Subject: INVERTED MEDIA & THE WAR
by FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) 11:07 am Feb 4, 1991
INVERTED MEDIA & THE WAR
By Norman Solomon
As soon as the war began, Time magazine defined "collateral damage" this way
-- "a term meaning dead or wounded civilians who should have picked a safer
In U.S. news media, the rare mention of civilian casualties is routinely
followed by immediate denial of responsibility.
"We must point out again and again that it is Saddam Hussein who put these
innocents in harm's way," Tom Brokaw declared on NBC, a network owned by one
of the nation's largest military contractors, General Electric.
The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour -- one of TV's leading war boosters -- aired a
few moments of civilian casualty footage from Iraq, only to debunk it as
On CBS, reporter Ron Allen said that "Iraq is trying to gain sympathy" by
showing grisly film of bombed civilian sites. Connie Chung chimed in that
Saddam is "trying to break the resolve of the United States and its allies."
And what a resolve it is.
News accounts routinely refer to "the enemy" without a hint of human
identity. One TV network newscast has described Iraqi soldiers as resembling
"cockroaches" from the air.
At the start of February, the New York Times published an unusually large
cartoon across the top of the op-ed page. Titled "The Descent of Man," it
showed a man in suit-and-tie, a gorilla, a monkey, a snake, and finally Saddam
Avuncular CBS journalist Charles Osgood called the bombing of Iraq "a
marvel." His colleague Jim Stewart extolled "two days of almost
On ABC, Peter Jennings exulted in the "brilliance of laser-guided bombs" set
off by the U.S. military. But the next day he labeled an Iraqi missile "a
With the United States at war, the U.S. mass media's inversion is automatic.
Despite the savage and continuous bombings of populated areas in Iraq, it is
the U.S. that must be portrayed as the mistreated party. Thus the swollen face
of a captured American pilot on the cover of Newsweek. He was dropping bombs,
but he is the victim.
Denial is key to the psychological and political structures that support this
war. The very magnitude of its brutality -- gratuitous and unmerciful --
requires heightened care to turn the meaning of events upside down. Those who
massacre are the aggrieved; those being slaughtered with high-tech cruelty
are depicted as subhumans, or "civilians who should have picked a safer
The fault for the carnage must always be pegged away from home. "There is in
Baghdad the feeling of a huge new Jonestown, with another demented preacher
leading his flock to death," Time magazine reported at the start of the war.
On a day when thousands of bombs struck Iraq, CBS correspondent Allen Pizzey
called Saddam Hussein "psychologically deformed." But U.S. mainstream media
cast no aspersions on the mental health of the man who ordered the carpet
As with the brutality of warfare, so too the geopolitical analysis. Inversion
is to denial what jet fuel is to an air war.
Since last summer we have heard endless insistence that Saddam Hussein and
the Iraqi government must be stopped, for the sake of world peace and human
security. But by now, a few weeks into the war, there is ample evidence that
this timeworn propaganda line has masked a starkly different truth: George
Bush and the U.S. government must be stopped, for the sake of world peace and
Mass media, functioning as key mechanisms of denial, keep distorting lurid
events. The "terrorism" most massively unleashed in the Middle East is being
inflicted by the USA. This truth is so overwhelming that it must be denied at
Wide areas of Iraq and Kuwait are incessantly shattered by bombs that destroy
life with the same terroristic finality -- and with no more justification --
than the occasional Scud missiles landing in Israel.
The few Israeli victims of Iraq's attacks have gotten extensive and
empathetic news coverage in the United States; the many Iraqi victims of U.S.
attacks get only avoidance. In Israel, a few innocents have been harmed. In
Iraq, a huge number have already been massacred.
The anguish of Jewish Americans, about the random missiles falling on Israel,
has been a hot topic in U.S. mass media. The anguish of Iraqi-Americans and
others of Arab descent has gotten little attention. Yet Iraqis, not Israelis,
are being slaughtered en masse.
In the inverted world of newspeak, the double standards and duplicities must
be enormous and never-ending. Moral outrage is carefully aimed away from home.
So it was natural, in a sick kind of way, for New York Times columnist A.M.
Rosenthal to demand that Saddam Hussein be held responsible for "war crimes
against Kuwait, Israel and coalition prisoners" -- while editors never allow
the suggestion that George Bush and other U.S. government officials should be
held responsible for their war crimes. All the while, "sorties" continue to
"pound" areas where millions of Iraqi civilians live.
Prevailing media biases include the insistence on draining life from
discussions of life-and-death subjects. What those who dominate the airwaves
and print media keep conveying, with their flat tones and euphemistic
language, is that the Pentagon's wholesale destruction of human life should be
discussed without emotion; they want to anesthetize us to the horrors that
this war entails at every moment.
To resist this media anesthesia, we need to be able to feel our sadness and
anger. And we need to track the techniques of unidentified flying propaganda,
so that we can develop effective countermeasures.
Among the pro-war biases that must be fought are the numerous ways that news
media seek to objectify "the enemy," and justify the air war that continues --
mass murder, by any other name.
Norman Solomon is co-author of "Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias
in News Media."
FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting)
Phone: (408) 338-4341
from PeaceNet via The NY Transfer 718-448-2358 & 718-448-2683
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