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exchange with Mary Dejevsky (Independent)

 
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joe emersberger



Joined: 24 Jan 2004
Posts: 513
Location: Windsor, Onatrio, Canada

Post Post subject: exchange with Mary Dejevsky (Independent) Reply with quote

Dear Mary Dejevsky.

A very interesting piece on February 3 ("Let's be honest; journalists failed as well")- long overdue. I applaud you for looking away from the bogus search for "intelligence failures" and at the serious question of why the media failed to effectively challenge the government's case for war.

You ask why "We journalists failed to ask pertinent questions that could at least have cast doubt on the information the Government supplied" Well, you could have cast a lot more doubt. There was already plenty. People aren't stupid, but the media could have made public opposition to the war impossible for the government to overcome.

Your title mentioned journalists, but the media consists of owners, managers, advertisers, readers, sources (governments, academia, "think tamks" etc..) as well as journalists. Journalists failed because the system within which they work ensured that they would either fail, or be banished from the mainstream.

You say that journalists feared ridicule if they used sources that aggressively challenged the government: Scott Ritter, David Kelly, Hussein Kamel - all "discredited" sources when their claims conflicted with the government. There was a "climate of fear" and "To hazard that these weapons might not exist was to invite ridicule."

But whose ridicule did the media fear? Was the public going to lash out at the media for citing Scott Ritter or Hussein Kamel much more frequently. Does the trail not lead back to the owners, advertisers, official sources that you didn't mention? Why didn't the media fear ridicule for failing to aggressively challenge a case for war that was absurd? A country that had been bombed with impunity for over a decade, subjected to devastating sanctions, and that didn't dare to use WMD against the US when they actually had them was presented as a "serious and current" threat. Given the widespread doubts that existed due to these obvious considerations, I fail to see why the media would fear discrediting itself with the public by citing evidence that usable WMD probably didn't exist. However, I do understand that journalists answer to elite groups. I can see why they would fear discrediting themselves among elites by challenging power too aggressively.

You've asked the crucial question. It needs to be asked much more often and probed much more deeply.

Regards,

Joe Emersberger

Reply from MD:

thank you. yes, there is much more to say. that piece in fact was one part
of a much longer presentation that i gave to a conference recently. on
ridicule - i know about that, i was a huge sceptic about the existence of
wmd at all and was laughed out of court practically every day in the
office, where the prevailing assumption was that wmd would be found and
that the govt would never risk a war for something they were not absolutely
sure existed. well.... there have been apologies since.

but the other half of this piece is that we were deliberately misled by
govt spokesmen and others who fed us distorted information that we had no
means of disproving and was at the same time tantalising for news editors -
you cannnt not report the 45 minutes to attack alarm. there are misgivings
that you can put in your article, but the headline remains.
you can't really have an article that says the govt warns that iraq can
deploy wmd withiin 45 minutes, but our correspondent does not believe it.
this was the huge dilemma - and i think the govt information machine
exploited that massively.

regards, mary dejevsky .

Dear M. Dejevsky:

We agree that there is "much more to say". When will it be said? When will the media's, or even just the Independent's, failure to effectively challenge the government's case for war be subjected to real scrutiny in your newspaper? Why not have a public forum in which Media Lens and your editors and writers explore this topic? How can the government's "information machine" prevent that?

If this public debate cannot take place, please explain why? Is there a more important or appropriate question for you to address?

Of course you "cannot not report the 45 minutes to attack alarm". But what prevented you from always balancing the government's claims with the views of people like Ritter? There was no need to say "but our correspondent does not believe it". You could have said "the former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq doesn't believe it".

regards,

Joe Emersberger
Fri Feb 06, 2004 12:56 am
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