NEWS BECOMES PART OF THE CONFLICT

Posted: August 24, 2014 in Current Events, Philosophical Debris, politics, Statistics and Lies

This morning there was an extensive discussion about the fact that it is far more hazardous for journalists covering conflict stories now than it ever has been before. In previous wars and conflicts, reporters and photographers were identified by wearing something that clearly stated “PRESS” or in vehicles identified the same way. There was a mutual respect offered journalists that reflected the perception that they were not part of the conflict, which not only protected them from attack, but also often allowed them to cross enemy lines and interview the adversary. This was beneficial to our understanding and the transparency of the conflict.

No more. Now, media teams are often in the line of fire, are targeted, are arrested, are kidnapped, and as in the case of James Foley, are executed. Why?

Part of it is clearly that the media takes more risks and are willing to insert themselves into more dangerous situations because the payoff is greater. Dedicated news channels on cable TV battle each other for ratings just as regular TV shows and movies do. Part of it may be that the adversary is more extremist in their beliefs, although I’m not sure that really holds up under comparison with extremist foes in past conflicts.

Personally I feel that the main reason is that the media has become part of the battle, and as such are now viewed as legitimate targets or hostages. There are two ways this has happened.

  1. So much of the battle has become fought in the media, where groups know they have the potential of swaying the beliefs of large numbers of people. This has an influence on potential funding (as in Israeli/Gaza), recruitment (as in ISIS) or even the outcome in legal situations (as in Ferguson). Putin’s control of the media in Russia, for example, allows him to act with impunity and still maintain the support and adulation of the majority of the Russian people. Western media interference with that is a serious threat to him. In Ferguson, much of the media debate became about itself, addressing the question of reporting potentially placing either race relations or police incompetence in one light or another, each having dire consequences both on the unrest in the town and on the climate within U.S. national, political debate. Nowhere has there been more consideration of media influence than in the Israel/Gaza conflict, where a very ambiguous and emotionally charged situation led to all kinds of accusations of unfair bias in reporting one side or the other. In this way, the reporting of journalists and photographers have achieved a higher level of interaction and connection with the conflict itself, potentially being used as a tool (or allowing themselves to be used as a tool).
  2. This is compounded by the political partisan polarization that can be seen within the media itself. It is not uncommon for particular news outlets to have well known biases, whether it be FOX News or MSNBC in the U.S., or SUN News here in Canada. Objective news reporting is hard to find, -and often when it does exist, it comes under attack from the tainted news sources as being bias, thereby kicking up dust to mask their own lack of objectivity. It becomes very confusing. (So, for example, pure, objective scientific reporting becomes “Liberalized” because it is contrary to the Conservative view, as seen with things such as Climate Change, Creationism, Environmental Research, etc. Objective Science is painted as being bias simply because it is not bias.)

In these two ways, journalism has regrettably become extremely politicized and, as such, have placed themselves in a position of global perception where they are no longer viewed as impartial but, rather, as part of the conflict. It most certainly is not true of all reporters and of all news services, but the overall perceptual framework exists and extends to all members. That’s what has changed the discernment and made their job more hazardous. They are now viewed as legitimate targets, part of the conflict, part of the attack or defense.

The news media have done this to themselves. Good, investigative journalism has gone the way of “talking heads” presenting opinions and counter opinions, often without any legitimate claim to being knowledgeable about their topic. Time has to be filled with idle banter which is often sheer speculation.

There was a time where the sharing of opinions was an important, but discreetly separate, clearly identified part of the News Networks. On “60 Minutes”, the attempt was to provide hard core, informative reporting, with any editorializing being saved for a few moments at the end of a segment or for Andy Rooney’s rant at the end. In the presentation of news, it was actually considered very improper for journalists to imbed opinion in their reporting. That’s what the editorial pages were for.

Now it seems that facts are secondary, and the indirect result of that is the erosion of the privileged position that was enjoyed by journalists as those who pursued the truth, -a position that gave them a certain degree of protection in situations of conflict. When your adversary sees a journalist as just another soldier promoting a particular ideological stance, it should not be surprising when their job becomes more hazardous.

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Comments
  1. mmmmw says:

    It’s 1984 all over again.

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