The truth is that today’s media shape reality – often for the worse. The media form a powerful strategic factor. They’re actors, not merely observers.
The media is a key strategic factor today. And it is profoundly dishonest for so powerful a player to pretend it bears no responsibility for strategic outcomes.
The selectivity with which the news is reported shapes opinion, here and abroad. The news we see, hear and read from Iraq is overwhelmingly bad news. Thus, the picture the American electorate and foreign audiences receive is one of spreading failure – even though our occupation has made admirable progress.
We’re on the way to talking ourselves into defeat in the face of victory. Much of the media has already called the game’s outcome as a loss before we’ve reached half-time. Even though the scoreboard shows we’re winning.
To an extent few journalists will admit, terror as we know it depends on the media as its accomplice, amplifying the terrorist’s deeds and shaping successes out of terrorist failures – the opposite of the media’s approach to American efforts.
From the terrorists’ perspective, 9/11 was, above all, a media event – a global demonstration of their power.
This is not an argument for propaganda, or for turning our press into mindless red-white-and-blue cheerleaders. But the media must face up to the responsibility that goes with their influence.
The terrorists, from Arafat to Hussein to bin Laden, all count on the media as a critical element in their campaigns, relying on the faux objectivity of “the cycle of violence” and moral relativism to conceal their barbarity, counting on the instinctive oppositionism of the Western media to undermine support for the war, and relying on the “news appeal” of bad news to give their side the bully pulpit while draining the life out of our victories.
The media have to understand that they are not neutral bystanders, but, against their will, have been made into combatants in this war. The only question is, whose side will they aid? So far, the verdict is pretty clear that the mainstream media, unwitting as it is, is giving aid and comfort to the enemy.