Remember: They're Deliberately
Not Reporting All the War News
December 15, 2001
I've complained here often
about the mass media's failure to report civilian casualties from U.S.
bombing. My apologies to my readers, therefore, since until now I
failed to mention how there is written evidence of such a policy of
Norman Solomon, Media Beat
columnist for the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting,
his annual "P.U.-Litzer Prizes" for 2001. Here are two of
- PROTECTING VIEWERS FROM
THE NEWS PRIZE -- CNN Chair Walter Isaacson
"It seems perverse
to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan,"
said Isaacson, in a memo ordering his staff to accompany any images of
Afghan civilian suffering with rhetoric that U.S. bombing is retaliation
for the Taliban harboring terrorists. As if the American public may be
too feeble-minded to remember Sept. 11, the CNN chief explained:
"You want to make sure that when they see civilian suffering there,
it's in the context of a terrorist attack that caused enormous suffering
in the United States." [full Washington Post story
this is based on]
- PROTECTING READERS FROM
THE NEWS PRIZE -- Panama City News Herald
An October internal memo
from the daily in Panama City, Florida, warned its editors: "DO NOT
USE photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties from the U.S. war on
Afghanistan. Our sister paper ... has done so and received hundreds and
hundreds of threatening e-mails... DO NOT USE wire stories which lead
with civilian casualties from the U.S. war on Afghanistan. They should
be mentioned further down in the story. If the story needs rewriting to
play down the civilian casualties, DO IT."
This would be bad enough, but
as anyone who has worked for a boss knows, sometimes you have to read
between the lines to find out what the boss really wants. The
real message of these memos is, don't report the civilian casualties at
all. That this is the case is borne out by the virtual complete
absence of such reports during the Afghan War.
Moreover, when a
of the bombing campaign by a U.S. professor estimated that American
airstrikes had killed 3500 civilians, the mass media ignored that also. Don't the American
people have the right to know what is really being done in their name?
Perhaps because the war is
winding down, some media outlets may now be feeling that it is safe to relax
their self-censorship a bit. The New York Times, for example, carried
in the past weeks about civilian casualties. But such stories are still few
and far between.
And more importantly, where
were such reports when the vast bulk of the bombing was going on and
coverage of the large numbers of civilians being maimed and killed could
have caused enough of an uproar to force a change in bombing strategy?
Exactly, non-existent, to fit in perfectly with the wishes of the war
planners in Washington, D.C., who during this conflict seem even more than
usual to be leading the media around by the nose.