Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: Between Iraq and a Hard Place

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Between Iraq and a Hard Place


In the weeks leading up to the first Gulf War in January 1991, the media found themselves at an incredibly weak position in terms of accessibility. As explained in chapter 1 of John MacArthur's Second Front, news outlets were at the mercy of foreign and domestic governments to try to cover the impending conflict.

The Saudi Arabian government has been one of the strictest when it comes to issues of journalist freedom. When it seemed that war was imminent after Saddam's Iraqi forces invaded the neighboring nation of Kuwait, the news outlets tried to petition the Saudi government to issue more Visa's. This was crucial because Saudi Arabia would become a major staging ground for U.S. forces. The media met hard resistant to these requests.

As you would expect they should, the media then petitioned the U.S. government to intervene on their behalf to try to secure more access. What they failed to realize was that the U.S. government was of a similar mindset as the Saudi's. They had learned valuable lessons steaming from conflicts such as Vietnam and were looking for ways to contain and monitor coverage of this new war. As such, the Saudi government's denials provided them a means to this end as well as the grounds to claim innocence. The domestic government wasn't censoring the press; a foreign sovereign nation was.

Another critical disadvantage of the media's position was the supportive popularity of the upcoming war. By this time the news market had become as crowded as ever. With such high competition, media corporations could not afford to fight this censorship and lose. The marketing money would simply switch channels to the next of many news stations.

Because of these factors, news outlets had to submit to extremely restrictive practices such as media pools which would control their movement and in effect, content. Many journalistic principles had to be compromised in order to get the story.

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