Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Iraq War, Journalist Killings and the Problem of Leftwing Media

As I got ready for work Friday morning I engaged in my regular routine, which is to get dressed while listening to WBAI's Wake Up Call morning show with Mario Murillo. He had a guest on from some association dedicated to protecting the rights of journalists, especially during wartime. The interview was sparked by the recent news that two CBS news crew members had been killed with a third seriously injured while reporting in Iraq.

The representative of the association (I think it was Reporters Without Borders, but don't quote me on that) said that the number of journalist deaths over decades of the Vietnam War was far less than the close to 100 who have been killed in Iraq the last three years. She then recounted the plight of an Italian journalist who was held hostage by an Iraqi terrorist group. As a condition of the journalist's release, the terrorist group demanded the release of Iraqi women imprisioned at Abu Ghraib and the ouster of Italian troops from Iraq. The representative opined how this situation was such a shame because the journalist had lost her objectivity in the eyes of the Iraqis, and had now become a symbol of the Italian government. The host Murillo signaled his agreement.

At that moment I was suddenly pulled out of the conversation, and my mind began to ponder the exchange a little closer. Something didn't seem right to me. In fact, wasn't the kidnapped journalist a symbol of the Italian government?

This discussion was taking place on a leftwing, American alternative media outlet. One of the very groups that criticizes the "embedded" mainstream journalists riding around with US troops in Basra. One of the very groups that regularly denounces these corporate-funded, mainstream journalists precisely because they become the defacto propaganda arm of their government.

If the American alternative news media can recognize mainstream news journalists for the purveyors of propaganda that they are, what makes them think that Iraqis can't? Sure, it's easy to wax poetic about the imperative of protecting journalists during wartime from the safety of your Wall Street studio, but the embattled Iraqis who are experiencing an illegal US-led occupation, neo-colonial style, don't have that luxury. Most Iraqis can't start up their own grassroots radio to offer an alternate version of events. They're too busy trying to survive being massacred by US marines.

By no means do I advocate the killing of journalists. But the leftwing alternative news media can't have it both ways. With this logic, Iraqis can challenge the official story (and by extension the occupation) only if it's done by the rules as laid out by the West. The whole thing stinks of a paternalism that is endemic to the Left, and explains why leftwing groups continue to find it hard to build enduring coalitions across race and class lines.

Cuz the bottom line is this: if an NYPD swat team invaded my apartment building to root out the gang members that were allegedly hiding out there and then 1) bombed out the first floor 2) killed all the women and children on the next three floors 3) rounded up and tortured the men on the fifth floor, and then finally came knocking on my door - cop, embedded journalist or whatever - I'd shoot first and ask questions later. And anyone else fearful for their life would, too.

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1 comment:

dp said...

damn J.C. that was a tight post. I'ma hafta steal this jernt for my blog