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Embedded Bias and the War Casualty of Truth
by Gary Schneider, TheRealityCheck.org
26 March 2003

The isolated perspective of embedded journalists allows for the politically motivated distortion of reality by those in the media who place politics above journalistic integrity.


The policy of "embedding" reporters with military units actively engaged in operation "Iraqi Freedom" can be characterized as the proverbial blessing and curse. It has engendered positive results by humanizing the military element to journalists, who on frequent other occasions would be belittling the noble vocation of American military service and the vital, if unheralded, importance their commitment plays in our everyday American lives. The courage, professionalism and proficiency of these men and women can now be observed, understood and appreciated first hand. This, perhaps, may translate to more objective interpretation of events on the battlefield. But here, partially, is where a problem lies.
 
Voluminous reports of isolated events in localized theaters of battle, though often dramatic and newsworthy, do not properly reflect the full context of a major military operation. This loss of macro level context and perception can undermine the accurate discernment of events, potentially curtailing popular support for the campaign and unduly influencing political and military planning. It is the nature of a representative Democracy. Now, this has not materialized yet, but we must be sensitive to the risk. Sensitive, because many in the media are inclined to exploit these micro level news reports to intentionally weave a skewed perspective of reality in order to promote, defend or validate their pre-established anti-war judgments and political biases. Indeed, you do not have to scour many news channels, or flip through the pages of many newspapers to find "journalists" desperately grasping at any modicum of event that will provide the opportunity for them to allude to the specter of a "quagmire", another "Vietnam", or to otherwise raise doubts about the purpose and planning of this operation. It is as though, not so deep down inside, they wish it to be true, as it would corroborate their prior anti-war hysterics and doomsday prognostications. Or perhaps it would legitimize their personally held beliefs of America as an evil imperialist nation out to malevolently force freedom and higher living standards on unsuspecting third world nations.
 
As of this writing, operation "Iraqi Freedom" is less than one week underway…and low and behold, there really is some resistance and American soldiers have died. Is this really a surprise? Many in the media seem to think so…or are acting as though it is. The absurd volume and level of hysterics by the major and not so major news outlets following a number of predominantly small and isolated nuisance attacks is disconcerting to say the least. If I had just landed on Earth from the planet Ignoramus, I surely would have thought the United States military was being summarily whipped by Iraqi soldiers with small arms fire dressed as civilians. After just six (6) days of action in Iraq, The Washington Post is suggesting we have to rethink our strategy there, as if to suggest we are already failing in this endeavor. Nearly all of The New York Times’ headlines inaccurately tout and exaggerate reports of resistance and military difficulty…Time Magazine is questioning why isn’t Saddam Hussein gone, after "shock and awe"? Their collective News desks have become virtually indistinguishable from their Editorial desks. This seeming reflexive inclination to intentionally distort truth and perspective in order to influence popular opinion is alarming. Nevertheless, this obfuscation of truth has lamentably become the norm and many other such "news"- papers have similarly engaged in comparable levels of impaired journalism.
 
Is it reasonable to believe that seasoned reporters and pundits don’t understand that in war, the other guys will fight back? And, if they do, that Allied soldiers may get hurt? Of course not. Their feigned hysterics are politically and philosophically motivated. At best, organizations such as The New York Times wish for a tainted victory…something negative to which they can hold President Bush accountable for following the war. If they can foment a perception that the assured Allied victory is tainted by its costs, they believe Bush’s popularity can be mitigated. The obvious lack of perspective and common sense in the reporting that we have been witness to can have no other explanation. Either they did just arrive here from the planet Ignoramus (a notion of growing plausibility) or they have a Liberal anti-Bush agenda they wish to cultivate by planting the seeds of uncertainty and doubt. These seeds however can only grow in the dark … devoid of relevant fact, perspective and context.
 
Admittedly, it is not inconceivable that some of this stupefying level of reporting and editorializing may be the legitimate surprise reaction to unrealistic expectations verses the reality of war -- but it is a wild stretch. I assure you, none of the military planners had any expectation that this would be easy, nor did they publicly convey any such notions. And to those reporters and columnists who legitimately did, well…I submit they’re in the wrong business. The reality is that this military campaign is, and has been extraordinarily successful.
 
In just SIX (6) days:

  • Allied forces have moved within fifty (50) miles of Baghdad;
  • They control nearly two thirds of all Iraq 
  • Control of the major oil refineries, intact, has been achieved 
  • Civilian casualties are remarkably low (despite the use of human shields by the Iraqi regime) 
  • Allied casualties are remarkably low 
  • Preparations for humanitarian aid to arrive in Iraq, from the South, is nearly complete 
  • War plans are on, or ahead of schedule

Contrast this with Operation Desert storm in 1991, which lasted forty-six (46) days to accomplish the sole objective of extracting Iraqi forces from the small country of Kuwait.
 
The embedding of journalists with active military units has the potential provide considerably enhanced understanding and new perspectives to battle. However, it contributes little to the overall measurement of success and context of the war. The isolated perspective can, and has already, wrought opportunity for the categorical and politically motivated distortion of reality by some in the media who place political posturing above honor, integrity and the well being of America itself.

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Gary Schneider is the President and founder of TheRealityCheck.Org.  He received his degree in Government and Russian Studies at Norwich University’s Military College of Vermont, the nation's oldest private military academy. His articles have also appeared in TheRightWing.com and CommonConservative.com