May 26, 2003
The embedding of reporters with military units invading Iraq was a
disaster, both for the anti-war movement and the cause of journalism.
Right from the start, the embeds were emotionally involved with the men and women of their units and were incapable of achieving the detachment and objectivity that used to be one of the hallmarks of great reporting. Instead, they became partisan cheerleaders for the invaders.
Clearly this was a coup for the Pentagon, White House and other warmongers. But that doesn't mean that embedding is a bad idea. It just needs to be extended. We need embeds everywhere. For example:
The Peace Movement
For years now the media has been ignoring, downplaying or trivializing peace marches and demonstrations, thereby effectively hiding the strength of antiwar forces. The lack of media attention also emboldens the police to attack demonstrators at will.
Imagine, however, if a reporter was embedded with a major peace group and gave frequent reports to TV audiences.
Mark Heller: And now for more on this story, we turn to Tyrone Parker, embedded with American Patriots for Peace Now . Tyrone, the police are saying that they were told to expect thousands of demonstrators but only a few hundred have shown up.
Tyrone: To the contrary, Mark, there are at least 20,000 of us here and more are still arriving. We've filled the park and are spilling out onto adjoining streets, despite aggressive police efforts to hem us in and prevent us from marching to the state capitol, even though we have all the necessary permits.
Mark: Tyrone, police are describing the scene as a riot. They say demonstrators are throwing rocks at police and breaking store windows. A police spokesman has said there are reports of weapon fire.
Tyrone: I've been here since the first demonstrators arrived before dawn, Mark, and I've seen no rocks, or looting. And I haven't heard any gunfire. We have our own security people -- we call them monitors -- who are keeping close watch to see that none of us steps out of line. But, Mark, I have to say that there is a riot here, a police riot. Police officers are smashing people with their batons, trying to keep us bottled up in the park, and I'm afraid that they are getting out of contro.....
Oh, my God! A cop just threw a pregnant woman on the ground right in front of me and is handcuffing her. She's got blood on her face. A man who was with her, perhaps her husband, took a swing at the cop who threw her down and now cops are swarming all over him.
Mark: Tyrone, you had better get out of there. We don't want you hurt.
Tyrone: There is nowhere to go. My cameraman and I are totally blocked in here. Hold on, we just climbed up onto the base of a statue where we can get a better view. Oh, God! Police at the edge of the park are aiming guns at the crowd now and preparing to shoot. I hope those are rubber bulle...
Mark: Tyrone? Tyrone? We've lost the picture. Are you all right? Tyrone? Apparently we've lost contact with Tyrone Parker at Riverside Park. We'll bring you more as soon as we re-establish contact. In other news....
There are hundreds of other groups and institutions that would benefit from embeds -- labor unions, prisons, health care workers, welfare workers...
Mark Heller: We go now to Cynthia Wells, embedded with the city welfare department. Cynthia, what effect do you think the new welfare-to-work rules will have on people in the welfare system.
Cynthia: It is going to be devastating, Mark. It's already heartbreaking to see women trying to handle a job that takes them away from their children for 30 hours a week and still shop, clean the house, and do all the myriad tasks of maintaining a home. The new rules require a 40-hour week and for thousands of single mothers. That will mean that they will almost never see their children awake. Take a case I handled this morning. Cathy, I won't use her last name and embarrass her, has three children, ages two, five and nine. She can't afford a baby sitter on the miserly welfare payment of $600 a month, and the tiny salary she gets from her minimum wage job at Wal-Mart. So she has to leave her two youngest children in the care of her nine-year-old daughter when she gets up at 5 a.m. to take three buses across town to the Wal-Mart in the upscale suburb of Pleasantville. She doesn't get home until 10 p.m. and by then, all the children are asleep. I don't know what she is going to do now under the new rules. I desperately want to help her, but there is nothing I can do.
Mark: A tragic story, Cynthia. Our hearts go out to all the struggling single mothers. Meanwhile, the City Council today ...
You can make your own list of groups or institutions needing embeds. How about the environmental movement?
Mark Heller: The president today rejected a report by a committee he himself set up to examine the evidence for global warming. The committee declared unanimously that global warming is a fact, and that human activities are a major factor. The committee report warned that global warming will bring devastating changes to the world -- increased rainfall and flooding in some areas, droughts in others. More deadly hurricanes. The report noted that glaciers are disappearing all over the world, threatening glacier-fed rivers that farmers depend on for irrigation and city dwellers depend on for drinking water. But the president said the committee had been hoodwinked by a few radical scientists. He said that global warming is a liberal fantasy and an unwarranted attack on capitalism.
We go now to Barry Funke, embedded with the environmental group Sustainable Living, for a deeper look at this important subject. Barry, what does your group think of the report and the president's response?
Barry: The mildest thing anyone here has said about the president's comments is that he is 'misinformed.' Some of our scientists are a lot less kind. Ginger Tucker, a climatologist, said today that the president's comments were 'asinine,' her word, and that he either hasn't actually read the report or is too 'stupid,' again her word, to understand it. Her reaction is pretty much standard. Another climatologist, Rick Meyers, was furious. He noted that there have now been scores of major studies, and they all say the same thing. The world's ecological system is being devastated by the effects of global warming already, and things are only going to get worse if the U.S. and other industrialized countries don't take quick and dramatic action.
Mark: Barry, I know you are in constant contact with other environmental groups. Do any of them support the president?
Barry: No. They all pretty much agree with our Ginger Tucker, although most of them are a bit more restrained in their language.
Mark: What now? The president is clearly uninterested in doing anything about the situation. What does your group plan to do next?
Barry: We are redoubling our efforts to educate the public about the facts of global warming. We've scheduled conferences open to the public in a dozen major cities for next month. And we will be making the rounds in Washington, talking to senators and representatives about the dangers to the planet.
Mark: Well, good luck, Barry. We will be looking forward to more reports.
We would all benefit if there were embeds in governmental departments devoted to corporate crime. The situation in the Mideast would be a lot clearer if there were some embeds living with Palestinian families struggling to cope under the brutal Israeli occupation.
And if there was an embed living among the Democrats, perhaps we would understand why they silently and cravenly stand by as the most reactionary and dangerous regime in American history tears the Constitution to shreds and embarks on a campaign to rule the world by force.
Do you suppose Fox News will go for this?
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Main Media & Propaganda on Swans
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Deck Deckert has spent nearly two decades as copy editor, wire editor and news editor at several metropolitan newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Miami News, before becoming a freelance writer. His articles and stories on everything from alligator farming to UFOs have appeared in numerous U.S. publications. He has written two young adult novels under a pen name, and co-authored a novel about the NATO war on Yugoslavia, Letters from the Fire, with Alma Hromic.
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This Week's Internal Links
FOOLS' CRUSADE: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions - by Diana Johnstone (Book Excerpt)
Diana Johnstone's "Fools' Crusade" - Book Review by Louis Proyect
Diana Johnstone On The Balkan Wars - Book Review by Edward S. Herman
Diana Johnstone And The Demise Of 'Yugoslavism' - Book Review by Gilles d'Aymery
Selective Recognition and the Dismantling of SFR Yugoslavia - by Konstantin Kilibarda
Lessons From Yugoslavia: Blueprint for War? - by Jan Baughman
We Have The Right To Live - Interviews by Gregory Elich
Making War Out Of Nothing At All - by Aleksandra Priestfield
Courage And Cowardice - by Richard Macintosh
An Awful Lawful World: Who Wins, Who Loses - by Philip Greenspan
Accomplishments - Poem by Sabina C. Becker
My Appearances - Poem by Gerard Donnelly Smith