Keffee screams “I want the truth!” and Jessep fires back “You can’t handle the truth!” Do you remember this scene from the film, “ A Few Good Men?” The scenario is repeated daily, between independent reporters and the American public. Major news networks offer viewers “eye candy,” or pictures often depicting one side of the story. Viewers many not even hear the words. Government officials offer photo op sessions, such as President Junior’s courageous carrier landing, as American soldiers duck bullets in Iraq. Many reporters “on the ground” tell the other side of the story, but do Americans want to hear it?
Ron Martz, a print journalist, embedded with a tank company in the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division says there must have been two wars in Iraq. Ron wrote about a chaotic war. His war was one in which plans and missions changed almost daily. On one occasion, Ron noted that plans changed three times in one hour. Ron reported on soldiers who questioned the intelligence they received and logistics failing to supply water and spare parts. Ask any veteran – chaos is a natural part of war. Ron reported on the horrors of Iraqi civilian casualties. While television crews showed American Marines and Iraqi’s dancing on a fallen statue of Saddam Hussein on the east side of the Tigris River, Ron wrote about the battles still taking place on the western side of the Tigris.
In return for his attempt to inform Americans, an assault by readers was launched against Ron. One reader questioned his patriotism, his ancestry and his sexual orientation. Another reader suggested he change sides and cheer for backers of Saddam Hussein. Of course, Ron was showered with the old standby attack. “You’re just one of those liberal members of the media,” wrote several readers. Readers even attacked soldiers who complained about their conditions. One reader suggested a soldier be stripped of his uniform and sent home in disgrace. Soldiers always complain – that’s part of being a soldier. It’s part of life in a combat zone. It’s reality.
Television gave Americans the war they wanted to see. Viewers didn’t see bodies with limbs torn off. They didn’t see American soldiers being killed. They didn’t see Iraqi resistance to invading American and British troops. Americans saw a neat and tidy war. That’s what they wanted to see. Americans were shown half of the truth and half the truth is still a lie.
Retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner is a war gamer, once a teacher of strategy and military operations at the National War College. Colonel Gardner has forgotten more about war than President Junior will ever learn. Colonel Gardner has written an analysis, suggesting that the White House and Pentagon made up or distorted more than 50 stories related to the war in Iraq. Gardner says the stories were based upon more than just “bad intelligence.” He says, “It was an orchestrated effort. It began before the war, was a major effort during the war and continues as post-conflict distortions…It was not just the Pentagon. It was the White House, and it was Number 10 Downing Street. It was more than spin…In the most basic sense, Washington and London did not trust the peoples of their democracies to come to right decisions.” If you are prepared to read the more than 20 page analysis for yourself, you may do so in a .pdf document made available through USNews.com.
The desire to bury our heads in “feel good” news reaches far beyond the Iraq war. Americans know the Administration is not paying off the national debt. The Treasury website shows that. Americans know the Consumer Price Index is not accurate when it excludes gasoline from calculations to determine inflation. Americans know unemployment statistics are inaccurate, as they no longer include people discharged from military service and those who have exhausted their benefits. Americans don’t want to know that low-income wage earners pay a much larger percentage of their income than do the wealthy to local, state and federal government. Information such as this just doesn’t make you feel good about the State of the Union. Americans don’t want to hear that their elected officials lie to them and to the rest of the world. It’s just too ugly, so newspapers are put down, televisions are turned off and the “liberal media” takes the blame.
Television is working to “dumb down” their viewers. Schools are too busy teaching students how to “feel good about themselves,” while failing to teach history and government. Americans choose to hide in a fantasy world, believing that the United States only does good things and everyone else in the world does the bad things. It just feels better to live in this world. Facing reality would mean accepting the civic duty of bringing about change. If you think I’m being too critical of Americans, consider a recent survey.
The First Amendment Center conducted a poll of Americans, regarding the proper role of government, based on our heritage and First Amendment rights. In my opinion, the results are chilling.
- 20% say the U.S. government should approve information newspapers publish.
- 54% say the government should rate entertainment programs shown on television.
- 36% support a law banning public remarks offensive to racial groups.
- 37% could not name even one of the five freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment.
Portrait of America conducted a similar survey with equally chilling results:
- Only 36% of Americans believe Congress should follow the U.S. Constitution.
- 22% say, if given the option, they would vote against the U.S. Constitution.
- 27% say they aren’t sure if they would support the U.S. Constitution, or not.
- 35% say dropping the Second Amendment would make America a safer place.
Do you honestly think that the “liberal media” in America would try to sell voters on the idea of voiding the First Amendment to our Constitution? Isn’t this the very foundation conservatives accuse the liberal media of using for protection? Are schools teaching the power and importance of our Constitution? According to the result of these surveys, I doubt schools even mention the U.S. Constitution. Perhaps they are too busy promoting sports and fighting for increased budgets. I have lived in countries where the constitution has been dissolved or shredded by oppressive governments. I don’t think these uninformed Americans would enjoy life there. If they would, I could certainly recommend a new nation for them.
The PIPA/Knowledge Networks Poll asked Americans two questions about the Iraq War. First, they asked if the U.S. has found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Second, they asked if the U.S. had found evidence that Saddam Hussein was working closely with al-Qaida terrorists. The answer to both questions is, “No.” Knowledge Network found a relationship between the viewer’s choice of news and the misconceptions derived from these questions. Here is the result of the poll.
If you would like to be an intelligent, informed American, you may wish to reconsider your primary source of news. Approach news in the way a journalist does. Do not accept a single report as “fact.” Don’t accept a photo op as, “fact.” Read from several sources of news and inject reason and logic in what you see. Separate fact from public relations spin. Insist that you are given details and references. Above all else, accept that not all accurate news is going to make you feel good.
As Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner said in closing, “When truth is a casualty, democracy receives collateral damage.” Do not allow your rights to be stripped away in the name of national security. Knowledge is power and power belongs to the people. Take your power back from government.
Stan G. Kain is a freelance writer, staff member of the Magic City Morning Star and syndicated columnist living in central Maine. Stan was a government journalist in southern Africa for several years. If you have questions, comments or would like to see “The Other Side of the Story” in your local newspaper, please email Stan.
© Copyright 2003 by Stan G. Kain