Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Censoring the Coverage of the Iraqi Elections: "Limited to Filming at Only Five Polling Stations"

American journalism sank to a new low in its coverage of the "demonstration elections" in Iraq, measured by the number of American journalists who challenged Washington's micro-managing of election coverage while on air: zero.

Just watching broadcast and cable television in the United States, you had no way of knowing that journalists were "limited to filming at only five polling stations," unless you happened to catch ITN's Julian Manyon on CNN International's program International Correspondents:
MANYON: . . . You know, I have been out in the last couple of days a couple of times, but one goes out fearfully in the knowledge that one might either be shot at or in the extreme worst case -- one prays it will never happen -- actually kidnapped.

Beyond that, it must be said, there is also another wide range of factors which are actually preventing journalists from covering this election properly, and one of those factors, for example, is the way in which the American handlers who are actually running the Ministry of Information's affairs here in real terms, have designed the whole thing. I would say that along with the violence, it is just as serious an impediment for journalists.

Why, for example, we've been limited to filming at only five polling stations, and we discovered when the list of the five polling stations was published that four of those five polling stations are actually in Shia areas, and therefore by definition will shed very little light on whether Sunnis vote or not. (emphasis added, "Media Coverage of Iraq," Interantional Correspondents, CNN International, January 29, 2005, 21:00:00 ET)
Few Americans would have heard Manyon's sharp criticism of US censorship because CNN International (CNNI) is "the branch of CNN the rest of the world sees but which Americans normally don't" (Brendan Bernhard, "Box Populi: How AMERICAN Is It? Fox News vs. CNN International," LA Weekly, May 2 - 8, 2003).

What's the difference between CNN and CNNI? "On CNNI, which reaches 170 million households in over 200 countries, there is no Aaron Brown or Judy Woodruff, and retired generals are as scarce as bleeding hearts on Fox. Instead there are anchors with names like Zain Verjee (a woman, in case you're wondering), Daljit Dhaliwal (ditto), Anand Naidoo (male) and Michael Holmes (Aussie, mate)" (Bernhard, May 2 - 8, 2003). More importantly, CNNI "dwelled at length on civilian casualties" in the Iraq War, from which CNN, as well as other networks, apparently must protect Americans (Bernhard, May 2 - 8, 2003).

The biggest difference, however, is CNNI's freedom of criticism. CNNI, for instance, allowed journalists to discuss the "demonstration elections" staged by Washington in light of "international standards." Manyon's candid assessment of the Iraqi elections is that "it's disturbing quite frankly because it's very difficult to see how these elections can live up to international standards in terms of dispassionate supervision and policing of the polls" (emphasis added, "Media Coverage of Iraq," January 29, 2005, 21:00:00 ET). What makes him say that?
MANYON: . . . I mean, we've got a situation in Mosul, for example, where American troops, we now discover because the Iraqi employees of the election organization have deserted en masse, it's American soldiers who will be transporting the ballot boxes around when they are full of votes. This is really very far from ideal, and if it were happening in any other country -- I mean, one could mention Ukraine, for example -- there would be a wild chorus of international protest (emphasis added, "Media Coverage of Iraq," January 29, 2005, 21:00:00 ET)
The difference between CNN and CNNI is an example that illuminates the US power elite's contempt for, as well as fear of, Americans. On one hand, the power elite, of whom the media elite are part, hold the intelligence of Americans in lower regard than they do that of the rest of the world, as they evidently believe that Americans, unlike all others, are content with the narrowest range of information and political opinion available on the corporate media in the world. On the other hand, the power elite fear how Americans would react were they to see the naked reality of the American empire. As Daniel Ellsberg says in Hearts and Minds, a 1974 documentary film about the Vietnam War directed by Peter Davis, "It is a tribute to the American people that our leaders perceived that they had to lie to us, it is not a tribute to us that we were so easily misled."

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