3. American MAVM coverage of the War on Iraq

HERE ARE a few other glimpses of the obscene and cruel process, including statements by network anchor-people, and brief descriptions of news stories:

- an NBC anchor-person matter-of-factly referring to "quality bombing"... "we own the skies and we can work around the clock"...

- an item about a peace protester in Palestine being crushed by an Israeli tank, immediately followed by the words: "The stockmarket staged a rally today as war drums sounded in the distance" - with the first of these words read over the face of a grieving teenager.

- the ABC News announcing: "What you NEED to know!" (presumably about the attack on Iraq) - immediately followed by a commercial for the Hollywood Oscars, with the words: "There's only one night that can give you so much to talk about... the highest headlines, the lowest necklines!".

- constant references by network journalists on the battlefield, to the "latest technological advances"... broadcasting news in "real-time"... "Our news-gathering technology gets the right information into the right hands!"... etc.

- "We prepared very hard for this war for quite a long time... and have put together a computer graphic." (Peter Jennings, ABC News Special)

- "Everybody now thinks that war is inevitable"

- "An absolutely awesome display of military power!"

- "It is one hot battlefield!"

- "We're being given a free hand!"... "there is no military censorship" (none is needed - PW.)

- excited announcement: "What a night this has been in Baghdad!"

- U.S. Marine Corporal Edward Chin climbs up the statue of Saadam Hussein and covers the dictator's face with the American flag, an act described by anchor-people as: "the equivalent of Mount Everest". (We are also informed that: "ABC - true to form - sought out this soldier and promised we'd meet his family!"

- "It's just like a Hollywood movie"! - the rescue of U.S. soldier Jessica Lynch.

It had to be seen to be believed: jerky and vague saturation coverage played and replayed with hysterical fervour by the American networks, who had finally found a genuine HERO(INE). Actually, it could have been anyone - the face of the person was barely visible in any of the scenes, which mostly showed close-ups of army boots. The helicopter landing at Pfc. Lynch's place of capture was simulated by video-game graphics. And we were reassured by ABC's 'Good Morning America!' team, that Jessica Lynch (or her double) ate a hearty meal of "turkey, gravy and steamed carrots." (Apr. 8)

- particularly revolting repeat graphics showing daily casualty figures of the U.S. and British dead (complete with national flags), while the Iraqi dead (no flag) including civilians were dismissed casually by voice-over as being "well in the thousands".

- a nasty episode revealing the climate of fear and conformity which the American MAVM helped foster during this period, followed the NBC dismissal of journalist Peter Arnatt. In an interview in Iraq, Arnatt had stated that U.S. war plans had failed because of Iraqi resistance. An NBC affiliate station ran an interview with a college media professor, who said that the NBC did the right thing in firing Arnatt, who "had crossed the line between covering the story and becoming it." ... "Was it truly just a misjudgment... or was he perhaps trying to curry favour with the Iraqis themselves?". (Had this media professor really considered what he was saying, and how he himself was being used, he would have realized that his accusation - that Arnatt was 'becoming the story' - was precisely what American TV was doing throughout its coverage of the war. And that he himself was falling victim to the same process.)

The following is a list of items from the American MAVM which I monitored at the outbreak of the coalition attack on Iraq. Most are war stories, the rest are commercials, programme promotions, the odd public service announcement. Please note the incredible SIMILARITY between cutting rhythms on nearly all the news stories, no matter what the item or broadcasting station - and their sheer SPEED (Average Shot Length - the length of the news-item divided by the number of cuts = average length of each separate visual image). I began measuring the speed of the American MAVM in the mid-1970s, and the A.S.L. for news stories at that time equalled approximately 5-7 seconds.

A random mix of items, not in any particular order or chronology:

Local people showing support for U.S. troops 3.8 secs ABC,
Apr 6
Burial of U.S. Corporal Orlowski 4.2 NBC,
Apr 5
U.S. troops make probes into Baghdad 3.4 NBC,
Apr 5
Mistaken attack on allied convoy 3.8 ABC,
Apr 6
"Our Lady Warrior" (item on Hopi Indian U.S. woman soldier killed in Iraq) 3.8 ABC,
Apr 7
Marines move in on Baghdad, take airport 2.7 CBS,
Apr 4
Humanitarian help en route 6.2 Radio-Canada
U.S. troops securing an area 4.5 Radio-Canada
U.S. troops take Baghdad airport 4.4 ABC,
Apr 4
Commercial for long-term finance 2.7 CBC (Canada)
Promotion for film 'An Ideal Husband' 1.3 CBC (Canada)
Colin Powell at NATO (images during voice-over) 5.0 CBC (Canada)
Surrendering Iraqi soldiers (video-phone item) 5.5 ABC,
Apr 3
Rescue of U.S. soldier Jessica Lynch ("Just like a Hollywood movie!") (in more ways than one! - PW) 5.5 ABC,
Apr 3
Public service announcement for Kid Free Drugs 1.6 NBC,
Apr 3
Promotion for comedy series, including Madonna 1.2 NBC,
Apr 3
Rescue of Jessica Lynch 6.6 NBC,
Apr 3
Promotion for Channel 4 (WIVB) News, including images of war, daughter kissing soldier father, etc. 1.8 NBC,
Mar 31
Richard Engel interviews Tariq Aziz 3.8 ABC,
Mar 31
Sikhs in western New York praying for troops and assuring everyone of their loyalty 3.8 CBS,
Mar 31
Search and destroy, house-to-house search by Marines 3.9 ABC,
Apr 1

These figures confirm what we see with our own eyes - that the present process of the mass audiovisual media has little to do with genuine communication, and everything to do with manipulation. It uses real events - human tragedy and suffering - as things to be 'spat out' at the public at a high speed and with an extremely uniform film language, no matter what the subject. Note, for example, the identical cutting speeds for the commercial on long-term finance, and the news-story on the Marines moving in on Baghdad and taking the airport.

It is important to understand that similar tables could be produced for every TV station around the world. The political, social, economic and nationalistic agendas might to some degree be different, but the fragmented, manipulative forms and processes are the same.

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© Peter Watkins 2016