Monday, December 3, 2012

Embed With You

The embedding of journalists in times of war gives unprecedented access to media outlets, but also allows the military to manufacture a positive outlook on war.  Access to military units allows for an unprecedented viewpoint of war, but also limits media outlets into reporting the trials and tribulations of the individual military units which does not allow for impartial, objective and fair coverage.
            Embed with you
            The strategic placement of journalists in military units during the invasion of Iraq was planned by the pentagon to streamline the censoring process of war journalism.  Journalists were mandated to go through basic military training and familiarize themselves with the units they were embedded with. The conflict of interest that arises from the embedding is apparent when observing whether embedded journalists reported positively or negatively on the war. By having a journalist train, eat, sleep, and ultimately depend on the military units for their safety, it created an environment where journalists were unable to establish objectivity.
 The essence of journalism lies with the concept of being objective, fair and impartial, but the process of getting a journalist ready to embed, undergoing military training and getting to know the soldiers on a personal level, indoctrinates the journalist in military ideology and inevitably allows for the journalists to have a pro-military viewpoint.
Although the core principles of journalism lie with the ability to give an objective and unbiased viewpoint of a particular conflict, the role of media during the invasion of Iraq after 9/11 facilitated the use of media as a tool of propaganda for the Pentagon. After 9/11 being pro-war was equated to patriotism and any opposition to the war was met with harsh criticism and was labeled as being unpatriotic and un-American.  Journalists wanting to obtain firsthand information pertaining to the invasion of Iraq had little or no choice whether to embed themselves with a military unit or be “on the ground” with the civilians.Furthermore, journalists handpicked by the military based on whether previous publications were pro or antiwar.  The pro-war journalists were picked while the antiwar journalists were omitted from consideration for embedment with a military unit. The selection process conducted by the military did not allow for objective, fair and unbiased viewpoints of the coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003.
I Object
            The role of journalists during the initial invasion of Iraq was as the public affairs arm of the military. The Pentagon placed pressure on journalists to report positively on the troops and their involvement, obliging journalist to present the role of the US as positive. Journalists have played a valuable role in manufacturing public consent.  The Pentagon, aware of the power of media on public perception, easily justified the inclusion of embedded journalists in the invasion. Contractually constricting them, as well as fostering camaraderie between the soldiers and journalists, created a social dynamic that made it practically impossible to obtain objectivity, fairness or impartiality.
            The strategic use of embedded journalists during the invasion allowed for a sympathetic US audience to find commonality with the soldiers and observe them as heroes and protectors of democracy. The intellectual sacrifice which journalists had to make allowed them to justify their actions because of the almost “Stockholm syndrome” like commonality which the journalists developed in the field, making it very difficult for journalists to scrutinize and obtain an objective and fair view of the war.
            The inability and incapability of US journalists to embed themselves with Iraqi soldiers and civilians did not allow the US audience to see the social, physical, and physiological impact of the invasion on the public.  This disconnect, created and fostered by the embed program, allowed for the US public to have an idealistic and optimistic outlook on the war and the consequences of the US presence in Iraq. 
Trust me
            The dangers of embedded journalism are on both the domestic and international level.  Domestically the inability of journalists to give an impartial viewpoint of the war created an illusion that the war was not only justified, but also wanted by Iraqi civilians. This portrayal of consent allowed the US public to justify the otherwise illegal US presence in Iraq. The US media also portrayed the Iraqi’s as grateful recipients of democracy who were liberated form the authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussein.  Internationally, embedded journalism created a mistrust of US media outlets and was understood to be a tool of the US government in manufacturing consent for the internationally illegitimate and illegal war against Iraq.[1]

[1] Brandenburg, H. “Security at the Source: Embedding journalists as a superior strategy to military censorship,” Journalism Studies (Vol. 8, No. 6, 2007) 

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