Thesis: Media During Wartime

Pages: 6 (2326 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 8  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Communication - Journalism  ·  Buy This Paper

Media During Wartime

The media plays an important role in our lives. The news cycle has evolved from the once a day evening news or the twice a day local news or from the newspapers to an on-demand 24-hour news cycle. On cable, in addition to the Networks, there are at least five additional channels where the news might be obtained at any time, day or night. The Internet has also played an important role in the news cycle. The availability of broad band connections and Wifi in public places has helped people connect to the news no matter where they are. Through email and personal blogs (web logs) a news item can be made "viral" within a few minutes. Most well-visited websites have RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. When a user signs up for an RSS feed from a news web site, he or she receives an instant email as soon as there is some breaking news. Despite the availability and ease of access to news, the role of media however, still remains the same: to inform. The media plays a varied set of roles when a country is at war. They might propagandize; they might keep an item of information from the information-seeking public in the public interest; they might even opine on an issue. This essay will argue that the news media has morphed from an information disseminating organ to one that provides opinions. These opinions are also biased, favoring one socio-political construct. This essay will be written keeping in the backdrop the War on Terror, specifically, the war in Iraq.

During wars, the medial play an important role. They become the de facto propaganda arm of the government. They also serve to inform the citizenry of the state of affairs and the progress of the war. Media personnel, reporters and photographers put their lives at risk to cover battles and bring the war into the homes of the populace. Andy Rooney, of CBS' venerable 60 Minutes news program landed at the Normandy beaches during the Second World War. (Rooney, 2004) Some of the most striking photographs and video-graphic imagery is brought to television sets and screens every where because of the hard work of reporters. During the second war in the Middle East, following the events of September 11, 2001, the media was given unprecedented access to the war. Media personnel were embeds. That is they were able to travel with armored personnel units and report live. This was the first time, that a war was, in essence, fought on television. Some well-known TV and print reporters were killed in action. Michael Kelly, a long time opinion columnist for the Washington Post was killed when the Humvee in which he was traveling over turned. (Scanlan, 2003)

While the media perform the task of reporting the war, they are also mindful of the notion that war, while necessary is also by nature graphic and gruesome. President George H.W. Bush had placed a ban on television coverage of dead servicemen being brought home in coffins. This ban was not revoked either by Clinton or George W. Bush. President Obama, on taking office, decided to revoke the ban, citing the fact that families could choose whether they wanted the coffins of their beloved could be shown on television. Obama did not offer a specific justification as to why the ban was revoked. Is it possible that President Obama who belongs to the party that was opposed to the war, and vowed to end the war and bring servicemen back would like the media to bring to the people the goriness that is war, hence supporting his view that the War on Terror needs to end? Joe Biden, the vice president, supported his president. He indicated that the ban was a merely a way of "sneaking in" the bodies so that the citizenry would not realize the cost of the War on Terror. Clearly, there were political issues at play. The notion that "politics ends at the water's edge" does not hold good any more. And when Obama made media coverage of the servicemen bodies being brought back open, no media outlet objected conscientiously, that perhaps they would desist. Other than their political instincts, they followed the adage of sensationalism: "if it bleeds, it leads."

This brings us to the crux of the thesis of the essay. That in large part, political leanings play a large part in how the media reports the war. Reportage has now been replaced by opinions. The facts are twisted to fit the agenda of the party that the newspaper supports. For example, after Eisenhower, the New York Times did not vote for a Republican nominee for President. This despite one almost two terms for Nixon, one for Ford, two for Reagan, one for George H.W. Bush and two for George W. Bush. This despite the fact that other than the tussle between George W. Bush and Al Gore, all other Republican President's were elected with strong mandates. The same is with the Washington Post, though the opinions are rhetoric is often tempered. If the flagship newspapers of the United States of America support the Democratic Party, then it is noteworthy. And, it also means that their biases are despite the will of the people.

It is easy to believe then that the media would then be biased in the coverage of the War on Terror -- that is they would attempt to undermine it, when the opportunity arose. But there is precedence for this. During the World Wars, the allied forces, and specifically American servicemen were, through news reels, reporting and movies, cast in heroic light. They could do not wrong, while the Nazis and their Axis could do no right. It is possible that excesses were committed on both sides, but the overall picture indicated that the war was just and the Allies were on the side of the right. There was a marked shift in coverage during the Korean War. This war can at best be described as a draw, where the U.N. forces led by American troops had to abandon Korea. The war ended with the 38th parallel drawn to separate Korea into North and South. (Acheson and Acheson, 1971) But by this time, a significant number of Americans were tired of the war because they had just fought one about five years ago, and were still reeling from the after effects.

But it was in Vietnam that the media bias truly came to the fore. The nation (and indeed, the whole word) was undergoing a cultural sea change. The youth of the nation culturally identified with the flower children, who considered peace to be the only option and were willfully blind to the realities of life. It is possible that the U.S. could have been better served to not join the Vietnam War. But at the time, the U.S. believed that it's destiny and that of world lay in rooting out Communist interference wherever possible. The U.S.S.R. had colonized entire regions of Europe into the East Bloc, and was making inroads into Asia. One battle in the Vietnam War stands out: The Tet Offensive. The North Vietnamese forces and their Communist allies made one desperate attempt to salvage the war in the face of a heavy loss. This was on the day of the Vietnamese festival of Tet. 85,000 troops joined in an all out offensive on the American and South Vietnamese forces. (Willbanks, 2007) They captured some Vietnamese towns. This was a moral victory for the North Vietnamese though a short lived one. The American and South Vietnamese recaptured all these towns and inflicted grievous losses on the Communists. From the standpoint of the U.S. Marines, repelling the Tet Offensive was one of the most brutal and decisive victories for the U.S. armed forces. However, the avuncular and venerated news casters either through apathy or ignorance or driven by an agenda, saw it differently. This doyen of newscasters, Walter Cronkite, announced to America that the Tet offensive was a resounding defeat for the Americans and Vietnam was, in effect, was lost.

An American populace already fatigued by the war was completely demoralized. Political pressure was brought to bear on the Congressmen and the President. This resulted in the Americans abandoning the South Vietnamese, which gave other Communists thugocrats in Cambodia to create the Killing Fields. (Murphy, 2000)

The War on Terror, started out very strongly with nearly the entire population supporting it and President George W. Bush. Americans supported their president, because they could turn to him in the time of need -- following the events of September 11, 2001. Unfortunately, in this world of on-demand, people were not willing to make the sacrifices that a nation at war typically makes. The lag in immediate results, the fact that Osama Bin Laden had not been found and the cost of the war in terms of dollars eventually made the war unpopular.

The media did not help matters. The War… [END OF PREVIEW]

Media Bias in America Term Paper


Media and the Iraqi War Term Paper


Media's Role in the War on Terror Research Paper


World War II and Print Media Term Paper


Home Front During WWII America Essay


View 132 other related papers  >>

Cite This Thesis:

APA Format

Media During Wartime.  (2009, April 15).  Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/media-during-wartime/516549

MLA Format

"Media During Wartime."  15 April 2009.  Web.  23 October 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/media-during-wartime/516549>.

Chicago Format

"Media During Wartime."  Essaytown.com.  April 15, 2009.  Accessed October 23, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/media-during-wartime/516549.