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The Collapse of the Mass Media - Milblogs as a Different Perspective Of War-Time Writing

Page history last edited by marc 12 years, 4 months ago


Before and during the Iraq war almost every branch of the media collapsed. Newspapers and television networks failed to debated or even discuss the most basic assumptions. They were never able to pursue truth without fear or favor.


This paper is intended to examine why the mass media failed to cover the brutality of war and how their coverage was perceived by the public. After a brief introduction of basic aspects of the Iraq War, I am planning on pointing out to what extend the emergence of milblogs provide a different perspective of war-time writing.



1.) Definition of War


According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy "war" should be understood “as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities.” But war should always be seen as a last resort in order to resolve disputes.


Neorealist Theory says that war is essentially about power and self-interest in an anarchic international system and therefore war is a legitimate and necessary part of political life. National security becomes the main motivation for going to war. Realist theory does not ask if a war is just or not.


“War is a violent way for determining who gets to say what goes on in a given territory.”


At the edge of Sadr City


But we should not forget that war is much more than just a necessary evil. The decision to send troops to the battlefield requires the taking and sacrifice of human life. Declaring war is always problematic, because it is hard to sell a rightful and reasonable cause to the public, especially if peaceful alternatives exist. The hardest part is always to justify political violence as ethically appropriate and inevitable.


The Just-War Theory on the other hand, includes also the principle of equal human dignity. Thus the most troubling aspect of the Iraq War is the question about its justification, because a state “may launch a war only for the right reasons”. It’s difficult to justify the Bush administration’s preemptive strike against Iraq within the framework of just-war theory.



2.) Brutality of War


It should never be ignored that war raises all kinds of moral questions for any thoughtful person. Combat will always be connected with incredible suffering and barbaric slaughter. War brings suffering and misery to everyone and its effects are irreversible. It is definitely the worst way to solve problems.  


“War is a brutal and ugly enterprise.”




The saddest aspect of war is the fact that it always involves civilian casualties. In a war zone innocent men, women and children die. The result is always the same: demolition, destruction and tremendous suffering. What is the point in creating and legalizing that much violence?  


April [2005] was a bad month for the US aim of militarily crushing the resistance fighters. A total of 77 US troops were killed - the most since November’s attack on Fallujah - as well as hundreds of Iraqi soldiers and police. According to the US army, insurgent attacks have doubled since early this year. In some places the fighting has turned into Sunni-Shia gun battles, while other Shia fighters have attacked US and British forces. Hundreds have been killed in bomb attacks. (http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article803)


After the invasion of Iraq, the situation deteriorated. The mere presence of American troops additionally fuels the conflict between Iraqi Sunni and Shia factions. The population is in despair. It is reported by United States Army General Barry McCaffrey that “as many as 3000 citizens are murdered per month. It seems like the bold American predictions of restoring peace in the country have failed. The Iraq war has turned into a debacle.


It does not come as a surprise that the Iraq war has become hugely unpopular in the United States. President Bush has hit rock bottom with the lowest approval rate in U.S. history (19 %).



3.) Public Perception of War


The media play a central role in the war of perception. The Pentagon and the Bush administration did everything they could to manipulate news coverage of the Iraq war. U.S. mass media became a propaganda instrument of American military plans.



The Pentagon used the media to promote the administration's pre-existing plan to attack Iraq: Colin Powell presented anthrax before the United Nations Security Council and soldiers like Jessica Lynch were portrayed as war heroes.


Overall, the government did everything in their power to sell an unnecessary war to the public. They were staging photo and making up military intelligence.


“The period of time between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq represents one of the greatest collapses in the history of the American media.”


On May 1, 2003 President Bush landed aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in a cinematic-like spectacle. He celebrated “mission accomplished” in Iraq, even though the war was far from over. The whole propaganda-event was a great illustration how the government was trying to manipulate public perception of the Iraq war. They wanted to convey the message that George W. Bush is a modern-day war-hero.


Overall this scene resembled the movie Independence Day in which a U.S. president led a heroic attack against invading aliens.




4.) Milblogs: A New Genre of War-Time Writing  


The wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq were the first wars to be blogged. It was also the first time that bloggers offered an alternative forum for discussion on a traditionally government-dominated topic.  


Many blogs operate outside of journalistic rules and are therefore able to provide a different angle or view on foreign policy decisions. Unlike most of the press, bloggers do not necessarily depend on official sources. Milbloggers as a special kind of bloggers provided a different look behind the scenes of war and created an unprecedented genre of war-time writing.


Many of the milbloggers began writing with the purpose of showing what they experience abroad. Others use their blogs in order to fight against the anti-war bias in the media. They want to show their side of the story by reflecting on living in a war zone.


Oftentimes milbloggers use their blogs as some form of therapy. They write about how they feel about fighting in a war that the public perceives as unjustified.


"You're a war photographer, but once you take a picture of what war is like then you get into trouble."



The greatest accomplishment of these bloggers is their ability to seemingly write an unfiltered view of war. But the emergence of blogs written by soldiers has led to some censorship. Some bloggers were disciplined for releasing classified information or talking about military operations. But this could also be seen as an attempt to shut down unflattering reporting towards the U.S. occupation.


Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that most blog entries have to be reviewed by a superior officer. Most milbloggers, however, think that this form of censorship has much less to do with military security and more to do with American politics and how the war is seen by a critical public. Of course, military officials do not want to showcase the ugly side of war. Nobody should see the graphic content of a photo showing a dead soldier and the dreadful violence.


While it is true that a lot of blogs are about the daily life of American soldiers doing seemingly ordinary activities, we should not forget that milblogs rarely tell the entire unfiltered truth. These blogs are certainly a great way of getting a closer look at young soldiers fighting for their country. But we should not expect overtly critical voices towards the war.



Works cited


Brook, Yaron & Epstein, Alex (2006): “Just War Theory vs. American Self-Defense". <http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2006-spring/just-war-theory.asp>


Hearse, Phil (2005): "Deepening Brutality of America’s War". International Viewpoint Online Magazine. <http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article803>


Hearse, Phil (2007): "The Politics of the 'Surge'". International Viewpoint Online Magazine. <http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article1180>


Hennessy, Cari Lynn (2006): "Blogs, The Mainstream Media, and The War in Iraq". Department of Political Science. Northwestern University. <http://www.journalism.wisc.edu/blog-club/Site/Hennessy.pdf>


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: "War". <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/war />



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