(E) Deceiving John Q. Public With a war of images and words
Deceiving John Q. Public With a war of images and words
BY LOIS WADSWORTH
Eugene Weekly Review
WMD: WEAPONS OF MASS DECEPTION: Documentary directed and produced by Danny Schechter. Producer, Anna Pizzaro. Editors, Kozo Okumura, David Chai.Music, Nenad Bach. Cinema Libre Studio, 2004. NR. 98 minutes.
News is big business, and media critic Danny Schechter makes it his business to analyze what gets covered in print and electronically. In choosing to document coverage of the war in Iraq, Schechter shows there are essentially three different wars: the war we see and read about in the US, a commercial war; the war as it appears in Europe; and the war the rest of the world sees. His latest book is Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception: How the Media Failed to Cover the War on Iraq.
Schechter's conclusions don't come from the haphazard network crawling I did during the so-called war but rather from "embedding" himself in front of the television and watching wall-to-wall coverage. I did some of that during the first Gulf War, in part because a family member was in Saudi at the time, and I was worried about her. Although I was a graduate student in the journalism school at UO, I had trouble detaching emotionally from images and words spoken on the screen. Unlike my experience, Schechter's viewing of this war was methodological. He earned the authority to call the media's lopsided coverage of the war Weapons of Mass Deception.
"There were two wars going on in Iraq," he wrote. "One was fought with armies of soldiers, bombs and a fearsome military force. The other was fought alongside it with cameras, satellites, armies of journalists and propaganda techniques."
If you've been to Schechter's web site - Mediachannel.org - you may have read some of the gazillion words he's written to show a staggering similarity of coverage across media outlets. In WMD the film, reporters outside the mainstream media such as Peter Arnett add their voices to Schechter's. Once an MSNBC correspondent, Ashleigh Banfield was chastised by her bosses at NBC and dropped by the network the following year. Her crime: She told the audience during a speech at Kansas State University the war coverage was "sanitized."
Language control is a subtle but efficient way to limit an argument, a device by which to define the terms and claim the high ground. Using words calculated to put U.S. actions in the best light, the mainstream media knowingly or inadvertently helps the Bush administration get away with murder every day. Maybe Schechter can wake up people who take literally words written thousands of years ago, but I doubt it. It takes an open mind to see how the public is manipulated by what Schechter calls the "militainment" of the post-journalism era.
This film tracks the media war through the summer of 2004. It opens at the Bijou on Friday, Feb. 18 and deserves your support and attendance. Highly recommended.