The media watch group FAIR (where I’m an associate) has performed a public service in the latest edition of its magazine Extra. The organization’s activism director, Peter Hart, drew on FAIR’s extensive research to assemble a sample of notable quotations from media cheerleading for the
One of the earliest quotes to merit special attention came from ace New York Times reporter — and chronic Pentagon promoter — Michael Gordon. In a CNN appearance on March 25, 2003, just a few days into the invasion, Gordon gave his easy blessing to the invaders’ bombing of Iraqi TV.
Gordon cited “what I’ve seen of Iraqi television, with Saddam Hussein presenting propaganda to his people and showing off the Apache helicopter and claiming a farmer shot it down and trying to persuade his own public that he was really in charge, when we’re trying to send the exact opposite message” — and so, the Times reporter went on, Iraqi TV was “an appropriate target.”
Let’s unpack Gordon’s rationale for a military attack on Iraqi broadcasters: They presented propaganda to viewers, aired triumphal images and touted the authority of the top man in the government, while an adversary was “trying to send the exact opposite message.” By those standards, Iraqis would have been justified in targeting any one of the American cable news networks, most especially Fox News Channel.
Hart — who is author of the book “The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly” — includes some quotes from Fox in his collection of war-crazed statements from media. For instance, soon after the invasion began, Fox News commentator Fred Barnes declared: “The American public knows how important this war is, and is not as casualty sensitive as the weenies in the American press are.” (Unsurpassed bravery is a common denominator of rabid hawks in stateside TV studios.) But many of Hart’s examples are from
On NBC News, Brian Williams was singing from the choir book provided by
The next day, on the same network, Williams’ colleague Katie Couric was more succinct in her fawning. Viewers of the “Today” program listened as she interviewed a
A week later, on MSNBC, the hardballer Chris Matthews was swept up in beach-ball euphoria as
At the start of May 2003, when President Bush zoomed onto an aircraft carrier and stood near a “Mission Accomplished” banner, Lou Dobbs was quick to tell CNN viewers: “He looked like an alternatively commander in chief, rock star, movie star and one of the guys.”
On the same day, journalist Matthews assumed the royal “we” — and, in the opportunistic process, blew with the prevailing wind. “We’re proud of our president,” he said. “Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who’s physical, who’s not a complicated guy like
Perhaps no journalist was more shameless in echoing President Bush’s fatuous claims about the invasion than Christopher Hitchens.
“Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio broadcast, and I have a message for them: If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you,” Bush said on March 17, 2003.
The next day, Hitchens came out with an essay declaring that “the Defense Department has evolved highly selective and accurate munitions that can sharply reduce the need to take or receive casualties. The predictions of widespread mayhem turned out to be false last time — when the weapons [in the Gulf War] were nothing like so accurate.” And, Hitchens proclaimed, “it can now be proposed as a practical matter that one is able to fight against a regime and not a people or a nation.”
More than four years — and at least several hundred thousand Iraqi civilian deaths — later, the most reliable epidemiology available confirms that those claims were more than misleading. They were fundamentally out of touch with human reality.
If you had engaged in such cheerleading for the launch of the
The new documentary film “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,” based on Norman Solomon’s book of the same title, has just been released on DVD. For information about the full-length movie, produced by the Media Education Foundation and narrated by Sean Penn, go to: www.WarMadeEasyTheMovie.org