Comments: It's Good To Be Imperial

Part of me wants to run out on to the streets screaming.

Another part of me wonders if you recall the 1983 film "Under Fire" with Gene Hackman, Nick Nolte, and the exquisite Joanna Cassidy. It's set in Nicaragua in 1979, and the main characters are journalists. The big ethical dilemma, the controversial, pivotal event occurs when the journalists, while trying to secure an interview with an elusive rebel leader, get drawn into participating in a staged news event.

I remember being very impressed when I saw the movie, and wondering what I'd do, whether I'd be a party to something like that, and if so, whether I could continue to be a journalist. And it was this whole big question for me, philosophically.

The "Under Fire" question now seems quainter than the Geneva conventions. My own country's press corps participates in similar stagings every day. Every time they clean up Bush's pronouncements, every time they blandly say stuff like, "the administration's initial commitment of $30M for tsunami relief has now been increased to blah blah blah..." when we *heard it with our own ears* that the initial number was $15M. They skate over those "harmless" details without hesitation.

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit upon his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats." - Henry Louis Mencken

Female-type men get tempted, too.

Posted by larkspur at February 9, 2005 12:38 AM

I didn't see the movie, but I think if I found myself in such a situation...I'd refuse to participate. If that wasn't possible, I'd say later that it was all staged.

But the bigger problem can be (as with things like those shots of the toppling Hussein statue) that news organizations sometimes forget what's "news" and what's "entertainment." They think about "framing" a shot for maximum impact without thinking about whether their chosen impact is distorting the actual meaning of an event. I attribute much of the national news media's failures to that kind of thing, more than deliberate bias. (Also? If someone spoon-feeds you a story, it's easier to take their word for things than it is to dig around and find your own facts. So I attribute much of our current media problems to sheer laziness.)

On the topic of repeating Administration lies and half-truths? I find myself irritated by those, yes, but I'm almost equally irritated by the pruning and editing and recutting of Bush's (few) public remarks to make him sound like less of a dolt.

(Seriously...if the evening news, or the morning newspaper, reporting what the man actually said, without cleaning it up, I doubt he'd have scraped the 1% vote majority he managed.)

Posted by Anne at February 11, 2005 12:18 PM