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The Media Goes to War

by John Tarleton & Mary Ann Thompson
September 13, 2001

NEW YORK--Since Tuesday's horrific terror attacks, Americans have been under a nearly unprecedented propaganda barrage, according to one of the nation's leading media critics.

"It's moments like these that press coverage is almost always the worst," Robert McChesney told The Indypendent on Wednesday. "Because this is an issue of international politics where press coverage tends to just mirror elite opinion with no qualifications, no domestic interference. It's a moment like this that is so emotional. Who can't be struck by the savagery of something like this? To raise a dissident voice earmarks someone as uncaring."

McChesney is a professor in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois and author of "Rich Media, Poor Democracy", "Communication Politics in Dubious Times" and "It's the Media Stupid".

McChesney says that public anger is being manipulated by the choice and repetition of certain images and voices. The mainstream media set certain limits on the range of analysis deemed acceptable as well as the conclusions to be drawn from this analysis. A parade of former high US officials--Henry Kissinger, Madelaine Albright, Alexander Haig, George Schultz, Norman Schwartzkopf, Richard Holbrooke, et. al.--march across television screens in close formation.

"What's only mentioned infrequently is that so-called "experts" always have a background, an agenda. They are not neutral do-gooders, " McChesney said.

"...Being a terrorism expert in America means never having to say you're sorry. Without exception, their definition of terror is restricted to enemies of the United States government. The United States' role in the world is rarely mentioned and likewise it's definition of terrorism is strictly off limits. It leaves viewers and readers with a bizarre idea of how the world works. An almost incomprehensible view."

The New York Post ("Kill Those Bastards") called for Afghanistan to be turned into a "basketball court". Notions of restraint were hard to find.

"I heard no one saying that violence breeds violence and that a massive retaliation may only invite more of the same," said Danny Schechter, a former network television producer who founded

Hours after the attacks, the FBI began asking Internet providers to install Carnivore technology to monitor all email transmissions. And, a growing chorus of Congressional voices is calling for hefty increases to the current $328 billion per year military budget.

"Whenever you see this much coverage pointing in one direction, you should always feel for your wallet and head in the other direction," McChesney said."When it's this much of a barrage, then it's almost without exception going to be pure propaganda."


New York City Independent Media Center
Media Channel
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

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