federal agencies are critical to the mission, and that our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq are a battle of ideas similar to what Tony Blair discussed in his new book. Unfortunately, today's 60 minutes story showed viewers that Imam Rauf's perception was right.

The narrative from the US Government and the media are that all America has used have been military action with only military leaders held responsible and even fired from time to time. Imam Rauf and all other Americans shape this perspective from the media's narrative.

So what is the point? That is reality, life is complex, and as military professionals, we will continue to serve America no matter who what party is in office, or the lack of interagency support, or what biased narrative the media elite show.

MAJ Carl Dick, Fort Leavenworth, 3 OCT 2010

Pete
10-04-2010, 04:40 AM
Major Dick, does your message mean you have strong feelings about media coverage of the war?

SteveMetz
10-04-2010, 09:17 AM
The media is composed of businesses. In a free market system, businesses seek their own interests. That's simply the way it works. If you don't like a free market system, what would you propose instead?

Tukhachevskii
10-04-2010, 09:36 AM
Should they even be peddling a narrative? Isn't it the job of the media (admittedly I'm old fashioned, so bear with me) to inform the public in a reasoned, fair and equitable manner, to furnish them with the facts, not theories or narratives, so that they can make informed decisions come election time? ( think that's J.S.Mill's definition from about the time that the British parliament was considering widening the enfranchiseent of the electorate to the "dumber" classes.)

SteveMetz
10-04-2010, 10:12 AM
I'm also having a bit of trouble understanding how "CBS has sold their soul to the Democratic Party" because they are critiquing a Democratic administration. Seems more like a talk radio quip than serious analysis.

Bob's World
10-04-2010, 11:12 AM
We need to give the American people credit. They are bombarded with all kinds of information and perspectives, but typically sift the BS out all by themselves.

This is a lesson driven home during my time as a prosecutor and working jury trials. The American populace is the ultimate "jury" for American policy and politics, and they will deliver their finding come election day, one way or the other.

Lesson one: Don't think that just because the judge, the prosecutor and the defense counsel are all highly educated in general and most trained on trials that they have all the answers. They don't.

Lesson two: The jury usually gets it right. They don't always give you what you think is right, but they usually get it right.

Lesson three: The more you trust and respect the jury, the more they will in turn trust and respect you.


When the media (or an official) puts out a story that on its face is full of conflicts and thinly veiled agendas, they disrespect "the jury" and the jury notices and it all goes toward their final holding. Ms Stahl is entitled to tell the story she wants to tell, and CBS is entitled to shape the narrative they want to shape. She is doing what she thinks is best based on her interests, and the same for CBS. Trust the jury though, and don't take it personal when a position you don't agree with is presented to them.

J Wolfsberger
10-04-2010, 11:47 AM
We need to give the American people credit. They are bombarded with all kinds of information and perspectives, but typically sift the BS out all by themselves.

...

When the media (or an official) puts out a story that on its face is full of conflicts and thinly veiled agendas, they disrespect "the jury" and the jury notices and it all goes toward their final holding. Ms Stahl is entitled to tell the story she wants to tell, and CBS is entitled to shape the narrative they want to shape. She is doing what she thinks is best based on her interests, and the same for CBS. Trust the jury though, and don't take it personal when a position you don't agree with is presented to them.

Nicely put.

BayonetBrant
10-04-2010, 02:41 PM
Isn't it the job of the media (admittedly I'm old fashioned, so bear with me) to inform the public in a reasoned, fair and equitable manner, to furnish them with the facts, not theories or narratives, so that they can make informed decisions come election time?

I'm curious where you're looking for a "job description" on the "media" - as well as how you define "media"... :wry:

SteveMetz
10-04-2010, 02:45 PM
I also think the "job" of the commercial media is to make a profit for their company. Ascribing lofty goals is like saying the mission of Merck is to heal the sick when it's to make a profit.

BayonetBrant
10-04-2010, 02:50 PM
The context is that CBS has sold their soul to the Democratic Party. They focus all effort on military leaders and military action, not on American leaders, American action and American interests. Improving 'Governance' responsibly is actually run by the US State Department through the Ambassador in Iraq and Afghanistan (check their web site), but we never hear about their action, or inaction. Critics will say that PRTs are fully engaged and the embassy has over 1000 civilians. However, there is a difference between responsibly and accountability. PRT leaders and Ambassadors are never fired. USAID leaders are not trumped through congress to explain the 'unfinished business.' It was never security problems Ms. Stahl showed; it was economic and governance. I did not know the DOD was charged with making economic and governance problems go away throughout the world, and I believe the budget for that "mission" would be slightly higher than the current rate.


I don't see how Congress' lack of action on holding non-military agencies accountable means that CBS has sold their soul to the Democratic Party.

Congress has chosen to behave a certain way.
CBS has chosen to behave a certain way.
Unless Congress told CBS what to do (good luck with that!) then I don't see how your assertion that "CBS has sold their soul to the Democratic Party" has anything to do with Congress not holding public (and widely promoted) hearings of non-military agencies in which their members are held accountable for a variety of (in)actions.

The reality is that a Republican administration made DoD the lead agency for post-war Iraq. Whether or not you agree with the decision, the fact is that it happened. And since 2003, Iraq - for good or bad - has been seen as a "military" problem, whether it was or not. Given that context, is it any wonder that CBS viewed the successes and failures of Iraq through a military lens?

As to questioning the metrics of success (ie, do the streets look like Manhattan?), again, you have to go further in the past than 60 Minutes in October of 2010.
Please tell us what the mission statement was for the invasion of Iraq, and please point to us the subsequent FRAGOs that define the changes in that mission over the past 7+ years that (re)define the end-points for us.
The point is that when you can't identify, locate, and articulate a specific set of guidance defining success for you, then you're at the mercy of having it defined by others.
You say that "good governance" wasn't part of the mission. I could very easily counter by asking "how do you know?" - and neither one of us has a clearly-defined mission statement to make our case for us.

Greyhawk
10-04-2010, 03:14 PM
What did the 60 minutes story teach Americans? That it is all the General's fault. There are no other federal agencies involved (or held accountable). That military action is always bad. (We professionals know that there are other civilian agencies deeply involved, but no real responsibly is attached by the media and to Americans who are never reminded that foreign effort is a "Whole of Government" approach, as it should be.

Link to 60 Minutes piece: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6923496n&tag=contentMain;cbsCarousel

One first view last night - and that only because I was watching the football game that preceded it - I thought they were confronting Gen Odierno with a litany of as yet unsolved problems that were not his to solve. For his part, "not my problem" (or even a more carefully worded variation, say, acknowledging the difficulties confronting State and USAID) was not part of Gen Odierno's response. (Or at least the televised version thereof.)

Such responses - accurate or not (and in this case it would have been) are frequently reported as blame shifting, finger pointing, and buck-passing, (I believe the media term is "juicy story") so perhaps (and I have no insight into his previous experience or thinking - I'm speculating) he chose not to point that out. Or maybe he failed to realize that what's obvious to him from his every minute of experience over the past years is not so obvious to others. Or perhaps he feels "ownership" to a greater degree than most well-informed observers of (or participants in) our Iraq endeavor would expect. As for what more casual observers who caught that interview following the football game last night took away from it, I can think of many possibilities - sadly few based on "increased understanding."

On the other hand, here's a recent comment from Secretary Gates (http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/09/28/clinton_presses_pakistan_to_raise_taxes_on_wealthy )


Gates lamented that the State Department and USAID can't seem to get enough money from Congress to fulfill its mission, especially when it comes to the U.S. presence in Iraq.

"We are making a transition to a civilian-led process [in Iraq], but the Congress took a huge whack at the budget that the State Department submitted for this transition," Gates said.

"It reminds me of the last scene in Charlie Wilson's War."

Back when the surge began, one of the great anti-surge talking points was the solution is only 20 percent military - that from folks who had become instant experts in counterinsurgency. Apparently that was disposable knowledge.

Old Eagle
10-04-2010, 03:19 PM
Steve hit the nail on the head.

The job of newspapers is to sell newspapers; the job of politicians is to get elected. Once you reach zen with these facts, life gets a lot easier.

To expect either of them to "do the right thing" in opposition to their own interests is unbelievably naive.

We should celebrate when they do act responsibly, but we shouldn't be surprised when they don't.

Joske
10-04-2010, 04:44 PM
The "job" of the media is foremost to spread information, not to interpret this information. Interpreting information should be left to people acting as individuals and each news agency, news paper...etc should simply spread information in a way as close to the truth that is possible with the information they receive.

That is why i find it hard to understand that big news agencies in say the US support political parties, think of fox news. In Belgium on the other hand things are different the news is simply delivered as it is and the interpretation is left to the commentators and the people ( although it's also not really correct to compare a country like Belgium to the US ).

Off course what you see here is a documentary, you see a large number of events trough the eyes of the people making the documentary.
Now technicaly this wouldnt matter simply because the people watching the documentary know that it's a subjective piece of information, and most importantly because both the makers and the viewers have a decent understanding of the issue at hand.

Now in my opinion this second point is often lacking both with journalists and the population who voice their opinion on the subject.

(while thinking on this, i remembered a "discussion" on the subject of the afghan war in which the Belgian army has a small involvement in response to a statement by the belgian minister of defence that; "the war in afghanistan indeed was a "guerilla" but that guerilla was a spanish term for little war, and thus that it wasnt all too bad" and in response to this a belgian journalist who had been embedded with belgian forces in afghanistan and went to several warzones before that, said that " it wasnt a little war or a guerilla but that it was a real war".
Those arent the exact quotes, and although i dont know if they were intentionally simplifying or that those were some unlucky quotes, but if you talk like that about subjects that you are supposed to be an expert at then im inclined thinking to think that you dont really know what you are talking about.)

SteveMetz
10-04-2010, 05:12 PM
The "job" of the media is foremost to spread information, not to interpret this information. Interpreting information should be left to people acting as individuals and each news agency, news paper...etc should simply spread information in a way as close to the truth that is possible with the information they receive.

I disagree. Who said that the media is supposed to recount verifiable facts stripped of context, implication, or meaning? Plus, this overlooks the point that most media are businesses. Simply recounting verifiable facts would not sell advertising space or copies.

Kiwigrunt
10-04-2010, 05:35 PM
The "job" of the media is foremost to spread information, not to interpret this information. Interpreting information should be left to people acting as individuals and each news agency, news paper...etc should simply spread information in a way as close to the truth that is possible with the information they receive.

That is why i find it hard to understand that big news agencies in say the US support political parties, think of fox news. In Belgium on the other hand things are different the news is simply delivered as it is and the interpretation is left to the commentators and the people



It used to be like that in Holland. Iím led to believe it has changed a bit over the years as it has become more commercialised. The moment that happens sales become the number one priority. I didnít like it when I first came here. The news reader essentially dictated how I should feel about the news. That, and all the Ďwomanís weeklyí BS encapsulated within it. Thatís why I donít watch it any more.
Now Iím not sure where documentaries like í60 Minutesí should fit in this picture. Should they be regarded as (old) news?

Joske
10-04-2010, 05:57 PM
I disagree. Who said that the media is supposed to recount verifiable facts stripped of context, implication, or meaning?

What i meant was that the media should portray events as objectively as they possibly can with the information they have and this information includes contextual explanation, statements of (all) major actors, ...etc.


Plus, this overlooks the point that most media are businesses. Simply recounting verifiable facts would not sell advertising space or copies.

Well being in a competetive enviroment does not mean that "information consumers" should take subjectivity for granted, also when a certain media firm would often over-sensationalize news and even employ facts ripped from their context or use falsified information other news agencies could exploit and expose these practices and force relatively subjective news agencies out.
This way competivity can even lead to more objective news reporting.

Off course this assumes that people want objectivity and dont simply want to get the news they want to hear, but ill leave that question open.


The main point i have on the subject is that people tend to speak out on things they hardly know anything about and proclaim/believe things that are plain stupid.

SteveMetz
10-04-2010, 06:03 PM
What i meant was that the media should portray events as objectively as they possibly can with the information they have and this information includes contextual explanation, statements of (all) major actors, ...etc..

But the commercial media simply gives their customers what they want. I don't think it's reasonable to expect a business to do any different.

SJPONeill
10-04-2010, 08:35 PM
Perhaps the real problem is no some much perception's of misuse of the media (both the 4th Estate and the media technology) but that we, the military, are not yet able to engage effectively in that space? To misquote another source "...we win all the physical battles, but lose the information war..."

The first step in gaining some form of parity in the information spce, might be to do as an earlier poster implied and that is to "...trust the jury..." by providing it accurate albeit at times unpalatable, information that is 'unspun' and allowing that jury to draw its own conclusions...?

Hacksaw
10-04-2010, 09:37 PM
Seems we are all a little testy today...

I'm not interested in mentoring a young MAJ who is disallusioned with a trade/business that is operating under a profit motive...

I think we can fairly assert that all public info sources "speak" from a perspective that invariably leads to a narrative that someone will find... lacking.

I'm disillusioned with the US media/World media too, because I would like them to be altruistic in their coverage... informing their customers in a "fair and balanced" method... but as Steve and Old Eagle have already stated... you can't blame a cur for being a cur (a little poetic license)...

I think we have perhaps given the general public writ large too much credit for sorting through the BS... These polarized media sources make a profit because the american public writ large doesn't want to sift through the BS to form an informed position... they want news with a narrative that already conforms to their view of reality... that is the point... news now comes ready to consume, no preparation in the gray matter necessary prior to accepting as an accurate portrayal of the day's events...

disillusioned I remain, if not even mildly surprised

Live well and turn off the TV

Steve Blair
10-04-2010, 09:44 PM
I'm disillusioned with the US media/World media too, because I would like them to be altruistic in their coverage... informing their customers in a "fair and balanced" method... but as Steve and Old Eagle have already stated... you can't blame a cur for being a cur (a little poetic license)...

I think we have perhaps given the general public writ large too much credit for sorting through the BS... These polarized media sources make a profit because the american public writ large doesn't want to sift through the BS to form an informed position... they want news with a narrative that already conforms to their view of reality... that is the point... news now comes ready to consume, no preparation in the gray matter necessary prior to accepting as an accurate portrayal of the day's events...

And this is nothing new...not at all. Look back through "journalism" from the Civil War. The partisan press (for all sides, not just one) has been a fixture in the United States for as long as we've been a nation (and most likely before that, even). There have always (or usually) been a few more "intellectual" outlets, but they had very limited distribution compared to the staple broadsheets of the times.

Is this what the American public wants, or what they've been conditioned to expect? I suspect we'll never really know. But with all the hand-wringing about media bias it's always good to take a look in the rear-view mirror and understand that it's always been there...and often in a much more virulent form than it takes today. The difference is in the speed of the message, not the message itself.

tequila
10-05-2010, 02:02 AM
And this is nothing new...not at all. Look back through "journalism" from the Civil War. The partisan press (for all sides, not just one) has been a fixture in the United States for as long as we've been a nation (and most likely before that, even). There have always (or usually) been a few more "intellectual" outlets, but they had very limited distribution compared to the staple broadsheets of the times.


This is very true, but I'd argue that this was not always well to the good. We tend to forget given the relative domestic peace of the past thirty years just how remarkably violent the U.S. was during the 1800s, the glory years of ferociously partisan (and often party-run) news sources. The rise of the Democratic Party under Jackson and Van Buren, for instance, saw genuine political mobilization towards the illegal expulsion of the Cherokees, for instance, led by Democratic newspapers. And then, of course, there was the Civil War itself, the ultimate factionalization of the country.

So yes, I think an aggressively partisan media is absolutely bad for the country. I'm not that old, but I do remember when CNN Headline News, for instance, actually reported just headline news.

SteveMetz
10-05-2010, 11:13 AM
This is very true, but I'd argue that this was not always well to the good. We tend to forget given the relative domestic peace of the past thirty years just how remarkably violent the U.S. was during the 1800s, the glory years of ferociously partisan (and often party-run) news sources. The rise of the Democratic Party under Jackson and Van Buren, for instance, saw genuine political mobilization towards the illegal expulsion of the Cherokees, for instance, led by Democratic newspapers. And then, of course, there was the Civil War itself, the ultimate factionalization of the country.

So yes, I think an aggressively partisan media is absolutely bad for the country. I'm not that old, but I do remember when CNN Headline News, for instance, actually reported just headline news.


If you're suggesting a causal link between a partisan media and social violence, I really question it. I believe both intense partisanship and social conflict are dependent variables.

A highly partisan media is the American norm. The only exceptional period was the height of the Cold War. I think it's unrealistic to expect that highly exceptional period to be the norm.

But it all comes down to market mechanisms. Most people want partisan news (we here are by definition abnormal). Hence the media provides it.

MountainRunner
10-05-2010, 12:43 PM
Relevant data for this thread was published last week by Gallup:
Distrust in U.S. Media Edges Up to Record High

For the fourth straight year, the majority of Americans say they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. The 57% who now say this is a record high by one percentage point.


Trust in the media is now slightly higher than the record-low trust in the legislative branch but lower than trust in the executive and judicial branches of government, even though trust in all three branches is down sharply this year. These findings also further confirm a separate Gallup poll that found little confidence in newspapers and television specifically.

Source / read the whole report:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/143267/distrust-media-edges-record-high.aspx

SteveMetz
10-05-2010, 12:48 PM
It would be interesting to know how much of this mistrust is actually because the media has become more partisan in recent years and how much is because a cadre of inluential political infotainers like Limbaugh and Hannity have been loudly squealing about media bias for so long. In other words, "mistrust" can be based on an accurate perception of reality or an inaccurate one.

Tukhachevskii
10-05-2010, 12:52 PM
I also think the "job" of the commercial media is to make a profit for their company. Ascribing lofty goals is like saying the mission of Merck is to heal the sick when it's to make a profit.

I was using the example of the BBC, a public corporation paid for by the public to inform the public on the issues of the day. Unfortunately, New Labour decided to rein it in and turn it into a spin outlet. American style news-media-entertainment businesses are different from those of "Old" Europe (we have other "older" preferences that may also seem "archaic"). Or atleast they were before US corporations, and one particulalry nasty Aussie, decided to take them over.:D

SteveMetz
10-05-2010, 01:00 PM
And we have National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service. But they are niche, not mass providers. And they are no longer predominantly government funded.

They also have a clear partisan slant. I'm a huge National Public Radio fan but they have made my head explode by deciding to refer to illegal aliens as "undocumented immigrants." I emailed them and asked if they also refer to shoplifters as "unreceipted customers."

tequila
10-05-2010, 01:18 PM
If you're suggesting a causal link between a partisan media and social violence, I really question it. I believe both intense partisanship and social conflict are dependent variables.

I think the example of Radio Milles Collines in Rwanda and Radio Television in Serbia during the Bosnian Civil War are strong arguments against your thesis. Both were used to spread false atrocity stories and mobilize communities to "self-defense." As one Serbian dissident editor put it, "You must imagine a United States with every little TV station everywhere taking the exact same editorial line --- a line dictated by David Duke. You too would have war in five years."

SteveMetz
10-05-2010, 01:20 PM
I didn't say mass media can never be used to incite violence. I said that I don't think a case can be made that it did so in the United States. Heck, democracy led to Nazism in Germany in the 1930s but that doesn't mean that democracy always leads to Nazism.

Steve Blair
10-05-2010, 01:29 PM
This is very true, but I'd argue that this was not always well to the good. We tend to forget given the relative domestic peace of the past thirty years just how remarkably violent the U.S. was during the 1800s, the glory years of ferociously partisan (and often party-run) news sources. The rise of the Democratic Party under Jackson and Van Buren, for instance, saw genuine political mobilization towards the illegal expulsion of the Cherokees, for instance, led by Democratic newspapers. And then, of course, there was the Civil War itself, the ultimate factionalization of the country.

So yes, I think an aggressively partisan media is absolutely bad for the country. I'm not that old, but I do remember when CNN Headline News, for instance, actually reported just headline news.

I wasn't contending that it was a "good" thing...just pointing out that a partisan media is really the historical norm in the US. Like Steve M., I think it's a dangerous leap to make a connection between this and social violence, at least on a wide scale. There have certainly been instances when the media has pushed situations (the Spanish-American War, anyone?), but again I think that's more of an exception than the rule.

tequila
10-05-2010, 04:42 PM
Like Steve M., I think it's a dangerous leap to make a connection between this and social violence, at least on a wide scale.

I'd argue the expulsion of the Cherokees as another instance of mass sectarian violence driven by Democratic politicians (Jackson) through their control of a partisan media. The Seminole War came from similar roots.

A media run by and for political parties is an American phenomenon, yes, but it's a dangerous one.

walrus
10-05-2010, 05:55 PM
I have not seen the story.

With the greatest respect, it would appear that what CBS has done is conduct a "Gap Analysis" between what Iraq was under Saadam Hussien and what it is now.

Being media, and knowing good news does not sell newspapers, is it any wonder that they focus on the gaps? Probably rubbing salt in by mentioning the huge cost of the war in blood and treasure?

Pete
10-06-2010, 02:49 AM
I watch these threads on military-press relations with great interest, being an ex-military guy and also the son of a man who spent most of his career, 1956 to 1986, writing and editing for the Washington Post. Generally I get the impression that those who are the most vociferous about denouncing the press are also the same people who would put a pronounced slant on the news were they given the opportunity to be reporters themselves.

One of the built-in limitations of journalism as a profession is the "jack of all trades, master or none" aspect of it. When a reporter works a beat, or a specific subject or specialty, he or she will develop some expertise over time, but in almost all cases the reporter who covers the courthouse has never worked as a lawyer or law enforcement officer. The World War II generation of journalists had some knowledge of military affairs -- my Dad and most of his colleagues were combat veterans, but that is not true of the profession today.

Hacksaw
10-06-2010, 11:25 AM
I certainly can't take issue with anything above... I do think you paint a tad to broad a brush when you lump someone disillusioned (see also MAJ Carl Dick) with a community equally interested in promoting their own narrative.

As you know A military officer, as a rule, isn't in the business of selling a slant to a story for the sake of swaying public opinion (at least not junior field grade and below). and usually the burden of operations in places like Afghanistan and Iraq fall on the shoulders of that population. They are proud of their work, they are proud of the people they serve with, they are proud that their family and friends are usually proud of their service. My take is that they want a fair shake, especially from programs like 60 min that deservedly or not enjoys a reputation of hard hitting investigative reporting, that in their eyes clearly ignored very relevant facts to tell a story that in their eyes is flat out untruthful...

I think I'm going to give MAJ Dick and the those like him a break...

Live well and row

Steve Blair
10-06-2010, 01:35 PM
I'd argue the expulsion of the Cherokees as another instance of mass sectarian violence driven by Democratic politicians (Jackson) through their control of a partisan media. The Seminole War came from similar roots.

A media run by and for political parties is an American phenomenon, yes, but it's a dangerous one.

I'm not arguing that it hasn't happened, Tequila, but rather that it's not a common thing. In some cases and instances the media has had a dramatic impact on US policy and discussion, but I don't think that they have the pervasive, controlling effect on a constant basis that some people think. Can they whip up or exaggerate popular sentiment in certain times and cases? Sure. But I honestly don't think they can maintain that level of control or influence.

tequila
10-06-2010, 07:16 PM
I'm not arguing that it hasn't happened, Tequila, but rather that it's not a common thing. In some cases and instances the media has had a dramatic impact on US policy and discussion, but I don't think that they have the pervasive, controlling effect on a constant basis that some people think.

Not the media alone, I'd argue, but an aggressively partisan media in alliance with a political party/movement can drive polarization in a very strong and effective way. I also wouldn't argue that this is on a constant basis - but it is something we are unfamiliar with in the modern U.S. and a markedly negative development. Historical outlier or no, this is not a situatin which anyone growing up in the U.S. in the past 50 years is familiar with.

Ken White
10-06-2010, 08:15 PM
Not the media alone, I'd argue, but an aggressively partisan media in alliance with a political party/movement can drive polarization in a very strong and effective way. I also wouldn't argue that this is on a constant basis - but it is something we are unfamiliar with in the modern U.S. and a markedly negative development. Historical outlier or no, this is not a situatin which anyone growing up in the U.S. in the past 50 years is familiar with.Perhaps being over 50 helps (or hurts... :o) but avowedly partisan is IMO a better deal for the news consumer than the current semi-discrete partisanship that exists on both sides of the political spectrum. Many years ago, most newspapers and radio stations made no secret of their leanings and that really only changed with the advent of Television news which tried to cater to far larger and less literate audiences. :mad:

The objective and equal bit began with IIRC Radio Act of 1927 which dictated equal time as the minority Democrats stalled the Senate passage until the provision was added to deny the mostly Republican station and paper owners ability to skew the coverage. Didn't work all that well but the intent was honorable. The Democrats made sure that rule was enhanced and further codified with a Communications Act shortly after FDR swept the Democrats into majority status. Later, after WW II, Television was the big mover in the objectivity game in order to appeal to a broader audience.

I'm not at all sure the laws were necessary or desirable -- they allowed a party (either) with little to offer to skater a bit and still get a message of sorts out on the street. I am sure that the TV bit was not a good thing as that nominal objectivity bit crept into being and it's really a bit of a mirage...

Many people can and do filter for bias but many more do not, thus a 'report' that it subtly biased from and 'objective' news organization can lead folks astray -- as we see daily. At least with professed ideologies, the readers / viewers know what they're getting...

We all tend to pay more attention to items that support our views in any event and it is virtually impossible for all reporters and / or editors / producers to avoid letting their views slip into the news. Nor do I think it fair to expect them to do so.

When I read European papers that make no effort to obscure their ideological leaning, I find I tend to get more information from all points in the spectrum on which I can base a decision or opinion. YMMV.

Pete
10-06-2010, 08:45 PM
It is often pointed out these days that few journalists understand the military or have served in it. One of my late Dad's friends was John Averill, the Washington DC correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Averill's most vivid memory of World War II was not the time he was wounded, or when he earned a Bronze Star with "V," or when he received his battlefield commission -- it was when he was awakened from a daytime nap he was taking on the deck of his Sherman tank by a furious George S. Patton, who was whipping him on the legs with his riding crop, angry to see leaders setting a bad example.

J Wolfsberger
10-07-2010, 12:08 PM
We all tend to pay more attention to items that support our views in any event and it is virtually impossible for all reporters and / or editors / producers to avoid letting their views slip into the news. Nor do I think it fair to expect them to do so.

When I read European papers that make no effort to obscure their ideological leaning, I find I tend to get more information from all points in the spectrum on which I can base a decision or opinion. YMMV.

That covers it nicely. NPR has, at least, a Liberal view. But they also provide sufficient depth and context that the facts are presented and the listener can make up his own mind. Fox News, for all the demonization for slanting right, takes pains to ensure that both sides are represented and get equal opportunity to present their case. My commute/driving radio is WRN (World Radio Network) on Sirius, and a big surprise is the quality of news from, for example, Voice of Russia - always with a slant to the Russian view of the world and their interests, but still providing information not included in MSM coverage.

My gripe with the MSM is not their slant or political tilt. It's with their failure (or refusal) to accurately represent both sides of issues. As an example, during the 1980s, the abortion issue was framed as "pro-choice" vs. "anti-choice." That's biased reporting. To see why, think about the coverage being presented as "pro-life" vs. "anti-life." I also recall quite a bit of "coverage" that consisted of an interview with a pro-choice spokesperson, followed by the "reporter" presenting a summary of the pro-life position (as "understood" by the pro-choice reporter).

Journalism, as it is taught and discussed today in the most prominent schools and forums, is about identifying a narrative that supports (or advocates) a particular point of view, then framing the presentation to support it. That framing includes selectively presenting the facts. Most people consider that biased, and rightly consider it propaganda.

SteveMetz
10-07-2010, 01:00 PM
Fox News, for all the demonization for slanting right, takes pains to ensure that both sides are represented and get equal opportunity to present their case.


Personally, I don't consider Fox a serious news outlet anymore. Not for their ideological slant, but because of providing a platform for people like Beck and Hannity who are pure (and dangerous) propagandists.

J Wolfsberger
10-07-2010, 01:52 PM
Personally, I don't consider Fox a serious news outlet anymore. Not for their ideological slant, but because of providing a platform for people like Beck and Hannity who are pure (and dangerous) propagandists.

I don't want to get into the "dangerous" part, but, yes, they are propagandists. Very clearly so. They would be the first to argue that they aren't presenting "news," they are presenting opinion, and opinion centered discussion. (In Beck's case, observations and analysis, with an invitation to look it up for yourself, but it's still struck me as an "opinion" program the few times I watched.) I have no problem with that on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, et. al. I do have a problem when opinion is presented as news, or when facts are omitted, distorted, etc. in order to advance the advocated narrative.

SteveMetz
10-07-2010, 01:56 PM
Both take video clips, selectively cut out a part, and then claim it means something which the whole clip shows is patently false. The funny thing is that they often get called out on this but show no remorse or intention to stop.

Beck is the most overt in using the classic techniques of propaganda: repeatedly asserting a connection between things or people until they two do become associated in the mind of the listener; and the extensive use of fear.

BayonetBrant
10-07-2010, 02:05 PM
It's with their failure (or refusal) to accurately represent both sides of issues.

I would argue that this is not the problem. First, it assumes there are only 2 sides to an issue. Second, there have been many times when the "other" side of an issue is given waaaaaaay more prominence than it deserves, or when a reporter has had to dig and dig to find some completely underwhelming "other" side so as have a "balance" in their story - no matter how artificial - so they can insulate themselves from challenges of bias. There are times when one side gets marginalized in the coverage, but no one ever really stops to ask whether or not that side of the coverage was ever legitimate to start with.



Journalism, as it is taught and discussed today in the most prominent schools and forums, is about identifying a narrative that supports (or advocates) a particular point of view, then framing the presentation to support it. That framing includes selectively presenting the facts. Most people consider that biased, and rightly consider it propaganda.

I have a Masters' degree in Journalism, and I've taught in 2 different J-schools as a grad assistant, and I can categorically say that this is 100% not the case in either of the schools I've been associated with.

J Wolfsberger
10-07-2010, 02:45 PM
I have a Masters' degree in Journalism, and I've taught in 2 different J-schools as a grad assistant, and I can categorically say that this is 100% not the case in either of the schools I've been associated with.

I specifically had in mind the Columbia School of Journalism, as well as articles by some prominent journalism educators. I didn't intend my statement to be applied to all J-schools. Apologies for my lack of clarity.

Which schools were you associated with?

BayonetBrant
10-07-2010, 03:27 PM
Which schools were you associated with?

PM sent

tequila
10-07-2010, 06:06 PM
I have no problem with that on Fox, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, et. al. I do have a problem when opinion is presented as news, or when facts are omitted, distorted, etc. in order to advance the advocated narrative.

The problem with Fox is that the news programs work hand-in-glove with the opinion shows to drive a single narrative.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-october-29-2009/for-fox-sake Link broken or incomplete

This oldie-but-goodie poll from 2003 measures misperceptions (http://www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/Iraq/IraqMedia_Oct03/IraqMedia_Oct03_rpt.pdf)about the Iraq War. Basically, the more one watched Fox News the greater the misperception.

Pete
10-17-2010, 12:00 AM
Back around 1947 my World War II veteran Dad worked as a reporter for the San Rafael Independent, a daily newspaper in the San Francisco Bay area. That year the newspaper lent my Dad to the Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives for San Rafael and Marin County. Dad said it was a good primer for his Washington career yet to come, and that he also had to tell the Congressman not to use arcane Congressional language in his press releases and letters to constituents -- put it in language people understand.

The Congressman took Dad along for a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House. When the main business had been concluded the Congressman introduced my Dad to the President -- "I'd like to introduce my press aide, a veteran of WW II."

Harry S. Truman showed Dad the copy of the "Dewey Defeats Truman" front page of the Chicago Tribune he had hanging in the Oval Office. He told my Dad, "Young man, I hope during your newspaper career you don't do to others what these guys did to me."

Fuchs
10-17-2010, 12:06 AM
The problem with Fox is that the news programs work hand-in-glove with the opinion shows to drive a single narrative.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-october-29-2009/for-fox-sake-


Link broken, the "-" needs to be part of the URL.

link (http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-october-29-2009/for-fox-sake-)

Pete
10-17-2010, 12:29 AM
Dad's last encounter with Harry Truman was in the early 1970s, when he made an unofficial visit to Washington DC. Dad and a couple of other reporters staked out the hotel where Truman was staying, certain that around 7 AM he'd come out for his daily morning walk, his "Constitutional."

Right on schedule Truman came out of the hotel for his walk, and one of the reporters asked, "Mr. President, can we walk with you?"

Truman was touched by the attention, and said, "Thank you, gentlemen, for paying attention to an old man."

Dad had tears running down his cheeks when he told that story.

Pete
10-29-2010, 08:11 PM
To the best of my knowledge my Dad's civilian newspaper career did not include writing about military subjects. One exception that I can think of was in about 1985 when he had a local news column in the Metro section of the Washington Post.

The night before he had stayed with his lady friend at her condo in Rosslyn, Virginia, which was adjacent to Fort Myer -- JoAnne's balcony had a view of the fence around the fort, and the horse stables from around the 1920s just inside of the fence. That night when "Taps" played over the post's loudspeaker system it wouldn't stop playing, and it played in a continuous loop all night long. About 8 or 9 AM the next morning it was finally turned off.

The next day Dad phoned Fort Myer to ask what had been going on; he was referred to someone else, who in turn told him to call someone else, and so on, until he was finally speaking to the deputy commander of Military District of Washington, a full colonel.

"I was wondering when you'd call," said the colonel dryly, as though someone from the Post was the last person he wanted to be speaking to. The colonel explained that the post Staff Duty Officer and Field Officer of the Day did not have the keys to the building that contained the control panel to the speaker system. Thus turning off Taps had to await the coming to work of the facilities engineers that morning. That's how Dad described the incident without any drama in his column.

Pete
11-08-2010, 03:38 AM
One day during the Kennedy administration Dad was in the Library of Congress doing research in U.S. Census reports for a story he was writing for the Washington Post. He had columns of figures he needed to add together, so he walked over to a librarian behind her counter, a gray-haired elderly lady, and asked if he could borrow an adding machine. "We are not in the habit of lending business machines to gentlemen of the press," she replied frostily.

Dad went to the lobby of the building and on a pay phone called an acquaintance of his, Pierre Salinger, who was then JFK's press secretary. Dad described the problem and asked Salinger whether he could do anything about it. Dad returned to his table and resumed his census research.

About a half-hour later the gray-haired librarian walked over with an adding machine and set it on his table. She said, "Sir, you can use this while you're here. The President wants you to have it!"

Pete
11-11-2010, 08:13 PM
There's a journalistic rule of thumb that may be helpful to people here when they write documents professionally -- avoid superlatives, such as "the first," "the last," "the largest," "the smallest," etc. When a newsman writes for an audience of hundreds or thousands someone out there will hit the books and prove you to have been wrong on the Letters to the Editor page. The work-around is to use qualifying language -- "said to have been," "believed to have been," "allegedly," and so forth. I realize these are the kinds of weasel words that drive combat arms officers up the wall when they're used by intel people, but appropropriate qualifiers can save the writer from making erroneous statements.

Pete
11-18-2010, 07:15 PM
In 1962-63 my family was in the Los Angeles area because Dad was assigned there to be the Washington Post's guy setting up the new Post-Los Angeles Times news-sharing agreement, an arrangement which exists to this day.

In 1962 Richard Nixon ran for governor of California against "Pat" Brown," the incumbent and the father of the space cadet Jerry Brown. One day that fall Dad went to cover a Nixon campaign rally in an LA-area elementary school cafeteria. He arrived there at the same time Pat Nixon did, only to find that a solid mass of people separated her from her husband on the stage. Dad, a big guy, said, "Make way for Mrs. Nixon," and the crowd parted to let her join her husband on the stage.

"Thank you. I don't believe I've ever met you before," Pat Nixon said to my Dad, offering her hand and smiling radiantly. "Oh, I'm Jack Eisen of the Washington Post, Dad replied. As soon as she heard Post she withdrew her hand, her smile vanished, and she turned her back to join her husband. Later Brown won the election and Nixon gave his unfortunate, "You don't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore" concession speech.

Oh well, so much for bipartisanship. Common courtesy is free, it doesn't cost anything. In the old days members of the U.S. Congress could denounce each other all day and still enjoy a bourbon and water together that evening.

BayonetBrant
11-18-2010, 08:36 PM
In 1962-63 my family was in the Los Angeles area because Dad was assigned there to be the Washington Post's guy setting up the new Post-Los Angeles Times news-sharing agreement, an arrangement which exists to this day.

In 1962 Richard Nixon ran for governor of California against "Pat" Brown," the incumbent and the father of the space cadet Jerry Brown. One day that fall Dad went to cover a Nixon campaign rally in an LA-area elementary school cafeteria. He arrived there at the same time Pat Nixon did, only to find that a solid mass of people separated her from her husband on the stage. Dad, a big guy, said, "Make way for Mrs. Nixon," and the crowd parted to let her join her husband on the stage.

"Thank you. I don't believe I've ever met you before," Pat Nixon said to my Dad, offering her hand and smiling radiantly. "Oh, I'm Jack Eisen of the Washington Post, Dad replied. As soon as she heard Post she withdrew her hand, her smile vanished, and she turned her back to join her husband. Later Brown won the election and Nixon gave his unfortunate, "You don't have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore" concession speech.

Oh well, so much for bipartisanship. Common courtesy is free, it doesn't cost anything. In the old days members of the U.S. Congress could denounce each other all day and still enjoy a bourbon and water together that evening.

Wait! You mean they put water in the bourbon! Heresy! :eek: