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Media Self-Censorship

You may have heard that a number of ABC stations decided not to show ‘Saving Private Ryan’ on Veterans’ Day this year. Frank Rich of the NYT has written an excellent article dealing with these issues of censorship, the Iraq war, sanitizing the world for the Americans who can’t handle the truth. (You can’t handle the truth!)

What makes the “Ryan” case both chilling and a harbinger of what’s to come is that it isn’t about Janet Jackson and sex but about the presentation of war at a time when we are fighting one. That some of the companies whose stations refused to broadcast “Saving Private Ryan” also own major American newspapers in cities as various as Providence and Atlanta leaves you wondering what other kind of self-censorship will be practiced next. If these media outlets are afraid to show a graphic Hollywood treatment of a 60-year-old war starring the beloved Tom Hanks because the feds might fine them, toy with their licenses or deny them permission to expand their empires, might they defensively soften their news divisions’ efforts to present the graphic truth of an ongoing war? The pressure groups that are exercised by Bono and “Saving Private Ryan” are often the same ones who are campaigning to derail any news organization that’s not towing the administration line in lockstep with Fox.

Even without being threatened, American news media at first sanitized the current war, whether through carelessness or jingoism, proving too credulous about everything from weapons of mass destruction to “Saving Private Lynch” to “Mission Accomplished.” During the early weeks of the invasion, carnage of any kind was kept off TV screens, as if war could be cost-free. Once the press did get its act together and exercised skepticism, it came under siege. News organizations that report facts challenging the administration’s version of events risk being called traitors. As with “Saving Private Ryan,” the aim of the news censors is to bleach out any ugliness or violence. But because the war in Iraq, unlike World War II, is increasingly unpopular and doesn’t have an assured triumphant ending, it must also be scrubbed of any bad news that might undermine its support among the administration’s base. Thus the censors argue that Abu Ghraib, and now a marine’s shooting of a wounded Iraqi prisoner in a Falluja mosque, are vastly “overplayed” by the so-called elite media.

I think it’s become very clear in the last year that there is fundamental disconnect about what people in this country “believe” is happening in the world around us. It is this disconnect of “faith-based” vs. “reality-based” that has created a climate where people will vote for a president who, in my opinion, has recklessly gotten us into a war, and then they don’t want to see the results of it.

Or don’t want to be reminded of the results of past wars. I’m pretty sure Saving Private Ryan was universally praised for it’s accurate depiction of War. Well, we’ve got one going on right now. It’s always your right to tune out, but let’s not block people who want the truth from actually getting the truth.

Fallujah In Pictures

Categories: Media, Politics.