Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

It Takes More Than Just Fine-Tuning Your Television | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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About eight months ago, at the end of a television interview I conducted with American President George W. Bush, I asked him about the growing anti-American sentiments and about the efficacy of American policies to which he replied, “there’s a lot of bad news on television!” Standing behind the president was one of his aides who was signaling to indicate that my 10-minute slot had ended and therefore it would be impossible to comment on or question his last remark about the media’s responsibility in broadcasting bad news.

Since then, I have recalled the American president’s stance numerous times as I watched images of the Israeli war in Lebanon, and I often recollect his response when confronted with the facts or when witnessing the scenes from Iraq, Palestine and most recently, Afghanistan.

Since the present American administration assumed its duties, they have actively been propagating, amongst other things, the notion that some mass media sources are responsible for much of the hatred and rejection of American policies in the region. The Bush administration and the United States Department of Defense in particular has tried on more than one occasion to control the type and flow of news from Iraq – especially to the American viewer. It is obvious that the Pentagon has a strong influence and impact in sifting and selecting the news and images that arrive from Iraq; the contract signed with the Lincoln Group [a subcontractor based in Washington DC with operations in Iraq hired by the US military to perform public relations. Formerly Iraqex] to print positive news about the American army in Iraqi newspapers is one of the many attempts. Initially responsible for eliciting heavy criticism when it was first suggested, it now secures substantial official support.

This relates to the attempts at glossing over that take place inside Iraq, as for initiatives in the US; it was just announced a few days ago that a new public affairs program will be launched, which consists of a unit and a new team of specialists that has been assembled with the purpose of providing news and photographs, in addition to making available military representatives and experts who are authorized to speak on behalf of the Pentagon to television channels and other mediums of American media including new media. Additionally, efforts will be made to facilitate and improve communication within American media through a series of operations dedicated to that purpose.

Practically, what’s happening is the American administration is trying to contain further deterioration in the Iraqi situation, especially after the deaths of over a hundred American soldiers last month only – which is the highest monthly death toll since the beginning of the war on Iraq.

It’s true that what is transpiring in Iraq is more elaborate than any rectifying, justifying or beautifying measures can ever address; it is a harsh and gloomy picture, and we are all responsible for the spilled blood there. No one is absolved from their responsibility and condemnation, and if ever there should come a day to judge everyone would be pronounced guilty, and yet – American stands responsible both in its perception of itself and in front of the whole world for these scenes of destruction in the region – and we are equally to blame as countries and societies laden with crises and contradictions. Today, the United States is a center and a point of the balance for the whole world and this deficiency and void which is a result of mistakes made by its administration affect us all. One cannot simply limit the matter to fine-tuning the image and news and the consideration that media relates a bad image; that would be avoiding the problem and turning a blind eye. The real danger is that we are dealing with an administration that doesn’t realize the immensity of its responsibility in front of the whole world.