FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The War and the Yellow Press

by WILLIAM S. LIND

A person my age has watched many things decline in America, and few get better. As one of my neighbors says, everything good is gone or going. In that category we must now include good reporting. When I started work in Washington in 1973, it was axiomatic that a newspaper reporter talked to many sources for any story. The story, in turn, reflected a number of viewpoints and perspectives. No reporter worth his bourbon would have dreamed of just printing some press release put out by the government.

But that is now what they all seem to do, especially in covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Forgetting that the phrase “to lie like a bulletin” is military in origin the reference is to bulletins issued by Napoleon’s grande armeé — they print verbatim the happy talk the U.S. military is obliged by the Bush administration to spew. To the degree the war in Iraq is still covered, the American public is assured over and over that “violence is down.” For the moment, that is true, but the implication that we are on a roll is not true. Fourth Generation wars do not move in linear fashion. Violence is down because the constantly shifting network of deals and alliances among Iraq’s warlords has created a stable interlude. Those alliances will continue to shift, and as they do so violence will rise again. How many reporters are asking the talking dog majors who brief the press the central strategic question, namely whether there is any evidence a state is re-emerging in Iraq? As best I can tell, none. The same number appears to be trying to answer that question from other, more reliable sources.

The reporting on Afghanistan is if anything worse. On Sunday, June 22, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a paper I like, printed an AP article under the headline, “Marines drive Taliban from volatile province,” namely Helmand. The article itself more modestly claims victory in one Helmand town, Garmser. If the 24th MEU has driven the Taliban out of Helmand province, I’ll eat my yurt. One town, maybe, but what does taking a town mean in a guerilla war? When the Marines leave, which they will, the Taliban will return.

The fact of the matter is, the whole NATO/American effort in Afghanistan is circling the drain. The American papers should be full of in-depth, multi-sourced stories about the war there. A friend just back from Britain reports that the British press is full of just such stories. In one recent ten-day period, the Brits lost nine soldiers killed, including their first woman. Was that reported anywhere in the U.S. press?

What lies behind the decline in the quality of American reporting? Cutbacks in the size of newsrooms are part of the answer. As the electronic image replaces the printed word, newspapers are dying. To those who know that perceiving reality requires more than shadows on the cave wall, that is bad news.

Lazy reporters are another part of the answer. It is easy to print the bulletins. Reporters have always been lazy, but now their editors let them get away with it. Not too many decades ago, any reporter who single-sourced a story would have been sent back on the street to get more sources, with a richness of invective editors seldom lacked.

But the biggest reason, I suspect, is intellectual cowardice. After the defeat in Vietnam, many supporters of the war blamed the press for our failure. By printing the bad news, the press supposedly undermined popular support for the war and thereby caused our defeat. It’s poppycock, of course. The Vietnam War was lost early in the game when MACV, at the demand of General William Depuy, ordered an end to efforts to control the populated coastal lowlands in favor of fighting formal battles against enemy main force units in the highlands. Those units were sent there as bait, which MACV took.

But the American press was scarred by the accusations. Now, it is afraid to be accused of “not supporting the troops” if it does anything but print the bulletins. So the American public gets the mushroom treatment, and two failed wars continue ad infinitum. When the roof falls in both in Iraq and in Afghanistan, the shock will be considerable. America’s yellow press will deserve no small share of the blame.

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WILLIAM S. LIND, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail