Sunday, November 25, 2007

Open the Floor - The Media and War

So the two people who have replied to my poll, said they wanted more intellectual discussion. Mostly I kind of threw that in there as a joke, but always the servant to my readers I'm going to try to accomodate them.

So what I'm going to do is present some info, and I want to hear what you, the reader, thinks about it.

On with the show -

Well, I've been watching Starship Operators, and it has started to raise some interesting questions in my mind about the relationship between the media, the government and war.

As someone who has been trained as a reporter, I'd really like to say that the news media and war are some sort of distantly related cousins. No one wants to think that they're the cause for continuing conflicts, or that they're doing anything more than reporting the facts.

But war and the media make strange bedfellows. Take a look at the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine if you want proof (it started the Spanish-American war). It was an accident, but because William Randolph Hearst wanted to have a war in Cuba so much, he painted it in lurid tones and made it a national tragedy. So, the media can cause war.

It also can end it. For instance, the Vietnam Conflict (and arguably more currently the Iraq War) have been largely influenced by the reporting on the conflict. How else would we know about the mess in Baghdad right now if it wasn't for their reporting. And the American government definitely doesn't want us to know what it does with detainees from the conflict. Or how poorly they're doing over there.

So here's my question to you - What do you think the role of the media should be in times of war? Should they support the government like they did during WWII, or is the current incarnation more appropriate?

2 comments:

drmchsr0 said...

The government tends to take over the media in times of war. And since there is big money covering war, the media and the man tend to cooperate for profits. Of course the reverse can happen, as you've stated, but when it all comes down to it, it's all about the money.

Get rid of the money, and the media has no reason to cover war.

Sophist said...

Ideally the media wouldn't try to steer the viewer in one direction or the other. The USA committed just as many atrocities in WWII as they have in Nam/Iraq.

If we had the news media of today back in 1942 MacArthur would have been crucified for getting pushed out of the island chains around Japan. John Stewart would have said "Oh yeah, you swear you'll return. Yeah right" or something similarly snarky and public opinion would go south on the whole thing.

But in the end it's not just the news media, it's up to individuals to get as many facts as they can and form an informed opinion about a conflict. If there was more of that going on I don't think we'd be discussing this.