Monday, August 09, 2010

media cheerleading

A few days ago I watched the documentary War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (2008). The film adequately explores some of the ways in which the media in the United States colludes with the government to market wars. Some examples it cites are: the media's use of government and military officials as pundits; the media's use of government data as a source of reliable information instead of investigating facts independently (AKA journalism); and the firing of dissenting voices on television news programs. Overall it's an average, standard fare talking heads documentary in which Norman Solomon distills ideas and examples from his book while we watch footage of various politicians and media personalities dish out distortions. War Made Easy mostly sets out to be a piece of investigative journalism rather than a great piece of filmmaking (the final video on this page might be the film's most visually arresting sequence), and on that level it's probably a success. There's little to blow your hair back, but it gets the job done. Outside of a couple of undeniable examples of the media not doing its job (to put it apologetically), the film's greatest strength might be that it convincingly refutes the idea that the media in the United States is overly liberal (or liberal in any meaningful way), at least when it comes to war reporting (which should be enough to unbalance the entire premise).

Below is an excerpt I uploaded from the film. In just over 8 minutes it sufficiently damns the mainstream press in America as well as anyone who's able to remain part of it. Aside from being my favorite segment and the main reason I made this post, it's basically the film in a nutshell for people who already know and understand these issues.

(Two parts, the second of which will play automatically after the first. Sorry for the choppy bits (it gets better after 1:30); I'm using primitive machinery.)

Another part of the film that stood out to me was an incredible statistic. (First, a quick disclaimer: I tried verifying the numbers myself and realized that there are many ways one could count up the deaths (Vietnam in particular), so without seeing Norman Solomon's sources I can't vouch for the validity of the statistic.) Anyway, here it is: In World War I, 10% of all casualties were civilian. During World War II, civilian casualties rose to 50%. In Vietnam, 70% of the casualties were civilian. And in Iraq, civilians account for 90% of the casualties. If that's true and verifiable, it seems like something powerful enough to end the war(s). But perhaps I'm being incredibly optimistic and naive to think such a thing. Not that it matters; the majority of Americans will never hear anything about it.

[here is an older post related to media bias and distortion]

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