Skip to comments.Bin Laden Can't Beat Us, But T.V. Can
Posted on 10/29/2001 8:44:24 PM PST by ecru
Bin Laden Can't Beat Us, But TV Can David C. Stolinsky Monday, Oct. 29, 2001
The horrific events of September 11 are still fresh in our minds as we watch the progress of the war in Afghanistan. That is a good thing, because it helps to keep us focused on the reason for the war. A generation brought up on video games and remote-controlled TV tends to have a short attention span.
But what will happen as time passes and the war drags on? Will we remain focused, or will we grow bored and yearn for something new to divert us? And what of the TV coverage itself? It obviously affects our view of events, but how?
The major TV networks strive to give us "objective" coverage, but what does the term mean? How can Americans be objective when reporting a war in which their own military personnel are at risk of life and limb especially when the war began with a sneak attack on civilians?
Perhaps a more basic question is this: Should the reporters be objective? Is it desirable, or ethical, to remain dispassionate and calm when over 5,000 of one's fellow citizens were slaughtered while peacefully attempting to live their daily lives?
Ordinarily we look down on people who are unmoved by the suffering of their neighbors. We consider such people cold or inhuman. But when those people are reporters, somehow we consider this lack of feeling a virtue. Is it?
All this assumes the news coverage is, in fact, objective, and that the reporters' efforts to show no partiality for their own side has been successful in giving us impartial news. That's where the real trouble begins.
Few of our reporters are allowed entry by the Afghan regime, so we must rely on foreign reporters whose own "objectivity" may be slanted in favor of our enemies. Worse, much of the videotape is obtained from the Al Jazeera Arabic "news" service, which gives notoriously biased reports.
For example, we see pictures of injured or dead civilians especially women, children and the elderly and are told that our bombs were responsible. But who is to say for certain that these tapes do not show casualties of the Soviet invasion a decade ago, or casualties of the current Afghan civil war?
Indeed, who can know whether they might even have been caused by the Taliban regime itself, to produce sympathy for themselves and hatred of America? This is not impossible for a regime that regularly executes political opponents and beats women with sticks for going out of their houses not covered from head to foot.
What effect will this TV coverage have on our ability to press the war to a successful conclusion? Someone once said that what we learn from history is that we do not learn from history. But this need not be so. We can learn from history.
Fantasize with me that color TV and satellite news coverage was in wide use on December 7, 1941. How would this have affected our ability to wage World War II?
Public reaction to Pearl Harbor would have been even stronger than it actually was, if that is possible. Imagine the horror and rage caused by live color TV pictures of smoke billowing from battleships rolling on their sides and sinking, of thousands of blood-soaked casualties streaming into overwhelmed hospitals, and of bodies floating in the water. Surely this would have filled us with resolve.
But what then? It was some time before our military buildup produced results. Would we have grown impatient with our leaders and uncertain of our future? The year 1942 was not a happy one. The principal good news that year was the Battle of Midway, where our Navy seriously damaged the Japanese fleet.
This historic victory was made possible by the heroic attack of Torpedo Squadron 8, which forced the Japanese fighter planes to descend to low altitude and leave their carriers open to our dive-bombers. But Torpedo Squadron 8 got no hits itself, and lost all its planes and all but one of its men. (Watch the film "Midway.")
What if this epic battle had been seen on TV? What if the memory that stuck in our minds wasn't the victory, but the loss of all those men and planes? Would the bloody price have seemed too high to pay?
And then the Marines landed on the Japanese-held island of Guadalcanal, a disease-ridden jungle. The outnumbered, poorly equipped Marines proved that Americans were tough enough to push the Japanese off the island, but it was a terrible trial. Watching it on TV, day after day, would have been a trial of a different sort for the viewers as well. Would they have endured it as well as the Marines did?
Our first major effort against the Nazis was to invade North Africa. This was a success, though we suffered hundreds of casualties at the hands of the Vichy French, who were allied with the Germans. But what if our casualties had been shown in "living color"? Would public resentment against the French have been so strong that the Normandy invasion would have been called off?
And while we were watching reasonably accurate coverage of the war, our totalitarian enemies would have been spoon-fed only cheerful propaganda. They would have seen only victorious German and Japanese troops "liberating" grateful towns from the "brutal" Americans. They would have seen dead and injured women and children, all caused by us, of course. And worst of all, imagine that these enemy propaganda films were shown on American TV, in an attempt to produce "balance" and "objectivity."
All this would have caused us to labor under two disadvantages. First, if we saw more or less objective coverage of the grimness of war, while our enemies saw only cheerful pictures, our morale would be undermined.
One must face reality in order to deal with it. But facing it daily, in color, in our living rooms, tends to break down the wall of denial that shields us from the full force of unpleasant reality. Without a bit of denial, it is more difficult to face life's stresses, such as serious illness, natural disasters, or war.
The second disadvantage TV news produces is to evoke guilt. Seeing our soldiers suffer and die, while we watch safely from home munching snacks, must cause many viewers to feel guilty. In some, this will inspire enlistment in the armed services. But in most, it will stimulate a desire to remove the cause of the guilt feelings by pushing for peace at any price. Note that reports from recruiters indicate that they received many inquiries after the Twin Towers attack, but few actual enlistments.
Only a fool could believe that all this would not have affected the outcome of World War II, with disastrous results. The outcome was in doubt for years as it was this could well have tipped the balance in favor of barbarism.
Fortunately, color TV and satellite news weren't around for World War II. We got our news from William L. Shirer, who reported from Berlin without ever confusing Nazi propaganda with his own observations.
We got it from Edward R. Murrow, who reported from London during the worst of the bombing, without giving the goriest details or implying that Britain might submit.
We got it from Elmer Davis, a respected reporter who gave up his job to direct the Office of War Information, where he kept us informed without giving the enemy valuable information.
But Shirer, Murrow and Davis are gone not just dead, almost forgotten. They were replaced by reporters who appear to feel loyalty only to their ratings and high salaries. As a result, we see enemy propaganda video as "news." We hear "all anthrax, all the time" to keep us glued to our sets and as terrified as possible.
Is there a solution? We could permit free coverage of the war by Internet, radio and print media (short of revealing our plans to the enemy), but restrict TV coverage. TV news could be shown through a pro-American filter. At the very least, we could omit the video made by propagandists who support our enemies. And we could avoid interviewing "experts" who hate America and what it stands for.
This would provide the public with needed information, but omit the bloody and often biased images that can sap our ability to fight evil.
Of course, civil libertarians will object that freedom of the press is being endangered. But which is worse to temporarily restrict one freedom, or to risk losing all freedoms? A wise man once said that the Constitution is not a suicide pact.
During the Vietnam War, an American officer was said to have remarked, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." Whether or not this actually happened, the remark is obviously foolish. Let us not be equally foolish. Let us not allow our enemies to destroy all our freedoms, our civilization and our very lives, while we vainly attempt to ensure "balanced" and "objective" coverage of a war with barbarians.
If both sides could watch a war on reasonably honest TV, there might be no more wars. But if only the free side does so, there may be no more freedom.
And if America stomps both sides into a greasy smudge, we win!
God Bless America.
WHY CAN'T WE (CONSERVATIVES)MAKE OUR CHILDREN BECOME TEACHERS, PROFESSORS,JOURNALISTS, AND REPORTERS???
WWII free people were attacked, America saved them!!
Now, the world has been attacked, America will save them!!!
I agree.But I fear our own superiority may prove to be our downfall...
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