Everybody's Got One
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Monday, May 17, 2004

The Fourth Column  

Belmont Club, News Coverage as a Weapon:
The emergence of the press and media as decisive implements of warfare arose from changes in the nature of late twentieth century war itself. If battlefield reality was paramount in earlier wars it was because literally everyone was there. ... A war in which the watchers vastly outnumbered the fighters was bound to be different from when the reverse was true. A reality experienced by the few could be overridden by a fantasy sold to the many. This exchange of proportions ensured that the political and media dimensions of the late twentieth century American wars dwarfed their military aspects.
Yet the extension of warfare into the area of media coverage is fraught with great danger, in no small part because it subtly alters the definition of where the battlefield lies and who an enemy combatant is. One of the enduring strengths of Western democracy and of the US Constitution in particular is the delineation between legitimate dissent and enemy activity, a boundary which enables a democracy to continue functioning, albeit in an impaired state, even in wartime.
Demosophia, Out of the Frying Pan:
The public has been seeing and paying attention to something else. They know the media not only doesn't speak for them, but has no idea what they think, or why.

Back in the real world where gotcha is usually recognized as rude and unproductive, and even downright tedious, the story is no longer Abu Ghraib, it's Nick Berg. And the story about Nick Berg ... is that, because of the way the war has been covered, Americans have just begun to doubt whether Arabs are worthy of being on the planet with the rest of us. In other words, they're on the verge of deciding there just ain't no such thing as a 'good Arab.' And they aren't too sure there's such a thing as a 'good European' or a 'good journalist' either.

Welcome to Jacksonian America. [Emphasis added]
We already know that most journalists don't personally know anyone who is pro-life; I suspect most don't know any Jacksonians, either. Which means not only do they not know how Jacksonians think, they also have no idea how they themselves are seen by them. How curious (and typical) that those who are first to proclaim the importance of cultural sensitivity have so little themselves, and that this insensitivity draws ever closer to provoking a firestorm of blowback.

They can't really expect the media battlefield to be left to one side indefinitely. They also can't expect the American military's heroic efforts to minimize collateral casualties to apply to the domestic media war.

Update: From Instapundit's email bin, a snarky silver lining:
[T]he best argument I've heard so far for putting Kerry in charge: Overnight, the press coverage would shift from negative to positive, good news from Iraq would be widely reported, misbehavior by American troops would be put in its proper context, and so on. This would, at a stroke, deprive the terrorists of their greatest asset.
Clever, but unlikely. The press isn't actually as partisan as its behavior would indicate. Structurally, it believes itself to be an unelected fourth branch of government, mediating between the People and the branches with, you know, actual constitutional warrant. As such it is congenitally, inherently, proudly, watchdog and critic.

The partisan difference is that, when Democrats are in power, the press sees itself as the loyal opposition. Unlike currently, when the adjective gets lost with so many things to oppose.

posted by Kelly | 2:39 PM link
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