Wednesday, August 16, 2006

News Control is Mind Control

There are parallels between the Vietnam War and our war with Islamofascists today, but not the ones our mainstream media look for. The first is media’s willingness to be manipulated by our enemies. The other is the fallacy of fighting a limited, prolonged conflict. When we don’t go all out, we’re at the mercy of the pampered, blame-America-first types who dominated our press corps then, as now, and who report only quagmire from their hotel rooms.

Teaching Vietnam as part of my 20th century US History course, I use PBS’s “Vietnam: A Television History,” a ten-hour series produced by Stanley Karnow in 1983. Karnow interviewed Viet Cong veterans after the war who boasted about setting mines and booby traps around villages, about shooting at US soldiers from civilian homes, then escaping through tunnels into surrounding jungle. They considered themselves heroes for hiding behind civilians and then sneaking away to let villagers suffer the retaliation they deserved. Karnow played television footage of burning villages and peasant wailing, the footage Americans back home watched almost every night on the evening news.

Reports from the Middle East today are similar. Al Qaida terrorists use Iraqi and Afghan homes and villages as bases to attack American soldiers and Iraqi civilians, then hide out in populated areas. American viewers see wrecked homes and women and children crying. Hezbollah terrorists shoot rockets into Israel from civilian homes in Lebanon, then let civilians suffer retaliation. Our media films the suffering while ignoring the cowardly tactics causing it. Reuters uses doctored photographs exaggerating civilian damage and deaths until US bloggers expose them. Vietnam is a blueprint for media coverage in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Lebanon: Exaggerate whatever suggests quagmire and ignore what may indicate progress.

After an all-out attack on American bases during the Tet “truce” in 1968, the Viet Cong and NVA were soundly defeated. Their defeat, however, was portrayed as a victory by our media. An account in Wikipedia describes it well: “Following [CBS anchor Walter] Cronkite’s editorial report during the Tet Offensive that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable, President Lyndon Johnson is reported to have said, ‘If I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost the country.’ Soon after Cronkite’s report, Johnson dropped out of the 1968 presidential race.”

When Vietnamese village leaders resisted communism, the Viet Cong tied them up and cut off their heads in front of villagers. Radical Islamic terrorists kidnap Americans and Iraqis who cooperate with the US-backed government and behead them on videotape for internet broadcast. American reporter Daniel Pearl got his head cut off because he was Jewish and wrote for the conservative Wall Street Journal.

Mainstream media is unscathed so far. CNN voluntarily censored its broadcasts from Iraq under Saddam so they could remain in Baghdad. Walter Cronkite’s CBS successor Dan Rather fawningly interviewed Saddam Hussein. CBS’s allegedly tough journalist Mike Wallace obsequiously interviewed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Earlier this week, however, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped a reporter and a cameraman for conservative Fox News. Will they be decapitated too?

How many times have American TV cameras filmed Muslims burning American flags and stomping on them? Dozens? Hundreds? Are they staged for the cameras? Why are the signs in English? The role media played in Vietnam is well understood by Radical Muslim terrorists today. They know their enemy but we don’t know ours. They play our media like a fiddle.

News control is mind control. It’s power. Whoever wields it decides what people see or don’t see, what they hear or don’t hear - what they think. In a democracy, people vote accordingly. Perception is reality and media controls perception in war. Limited, protracted wars like those in Vietnam and the Middle East are most vulnerable to media influence. If we’re going to fight, go all out or don’t go at all.

Former students who became soldiers are appalled by mainstream media coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan. “All they show are the negatives. They ignore good things we do,” is a typical comment. By “mainstream media,” I mean the big-city broadsheets like the New York Times, the LA Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. I also mean the “Alphabet Networks” like ABC, CBS and NBC as well as newsmagazines such as Time and Newsweek. Although their power is diminishing with competition from talk radio, weblogs and cable news like Fox, the mainstream media still have control over what most Americans know.

MSM journalists believe they were responsible for US forces leaving Vietnam and they’re right. However, they don’t believe they’re responsible for the consequences - millions of Vietnamese boat people and millions of dead Cambodians in the killing fields. If history is any guide, MSM coverage of today’s war may result in the premature pullout of American forces from the Middle East just as it did in Vietnam. Consequences for that will be more September 11s - or worse. The Viet Cong didn’t follow us home. Islamofascists will. They’re already here.


Jake Odell said...

I just read this in the Conway Daily Sun today. This was an excellent article, just long enough to be thourough, and short enough to get the point across. Great job.

I was surprised to see an opinion that I favored in a paper that tends to mirror the criticisms you discussed. And of course, even more ironically, I'm responding to you in a medium that you promoted.

Anonymous said...

Awfull.. Tom you lost me..

As a reader of your columns for years I have always thought.. " that guy is sharp.. i hope my children are tought by a guy like that"...

Your article was so plasthetic..

There is absolutely not a coherent thought in your ramblings... I hope you dont turn into another dumb redneck.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Good one or bad one? It's out there either way.

There's one other local conservative columnist with the paper these days named Ted Sares. I'm not alone anymore.

Ted Sares said...

Yes, I'm there as well. I have one coming that I hope wll open some eyes around these parts.

Anonymous said...

Well, you are alone now Tom. Give em hell!