Fox News Panel Discusses Media Coverage of Iraq War Versus World War II
An absolutely extraordinary discussion occurred on Thursday’s “Special Report” concerning the role of the media in wartime, and what the change in press coverage in the past sixty years has meant for the nation. Tastefully setting the table, host Brit Hume showed a clip of Clear Glass Productions' satirical film depicting how today’s liberal media would have covered World War II had this current iteration been around in the '40s (hysterical trailer of the film available here, video of Special Report segment here, hat tip to NB member Blonde):
ANNOUNCER: According to Pentagon sources, this now brings the official total of Americans killed overseas to 250,000. Congresswoman and House leader Ancy Lagosi took time out from her reelection campaign to mark the occasion.
REP ANCY LAGOSI: 250,000 of our finest coming home in wooden boxes, for what? To support a lie. What has Germany and Italy got to do with Pearl Harbor?
LAGOSI: That's right, nothing.
CROWD: Roosevelt lied, millions died. Roosevelt lied, millions died.
Once the clip was over, Hume began:
And that is a brief excerpt from a new satirical video that's out called, This is DNN. And it is filled with sepia toned scenes from an old, what purports to be an old newsreel of modern style coverage of World War II. Back with our panel to pose the question. Well, is that a realistic picture of what it might have been like if today's politics and today's news media coverage had prevailed in World War II?
As the marvelous discussion that ensued needs no elaboration, it will be presented unedited and without further interruption. However, as you read it, consider the significance of what Fortune magazine’s Nina Easton said at the end of the segment.
KONDRACKE: Well, clearly, you know, every battle, if it had been transmitted in live and in color back to the United States it would have been horrific...
HUME: What about even in sepia tones like that when you don't have all the battles, but you have the newsreel footage?
KONDRACKE: Look, there's no question about whether its harder to run a war nowadays than back then it was back then when you had censorship and generally the country was supporting it. But the idea that Iraq is the same as World War II is just not right.
We were attacked at Pearl Harbor. We were attacked. And Hitler, four days later declared war on the United States after he had overrun Europe and everybody -- or most people in the country, by the way, Congresswoman Lagosi would have been a Republican in those days, the isolationists were mainly Republicans not Democrats, as they are now.
So, you could, you know, there were people around who say "ah, Roosevelt maneuvered us into this war, he put an oil embargo on the Japanese and force them." but the fact is that we were attacked. In this case, in the case of Iraq, this was a war of choice. This was a preemptive war that we decided that we were going to wage and, you know, I think, you know, I hope we win, but the fact -- and it was popular in the beginning. But the fact is that it has not been successful and the president is suffering for it.
BARNES: Mort, I appreciate the distinction you made between Iraq and World War II, but that wasn't the question and that wasn't the point.
KONDRACKE: I answered the question too.
BARNES: No you didn't, really.
KONDRACKE: Yeah, I did.
BARNES: You didn't even touch on the question. The question is what would what would today's media have been like covering World War II? For example, I think it would have been brutal. I think -- I mean, think of the six weeks when American troops were stuck in Normandy just off the beach and they couldn't break out.
HUME: Not to mention the hideous bloodshed of Normandy Invasion itself -- the landing.
BARNES: Right. Which was a great miscalculation. All the bombing that was done by the naval ships and the Air Force -- Army planes that had bombed the Germans on the Omaha Beach, didn't clear them out at all, didn't have any effect and so on. I'm sure there would have been -- the press would have jumped on that.
Think of the whole North Africa campaign which was almost a disaster from beginning to end in World War II. Think of the airborne jump on Sicily when hundreds of soldiers got blown out to sea and drowned and so on. The press would have been merciless and it wasn't, as it turned out in World War II.
HUME: What do you think -- Nina.
EASTON: That's absolutely true and hundreds of thousands people died. And Vietnam 58,000, Korea 54,000. Yeah, it would have been very difficult to fight those wars. But I also say -- I say now, so what? I mean the point -- your point -- going back to Mort's point, so what?
HUME: Well, the question that it raises is whether those standards were the right standards to apply or -- which would, I think, it can be argued, have crippled the American war effort or are the standards of today the right ones to apply.
EASTON: That's, in some ways, besides the point. Because -- there is a reality today that a president...
HUME: So, you don't want to answer the question or what?
EASTON: No. There's a reality that the president has to factor in today when you ask the American public to go to war, you need to realize and understand what...
HUME: What the news media can do, right?
EASTON: .the role of casualties and the media is not -- it's no longer a question of the media in Iraq.
Clearly the most cautionary point was the following made by Easton: “There's a reality that the president has to factor in today when you ask the American public to go to war, you need to realize and understand what...the role of casualties and the media is not -- it's no longer a question of the media in Iraq.”
Does this suggest that the media have gotten so powerful that a president has to consider how they will report things when he or she enacts a foreign policy decision? If that is the case, when did the media become a part of the American government structure to be able to impact such pivotal decisions by the executive branch, and is this something that can be tolerated during a time of war? If not, what can be done about it?