WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception
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There were two wars going on in Iraq - one was fought with armies of soldiers, bombs and a fearsome military force. The other was fought alongside it with cameras, satellites, armies of journalists and propaganda techniques. One war was rationalized as an
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Mass media, now owned by large and conservative conglomerates avoided the anti-war stories, to the point of refusing to run commercials for people who were opposed to the war. Anti-war demonstrations received marginal coverage, at best. When Phil Donahue had opposed the war, and said so publicly on his show, the network cancelled his top-rated show. His replacement? Michael Savage who lasted less than four months with ratings in the cellar. Clearly, this "liberally-biased" media did not want to rock the conservative boat.
The administration's genius turned out to be first orienting and outfitting reporters with kevlar helmets and vests, and showing them how to use gas masks for chemical attacks that would never come. This gave the media the feeling that Iraq was an enemy.
The embedding process was sheer administration genius. By placing reporters with our soldiers and marines, they identified with them to the point that their stories had lost all objectivity, and they had been reduced to a micro view of the war.
While some may complain that this production is biased, that is what the producer's slant is. It is also what he is already describing. The bias was in the media being duped by the administration and losing their objectivity in reporting the war.
Any criticism this DVD may receive, the facts are irrefutable. All these things happened. Schecter simply compiles these facts and presents them in a logical and presentable fashion.
This is recommended viewing.
Irony abounds in watching this documentary critical of the media coverage of the war in Iraq while knowing how things progressed from there. Fox News was already recognized as the worst of the lot, but filmmaker Danny Schechter's point seems to be that all the other networks were pretty much buying the administration's line, and in some cases outright lies, and totally downplaying the protests against the war.
There's a great deal more than that in this documentary, however, some of it truly shocking, even today. For example, Schechter had pictures of the abuse of prisoners in military prisons that are apparently the same ones that were later "released" as part of the investigation of torture. And drawing on news sources from other countries, he showed pretty graphically that the US public was not getting the same view of the war available to others.
In fact, my own studies of propaganda, focusing on the political propaganda of the Nazis and the Soviets, I can only conclude that the American media accepted control by the Bush Administration in ways not very different from those regimes.
It's a pretty scary movie, and a pretty disgusting one. All we can do is hope that (a) things really are better under the current administration, and (b) our best weapon for getting the truth distributed is sitting right in front of us as we read and write on the Internet. Big Media has met its match in the Internet if we use it for the weapon of truth it is. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword, and the Internet is way, way more effective than a quill pen.
While I agree with the points made in the documentary, I think they could be made in a more gripping and persuasive way. The frame of the documentary, found in the introduction and conclusion, is self-indulgent and all about Schecter himself. I think that if the frame had been about the rise and fall of Peter Arnett, who was made famous by the first Gulf War and destroyed by the Bush Administration and its associated groups, as well as by his own hubris, the documentary would have been a real standout. Arnett comes across as something like a Shakespearean tragic hero in the documentary and I'd like to have seen more on him, as his story really hits the main points of the documentary and does it in a compelling way.
Also, I felt a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see real dissection of a story. This would be a way for Schecter to demonstrate his bona fides, but instead of looking in detail at the progression of one story (and the targeting of Arnett would be a great example), we have a lot of more superficial, broader analysis. Overall, I ended the documentary feeling frustrated. While I feel this is an important topic that more people should know about, it doesn't present the material in a way that's really going to grab people.