November 08, 2005

The Media War

See this excellent essay from Stephen Green of Vodkapundit. Here are a few memorable passages:

Washington was geared up right for the Blitz to Baghdad in 2003. Instead of the broad front of a "stuff" war, our digital troops raced north with almost reckless abandon, heedless of their flanks – and MSM embeds went along for the ride. As a result, reporting was, for a few short weeks, "fair and balanced." Their lives quite literally on the line, frontline reporters filed their featured bylines with everything from admiration to honest criticism. And they did so virtually always as Westerners first, reporters second.

Today, too many reporters report from the relative safety of Baghdad hotels. Their reports – and the public's understanding of the war – have suffered as a result. And too few of the original embeds remain reporting for duty. When reporters who don't see what going on write stories without context, they fail to steel the public for bad news and to put the good news in perspective.

It's fair to ask if the Iraq Campaign was a necessary component to the Terror War. It isn't fair to compare Iraq to Vietnam, when the two wars have nothing, zero, nada in common. It's fair to ask if our soldier are dying in vain, or because of stupid policy, or because of inferior equipment. It's not fair to run headlines like "Battle Deaths Continue to Mount." No shit, Sherlock? A real story would be, "Battle Deaths Decline as Fallen Soldiers Miraculously Resurrected." It's fair to question Bush's policies. It's not fair to act as a conduit for enemy propaganda. It's fair to ask if Iraq is draining resources from our efforts in Afghanistan. It's not fair to complain that Afghanistan isn't perfect yet. It's fair to complain about indecencies at Abu Ghraib. It's not fair to virtually ignore atrocities committed by the other side everywhere else in Iraq.

But our media, aware of their power but ignorant as to its uses, would rather play "gotcha" than provide critical perspective...

I don't mean to imply that the MSM needs to hop on board the bandwagon and cheerlead for any President along any military campaign, no matter how foolhardy – far from it. In case you hadn't noticed, I used a good portion of this essay to complain about Washington, and that's something the media can do a whole lot more effectively than one small blogger. Criticism is just necessary, it's a necessary good. But the MSM needs to relearn constructive criticism, and they need to remember which country defends their rights, and which group of people would gleefully slit their throats

I agree.

If there is one thing we could learn from Israel's war against the Palestinian terrorist groups, it is that winning the media war is an important component of fighting an effective war against terrorism.

Israel has proven itself to be quite adept at locating and killing terrorist leaders. During the recent Intifada, Israel won every military engagement with the terrorist groups. Yet, Israel was remarkably inept at managing media relations. As a result, Israel has been faced with oppressive world opinion and even regular calls for "restraint" by its allies.

The Palestinians, however, were not so inept at media relations. The Palestinians were able groom good relations with the media, which allowed them to divert media attention away from a discussion of whether use of suicide bombings was a legitimate tactic. The Palestinians were able to rally international support by using the media to fabricate Israeli atrocities (e.g., the alleged "massacre" at Jenin), to legitimize their resistance (i.e., by characterizing their Intifada as a popular revolution against an oppressive occupier as opposed to a violent expression of anti-Semitism), to spread the idea that Israel's responses were merely further Israeli aggression and suppression, and to cultivate and encourage popular world support for their cause (which included both political and financial aid).

Arguably, the media was predisposed to the Palestinian side. It is quite simple, really. The media loves to cover a "David v. Goliath" type of fight. There are quite a few in the press that love an underdog. And, of course, there are many liberal members of the press, who either question Israel's right to exist or are outright anti-Semitic.

Regardless, any government, who was contemplating a war against terrorist elements, should have studied the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Upon doing so, they would have discovered how essential it was to win the media war to avoid making the same mistakes as Israel.
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