A Century of Media, A Century of War
by Robin Andersen
Forged over the course of a century, the connections between war and media run long and deep. As this book reveals, the history of war and its telling has been a battle over public perception. The selection of which stories are told and which are ignored helps justify past battles and ensure future wars. Narratives of protest and pain, defeat and suffering, guilt and abuse struggle to be heard amid the empowering myths of war and heroism.
As Robin Andersen argues, the history of struggle between war and its representation has changed the way war is fought and the way we tell the stories of war. Information management, once called censorship and propaganda, has developed in tandem with new media technologies. Now, digital imaging creates virtual battlefields as computer-based technologies transform the weapons of war. Along the way, images on the nightly news, on movie screens, and in video games have turned war into entertainment. In the grip of virtual war, it is difficult to realize the loss of compassion or the consequences for democracy.
- Hardcover: 350 pages
- Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing; 2nd ed. edition (September 1, 2006)
This is an amazing book. Robin Andersen, Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University, studies the US media’s role in times of war. Her book is full of the most dreadful facts about the USA’s wars. From print in World War One to video games in the Gulf War, the media have used the most up-to-date advertising and marketing techniques to whip up public support for those wars.
War video games promote war as a fun, empowering game. They are also used for military training. The video game America’s Army became the army’s most important recruitment tool. At one time it had three million players, making it the number one free online action game.
Digital spectaculars like Top Gun, Rambo, Saving Private Ryan, and Black Hawk Down all promote war as heroic and humane. Who needs reasons for war when there are such striking images of war?
The military becomes part of entertainment, especially sports events. Propaganda is silent about deaths, especially civilian deaths, about the use of vile anti-personnel weapons like phosphorus bombs and cluster bombs, about international law, and about opposition to the war.
General MacArthur admitted that the US forces’ scorched earth policy had created `a wasteland’ in North Korea. One of the Korean War’s main activists, Dean Rusk, said, the USAF bombed `everything that moved, every brick standing on top of another brick’. An official communiqué said, “It’s hard to find good targets, for we have burned out almost everything.” In the 1950 No Gun Ri massacre, in South Korea, “Roughly three hundred civilians, many of them women and children, were bombed and strafed from the air by U.S. gunner pilots under direct military command to do so.”
The best historian of the Korean War, Bruce Cumings, wrote of “three years of genocidal bombing by the U.S. Air Force which killed perhaps two million civilians (one-quarter of the population), dropped oceans of napalm, left barely a modern building standing, opened large dams to flood nearby rice valleys and kill thousands of peasants by denying them food, and went far beyond anything done in Vietnam in a conscious program of using air power to destroy a society …”
“El Salvador’s new government today made its first get-tough reply to protesting leftists …” CBS, 28 October 1979. The media always assume that the government in allied states is democratic, whatever the facts, and they always present its acts as self-defence, reactive and necessary. The media always assume that the opposition in enemy states is democratic, whatever the facts, and they always present its acts as self-defence, reactive and necessary.
The US invasion of Grenada was a `violation of international law’, as the UN Security Council decided on 2 November 1983. In 1986 the International Court of Justice found the US state guilty of terrorism against Nicaragua. Former contra leader Edgar Chamorro wrote in his book Packaging the contras: a case of CIA disinformation, “During my four years as contra director, it was premeditated policy to terrorize civilian non-combatants to prevent them from cooperating with the Government. Hundreds of civilian murders, tortures and rapes were committed in pursuit of this policy, of which the `contra’ leaders and their CIA superiors were well aware.”
Chamorro also wrote, “It is a gross fabrication to claim that the contras are composed of democratic groups…. This is how murder and torture were justified, how the destruction of property and the sabotage of the economy and the social fabric of a nation were excused, all in the name of patriotism and anticommunism.”
In 1990, a Kuwaiti girl lied to the US Congress that Iraqi soldiers had stormed Kuwaiti hospitals and thrown premature babies out of their incubators and left them on the floor to die. Amnesty International fell for this and stated in its report to Congress that 312 babies were killed. The girl who told this lie was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the USA. The girl had been coached by the PR firm Hill and Knowlton. She later admitted her story was not true.
During the Gulf War of 1990-91, a study found that the more television that people watched, the less they knew and the more they backed the war.
The Downing Street memo of July 2002 said that war on Iraq was `inevitable’ and that “facts were being fixed around the policy”. Yet for months afterwards Bush and Blair lied that war would only be `a last resort’.