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Coverage of Iraq made this an annus horribilis for America’s
major media. If you want to know why public opinion in Western Europe has been
so overwhelmingly against the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq, there’s one
obvious answer: the difference in television news between theirs and ours. You
can easily determine this for yourself: Spend a week watching the news broadcasts
and TV magazines of the BBC, France2 and Deutsche Welle, all available on many
U.S. cable systems. The footage of dead Iraqi babies and children — victims
of U.S. attacks on “terrorists” — that you will regularly see on European
public television is rarely aired on U.S. networks. The regular interviews in
Iraqi hospitals with doctors recounting the slaughter of the innocents that
show up on European news broadcasts aren’t often seen on the all-news cable
networks here, let alone on the Big Three broadcast nets’ newscasts. Iraqis,
of course, know this daily reality all too well — which explains their overwhelming
hostility to the U.S. occupation.

An on-the-ground study of Iraqi casualties between April and September
by Nancy Youssef of Knight Ridder newspapers demonstrated that “Operations
by U.S. and multinational forces and Iraqi police are killing twice as many
Iraqis — most of them civilians — as attacks by insurgents.” But you’re
not told this by U.S. TV’s “embedded” reporters, who’ve traded their
reportorial independence for access to the boom-boom footage that drives what
Time magazine has labeled the “militainment” proffered by American
television. In fact, embedded reporters are enrolled in what the Pentagon calls
“information operations” — a counterpart to military operations designed
to exact the rosiest possible picture of the U.S. occupation from accredited
reporters. Those who don’t toe the Pentagon line, and who report negatively
on the occupation of Iraq and the indiscriminate effects of U.S. forces’ combat
there, are simply blacklisted.

The demagogic nationalism of Fox News, the ratings king, has dragged
the other networks down to its level as they seek to win back lost viewers.
In a must-read article on “Iraq, the Press and the Election” in the
December 16 issue of The New York Review of Books (available online at
www.nybooks.com), the Columbia
Journalism Review
’s Michael Massing dissects U.S. media coverage of Iraq
with devastating effect. CNN, for example, he portrays as “careening wildly
between an adherence to traditional news values on the one hand and a surrender
to the titillating, overheated, nationalistic fare of contemporary cable on
the other. In the end, CNN . . . offered the superficiality of Fox without any
of its conviction.”

The degree to which coverage of Iraq reflects the structural corruption
of U.S. major media is even more damningly portrayed in Weapons of Mass Deception,
the superb new film by Danny Schechter. Schechter, a TV veteran of three decades,
is an Emmy-winning former investigative producer for ABC and CNN (he calls himself
a “network refugee”), and the founder of the independent TV production
company Globalvision and also of MediaChannel.org,
the Web site where his sharp-eyed, acid-tongued media criticism punches gaping
holes in official newsdom’s coverage of Iraq. In this film — which is much more
meticulously documented and more accurate than Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit
9/11
, and therefore infinitely more devastating — Schechter shows with precision
how U.S. mass media have been recruited as part and parcel of the Pentagon’s
war-propaganda machine.

There is no end in sight in Iraq. Senator Joe Biden, the ranking
Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, reported recently from Iraq that
he hasn’t talked to a single U.S. military commander who doesn’t believe the
U.S. occupation will last “three, or five, or seven years more” at
least. So, to penetrate the fog of propaganda relayed by our major media, you’ll
need to be well-armed. Here, then, are a few suggestions of how to get your
head around the reality of what’s truly happening in Iraq from online sources,
in addition to the previously mentioned MediaChannel.org:

Undernews (https://prorev.com/indexa.htm),
the daily press review by veteran Washington journalist Sam Smith, is in the
I.F. Stone tradition: He culls open sources in the English language from which
to construct an alternative version of reality. It’s the perfect solution for
the average news consumer too busy to wade through all of the English-language
press — including the fine coverage of Iraq from British and Australian newspapers
— from which Undernews provides brief extracts and links to complete articles.

Truthout (www.truthout.org/)
is edited by William Rivers Pitt, the author of the best-selling War on Iraq
— What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You To Know
. Truthout’s daily e-bulletins
bring you a selection of the latest news and analysis that counters official
Washington’s worldview — augmented by Rivers’ scintillating commentaries and
contributions from Truthout’s own foreign correspondents.

Informed Comment (www.juancole.com/)
is the Web site of University of Michigan history professor and Middle East
specialist Juan Cole, whose analysis has become a must-read for anyone seriously
interested in Iraq.