WEEK 56: Ten years ago, the US led Coalition had to endure no kidding fake news – see 24 DEC 06 – before it was called fake news. Really, though, fake news like that reported by AFP was a rarity. Mostly, I noted biased news designed to entice controversy or stoke the target audience. In the case of the U.S. media, I understood this could happen and why it happened. Still, though, I’d like to see some more realization from them that reporting on war isn’t the same as calling a baseball game. Coincidentally, the final paragraph of this essay with the Iraqi Marxist’s observation would foretell the trust dilemma the U.S. national media currently endures.
Benefit of the Doubt
“Just give me the benefit of the doubt”, Toby Futrell, Austin City Manager
During the 1st Cavalry train up for this deployment, we spent a day and half learning from the Austin, Texas City Council how to run a major city. Physically, Baghdad is the size of Austin, but Baghdad has a much larger population. Toby Futrell and her team of professionals schooled us on managing a large city’s essential and emergency services. She offered the above advice as how she expects the local media to interact with her. Fair enough.
We should expect the same from the fourth estate of the United States. I think, though, too many of them have truly lost sight of the media’s purpose to a Democracy. I acknowledge the media’s need to remain competitive and tell both sides of the story. Still, I expect them to treat their fellow citizens and defenders of Democracy with some respect. I expect the benefit of the doubt.
I’ll say up front. I do not expect the US media to be our cheerleader. I don’t expect them to look the other way from something as despicable as what occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison.
We have to take our lumps over these events. We have to answer for collateral damage. The information pressure for us to be responsible for collateral damage has contributed, I think, to our improved precision weapons. I still expect the benefit of the doubt.
For too long, much of the US and other democratic media outlets have been giving Islamic extremists a free pass thinking the dramatic story will sell their product. From Chechnya to the Balkans and now the Middle East, Islamic extremists have been treated with kid gloves. The press pilloried the Russian government for killing innocent civilians while most media, except PBS, ignored the barbarianism of Islamic Extremist Chechen fighters. It wasn’t until the Chechen massacred Beslan school children post 9-11 that we started to see the true instigator of the Chechen rebellion.
In Bosnia, the extremists arrived to help their Muslim brothers and contributed to the escalation of inhumanity. Reading newspapers, one would never know it. The vile Serbians were the root of evil. The Islamic Extremists did not initiate the problems in Bosnia, but they didn’t help. Once their time in Bosnia was done, they moved east to Kosovo.
For nearly a decade, Kosovo had a Serbian government and defacto Kosovar government peacefully coexist. When the Islamic Extremists showed up from Bosnia and instigated a fight with the Serbs, our press treated the extremists as valiant Freedom Fighters. How come a few months later we had to allow the Serbs to police the Kosovar border? The valiant freedom fighters were mostly Islamic Extremists continuing to slaughter non-believers.
Eventually, none of the extremists were welcomed and again migrated east. On September 10, 2001, Macedonia was the next hotbed of the fight for ethnic minority rights instigated by Islamic Extremists. Our media was giving them another free pass.
We, the military, have to deal with the likes of Moqtada al Sadr with prudence. His father and uncle were very influential and well respected; hence, we must respect the Sadr family line.
Much of the press treats him like a rock star. He is the firebrand cleric who stands up to the big Coalition thug. “No, No to America. Yes, yes to Moqtada”. “American forces fear Sadr and his Jaysh al Mahdi.” We respect the Sadr family. We respect our adversary. The United States military fears no militia and no army.
To say it politely, Moqtada al Sadr has a severe learning disability according to the Iraqis I met. He is just another religious extremist and supports killing those who don’t support his cause. He is like many other religious political figures in Iraq using the guise of religion to promote his power base.
They torture and maim Iraqis who are their political enemies while being treated with kid gloves by the press. These extremists hold the media over the barrel. If the coverage is not positive or open to the extremists’ message, they cut off the media. So, the media never really tell you what type of people our adversaries truly are.
Once most national level US journalists, especially TV, have distance from the US military, all bets are off. It is about promoting their story or selling their political agenda without regard as to whether the military and democracy will prevail. Man bites dog is much more captivating. Who gives a damn if freedom prevails?
Even the Marxist picked up on this. He loves John Wayne and Gary Cooper so I gave him some western movies. He liked Who Shot Liberty Valance. He admired John Wayne’s character for sacrificing fame to ensure his friend, and future politician, who stood up to an outlaw wasn’t killed by the bad man. The Marxist wanted to know why Hollywood doesn’t make movies extolling American virtues anymore.
No wonder the US public trusts their military more than they trust their 4th Estate. I believe our fellow Americans in the media need to give us the benefit of the doubt all the time. I won’t hold my breath.