Objectivity of the American Media Organizations in Operation Iraqi Freedom

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High School ・Communications & Media ・MLA

One of the main elements of a democratic democracy is the freedom of the press. The right becomes more important after the conflict, a statement made by Justice Hugo Black in the Pentagon Papers case, suggesting that the press has a fundamental duty to support the plight of the public and to ensure transparency of all levels of government (Wilson, DiIulio and Bose 81). The media plays an oversight role in controlling abuse of powers and acting as a whistleblower against corrupt dealings, including the conduct of unsubstantiated wars. The tacit aspect of positions remains impartial in the coverage of conflicts. Nevertheless, the U.S media platforms failed in observing the professional call during the invasion of Iraq, an observation that was echoed by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting evaluation. The agency’s survey on media reporting on Iraq War indicated that the corporate media adopted a biased view and failed in observing the ethical principles of journalism. While the lack of neutrality in the Iraq war is a well-explored concept, the discussion seeks to assess the role of the institution of military and involvement of political elites in influencing the media system. The press supported the idea of militarism in the wake of 9/11 attack, a move which was a violation of the traditional value of journalistic objectivity

One of the key tenets of the American exceptionalism has been media objectivity, where news organizations have always observed neutrality by remaining detached from people and stories being covered. Nevertheless, the press failed in keeping the tradition in the reportage of the Iraq war, with media organizations playing a prominent role in spreading pro-war ideas and amassing support. The organizations also played a fundamental role in suppressing views of the individuals who argued against the war. The stance has become an area of heightened debate and scholarly analysis, with many experts suggesting that the 21st-century American media has lost touch with the fundamental principles of journalistic professional, including objectivity. Practitioners failed to observe factuality, fairness, non-partnership, and disinterestedness in their work. The news agency did not only help in promoting propaganda but also aided the buildup of the war (Curran 34).

While one segment of the media has acknowledged lapses in the 2003 coverage, proponents suggest that promoting national interest of the country was paramount. Nevertheless, the pro-state views are against the role of media in the American history, where the founding fathers enshrined freedom of the expression in the First Amendment to challenge biased approaches and help the democracy. Unfettered commentary and reportage is thus a critical element, where media organizations should provide credible information. Remaining objective is an implied agreement between the press and the public, where the role of the media is to provide unbiased news (Leveson 139). Tehranian also challenges the media view that observing patriotism was significant by arguing that taking antigovernment stance leads to an environment where public views are considered (p.78). The press should work against propaganda and not legitimize them.

One of the most visible aspects of the coverage of the Iraq War was the role of the media in selling the agenda of invading Iraq; an opinion that was congruent with Bush’s strategy of addressing the security threat of terrorism. While the government lobbied support at the Security Council, it faced opposition as many nations were against the militaristic invasion. The U.S allies such as Spain joined China in rejecting the war plea, a view that was also expressed by millions of people who staged demonstrations against the strategy (Davis 50). However, the U.S media helped in lessening the resistance through the fabrication of facts as well as intimidating other countries. One such move was quashing the French-led efforts to adopt a diplomatic move over war. The American media demonized France, with the best case being the New York Post cover titled ‘They died for France, but France has forgotten’, on February 10, 2003, with a picture of a military cemetery in France (Zamparini, Meccoli and Blum 61). Columnists likened Saddam Hussein to Hitler and suggested the Iraqi president wanted to leave a dark mark in the history of the U.S. The focus was to paint other western countries as traitorous in a bid to amass adequate support to launch an offensive campaign that the UN’s Security Council did not support. The theme was common among all leading columnists such as the National Review's Jonah Goldenberg, Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes, and the Washington Post's George Will. The press went beyond the feelings of abhorrence to incitement, with the New York -Post’s Peter King urging the U.S to take a bold move, and refuse to be a second rate country. The media framed the 9/11 incident as an attack on the free world and helped in building the perception of the aggressive strategy was an appropriate decision.

Another aspect of the Iraq War was the contribution of the American network televisions in stirring emotions of the public and policymakers.  The coverage of the Iraq War highlights the role of expert opinion in reportage, where government and military played a fundamental role in setting the agenda of the media (Willis 129). The government and the media adopted tactics that intentionally allowed propaganda to thrive. On its side, the media painted war as a positive move and a high priority issue. While the lack of factuality weakened the position of the media as an unbiased social pillar, an underlying concern was the role of the military and government in the implausibility. Relying on military and government for information was a mistake, as the two players supported the war. The White House focused on feeding the media with opinion-based materials to convince Democrats and the public to support the war. Organizations that diverged from the set tone were treated as not supportive enough, an aspect that forced many journalists to drop detachment over patriotic lapel pin. For instance, MSNBC special reporting of the Iraq, as well as the role of CBS, helped in amplifying the notion that American was going to war with Iraq because the country possessed weapons of mass destruction played a critical role in public support for the war (Haridakis, Hugenberg and Wearden 57). However, the views were not factual, and American broadcasters expressed a flawed reporting in the war. 

While the Bush regime was criticized over the weak case of weapons in Iraq after UN inspectors had confirmed inexistence of uranium-based armories, news agency such as NBC and the New York Times challenged the UN by arguing that the war on terror was inevitable. Nevertheless, the move was against the watchdog responsibilities, a trend that threatens the development of democracy. The report by Mohamed ElBaradei and Blix noted that war was not necessary considering the claims of nuclear weapons were falsified. However, the American press stuck with the government determination to oust and execute Sadam Hussein. The move highlights the role of government’s elitism in media reporting and points out the contribution of existing social, political, and economic fault lines. While the terror threat was an imminent threat after the 9/11 incident, the traditional rivalry between the Arab world and the West played an instrumental role in fueling the war. The flawed reporting is against the professional obligation, where journalists should observe a balanced coverage on all sides.

While it is easy to blame the Bush regime, the press played a fundamental role in convincing the nation that Saddam Hussein was not only a threat to the global stability but also humanity (Rozell & Mayer 308). Cohen (p.186) echoes the same views by analyzing major incidence in the war, where he notes the corporate media helped in amplifying Bush’s claim of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, making it a major talking point among Americans. The argument answers the compelling questions on how the executive arm of the government managed to mobilize the nation to go to war, even when the Security Council was against the move on the basis of scanty evidence.

The military also stifled reportage by embedding the press. While the motive was to allow the media explores firsthand accounts, allowing journalists to witness the suffering of the forces resulted in empathy, an aspect that unconsciously culminated to controlled reporting. The argument is supported by the actions of coalition troops in Iraqi, where they were violent to independent media houses as the case of Israeli and Portuguese journalists who were assaulted by the military personnel and expelled. The information management tool is also supported by incidences where the employer mishandled journalists for dissenting views (Salih 85). One prime example of a correspondent fired for failing to observe the norm of coalition forces in the NBC's Peter Gregg Arnett. The New Zealand-born journalist participated in a debate on state-run television in Iraq, where he suggested that the coalition war plan had failed. Peter's opinion was objective as Iraqis were frustrated with the militarism, an aspect that led to resistance. In his views, the emergence of a sense of nationalism was against American's expectation of being supported by the natives. Nevertheless, NBC’s sacking of a journalist with coveted career path exposed the failure of media as indicated by the FAIR.

In conclusion, the reporting of the Iraq invasion highlights objectivity concerns, where contemporary media organizations have been in the spotlight for failing to withstand the commercial tides. Practitioners failed to express factuality, fairness, non-partnership, and disinterestedness in their work.  Rather than the news organizations upholding the journalistic spirit of presenting irrefutable facts in a way that observes scientific virtues, the American media focused on supporting the government and militaristic agenda, through flawed reporting and weakening resistance. The case highlights a key reference point in adopting reforms to ensure that journalists observe news value as part of the American exceptionalism.

Works Cited

Cohen, Elliot D. Critical thinking unleashed. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009.

Curran, James. Media & Money. 1st ed. Hoboken: Taylor & Francis, 2011. Print.

Davis, Todd A. The Global War on Terror: 9/11, Iraq, And America's Crisis in the Middle East. 1st Ed. New Jersey: Xlibris Corporation, 2008. Print.

Haridakis, Paul M, Barbara S Hugenberg, and Stanley T Wearden. War and the Media. 1st ed. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2009. Print.

Leveson, Brian Henry. An Inquiry into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press. 1st ed. London: Stationery Office, 2012. Print.

Rozell, Mark J., and Jeremy D. Mayer, eds. Media power, media politics. Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.

Salih, Abdel Rahman Abdalla. "The media and American invasion of Iraq: A tale of two wars." Journal of Arab & Muslim Media Research 2.1-2 (2009): 81-90.

Tehranian, M. "Peace Journalism: Negotiating Global Media Ethics". The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 7.2 (2002): 58-83. Web. 2 Apr. 2017.

Willis, William James. Media Effect: How The News Influences Politics And Government (Democracy And The News, 1932-6947). 1st ed. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. Print.

Wilson, James Q, John J DiIulio, and Meenekshi Bose. American Government. 1st ed. Independence, KY: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.

Zamparini, Garbriele, Lorenzo Meccoli, and William Blum. American Voices of Dissent. 1st Ed. New York: Routledge, 2015. Print.

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