Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Belmont Club analyzes the "Wedding Party" massacre but speaks to a larger issue.

The Belmont Club is emerging as a favorite of mine. It has tackled how the story of the wedding massacre has shifted substantially from the initial reports of the "wedding massacre" and makes a few interesting points about the particular instance. However, to me, the more important portion of the post is this excerpt:

"One of the challenges facing intellectuals at a time when the political and cultural dimensions of war have grown in relation to the purely military is how to make sense of information acquired through the public intelligence system: the news media. Because modern American warfare now involves only a very small percentage of the population it has become a kind of spectator sport where the plays are actually called from the stands. One would hope on good information. Yet a news industry whose techniques were adequate to cover traffic accidents, murders or cumbrous wars in which armies moved a few hundred yards a day must now must cover events whose complexion can alter in hours. The difference is that this time there is no low-tech acetate overlay, maps, or timeline in battalion notebook. Battlefield events are still reported like isolated traffic accidents, conveying no sense of spatial location, temporal development or continuity. To the extent that any symbols are plotted on the public mental map, they remain there, hours or days after the information has been updated. Long after it became clear that the attack may not have been an attack on a wedding party at all, the original accusation soldiered on. On May 20, 2004 at 09:30 Zulu, after the last entry in the table above, the International Committee of the Red Cross 'condemned Thursday an 'excessive' use of force by the US military.' The story went on to say that 'US troops faced further embarrassment amid claims they killed dozens of people at a wedding celebration in a remote western Iraqi town, at a time when the occupation forces are already reeling from a prison abuse scandal.' A reaction based on old news had taken twelve hours to work its way through the Red Cross and emerged to spawn further accusations on its own power."

This, along with Ralph Peter's below mentioned column on how media coverage has necessitated a tactical combat change merge together. In short, we must be wary of instant media and the assumptions made by those who report. Regardless of whether the story eventually gets more completely fleshed out, the initial reports set in the deepest. Given this, the inherent biases of the media are even more devastating, aren't they? Further, this bias against America in general and Bush in particular may necessitate a wholesale change in ground combat, both strategically and tactically, so that battles can be won before the media can report that they are being lost, so to speak. The power of the press indeed.

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