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War on the Media?

Some of you are probably wondering why I’m posting so many topics… I’m waiting on transportation to my next embed. Anyway…

I’ve also had some time to watch tv. A lot of tv. Too much tv. One thing I have noticed lately — and I don’t think its just me — but has any one here noticed the Bush administration’s (regime’s) War on the Media regarding Iraq coverage? 

I saw it in the recent speeches Bush has given the last few days. Then I really saw it during the press conference yesterday when he essentially blamed the media for the situation here. It struck me as dis-respectful and overly aggressive when he slapped down Helen Thomas as well. It’s not just the president doing it either. Cheney’s done it recently too in his speeches. I also saw it on an Army public affairs/IO program today during an interview with Gen. Cody, the Army vice chief of staff. 
There message is summed up like this: not all the news coming out of Iraq, what you see on the TV or read in papers, is bad. 
Speaking from experience, this act/spinning reminds me of Kevin Bacon’s character in Animal House yelling ans screaming "All is well! All is well!" during the parade-riot. But I digress…

So am I the only one seeing this or am I the only lunatic in the forest?


by Bill Putnam at 2006-03-22 13:19:24 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Ad Dawr , Iraq | Bookmark | | Report spam→

If you were stateside watching TV regularly, you would have noticed this a long time ago.  It’s real and it’s pervasive—and it’s common knowledge, and nothing is being done about it.  Cheers from the U.S. of A.

by [former member] | 22 Mar 2006 13:03 | | Report spam→
I am as looney as you Bill, and I dont even see any American TV, but my impression from coverage in the papers, mags, web etc is that there is certainly an attempt to clamp down on media coverage, and I think it is increasing a bit too, particularly in light of the fact that things seem to have worsened rapidly over there, and the general impression is that the situation is out of control.  The Bush admin is going to do whatever it can to thwart that perception.

Be safe.

by Jon Anderson | 22 Mar 2006 13:03 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Glad I thought I was the only looney. Company is good.

Yeah, for some reason I just never noticed this until now. It’s pretty fricking alarming. Blame the media for a situation they created AND shut down access. It sounds… fascist (?). 

There is some anecdotal, behind-the-scenes evidence to suggest you’re right about clamping down on coverage, Jon. The brigade I’m currently embedded with is responsible for Samarra. The PAO/IO types — probably directed by their commander, Lt. Gen. Pete Chiarelli — to shut down Samarra for embeds after the bombing. 

(Of course, an article by a Knight-Ridder correspondent didn’t help either. The journo wrote about a gun fight between the Grunts and Bad Boys, who lost. With no way to get them to a morgue, the platoon sergeant said "fuck it, tie them to the hood." 
With no other way for disposal, I can’t really blame the guy for doing it. I also can’t even blame Ken for writing it. But someone down in their palace in Baggers freaked out after reading the article. "Oh my god, this is actually happening?! We’re at war?! Noooo!!!!" Ok, ok I’m probably paraphrasing but its not far from the truth, believe me.)

The BCT PAO has no idea when Samarra embeds will be allowed again either. He’s tried to get me in there because of my past work with the brigade but it was shot down. Bummer.

Its just too bad the embed program has become this way.

by Bill Putnam | 22 Mar 2006 13:03 | Ad Dawr, Iraq | | Report spam→
I forgot to say this too… this pattern or whatever you call it sounds very Nixon-esque too toward the end of the Vietnam War. Blame the press for your problems. After all they’re the ones pointing them out.

by Bill Putnam | 22 Mar 2006 14:03 | Ad Dawr, Iraq | | Report spam→
Try this:

Orville Schell: Journalism from the Green Zone

On another note, Rumsfeld has gone so far as to say that America is losing the media war to al-Qaeda!  The baddies in Iraq and Afghanistan, blogging from their spider holes, are apparently the most effective media organization in the world.

All of this is just too stupid to countenance, let alone believe.  The effect is just to numb the mind.

by [former member] | 22 Mar 2006 14:03 (ed. Mar 22 2006) | | Report spam→
"Blame the press for your problems. After all they’re the ones pointing them out."

If only the press WOULD blame the Bushies for the problems.  The scenario is really different.  It’s more that the media have been so cowed, beaten back by the administration and its echo chamber, that there is precious little actual journalism being practiced at all.  You are hard pressed to find anything written in the public interest, something as quaint as "the public’s right to know."  The media are firmly in Bush’s camp, still calling him a popular president despite his 33% approval rating—and yet the right still trashes the liberal media.  It’s a vicious circle.  Pictures of dead American GIs on the front page of the NYTimes?  It will never happen . . .

by [former member] | 22 Mar 2006 14:03 | | Report spam→
Bill,  Interesting observation about "Nixon".  Cheney (who is, after all, really running the country) makes no secret of his admiration for Nixon and for the adoption of Nixon-era practices.   The Watergate controversy was blown wide open by savvy journalists.  The media bringing down a President?  Maybe this is payback…

by ABC | 22 Mar 2006 14:03 | San Francisco, United States | | Report spam→
Mike, I’m not the first journo or person to bring up the Nixon tie-in. I think a jounro brought it up one of Bush’s last PCs. I think there’s plenty of work for enterprising journos to bring this administration down… government secrecy… wire tapping… the war here… environmental degradation… re-nouncing of treaties, like the ABM, that kept nukes in check… did I mention the war here… Gitmo… prisoner rendering… torture…

I’m not trying to show my true political color(s) here. I’m only trying to point out the fact the administration has found a very visible and 800-pound straw man: us in the media. If only we’d use our collective weight to re-assert or importance to society.

I’ve fought that same perception here by some officers, otherwise smart and street smart dudes, the media doesn’t sit at the Hamra or Palestine out of sheer laziness — its out of neccesity! The Bad Boys, to borrow the term from Mick Ware, are intentionally gunning for us. The Americans are unitentionally gunning for us. But  journos, like me,  were harassed when guys from the LA Times, Washington Post or whoever embedded, wrote anything even remotely critical. 

Most of the journos I’ve met here, especially the boys and girls "locked away" in their hotel rooms really do empathize with the Joes and Janes down in the trenches. But since a journos job is to question things, the military hates it. Especially now that we’re in a very unpopular war (even in the military) AND we’re fighting a very small number of people who belong to a culture we don’t really understand (Islam and Arabs). 

While here in uniform in 2004, I had plenty of debates with captains, majors and lieutant colonels in my office about the importance of the media. I was a corporal then but my real job in the civilian world was as a journo in Seattle, so I had some background to speak from as a public affairs guy. I told them, and I believe it now more than ever, the role of the media is to keep government honest so we don’t become Nazi Germany or Facsist Italy. They almost to a man completely disagreed. Yet they wouldn’t say what the media’s role was other than help the government spin their programs.

So watching this go on back home is a little distressing. It brings up perhaps bigger question: have we changed THAT much as a socierty since Vietnam that we just sit there and lap up the government’s word? Or is the change more recenet, like since 9/11? Do we really want to avoid another Vietnam that we just ignore bad news even if one is happening NOW? Do these questions make any sense?

by Bill Putnam | 22 Mar 2006 15:03 | Ad Dawr, Iraq | | Report spam→
I think we are entirely on the same page and the questions make sense.

It would be interesting to know what the Joes and Janes think of Fox News coverage – supportive? embarrassing?  prefer to ignore it?  Do they perceive different media outlets in different ways?  But back to the original point, I would agree that the media is evolving in to a scapegoat, also something which is not uncommon.  It’s a fact that communication can lead to conflict as well as resolution and the media is all about communication.  It is regretable that a political body feels the need to take advantage of that fact in an effort to promote a questionable agenda.


by ABC | 22 Mar 2006 15:03 | San Francisco, United States | | Report spam→
I haven’t done anything scientific but from what I’ve gathered the FNC watchers make up about half and the CNN/MSNBC watchers are the other half. Its funny, the military sponsors 10 channels of satellite tv here; one channel is all news. The programming is a mix of FNC, CNN and MSNBC so everyone has their choice. But I’ve found the FNC programs air closer to when people are off work or at lunch. Wierd or funny? Your call.

Political bodies taking advantage of free communication isn’t new. That was part of my job while in uniform, at least while deployed to places like Kosovo and Iraq (the other half was to document what the Army was doing, not easy when you’re naturally skeptical). Beyond that, it’s not right for the government to brow beat the media. 

Some officers here — like the commander of the cav squadron I’m embedded with now and my next embed in Bayji — understand and appreciate the media’s role here. They ask for a fair shake if something goes wrong and I’m not opposed to give it to them. I was saw two civilians shot in Bayji last November. It was a chaotic day, decisions have to be made in a milli-second and guerilla war here isn’t simple at all. I wrote that on my blog. 

Too bad the rest of the political body is too cynical to understand that. We’re seeing that now. Unfortunately people have died and the living’s passions are aroused for clear though and dialogue.

by Bill Putnam | 22 Mar 2006 15:03 | Ad Dawr, Iraq | | Report spam→
On Tues. Terry Gross had writer, Kevin Price on her show . He has a very interesting interpration of the Bush family, oil,religous right and the military. Her interview – A Political Warning Shot: ’American Theocracy- can be heard at the follwing

by chip chipman | 22 Mar 2006 16:03 | San Francisco area, United States | | Report spam→
I read a review of this book on the NYT Web site. It looked good. I’ve thought at times we’re heading in that direction myself. 

Have you read Kaplan’s "Empire Wilderness"? Its a good one and goes some way in talking about how the societal turmoil we’re facing now is caused by great change in the last forty years. I even had the impression Kaplan insinuated the US will break up into little pieces if people can’t get over the past and embrace change… calcification then erosion is what he called it, I think.

by Bill Putnam | 22 Mar 2006 16:03 | Ad Dawr, Iraq | | Report spam→
Like I say I think it will get worse.  This war has been very hard for people to cover, given the heightened danger AND the desire on both sides to silence or control the media.  I always felt that embedding was just the govt’s way of appearing to cooperate but creating a means of keeping the media on a leash, though I know of course that it is not quite that simple.  However, I have to say I am impressed by the photos that come out of this situation, which somehow manage to slip the constraints and convey something of what it is like to be an Iraqi in the middle of all this.  I would like to see more independent essays about themes other than the armed conflict itself, but the chances of producing such stories are pretty slim now.  Still, I tip my hat to you Bill, and Johan Spanner, Cristoph Bangert, James Lee, Alan Chin, and a lot of other LS members for doing such a great job under these circumstances

Finally in answer to the big question: "have we changed THAT much as a society since Vietnam that we just sit there and lap up the government’s word? Or is the change more recent, like since 9/11? Do we really want to avoid another Vietnam that we just ignore bad news even if one is happening NOW? Do these questions make any sense?"  Well, I dont think the govt has changed much, nor the warmongers or policy supporters either — they behaved this way during Nam, and they continue to this day with the same tactics and attitudes.  But in some ways the govt’s control of information seems more sinister.  However,  I am not sure the society has changed, necessarily, for the worse or that people passively accept the official version of things.  Plenty of people are outspokenly against the war, and that momentum is going to build.  The job you do is still worth doing, and the information you and others bring back remains important. 

by Jon Anderson | 22 Mar 2006 16:03 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
Thanks, Jon. Its funny. I never intended for the topic to head in this direction. Sometimes the best discussions start that way, when intentions are altered. 

Anyway, I want to do more non-conflict stuff too. I did one on the Baghdad Stock Market last month (I should post it to my blog. That’s the only way to get my work out… no one seems to be buying images from here anymore unless you’re on assignment for NYT or Time. Or maybe its my work… hmmm… another thing to think about). Who did I happen to run into there? Johann. Wearing orange pants. I might do some non-conflict work with the Kurds, the only "pro" American lot around here.

by Bill Putnam | 22 Mar 2006 16:03 | Ad Dawr, Iraq | | Report spam→
Please, allow me to add a twist to the discussion and bring the focus back to the “Homeland” (rhymes with “Fatherland” or, more precisely, with “Vaterland”…) for a moment.

I’ve had the very paranoid experience of living my teenage years through a military dictatorship, courtesy of, and under the auspices of, the U.S. of A. Mind you, I am almost 45 and there are quite a few here that hail from Chile and Argentina (I’m from Uruguay) that I believe are in my age range and can attest to it, so, I’m far from the only person here with a similar experience.

Living through it and reading about it on syndicated newspapers and/or watching the news on big TV networks, are two very different things. It may sound obvious but it isn’t. There’s a very defined and unnatural apathy the American public, at large, has towards anything happening outside U.S. borders; almost like the country belongs on a separate planet and everything happening “out there” is seen as inconsequential to their own “present”; like gazing a supernova explode 15,000 light years away… What they don’t know and fail to see -and this is really ignorance on their part, not knowing differently, a consequence of said apathy -, is that a very ugly reality is creeping up on them. The few concerned, those paying attention, some of them called “libertarians”, as if in an insult, can see it coming. The rest of those that can find parallels on what’s happening are people that have lived thru something similar. The “Land of the Free” (for their own and for now), a place that can begot a place like the “School of the Americas” to train south-of-the-border military in the art of “interrogation” and so called “counter-terrorism” to suppress any, and I really mean “any”, indicia of “leftist” thought among the people, can very well, and with few adjustments, many underway, shift its ugly sight inwards. What happened in South America in the 60’s, 70’s and part of the 80’s, was, from where I see it, a training ground for what may happen here.

I’ve been blowing that trumpet for quite a while in my blog and the funny thing is that on the April issue of Harper’s magazine there is an article that speculates on just that unthinkable scenario: a military, or a military backed civilian coup of the U.S. government. The graffiti is on the proverbial wall and because it is graffiti-like, few really notice it.

The media manipulation, its demonization thereof, the subtle and not so subtle suppression of information, here and in the frontlines, is a “beginning” or perhaps a continuation of something in motion for a very long time.

You can accuse me of being bent towards conspiracy theories, which is fine, but I also have a memory and the human mind can abstract and associate.

by Luis E. Andrade | 22 Mar 2006 20:03 (ed. Mar 22 2006) | Philadelphia Metro Area, United States | | Report spam→
Some new commentary about this topic…


by ABC | 24 Mar 2006 07:03 | San Francisco, United States | | Report spam→
I like the article, a lot. Thanks. I think its interesting this is happening, again. This is a (too) classic case of blame the messenger. I wonder if administration is aware of their own State Department’s report on Iraq. Even they’re saying it’s bad, nay… terrible there.

by Bill Putnam | 24 Mar 2006 07:03 | Ad Dawr, Iraq | | Report spam→
the biggest shock to me when i moved to Canada (two days after the invasion, on my wedding day), was how profoundly different the american coverage was (especially television) compared with Canadian or British. I’d watch the BBC, then CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Co) and then CNN (or even MacNeil/Lehrer): the comparison was shocking. For example, on CNN (its even worse with Fox and the other majors), here is an announcement:

"today 8 civilians and a soldier had been killed/wounded in a roadside attack…"

then on the BBC/CBC : "today 25 civilians and 5 soldiers had been killed/wounded.."…

it is that profoundly disparate….its a ruse…then again, one shouldnt be trying to learn about things from tv, let alone the adminstration in Washington….


by [former member] | 24 Mar 2006 09:03 | Toronto, Canada | | Report spam→
Bill, I’m glad you started this thread. It’s an important topic. It’s funny how the media, though playing by the government’s rules, still get the blame…something to ponder about.

Preston wrote, “If only the press WOULD blame the Bushies for the problems…It’s more that the media have been so cowed, beaten back by the administration and its echo chamber, that there is precious little actual journalism being practiced at all. You are hard pressed to find anything written in the public interest, something as quaint as "the public’s right to know." The media are firmly in Bush’s camp…”

I don’t know if the media are firmly in Bush’s camp; it’s more like the media are playing by Bush’s rules because they have to. If they don’t, their reporters can be pulled from embedding, their newspaper/station could lose access to government officials, not to mention some “patriotic” sponsors may pull their ads. Even the independent American journalists have to self-censer themselves otherwise no publications would dare to buy their stories. Media, after all, is also a big business.

Here is a reportage that was done along the line of “the public’s right to know”. It’s no like the French media are more daring; they simply have fewer “financial” restrictions than the American ones in this case, hence able to cover the war more transparently. Please go to this page:

Click on the link “GI’s en Irak: paroles interdites” to view the video. When I saw this program back in Oct. 04, I was saddened by it because I knew even though the soldiers took great risk to speak their mind, the ones who needed to hear them the most – the American people, did not have the chance to do so (and still don’t today). Just imagine if the Networks were allowed (dared) to produce and air something like this before the last election…

The program is in French. I picked out the parts where you can still hear the dialogs in English:

Time code 3:00 (one soldier said “the president is very good at scaring the hell out of the American people”); 9:47 (the soldiers interviewed did not think Bush made the right decision to go to war); 30:40 (undercover interview at a hospital for the injured GI’s); 35:40 (A soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The reason he gave for why he didn’t want to show his face on camera…was truly heartbreaking.) 42:15 (an amputee soldier)

by Irras | 25 Mar 2006 03:03 (ed. Mar 25 2006) | Geneva, Switzerland | | Report spam→
I just wanted to pass this along to the group… I’m writing a piece on this subject for my blog. A few people have commented on it lately and essentially carried on the administration’s argument by calling me cynical. I’m not by the way, just skeptical. 

Anyway, I’d like to use a few quote from the discussion here in the piece. Lemme know if you guys are cool with it or oppose it. Thanks.


by Bill Putnam | 28 Mar 2006 06:03 | Ad Dawr, Iraq | | Report spam→
Here. IF you want your hair to stand on end read this about the Rendon Group in Rolling Stone.
Just as an fyi the Rendon Group did have a response.
My coding’s not so great. “Rolling Stone” and second reference to “Rendon Group” above are hot links.

by John Robert Fulton Jr. | 28 Mar 2006 06:03 (ed. Mar 28 2006) | Fort Worth, TX., United States | | Report spam→
I think the problem that is being overlooked with the desparity in reports comming out of Iraq and Afghanistan is that there are far too few television reporters bothering to ventue too far from their hotel rooms. If no one is actually bothering to cover the news as it is occuring there. it is no wonder why we are hearing reports that are so different that it boggles the mind of any sane person… 99% of what we hear on TV must be total heresay. When reporting said heresay becomes the final word of what is happening in Iraq everyone be they liberal, conservative, or whatever are in deep trouble. Big network TV has become more like Orwell’s Ministry of the Truth than a fair, balanced and objective outlet for information.

The recent Bush move to get tough with the media is likely more out of frustration over this type of coverage than anything else. There must be some “good” news somewhere in Iraq but no one (at least no one in the mainstream media) is telling that story because it might actually be difficult to do so. It’s time to wake up to the fact that the American populace is bored with death and explosions and would rather sit on their duffs and watch American Idol than give a rip about the lives of Iraq’s civilian population. Covering another burned out car is not the way to get anyone’s attention, it only breeds more apathy.

by Nathan Daniel Pier | 28 Mar 2006 06:03 | Wisconsin, United States | | Report spam→
There must be some good news in Iraq – sure there must, Nathan. There’s also a whole lot more bad news that isn’t being told – from massacres by "coalition troops", to conflict between US and British forces, not to mention the continuing undermining of freedom and civil liberties in the UK and elsewhere in the name of – I’m not sure what exactly. 

I think the censorship of the media (in the UK as well as in the US) is absolutely incredible. How many pictures of American dead have you seen in the US media, Nathan? There was the dead soldier in Fallujah which was shown for all of two hours on a website – and er, er… I don’t know, but I get the feeling the US press, like that in the UK, isn’t exactly overwhelming in its coverage of US casualties.  How balanced and fair is that coverage. How much is that telling all the bad news exactly how it is. It’s not balanced, it’s not fair, and it is nothing more than censorship for political purposes. This kind of censorship, this pretence at the sanctity of American life and we mustn’t show American dead is something new – it didn’t always used to be like that in the American media. It was made to happen because people didn’t like seeing dead Americans in the papers – it gave them an idea that people get killed in wars, on both sides, and that the US can lose wars. But I could be wrong Nathan – I know over 2,000 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq and, for all I know, images of their dead bodies could be all over the television and newspapers in the US. However, if that’snot the case, I’d be asking myself why – and wondering exactly why this news and images of this news is being hidden from the American people – and why the media is presenting such a positive front to the war.

by Colin Pantall | 28 Mar 2006 07:03 | Bath, United Kingdom | | Report spam→

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Bill Putnam, Producer. Bill Putnam
Washington, D.C. , United States
Jon Anderson, Photographer & Writer Jon Anderson
Photographer & Writer
Ocala Florida , United States
Washington Dc , United States
chip chipman, Photojournalist chip chipman
Berkeley,Ca , United States ( SFO )
Luis E. Andrade, I shoot and I write Luis E. Andrade
I shoot and I write
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Irras, photographer Irras
Geneva , Switzerland
John Robert Fulton Jr., Photographs John Robert Fulton Jr.
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Nathan Daniel Pier, Photographer/Digital Tech Nathan Daniel Pier
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(Recovering Newspaper Photog)
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Colin Pantall, Photographer/Writer Colin Pantall
Bath , United Kingdom


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