Tuesday, July 18, 2006

ROB PORT ON THE MEDIA EMBEDDING WITH TERRORISTS

This is from Rob Port, the author of the Say Anything blog. It's a follow-up to his July 16th post, New York Times Photographer On The Wrong Side, which is worth reading first.

Over the weekend the appearance of a photo showing an Iraqi terrorist firing on U.S. soldiers which appeared in the New York Times caused something of a stir in the blogosphere.

Today Jon Henke has some further thoughts on the subject:

Many on the Right have recently argued that one negative consequence of extending Geneva Convention protections to unlawful combatants will be the death of more innocent civilians. Similarly, if journalists—even just a few—begin operating as explicit accessories to one side or the other, what do you suppose the consequences will be for other journalists? If journalists become camera-wielding extensions of the US military, the consequence will be that more journalists are killed on sight. And why not? As far as a military force is concerned, an enemy is an enemy.
Why, I ask ironically, does The Ugly American want patriotic journalists to die?


Jon goes on to explain that if the media isn't neutral in Iraq they will either not cover the stories coming out of that country or die.

Personally, I think that's something of an absurd statement.

First, let's consider history. During the 1940's the press seemed capable of covering WWII without embedding reporters with Nazi fighters engaged in killing Allied troops. Granted the press was, generally, pro-war during WWII but even during the Vietnam war it seems as though the battles were covered by reporters without sending them out to the front lines with the enemy.

The idea that the media can't cover the stories coming out of Iraq unless they actually embed themselves with the enemy just doesn't make sense. They can, it's just that they choose to embed themselves with the enemy to enhance their coverage.

Fine. That's their decision, but it brings me to my next point: When the media embeds themselves with terrorists they grant a sense of legitimacy to the cause of those terrorists.

It should be clear to anyone who has been paying attention that the people we're fighting in Iraq are nothing if not experts at manipulating the media. Our enemies in Iraq routinely surround themselves with women and children so that when they're attacked by U.S. forces they can point to the bodies and cry "massacre." They also use false allegations of abuse which our journalists are all too happy to eat up (see: Newsweek's Koran flushing story) to heap scorn on the U.S. military. These are just a couple of the ways our enemies in Iraq turn journalists into their useful idiots, and I think sending our reporters to follow around these terrorists and take their picture/interview them just encourages more of this manipulation.

Not to mention the fact that it emboldens our enemies.

Terrorism is all about getting attention. That doesn't mean terror attacks aren't perfectly legitimate fodder for journalism, but neither does it mean that we need to flatter the terrorists by sending out reporters to glorify their "cause" with dramatic photos and a forum for their views. Last year ABC News sent out a reporter to interview Chechen terrorist Shamil Bayasev, who was responsible for a massacre at a Russian school in Beslan. ABC ran that story without once reporting to Russian authorities any information as to Bayasev's whereabouts despite the fact that Bayasev was one of Russia's most wanted terrorists.

I don't think there is any way to reasonably defend ABC's actions in giving Bayasev a forum to air his opinions in rather than turning him over to the authorities, nor do I think there is any way to defend the Times' decision to put journalists on the ground alongside terrorists who are actively engaged in killing Americans.

Some things are just wrong no matter how you try to justify them.

Great stuff, Rob!

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