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CNN’s Sucking from the Totalitarian Teat

Is it better to have “access” and report a distorted version of the news from a totalitarian country such as the former Iraq, or is it better to withdraw, call the regime on its threats, and report the truth that you DO have? The only rationales for the former course of action are self-serving, even self-aggrandizing: we are so important that the world is a better place with us on the scene even if our reporting is distorted and misleading as a result – “something” is better than “nothing.”

Franklin Foer calls bullshit:

    As Baghdad fell last week, CNN announced that it too had been liberated. On the New York Times’ op-ed page on Friday, Eason Jordan, the network’s news chief, admitted that his organization had learned some “awful things” about the Baathist regime–murders, tortures, assassination plots–that it simply could not broadcast earlier. Reporting these stories, Mr. Jordan wrote, “would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.”

    ….In exchange for CNN bureaus, dictatorships require adherence to their own rules of reportage. They create conditions where CNN–and other U.S. media–can do little more than toe the regime’s line.

    The Iraq example is the telling one. Information Minister Mohammad Said al-Sahhaf has turned into an international joke, but the operation of his ministry was a model of totalitarian efficiency. The ministry compiled dossiers on U.S. journalists. It refused to issue visas to anyone potentially hostile–which meant that it didn’t issue visas to reporters who strayed from al-Sahhaf’s talking points. CNN correspondents Wolf Blitzer, Christiane Amanpour and Richard Roth, to name a few, were banned for critical reporting. It didn’t take much to get on this list. A reporter who referred to “Saddam” (not “President Saddam Hussein”) was shut out for “disrespect.” If you didn’t cover agitprop, like Saddam’s 100% victory in October’s referendum, the ministry made it clear that you were out.

    ….With so little prospect for reporting the truth, you’d think that CNN and other networks would have stopped sending correspondents into Iraq. But the opposite occurred. Each time the regime threatened to pull the plug, network execs set out to assiduously reassure them. Mr. Jordan made 13 of these trips.

    ….Even if CNN ignores the moral costs of working with such regimes, it should at least pay attention to the practical costs. These governments only cooperate with CNN because it suits their short-term interests. They don’t reward loyalty. It wasn’t surprising, then, that the Information Ministry booted CNN from Baghdad in the war’s first days. [Wall Street Journal]

“Partial truth” can be much more damaging than unvarnished lies because partial truth can be much more persuasive, lulling the “victim” into believing he is getting the real thing. Is there any doubt that less-than-explicit presentations of the horrors of Saddam’s Iraq contributed to anti-war feeling, delayed decisive action to liberate the country, and emboldened the regime to even further desecrations and perversions? I think not.

Under these circumstances, the honest view from the outside is far superior to the compromised view from within.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014.Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted.Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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