some russell lee black and whites, iraq and how the press failed america

Creole musicians playing an accordion and a washboard in front of a store, near New Iberia, Louisiana (1938).

Creole musicians playing an accordion and a washboard in front of a store, near New Iberia, Louisiana (1938). Photograph by Russell Lee.

A father and his young daughter enjoy listening to the radio

A father and his young daughter enjoy listening to the radio in their home in Tehama County, Calif., in 1940. Also by Lee.

Neon sign for Hector’s Palace of Sweets Cafe

Neon sign for Hector’s Palace of Sweets Cafe in Crosby, North Dakota.  November 1937. by Russell Lee for the FSA.

Ten Years Ago: Media Coverage of the ‘Fall’ of Baghdad Helped Spark More Years of War

Among Maass’ conclusions:

I had little awareness of the media dynamics that turned the episode into a festive symbol of what appeared to be the war’s finale. In reality, the war was just getting under way. Many thousands of people would be killed or injured before the Bush administration acknowledged that it faced not just “pockets of dead-enders” in Iraq, as Rumsfeld insisted, but what grew to be a full-fledged insurgency. The toppling of Saddam’s statue turned out to be emblematic of primarily one thing: the fact that American troops had taken the center of Baghdad. That was significant, but everything else the toppling was said to represent during repeated replays on television—victory for America, the end of the war, joy throughout Iraq—was a disservice to the truth….

The media have been criticized for accepting the Bush administration’s claims, in the run-up to the invasion, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The WMD myth, and the media’s embrace of it, encouraged public support for war. The media also failed at Firdos Square, but in this case it was the media, rather than the government, that created the victory myth.

Among the handful of studies of Firdos Square, the most incisive was George Washington University’s, led by Sean Aday, an associate professor of media and public affairs. It concluded that the coverage had “profound implications for both international policy and the domestic political landscape in America.” According to the study, the saturation coverage of Firdos Square fueled the perception that the war had been won, and diverted attention from Iraq at precisely the moment that more attention was needed, not less. “Whereas battle stories imply a war is going on, statues falling—especially when placed in the context of truly climactic images from recent history—imply the war is over,” the study noted.

The media was supposed to be a bunch of critical liberals, yet as Chris Matthews on MSNBC announced, “We’re all neo-cons now ” and apparently much of the media was in implicit agreement. They allowed a brigade of retired military analysts to take dictation from the Bush White House and echo that message, without any critical examination. Just before i read that column at The Nation Twitter reminded me it was Joseph Pulitzer’s birthday. Joe was no angel, but he did manage to redeem himself by exposing government corruption. His most famous quote and one that manages to stand on it’s own, “Our republic and its press will rise or fall together”.

Warning this video may cause the impulse to dance.

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