Friday, October 27, 2006

Free to Warp

[posted by Callimachus]

First Part

Second Part

Third Part

Fourth Part

This is the fifth of a six-part series of posts was written by our friend Kat, the contractor's employee who worked on reconstruction projects in and around Iraq after the fall of Saddam. Her story is told here and here among other places (listed in the sidebar at left).

As far as I know, the only anti-Administration blogger to really take up these pieces and accept then into his broader view of the war was Kevin Robinson's My Thinking Corner.

Kevin asked Kat some questions about her impressions and her experiences, which she answered, with elaborations, at his site. With Kevin's permission, I'm reprinting her answers, lightly edited, as posts here, since they are interesting in their own right and they broaden and deepen the story she told in the series of posts last month.

Kevin's questions are in italics, and quotes. Emphasis added, in boldface, is by the editor.

October 17

"... I think Bush could have changed the game early on by actually admitting there was an insurgency and highlighting the efforts being made to stop it and to rebuild the country. By the time the Admin finally admitted this, it was past too late. The most effective propaganda is honesty or at least the cloak of honesty. Also, if you call people your enemies (unpatriotic press) often enough, they will become your enemies."

I’m probably poorly equipped to argue this point with you. I’m fairly ignorant of the media in general. But I believe the media in the U.S. is considered to be “free” in that the government cannot directly control what it airs on TV or prints in newspapers and magazines. The last time I heard, the media, major or otherwise, is privately owned, and unless seized under very unusual circumstances, fully controls its own content, free of government interference. And while the government may technically own public broadcasting, it cannot be used to advance any particular political position by government officials. If I am wrong about this, please correct me.

But if this is true, then it decisions concerning the direction content will take, or the degree of how much bias will be seen, rest squarely on the shoulders of the reporters, editors, and owners who control their various media outlets, not unlike you control your own website and the content therein.

They may point to the bad actions of politicians, but they cannot then point at those actions to validate their own. If they act dishonestly or allow their bias to unduly influence their decisions, it remains that they have made their own decisions. Anything else, anything beyond this, suggests a level of coercion in the government that in itself could not be maintained in a truly free and honest press. Somebody would speak, somewhere, some time, and the whole thing would come tumbling down.

Instead, I would suggest that the mainstream media is bought and paid for commercially, not by the government, and as such are free to bend and warp whatever tiny bit of news they pass along to any extent they desire as long as, A. They don’t offend their audience, and, B. They don’t get caught in BS so deep they cannot recover their audience. For most of the media, I believe “A” is a greater concern than “B.”

Even politicians have to live up to higher standards than that. Even politicians live under greater scrutiny than that. Even politicians have to accomplish more in real terms than that, if they expect to remain in office.

Hoping that I do not speed the creation of yet another monster, I will point out that everything you do as an individual is based upon what you know or think you know. Every decision is bound up in the knowledge you gain that you hope is complete or at least accurate. Every bit of that knowledge is subject to being presented in several different ways, and it is only the honesty of the situation or those who present it who can provide you with everything you need to know.

If I have control of what you know about Iraq, your subsequent view of it can be that Iraq is a complete failure or that Iraq is a resounding success. Because you can’t be there, and all you know about it comes from me. In a land with thousands of positives and negatives, if you hear a few positives by accident, I can slam those right down to the ground with a longer list of negatives. As long as you don’t know the whole story, I am in control. If I don’t tell it to you, it didn’t happen, and there’s nobody around you who has my power and can prove me wrong.

Eventually, you will be forced to make decisions that affect your future and those of others around you. Because you cannot know any different, you will base your decisions on what I have told you. If I have done my job well you will make the decision I want you to make.

That’s power. That’s a lot of power. If you don’t think anybody has ever realized this…? Puuuuleeezzze. Our greatest asset is our system of government. It also provides our enemies with our greatest weakness. Our best defenses are honesty and the desire to know the whole truth. We can remove dishonest politicians, but there is no formula or set of laws available to remove a dishonest media. So if we are content to be foolish, which is potentially more dangerous?

I want to thank you for the questions and the forum. I really do appreciate your patience and the thought you’ve given to what I have said. I may have a day, maybe two left in BKK and after that I’m pretty much out of touch.

Sixth Part