Book Report: Embedded Weapons of Mass Deception How the Media Failed to Cover War in Iraq

Pages: 20 (6480 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 20  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication - Journalism  ·  Buy This Paper

Embedded: The Relationship Between Form and Theoretical Assumption in an Account of the Iraq War

Danny Schechter's book Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception looks at the media coverage surrounding the Iraq war and attempts to argue that the American news media failed in its duty to robustly investigate the claims made by the military and civilian government. However, the book's format, coupled with Schechter's theoretical ignorance and uncritical perspective, works to undermine any of his admittedly important concerns, and considering Embedded alongside important texts in communication and media theory allows one to understand how Schechter's assumptions regarding the purpose and functioning of the American news media keep Embedded from performing the critical work it sets out to do. This is not suggest that Schechter's goal is not worthwhile, or that he has wasted his energy, but rather that the text could have had a much more profound impact with certain minor changes and more robust inclusion of communication theory. Thus, any critiques of the book presented here ultimately serve to actually reinforce the text's central argument towards a more critical reception of all media.

Table of Contents

p. 4

A problem of form undermining function -- p. 5

Dedication to an original text -- p. 5

Context is key -- p. 7

Writing in a vacuum -- p. 8

Communication and Media in Embedded -- p. 11

Schechter's misunderstanding via McQuail's miscategorization -- p. 11

Television as the lying eye -- p. 16

Embedded's relation to earlier media and communication theory -- p. 19

Schechter's Open Diary -- p. 19

Schechter's Societal Approach to Media -- p. 20

Conclusion and further questions -- p. 21

Bibliography -- p. 22

Introduction

Danny Schechter's book Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception looks at the media coverage surrounding the Iraq war and attempts to argue that the American news media failed in its duty to robustly investigate the claims made by the military and civilian government. However, it only manages to attempt this, because a number of factors combine in order to preclude the book from offering any useful analysis of the propaganda which made the war possible. In particular, the book's format, coupled with Schechter's theoretical ignorance and uncritical perspective, works to undermine any of his admittedly important concerns, and thus he is ultimately unable to investigate his subject in any real detail. This is not suggest that Schechter's goal is not worthwhile, or that he has wasted his energy, but rather that the text could have had a much more profound impact with certain minor changes and more robust inclusion of communication theory. Considering Embedded alongside important texts in communication and media theory demonstrates the roots of Schechter's problems, and allows one to understand how Schechter's assumptions regarding the purpose and functioning of the American news media keep Embedded from performing the critical work it sets out to do.

A problem of form undermining function

Dedication to an original text

Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception was written by Danny Schechter, a prolific television producer and media critic whose professional career includes stints at ABC News and CNN, although his postgraduate education was completed at the London School of Economics. In many ways Embedded represents the natural product of Schechter's history of media criticism, as his other books and many of the television documentaries he produced deal with questions of mass media and the way in which media narratives are formed and subsequently influence politics and culture. This background informs the entirety of Schechter's book, because he approaches his topic with an almost bipolar perspective regarding journalism; at once he manages to claim the position of a (relatively) objective outsider while simultaneously relying on his history in American journalism as a means of establishing his credibility.

This does not necessarily invalidate Schechter's claims, but it does force the critical reader to deal with certain tendencies on his part, such as the unnecessarily "cute" claim that Schechter "was 'self-embedded' in [his] small office in New York's Times Square" while blogging about the mainstream news coverage of the Iraq war (Schechter, 2003, p. 24). Schechter has claimed to provide "the outside view of a media insider," suggesting that his time in the industry allows him to "see how inadequate is the 'first draft of history,' as daily journalism is called," without bothering to discuss how he may have actually contributed to that inadequacy at any time in his previous career (p. 24). This is only a problem because Schechter repeatedly invokes his previous career in broadcast journalism, and as such one expects to be provided with a somewhat more robust account of this time period.

That Schechter is reluctant to view his own work with the same critical eye that he applied to his object of study is further evidenced by the fact that the book is essentially a collection of reformatted blog posts, complete with typos and the occasional minor factual error. This should not be taken to mean that any book born out of a blog is somehow lacking, but rather that in the specific case of Embedded, the transition from blog to book is not as seamless as it could have been.

Schechter is conscientious enough to note that he is "sure [his] work is flawed with unintended errors, some of [his] making, and some in the reports [he] quoted," but that he did not bother to correct these errors because "covering war is often as chaotic as war itself," and he further "decided against rewriting everything for this book because [he believed] there is value in putting all of this material written at the time in one place" (Schechter, 2003, p. 25-26). Of course, this is a somewhat circular explanation, because all of this material was already in one place: his blog. Thus, even before one is able to consider the more fundamental critical and theoretical contributions Schechter's work might make to the study of mass media and communication, the reader is inevitably forced to accept the possibility that Schechter is more interested in advocating opposition to the Iraq war (a point that is admittedly not without merit) through condemnation of the communicatory process which facilitated that war than in presenting a detailed argument regarding the intricacies of that process.

As mentioned previously, these criticisms do not obviate the value of Schechter's contribution to the study of mass media and communication, but they do reveal how necessary it is for any critical work, and especially one critical of media and modes of communication, to live up to the same standards others are condemned for failing to meet. However, Schechter's book seems to escaped serious criticism on this point, because the apparent novelty of reading a media "insider" decry his former colleagues seems to have overshadowed reviewers' ability to examine the book for its argumentative and formal qualities. Michael Frontani's (2004) review of the book for Journalism History is indicative of this larger failure, because while he gushed at the supposedly "trenchant description of the media's functioning in a war that may well either make or break the [Bush] administration's efforts to secure reelection," he did not bother to address Schechter's admittedly sloppy research (Frontani, 2004, p. 111). This critical lack is so vexing precisely because it demonstrates the same kind of lazy argumentation and lack of investigatory rigor that Schechter so adamantly criticizes the major U.S. media outlets for. Thus, in a way Schechter (and by extension, laudatory reviewers of his book) merely presents a lesser degree of critical failure than the mainstream American media, rather than a different kind. Because Embedded has been so critically successful (even spawning an award-winning film documentary), one expects the text to be investigated with an even more critical eye than might be applied to a piece of popular journalism, but professional reviews of the book seem to have avoided this.

Context is key

Despite the formal issues with Schechter's work, Embedded does nonetheless provide an extensive discussion of the way in which the American media simply functioned as an extension of "the Pentagon's publicity machinery" (Frontani, 2004, p. 111). Though Schechter focused on a number of different ways in which the U.S. military and civilian leadership formulated and deployed a media strategy with the obvious complicity of the U.S. news media, he views the embedded reporter as the most pervasive and effective way of shaping coverage of war, although the propagandistic effectiveness of these embedded reporters could not have been possible without the much larger process of media and cultural manipulation performed by U.S. leadership. However, Schechter's chosen format precludes a genuinely detailed investigation, because as each section is merely another blog post, the book has no space in which to offer a comprehensive analysis of these tactics after the fact.

Embedded is essentially a collection of anecdotes regarding the failure of American journalism, followed by a generalized call to action on the part of media consumers. Here Schechter's reliance on the ostensible credibility lent by his career in television journalism is most obvious,… [END OF PREVIEW]

Four Different Ordering Options:

?
Which Option Should I Choose?

1.  Buy the full, 20-page paper:  $28.88

or

2.  Buy + remove from all search engines
(Google, Yahoo, Bing) for 30 days:  $38.88

or

3.  Access all 175,000+ papers:  $41.97/mo

(Already a member?  Click to download the paper!)

or

4.  Let us write a NEW paper for you!

Ask Us to Write a New Paper
Most popular!

Media in "The Cultural Logic Term Paper


Media Technology A-Level Coursework


Media Worlds Term Paper


Mass Media Intro to Sociology Professor Stephanie Research Paper


Media Violence and Aggressive Behavior Research Paper


View 1,000+ other related papers  >>

Cite This Book Report:

APA Format

Embedded Weapons of Mass Deception How the Media Failed to Cover War in Iraq.  (2011, October 26).  Retrieved July 17, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/embedded-weapons-mass-deception-media/88537

MLA Format

"Embedded Weapons of Mass Deception How the Media Failed to Cover War in Iraq."  26 October 2011.  Web.  17 July 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/embedded-weapons-mass-deception-media/88537>.

Chicago Format

"Embedded Weapons of Mass Deception How the Media Failed to Cover War in Iraq."  Essaytown.com.  October 26, 2011.  Accessed July 17, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/embedded-weapons-mass-deception-media/88537.