How to be an American Journalist, Part II—Last week, “Thin Line” focused on an eye-opening documentary by Bill Moyers on how the media failed to ask tough questions during the run-up to the Iraq War. It's instructive to learn about the failures of our largest publications and networks, about reporters blinded in a fog of patriotism. As potential military conflict with Iran approaches, what are the questions we should be asking? Primarily, are things really as they seem? How do we go beyond military news releases and spokesperson responses to get to the heart of this situation?
In a May 4 article titled "U.S. Detains 16 Iraqis with Suspected Iran Links" Paul Tait with Reuters reported that Washington has accused the country of inciting violence in Iraq between Sunnis and Shiites. The article also says the military suspects members of a terrorist cell helped move sophisticated bombs from Iran to Iraq and militants in training from Iraq to Iran.
As the press follows Washington's lead in making the Iraq-Iran link, as papers slowly construct an image of Iran as a frightening nuclear power, I can't help but wonder if some of our national journalists are still sleeping on the job. Against the backdrop of corruption and scandal in D.C., one has to wonder at the practice of taking officials at their word when it comes to matters of national security and war.
Silencing the Soldiers—The age-old debate about information in wartime is a practical one. It seems to go something like this: "Sure, sure, freedom of speech, but safety first." Nobody wants soldiers endangering themselves or their unit. But in the age of the embedded reporter, when restrictions on press access have reached an all-time high, many have turned to soldiers' blogs for a real snapshot of the military effort.
Wired News reporter Noah Schachtman broke a story on May 2 about the most strident restrictions yet being placed on soldiers' speech. "The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages without first clearing the content with a superior officer," Schachtman writes.
Though the Army is quick to defend itself by saying such restrictions are infinitely impractical and various commanding officers may adhere to the directive with varying degrees of severity, it's still more harsh than the regulations that were in place before. Some speculate C.O.'s may even ban blogs and message board postings all together to address the new regs.
Though a soldiers' first priority is not to write blogs and messages, I can't think of a person more deserving of the First Amendment right to free speech. Read up on the debate for yourself at wired.com.