Plural Perspectives

Plural Perspectives
Plurality promotes and powers Perspectives

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Is A Referendum Any Real Remedy to Fix the US Media’ Malady?

At a time when crisis faced by complacent media’s derelictions are being catalogued by concerned commentators, some interests groups instead of urgently pursuing remedies look for pseudo-issues for their activism. Some propose restricting viewers’ choice as a solution. One glaring example is The Defenders Council of Vermont which has tasked itself to educate Vermont's citizens about the nature, reality of threats facing the United States. One wonders if this lot is cognizant of the dire dereliction the US media is experiencing, its consequences and if they could instead propose any appropriate antidotes to reverse such conditions? They can serve a better cause by encouraging more media critics who are raged at the media’s triumphalism by the manner conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are reported. Like those who, in the words of Salon’s Jayne Lyn Stahl: "broach, and critically analyze, the issue of the long term costs of this war not merely to our veterans, but to our national ethos."

Stahl, a widely published American poet and essayist, wishes to know why the media is refusing to air any details of a staggering 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Rand Corp., who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and depression. In a recent letter to the New York Times, former Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, accused the mainstream media of vastly underreporting the numbers of vets who return from war injured or hurt.

An exceptional example worth emulating by all genuine media activists is Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher, the author of “So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits, and the President Failed on Iraq”. The book is an edited collection of his extraordinary E&P columns from 2002 to 2007 about the war, which together constitute a powerful indictment of the big American newspapers. Mitchell was first to spot many military analysts who appeared on cable and network news shows were, in fact, scripted by the Pentagon, and further tainted by having business links to potentially huge profits from war contracts.

Here are some reasons why the American citizens more than ever need a compelling antidote to the cult of misinformation. As one who has been on the cutting edge of exposing the Bush administration's pre-emptive war on the media, Mitchell, the author of nine other nonfiction works, wrote that pundits who agitated for an attack on Iraq should be “on their knees begging the American public for forgiveness”. Media outlets ought to answer why it hasn't sufficiently probed the cakewalk crowd who promised a casual march to victory in Iraq. When media activists will press for an accountability of the likes of Ken Adelmen who misled the American media by claiming: 'measured by any cost-benefit analysis, such an operation would constitute the greatest victory in America's war on terrorism.' Had American taxpayers an easy access to alternate information sources it wouldn't have taken them four years to question the wisdom of the 'cakewalk' bunch.

What we need to give the public a true picture of continuing this war, the kind of honest "bad news" both in human terms and the trillion-dollar price tag yet to come. General Ricardo Sanchez's address to military editors and reporters is a clarion call for often compliant and at times co-opted journalists to wriggle out of their age of denial, dismissal and disapproval of sources that could have (and still can) otherwise provided alternate views of Iraq.

'America must hold all national agencies accountable for developing and executing the political and economic initiatives that will bring about stability, security, political and economic hope for all Iraqis,' said General Sanchez, adding: 'The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave-off defeat. The administration, Congress and the entire interagency, especially the Department of State, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure and the American people must hold them accountable.' Sanchez asked point blank: 'Who will demand accountability for the failure of our national political leaders involved in the management of this war?' While it took a uniformed officer four years to speak his mind in public is not unexpected, what is far more worrisome is that the US mainstream media has not risen up to secure straight, clear-cut answers.

Encouraging and embracing alternate sources of media has become increasingly important at a time when many US media organs tiptoe around issues in fear of overstepping their boundaries.

Serious short-comings of a complacent media, compounded by the derelictions of the complainant lobbyists raise the greatest ever need for encouraging alternate sources to help put a check on the American media’s misgivings and misreporting not as an occasional aberration but on a 24/7 basis.

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