Media control – Something to tame the bewildered herd?

 

Additionally, the tribesmen in Pashtun have refused to cooperate with the US military. In contrast to this, commanders in the bombed area criticise the United States and claim that the US never asked for any advice since the war started. There was no contact between the leaders of the Pashtun region and US forces. Consequently, the US military ignored helpful information that would have prevented the killing of civilians and the destroying of their villages. American Newspapers as the Washington Post painted a different picture of this incident just by omission of important facts.

Although the frequent bombardment of the caves is stated, the reader does not get to know about the uselessness of this campaign. Quite the contrary, the difficulty of searching for Bin Laden is pointed out to underline the efforts of US forces in this war against terrorism. Another incident aroused considerable attention in the world-wide press: the mistaken killing of 15 men in a firefight, also in January. Those 15 were locals sent to negotiate the surrender of arms from Taliban and were killed by US Special Forces soldiers during a raid.

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The Pentagon reported the killing of 15 people, the capturing of 27 and the destroying of a large number of weapons when raiding two Taliban compounds. They also said that one American soldier was wounded in the ankle. How did the press react to this incident? The German magazine “Focus” stated that it was a tragical mistake and posed the question if US forces are hyper-nervous. What was indeed striking was that two of those killed were found with their hands tied up behind their head. In American Newspapers this incident was described from another perspective, namely to defend the position of the US forces.

The “Boston Globe” said that US Special Force soldiers have targeted two enemy compounds which resulted in the deaths of 16 Taliban combatants and that one American soldier was wounded in exchange. Of course, the view of local residents in that area is not left out, but it is opposed with the saying of a Pentagon spokesman, who said that the events described by the Afghans do not fit with any of the information they have themselves. The paragraph ends up in a description of the munitions store US soldiers have captured, which was destroyed by “fire from a US C-130 gunship” according to the Pentagon.

The “Chicago Tribune” also downplays this story. It says that the Afghans accused US military of attacking a school and killing people there. Again, this is opposed by the view of the Pentagon. The incident is described in only four sentences. Manipulation is a strong word which most people would not use in these examples of describing one story from two different perspectives. But omission and misinterpretation or simply the restructuring of information is also a kind of manipulation and it is moreover the most common form of media control. “One soldier wounded in exchange”, how does that sound to you?

The detail that he was wounded in the ankle would tone down the story, but it was simply left out. And why is it important to mention in a newspaper article with which US fire force a munitions store was destroyed? As if anyone would believe that the US military would destroy “hundreds of mortar rocks, rockets, rocket-propelled grenades and 500 000 rounds of small-arms ammunition”, and not use it for themselves. These were just two examples out of several which have happened since this war against terrorism has begun, and other will surely follow.

The media, however, often downplays these incidents and praises the efforts of the US troops. Moreover, it emphasises the difficulty of the situation: searching Bin Laden and keeping away from local rivalries at the same time. But would it not be easier for US military just to ask for help and to cooperate with the leaders in Afghanistan? In fact, bombing campaigns are planned and carried out, neither asking for help nor for advice. Money and time is wasted and hundreds of civilians are killed, the villages destroyed and parts of the population have to be evacuated from the attacked areas. Is the media not informed about this at all?

I claim that it is, but especially the American press focuses on useless details of a story, like with which fire force something has been destroyed. Of course, Western politicians draw no special attention to the plight of refugees for obvious reasons, and the media is happy to follow suit. It rather keeps up the vision of the US forces as the world’s peacekeeper. Indeed, who would want to have a vulnerable defence which does not know what it is doing? As long as the media is used to hinder people from thinking by themselves, politicians will do what they think is right for the population.

Furthermore, they will do anything to make sure the people are supporting them, and propaganda serves this purpose very well. In the case of the Afghanistan war, this means that media will be used to defend the strategies of the Pentagon and to search for excuses when civilians are killed once again. “The tactics in this operation were just the right tactics”, General Franks said in order to react to a demand for stopping the bombings issued by Afghanistan’s Defence Minister Mohammed Habeel. “We will not be pressed into doing something that does not represent our national objectives, and we will take as long as it takes.

” Once again, the population is made believe in the faultlessness of the US strategies and in the rightness of the war in Afghanistan by means of media. Media fails to provide information that would paint another picture of the war than the leadership wants it to appear. Media selects facts, and those who have power and position benefit from it. Media tells us what to think about the world before we have the slightest chance to think about it ourselves. All in all, media seems to be just something to “tame the bewildered herd”.

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