The Media As Weapon

The Christian Science Monitor notes that al-Qaeda’s media-based asymmetrical warfare strategy is paying them big dividends:

In the aftermath of the war, fewer US correspondents were embedded with US military units, and the story took a different direction. The focus was on attempts to build a democratic political system and repair an infrastructure both neglected by Hussein and then damaged even more during the fighting. Then came more negative stories of US mistakes and the Pentagon’s unpreparedness for the enormity of problems in the postwar occupation. Finally, Iraq lapsed into violence, with car bombings and assassinations and hostage-taking providing a daily litany of horror. The occupying US soldiers began to take ever more casualties as did US and other foreign civilian workers and journalists, whose fatalities soon numbered more than in any other war.

They included brave Iraqi journalists and cameramen working for the Americans at great peril.

Critics in the Bush administration charged that images of chaos and violence were overshadowing stories of a more positive nature: of schools that were being opened, hospitals that were being rebuilt, and Iraqis who were coming forward to be policemen.

Now some US military officers, too, charge that a clever enemy media campaign is gaining traction and that the US is losing the war in information about battlefield operations.

I don’t think there’s much question that the United States is losing the media war. As independent journalists like Michael Yon have noted the US military has not been friendly to the media which only exacerbates the natural bias the media has against the military. At a time when winning the media war is as crucial as military success on the battlefield, the lack of a coherent military strategy on the part of the United States is one of the greatest weapons that al-Qaeda has.

The military needs to revive the embeds program and ensure that the full story from Iraq is told. The media rarely leaves the Green Zone and relies mainly on terrorist-affiliated stringers to bring them the news from the rest of Iraq. As one officer notes in the article, why build a propaganda outlet when you can subvert the nation’s media to do the work for you?

This situation was largely preventable, had the US taken the initiative after the end of the first phase of combat. Rather than letting the media fend for themselves, the military should have expanded the embed program to ensure that the media got the full story and not just what the enemy wanted them to see.

The American people need to get the full picture so that they can make informed opinions about this war. Right now, they are only getting one side of the story, and that is the side of the story that the enemy wants them to get. The media is not being a “watchdog” when they uncritically report what they’re given — but it doesn’t help that the other story is a lot harder to get than the propaganda of the enemy. Part of winning in Iraq requires our leadership to understand that this war isn’t like the wars we’ve seen previously — it is being fought through the media as much as it is on the battlefield.

If we want to win, and we must, we cannot allow the enemy to shape the media battlefield. We have to fight back, and that means that we have to be far more proactive in getting the full story out there. If we don’t, we will continue to lose at home at the same time our soldiers make great sacrifices trying to win in Iraq.

15 thoughts on “The Media As Weapon

  1. “If we want to win, and we must, we cannot allow the enemy to shape the media battlefield.”

    The media is market-driven just like every other private enterprise. If conservatives were serious about stacking the media deck with sympathetic pro-war hacks, fewer of them would go to business school and more would go into journalism. The market seems to be going the other way though. Fox News has been insisting for the last three years that black is actually white in Iraq…and their ratings have been in steady decline over that same time period.

  2. Merely repeating the demented worldview of some other barking moonbat on Daily Kos or the HuffyPuffy Post does not constitute informed opinion, Mark, especially when your wild-eyed assertions are so easily refuted. Once again, it is obvious you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

    News Ratings for June 19, 2007

    P2+ Total Day
    FNC – 861,000 viewers
    CNN – 513,000 viewers
    MSNBC – 310,000 viewers
    CNBC – 202,000 viewers
    HLN – 263,000 viewers

    P2+ Prime Time
    FNC – 1,723,000 viewers
    CNN – 963,000 viewers
    MSNBC – 424,000 viewers
    CNBC – 273,000 viewers
    HLN – 571,000 viewers

    25-54 Total Day
    FNC – 292,000 viewers
    CNN – 174,000 viewers
    MSNBC – 137,000 viewers
    CNBC – 86,000 viewers
    HLN – 103,000 viewers

    25-54 Prime Time
    FNC – 510,000 viewers
    CNN – 260,000 viewers
    MSNBC – 175,000 viewers
    CNBC – 102,000 viewers
    HLN – 194,000 viewers

    Morning programs P2+ (25-54)
    FOX & Friends – 835,000 viewers (357,000)
    American Morning – 408,000 viewers (151,000)
    MSNBC Live (7-9 AM) – 196,000 viewers (61,000)
    Robin & Co. –227,000 viewers (98,000)

  3. Eracus, now show us the ratings for Fox News at this same time last year…and the year before. Fox still gets a pluarlity of the cable news audience, but its market share is declining.

  4. You are a complete fraud, Mark. As has been demonstrated time and time again, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about and merely parrot the wild-eyed, barking moonbat opinions you read on some other website. If that were not true, you would support your own argument here with the facts that led to your assertion, which, of course, you cannot do because it simply has no basis in reality. You are delusional.

  5. Wow, that Eracus sure does know the Freepers favorite insults, but like the rest of them doesn’t seem to know much else.

    If there were in fact a lot of good news in Iraq, someone would report it.

    Fox would love to report it, but even they have a teensy bit of integrity, and won’t make up entire stories – or at least not since the WMD fiasco.

    But there isn’t any important good news, so they don’t.

    Soldiers painting schools where children are getting blown up the next day is not good news.

    No matter how the Bush lovers try to “paint” it as glorious.

  6. But there isn’t any important good news, so they don’t.

    Of course. There’s no such thing as Sahawah al-Anbar emerging as a counter to al-Qaeda in the formerly “lost” al-Anbar Province. Certainly the same isn’t happening in Diyala Province either. Nope, no good news whatsoever.

    If there were in fact a lot of good news in Iraq, someone would report it.

    Some people are, they’re just the people who actually leave their Green Zone hotels rather than the typical “reporter” who relies on outside stringers to feed them information.

    The media is not reporting what’s really going on in Iraq because they’re not there to report it. The reason why the average American is painfully ignorant of even the most basic facts of this conflict is because the American media has abrogated its basic responsibilities in covering this war.

    There is a great number of things going on in Iraq — it’s just that you’re not willing to take off your partisan blinders long enough to pay attention to them.

  7. Eracus, all I asked is that you produce Fox’s ratings compared to last year at this time so we could compare and contrast. Given your petulant outburst, you must have found the numbers and not liked what you saw huh?

  8. Actually, no, Mark, I am just not interested in disproving facts not in evidence. If you think you have an argument, make it yourself. If you can.

  9. Doesn’t someone who states what they believe to be a fact have to prove that statement first BEFORE calling on someone else to provide evidence to the contrary?

    And even if FOX News ratings have gone down over a three year period that in no way proves anything by itself. Perhaps ratings for all outlets have decreased? Viewers turning to something different entirely or just shutting off the TV itself because blogs and online video provide enough information for them to digest?

  10. I don’t accept the premise of your question, Will. Neither do I see any point in engaging someone who so readily admits to beating his wife.

  11. “Of course. There’s no such thing as Sahawah al-Anbar emerging as a counter to al-Qaeda in the formerly “lost” al-Anbar Province. Certainly the same isn’t happening in Diyala Province either. Nope, no good news whatsoever.”

    The insurgents, as insurgents do, move away from where the occupiers are fighting, and go elsewhere until the occupiers leave that area, thinking it is now pacified.

    The Sunnis are happy to get help to remove al-Qaeda from their area, so they can have more power themselves. So they can concentrate on the civil war.

    The US is considering giving weapons to the Sunnis there. Should we trust them with these new weapons?

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