Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting writes: "During the weeks following September's terrorist attacks, two leading dailies used their op-ed pages as an echo chamber for the government's official policy of military response, mostly ignoring dissenters and policy critics.
War / Peace
A full page ad in the New York Times from the left/liberal Institute for America's Future is headlined "Sacrifice is for Suckers." It condemns corporate war profiteering saying that "in the days after the tragedy of September 11 ... lobbyists for GM, GE, IBM and other leading corporations were quietly approaching their friends in Congress, bearing a wish list with hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts and special favors. ... We must not allow the war profiteers to win permanent tax breaks by exploiting our national emergency..."
Despite repeated assertions by President Bush and his top advisers that their global campaign against terrorism will be a "new kind of war," the biggest recipients of the new weapons spending sparked by the September 11 attacks will be the usual suspects: big defense contractors like Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The "wartime opportunists" are "on high alert," writes William Hartung.
"How and when does journalism become propaganda?" asks Jasmina Teodosijevic-Ryan. "As a writer, broadcaster and media analyst from the former Yugoslavia, I have observed the process first-hand. It starts slowly, then spreads like a stain. The transformation from objective journalism to propaganda begins with the addition of adjectives when referring to the other side. The 'enemy' becomes 'merciless' or 'hate-filled.' Then comes the shaping, cutting and editing reports to benefit one side. 'Our' victims have names, faces and grieving families; they must be avenged. 'Theirs' do not exist.
"Invest in US," a non-profit group comprised of "communications professionals--writers, illustrators, filmmakers, etc.," has launched a website aimed at encouraging people to invest in the currently-depressed stock market. Stock indexes, the website argues, are "an indicator of the economic health and a measure of our country's self-confidence." Just as "heroic firemen, doctors, police officers, and so many others ...
Concerned about appearing sympathetic to the Taliban, CNN chairman Walter Issacson has ordered his staff to "balance" reporting on civilian destruction and images of Afghanistan casualties with reminders of Sept. 11 victims and video of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. "I want to make sure we're not used as a propaganda platform," Isaacson told the Washington Post. "You want to make sure people understand that when they see civilian suffering there, it's in the context of a terrorist attack that caused enormous suffering in the United States."
"Cluster bombs" are a hideous military weapon for use against people, an "antipersonnel device" developed and used by the U.S. during the Vietnam war to maim, terrorize and demoralize both soldiers and civilians. Today the U.S. began broadcasting radio warnings to Afghanistan civilians to not confuse yellow unexploded cluster bombs with yellow food packets, both being dropped from the air by the U.S. The warning claims that it is "unlikely" but "possible" that some of the cluster bombs will fail to explode and thus threaten anyone who comes across them.
Congress is on the verge of passing a new law (H.R. 3160) that would block public access to information about the US biological defense program under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Secrecy will do little to protect public safety, since extensive information has already been widely published about bioweapons agents, most of which are naturally-occurring. The Sunshine Project explains the public relations agenda behind the drive for secrecy, which may have more to do with protecting corporate reputations than public safety.
While US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells US television that Afghanistan is "not a quagmire," British Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief spin doctor, Alistair Campbell, has been talking with his White House counterpart, Karen Hughes, about how to maintain public support for a protracted campaign.
The Bush administration has belatedly deployed its forces for a propaganda war to win over the Arab public. But the campaign, intended to convince doubters that the American attacks on Afghanistan are justified and its Middle East policy is evenhanded, has so far proved ineffectual. Thousands of words from American officials, it appears, have proved no match for the last week's news, which produced a barrage of pictures of wounded Afghan children and of Israeli tanks rolling into Palestinian villages.