A.N.S.W.E.R. FACT SHEET ? The Media and the Government


In the past weeks, images have been seen around the world of bombings of villages, hospitals, mosques, Red Cross facilities and more. What has been the response of those dropping the bombs? The U.S. and England are opening what they call ?Coalition Information Centers? ? a plan for 24-hour-a-day domination of the news to manipulate and refute these images.

In the last weeks, the Bush administration, the Pentagon and the CIA have been battening down all of the hatches to deprive the people of the United States of any independent source of information. Why is the government so afraid that people in the United States will have the opportunity to receive uncensored news and information? It is because the Bush administration, having learned a crucial lesson in Vietnam, knows that if the people actually learn the truth about the war, they may become its most vocal and effective opponents.

In some countries, governments have waged violent and repressive wars against journalists. Reporters have been arrested and even killed, fear has been installed in those who seek to go against the government. But that is not the case in the U.S. Reporters here don?t have to be arrested or shot or even threatened. These big capitalist media realize that their real function is to be the public relations arm of the Pentagon. They are engaging in self-censorship.

U.S. textbooks teach of a U.S. media that is distinguished from the media in vast parts of the globe because it is a ?free press? ? not a state-run media, but an independent media, free from government supervision and dictates.

But since September 11, 2001, and especially since the bombing of Afghanistan began on October 7, it would be very hard to assert that there is a free or independent press in the United States. (Those who have studied the corporate-dominated media know that there wasn?t much of a ?free? press in the U.S. prior to September 11 either, though there is a growing progressive media independent from corporate domination.)

Did you know that ...

On October 7 ? the day the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan ? the National Imagery and Mapping Agency signed a contract for exclusive rights to all commercial satellite imagery of Afghanistan and other countries in the region. The U.S. government?s National Imagery and Mapping Agency is a ?top-secret Defense Department intelligence agency,? and it is currently in negotiations to renew its contract, which expires November 5. It paid $1.91 million for the first 30 days of the contract. (Reuters, 10/30/01, ?US in talks to keep rights to satellite images)

On October 10, White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice met with major U.S. television networks and asked them not to show videotaped messages issued by Osama bin Laden live and unedited. They agreed to this request. MSNBC and Fox News did not air at all the next statement issued by bin Laden, and CNN showed only brief excerpts.

On October 11, the Bush administration asked newspapers not to print statements issued by Osama bin Laden. They agreed.

On October 17, a closed-door meeting was held between network heads and studio chiefs in Hollywood and members of the Bush administration. Deputy Assistant to the President Chris Henick and Associate Director of the Office of Public Liaison Adam Goldman represented the Bush administration in the meeting, where Hollywood heads ?committed themselves to new initiatives in support of the war on terrorism. These initiatives would stress efforts to enhance the perception of America around the world, to ?get out the message? on the fight against terrorism and to mobilize existing resources, such as satellites and cable, to foster better global understanding.? (Variety, 10/18/01, White House enlists Hollywood for war effort, By Peter Bart)

On October 30, the chairman of CNN and its head of standards and practices sent memos to the CNN staff relating to their coverage of the war. In the first memo, Walter Isaacson, the chairman of CNN, said it ?seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan.? The memo sent by Rick Davis, the head of standards and practices, continued, it ?may be hard for the correspondent in these dangerous areas to make the points clearly.? Davis actually suggested language for anchors to use while footage of civilian casualties was being shown: (1) ?We must keep in mind, after seeing reports like this from Taliban-controlled areas, that these U.S. military actions are in response to a terrorist attack that killed close to 5,000 innocent people in the U.S.? or (2) ?We must keep in mind, after seeing reports like this, that the Taliban regime in Afghanistan continues to harbor terrorists who have praised the September 11 attacks that killed close to 5,000 innocent people in the U.S.? or (3) ?The Pentagon has repeatedly stressed that it is trying to minimize civilian casualties in Afghanistan, even as the Taliban regime continues to harbor terrorists who are connected to the September 11 attacks that claimed thousands of innocent lives in the U.S.? He concludes, ?Even though it may start sounding rote, it is important that we make this point each time.? (?CNN Chief Orders ?Balance? in War News? by Howard Kurtz, Washington Post 10/31/01)

On October 30, British Defense Minister Geoff Hoon met with U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, to stress England?s concern about the fact that public opinion in Britain and the rest of Western Europe has been turning against the war, largely because of the increasing reports of civilian casualties from the bombing. A ?Western diplomat? quoted in the New York Times said, ?the collateral damage doesn?t make nice pictures in the newspapers.? The Times also reported that ?The European public appears more concerned about civilian casualties than ending the war swiftly.? Senior Blair adviser Alstair Campbell met with U.S. Presidential Counselor Karen Hughes about concerns about public opinion in Europe and the Middle East. (?U.S. Campaign on 2nd Front: Public Opinion? by Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt, New York Times, 10/31/01)

On October 31, Taliban representatives held a press conference in Pakistan to announce that over 1,500 people had been killed in the first 24 days of bombing, mainly civilians.

On October 31, at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Syrian President Bashar Assad said ?We cannot accept what we see on the [television] screen every day ? hundreds of civilians dying.?

On November 1, the U.S. and Britain jointly opened ?Coalition Information Centers? in Washington DC, London and Islamabad, Pakistan. These centers will allow for 24-hour-a-day efforts to dominate news coverage of the U.S. and British bombing of Afghanistan. Their focus will be on rebutting reports of civilian casualties. It will include press conferences, speeches and Internet reports staggered to target morning and evening coverage in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East and South/Central Asia. The State Department is planning its own effort to circulate information on the Internet and providing downloadable information sheets to be used by U.S. embassies worldwide. (?U.S., Britain Step Up War for Public Opinion,? by Karen DeYoung, 11/1/01 Washington Post)

On November 2, New York Times Op-Ed writer Thomas Friedman wrote, ?A month into the war in Afghanistan, the hand-wringing has already begun over how long this might last. Let's all take a deep breath and repeat after me: Give war a chance. This is Afghanistan we're talking about. Check the map. It's far away.? (?One War, Two Fronts,? by Thomas L. Friedman, NY Times, 11/2/01)