Saturday, April 12, 2003
There are, I'm sure, many astonishing things still to be said about the war in Iraq. They may, however, find it difficult to top this:
Should we never have watched at all? So Barbara Bush had instructed us in an interview the day before the Iraq war began. The president's mother said she would watch "none" of TV's war coverage because "90 percent" of it would be speculative. She continued: "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many, what day it's gonna happen? … It's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"
Not relevant, hmm? That's a nice way of putting it. I'm sure all the dead people in Iraq indeed aren't really relevant, they're only foreigners after all so why should Mother Bush get her knickers in a knot over them... but what about the troops on Our Side? As right-leaning commentators tirelessly remind us, these people are fighting for our freedom, which includes your freedom too, Barbara, and they're fighting to help keep your son George Jr in the top job. I don't think the families of the soldiers who've fallen so far in Iraq would be too thrilled to hear the Presidential Mother doesn't want to hear about those deaths because they're "not relevant". I don't suppose the troops those fallen soldiers fought with in Iraq would be especially pleased either. No need to worry about wasting that beautiful mind of yours, Babs, the damage has already been done.
Otherwise the article makes some interesting points about the problems of the TV coverage:
A survey by the Los Angeles Times last weekend found that 69 percent of Americans turned to the three cable news networks first for war coverage - with newspapers, local TV news, regular network news and the Internet trailing far behind. But to what end? If cable has taught us anything during "War in Iraq," it is this: Battalions of anchors and high-tech correspondents can cover a war 24 hours a day and still tell us less about what is going on than the mere 27 predigital news hounds who accompanied the American troops landing in Normandy on D-Day.
Speculation, while rampant, has in some ways been the least of the coverage's ills. By this point we instinctively know that whenever a rent-a-general walks over to a map, it's time to take a latrine break. What has most defined this TV war on cable is the networks' insistence on letting their own scorched-earth campaigns for brand supremacy run roughshod over the real action. The conveying of actual news often seems subsidiary to their mission to out-flag-wave one another and to make their own personnel the leading players in the drama.
Or, as Rob Schaap succinctly formulates it, "The all-night news tells you nothing and repeats it every ten minutes."