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Aug-10-2006 01:21printcomments

Media, the French, War and Americans

Is the media to blame when the information flow is unpopular during a time of war?

Sean Flynn and Dana Stones last picture
Main photo above; Sean Flynn and Dana Stone's last picture
Photos courtesy:,,,,,, Tim King,,,, and up-skirts-dot-com for the O'Really image

(SALEM) - You know, I heard it again this week.

I’m talking about those statements that start with “The media” and lead to “the war” and then there is this connection with “what is wrong” and you know what?

Each time this is stated, my cup fills a little more, and the tablecloth beneath it is staining.

The picture in my mind tells me the color is red, and a society that accepts war needs somebody else to blame for the mistakes it inevitably brings.

As a student of those people in print and broadcast media who have covered war in recent years and been blasted for it, I am incensed.

Unlike the late Dana Stone shown to the left, I have not covered an active war or combat, so I do not claim to know more than I do, but if people think the media is free to cover news at will in the war theaters, they are mistaken, there is a great deal of control.

Yes, there are some free crews moving around Iraq at great risk, but the United States got this bright idea a few years ago that they would embed reporters and photographers with the troops.

So immediately, the coverage is only through one point of view.

So this week, when a person who I think a great deal of, said, “The media doesn’t tell the truth, they find weapons fields all the time and it never gets reported,” I was floored.

I don’t just mean on FOX News either.

They would blow their loudest brass horns, because that would verify their point, prove that the President was right all along, when we all know that we were lied to, and people like Colin Powell, who all of us really want to like, have been made instruments of the administration’s bungled policies.

Does anyone really believe that if the government was finding “weapons fields” that even hinted at being WMD’s, that we wouldn’t hear about it?

But historically, the media is the scapegoat. The truth of war is depressing. The role of a journalist is to convey truth. The loss of one war in our recent history was blamed by many on the pictures of death and destruction that were shown on the nightly news.

One of our biggest national headaches, is the fact that from Richard Nixon to the neo-cons of today, people say that we lost Vietnam because of the media. Even General William Westmoreland said it, and I know he was and still is, an intelligent man.

But there’s no way Uncle Sam, you lost that war because of choices that were made, political choices.

It was a cause initiated by a man named John F. Kennedy to halt the flow of communism in Southeast Asia, that was a move of conscience. Communists have an established tendency to be ruthless, and nobody in that war committed atrocities at the rate that the Viet Cong did, and that was against their own people.

But communism in Vietnam only prevailed because a U.S. President named Truman ignored the pleas of the Vietnamese in the immediate years following WWII.

Those Vietnamese, led by a man named Ho Chi Minh, simply wanted to keep French invaders from once again, setting up shop on their soil while keeping them out of their own political process.

Can you blame a person or a nation from wanting that? Certainly we don't believe that this is only OK for Americans.

People who talk smack about the French because the country’s leaders didn’t want to attack Iraq, almost always know little or nothing about world history and that includes a certain windbag named Bill O’Reilly on FOX News. If they did know history, they wouldn’t judge the French for staying out of the current war as harshly as they would for precipitating a war that would claim the lives of over 58,000 Americans called Vietnam.

Of course O’Reilly wasn't in Vietnam, like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Cheney, etc. O'Reilly thinks and laments that Americans killed unarmed Nazi SS guards at Malmedy when in actuality, the event he was discussing, the Malmedy Massacre that happened during the Battle of the Bulge, involved the cold-blooded killing of between 72-84 American soldiers.

Here is O'Reilly's exact quote from May 30th during an interview with General Wesley Clark...

“In Malmedy, as you know, U.S. forces captured SS forces who had their hands in the air, and they were unarmed, and they shot them down,” O’Reilly's statement refers to the Belgian town of Malmedy, which was fought over during the Battle of the Bulge. “You know that. That’s on the record, been documented. In Iwo Jima, the same thing occurred. Japanese attempted to surrender, and they were burned in their caves.”

But O’Reilly’s historical certainty was astonishingly misplaced. First, at Malmedy, the atrocity on December 17th, 1944, was the other way around: about 86 surrendering U.S. soldiers were massacred by German SS panzer forces in one of the most notorious war crimes on the Western Front.

I’m sorry, but is there time in life to ever talk about any problems that involve WWII, death and Nazi’s? I have no time for it. The Malmedy War Crimes Trial

O'Reilly repeated his position on Malmedy a second time during another broadcast and he never offered a real apology for his reversal of truth for the legacy of U.S. WWII veterans.

It is entertaining if you let it be, because liars like O’Reilly really don’t know what they are talking about. It is scripted hate and the writers are really, really bad, but hate sells I guess.

It also isn’t conservative to go about business the way the new administration has; even sticking its nose into our locally operated public schools system for the first time in history.

Smaller government? Yeah right. Investigation of Malmedy Massacre in '44 Conservative white guys in charge? I think that is really what they mean by smaller government. Surely they don't mean countless billions for wars while poor people make and receive less and less.

Maybe they are making smaller government when it comes to cutting the budget and staff for the Veteran's Administration. What a backwards place people have been led to, everything is out of balance for vets and it gets worse as their numbers grow.

We are now in the day and age where the war room is filled with promotion directors instead of military strategists. They seem to just annoy Bush and Cheney after all. No, we have the "Wanted Iraqi" playing cards, and people renaming their french fries.

Hey, at least the French learn, and that’s a lot more than you can say about this country.

Before you start getting heated up, consider this; between 1914 and 1919, the birth rate in France dropped by 1.5 million. That is how many guys the French lost in WWI trying to repel the Germans. The United States jumped in during the last two years of the war because the French and British needed us.

There was also a ship named the Lusitania that was sunk by the Germans while carrying Americans. That was the final straw, and soon American doughboys were heading “over there” by the tens of thousands.

Why? Because the French helped the United States win the Revolutionary War, and anyone who doesn’t know that, should stop talking politics for at least two years while they go back to school. A good reference point for this information is the French General named Lafayette.

So now it all boils down to today. Hatemongers and warmongers will not last forever, and we will eventually have our country back and our military home.

The descendants of the Bill O’Reilly’s can make up stories about how our troops slaughtered what? Let me think, innocent Taliban death squads? I’m sure they will think of something, sort of like the shameless bastards who went after John Kerry over his war record, because they just MAKE THINGS UP in the neo-con media world, and Americans swallow it down without question because that is what sheep do.

If only they knew what a jagged pill it really is.

Since I’m on a roll here, I should throw out this tidbit about O’Reilly. Years ago, he worked for KATU Channel-2 News in Portland, Oregon, the ABC affiliate where I spent a few years until fairly recently. The old timers say he would always photocopy his paycheck, and leave the copy in the tray so everybody would see how much more he made than the others.

It is a fact, I have heard it from multiple people, it’s just how the guy is.

Then there is his pal, Rush Limbaugh, who seems to have fully entered the world of functional drug addiction. This week he made the statement, “Adults that make minimum wage are stupid.” Limbaugh says that if that’s all they’ve been able to make, then they don’t deserve more. Well I’ve got one for you Rush that my grandma always taught me; it is easier for a rich man to slide through the head of a needle than to enter heaven, and that comes from the Bible itself.

Limbaugh and O’Reilly are destructive, hateful men in my opinion, and that of many others, and following them makes people a party to it. And by the way, where on earth do right wing people draw a parallel between this kind of thinking and behavior and Christianity?

If you are poor, Rush Limbaugh hates you, and he does it in a way to encourage more people to do the same.

I am always confused by the beat up Ford Mavericks with Bush stickers being driven by poor, cranky white men. But then education is limited in this country for many, and not just people of color either.

I know I set out to talk about media, and that is a part of this entire thing, because there is a major intersection between journalism and history that is being missed when the government bans coverage of any event.

For the first time in history during the Vietnam War, reporters and photographers covered huge and horrible battles, and conservative society in turn blamed them for losing the war. The truth hurts, and people only root for violence for so long, then they get smart again and turn against it. It isn’t like morale was bad because young Americans drafted into the service were being killed in droves, oh no, couldn’t be that.

It’s the media’s fault. Just blame the reporter, shoot the messenger, it makes people who know less feel better about themselves.

Another example of “the problems with the media” that my friend shared, was how the

War Journalist Michele Ray

“schools are rebuilt and nobody talks about that.”

Over and over again, we see and hear stories about a school being rebuilt or a house or a hospital. Just a few weeks ago PBS ran an hour-long program that was 100% through the eyes of people who wanted to do nothing but justify the war. It was a good program, and it went on and on about the good things that are happening.

It is true, the Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan are outstanding people. I used to be a Marine, and the bond goes on for life.

They didn’t ask to go to war, they only responded to their nation’s call to duty. Now they’re deep in it for life, because war's don't always seem to end for people just because they board a plane for home. Indeed, it can last a lifetime.

And there is a war on, people are dying, progress is being made and lost again. Every day the sun comes up in Iraq, there are good things happening, but reports of the worst nature always take precedence because they affect people most strongly.

There are no meetings going on at the networks where the execs huddle and say, "OK boys, we're going to keep paying close attention to those newsies so they don't slip in any positive reports about Iraqi schools being rebult". No way, as bad as they are, they aren't doing that. The networks' loyalties are toward the money.

There are plenty of stories about the war being produced that are positive.

So here’s my analogy; not directed personally at my friend, but toward all who share the thought that the media “does a bad job covering what is really happening over there.”

The open...

A football player sized police officer pummels a really small guy with a criminal past after being told that the man was in possession of a dangerous weapon. The officer goes in with his club and revolver drawn and needless to say, emerges victoriously.

The big-framed officer’s work is through and the guy is down for the count, left with a broken nose, a black eye, and a need for many stitches, basically in a pool of blood.

The plot thickens...

The guy got the beating because somebody said he had a weapon. But when the dust settled, a search turned up no such thing.

And as it turned out, the guy didn’t put up much of a fight, but man did that cop let him have it.

Mistakes have consequences...

The officer isn’t to blame in a way, because he was given information from credible sources. After the fact, he regrets the level of the beating he administered, because he had a bad lead and there was no weapon.

So now, as the police officer treats the injuries, he realizes that all people keep talking about is the beating.

The officer believes the guy covered in band aids getting stitched up is fortunate in his own way, and says, “Look, I’m mending the wounds.”

A lack of humility turns mistakes into anger…

Eventually he gets angry, “Why do you only talk about the beating when I gave him stitches and bandages, I even brought the plastic surgeon in and that was not cheap.”

That is where we are.

This is how far we have evolved as a society, like it or not. And I sure as Hell hope you don’t like it.

The troops are not policy makers and while the war was based on false information, the moral need to keep troops there has gone through the roof as morale slides down the banister.

I know many peaceful people who are now demanding the full return of all Americans from Iraq, but it seems certain that if we do so, the Iraqi people who banded with the Americans will all perish.

The media is controlled and censored by your own nation. In Vietnam, it wasn’t. If you hate the free press, then you hate democracy. If you don’t support the last words you want to hear spoken, then you don’t support free speech.

Showing the death and destruction of war is an act of reality, and people living their sheltered lives in the states should all know that soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are all paying their way for supporting the policies of George W. Bush with their lives and their flesh. It's easy to support something that is popular in certain circles, it takes bravery and character to question it. Sorry, no medals for the status quo.

In the most important sense, these troops are performing extremely valuable damage control now, and it seems essential to the survival of the people there.

Has anyone taken notice of the fact that more civilians in Iraq have now died in George W. Bush’s war, than Saddam killed through the use of poisonous gas?

I know many of those who support the war have intentions that are pure and true, but it is time to pull your head out of the sand and see things for what they are. There was never a good reason to invade Iraq, but we are stuck there now, and we should be responsible for the destruction that the president has led our people into.

And as Rumsfeld demands more applause for rebuilding schools, he should be careful, because somebody might build a Website that documents all of the “good media stories” about the war that are shown on TV news but ignored every day and blasted for not existing, and then what reason will they find for blaming the media for their warmongering bad decisions?


Comments are Closed on this story.

Tim King August 12, 2006 1:32 pm (Pacific time)

Albert, Thanks for your comments. I am impressed with your historical knowledge and points. I actually grew up with a kid whose mom survived Dresden as a small child. I know there are innocents through and through, in every situation like that. I just run out of space and time when I write and it is always a challenge not to stray away from my main point. For the record, the wanton death or injury of any combatant is wrong after the fact, unless determined through a court system that is honest and has the best interest of the world at heart, and then it has to be humane, or we have learned nothing. Tim

Albert Marnell August 12, 2006 12:34 am (Pacific time)

Tim, I respect you and Bonnie not that you should care but it is more pleasant than lack of respect. You miss a few points, like the Lusitania revelation that was on the cover of Life magazine around 1971. I remember the issue very well because my mother who was sick of German vilification and very, very hurt by it came running into the master bedroom with the magazine with anger and tears because she had to listen to the lie since she first learned English at age 6 in 1927 when she came here with her parents. Also, talk about war crimes, German soldiers were killed way after the war was over by the allies throughout 1946 and if I am correct up until 1948. I have met some of the German soldiers that survived the starvation, abuse, neglect and just plain murder. So much is covered up, I sometimes want to just drop out of society and move to the mountains. The human condition is illogical, irrational and just plain cruel and stupid. I want my peace.

Albert Marnell August 11, 2006 11:32 pm (Pacific time)

Tim, this is an excellent article. If I have time I would like to study it. You put alot of thought and work into it and it should not just be glossed over. One note that ties in with your points and allows me to vent a real pet peeve; here goes: Two of my grandparents were born in Hamburg, Germany 1896 and 1900. They helped raise me and taught me alot about history. During WW1, the British Naval Blockade killed about 750,000 Germans from starvation, lack of fuel and other necessities. This peaked in the winter of 1917. My grandmother survived while my grandfather was in the trenches fighting for Kaiser Wilhelm. You never hear about this. You do however always here about the Big Bad Germans Blitzing London. Very few Brits were killed compared with what they had done to the Germans just 20 plus years earlier. I am sick of suppression of history and suppression of disemination of information. So many reporters are restricted by governments and all kinds of retribution. I hear so many omissions, distortions and lies daily about what is going on that I could cry. Nothing is ideal in this life but my Opa called me honest Al for a reason. How I hate a liar! How I hate obstruction of fact and information from as many angles as possible. It took over 55 years for the truth of the Lusitania to come out. It was loaded with contraband but again people vilified the Germans and the sinking of the ship was used to justify the U.S.A. going to war with Germany. If they had left Germany alone in the early part of the century, I know there would not have been a decade of turmoil with communists, Hitler, Stalin and even the windbag hero Churchill who had praised Hitler at one time.

DV August 11, 2006 10:37 pm (Pacific time)

2tu (two thumbs up)

Mel G. August 11, 2006 12:20 pm (Pacific time)

What does redsbenglasbucks mean? Are you saying the story author's an elitist, or did he gobble them up for lunch?

redsbenglasbucks August 11, 2006 11:56 am (Pacific time)

You have swallowed whole the elitist view of the world.

Anonymous August 11, 2006 8:30 am (Pacific time)

Caption for the old O’Reilly photo: This is the orignator of the website up-skirts-dot-com

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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