The Military and the Media: Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover a War

By William V. Kennedy | Go to book overview

Ring corridor toward his office from a Department of Defense news conference, a senior public affairs officer related to the author that "Dealing with the press is like going on a date with a gorgeous idiot girl. You've got to exercise a great deal of restraint." The military services and the Defense Department do not always exercise such restraint.

On July 2, 1991, the chiefs of seventeen major U.S. news organizations sent a report to the Secretary of Defense bemoaning the restrictions imposed on press coverage during the Persian Gulf War. 17 Yet it was clear from the record of the preceding months that even with all of the relevant information before it, the press was unable to make an accurate assessment of what had occurred. Why, then, should journalists utterly ignorant and inexperienced in the history, language, organization, methods, and technology of the subject they are covering, when that subject has a bearing on the life or death of thousands (indeed, of an entire nation), be permitted to roam about at will and to report without effective supervision?


NOTES
1.
William V. Kennedy, "The War Fought One Foot Above the Ground", The National Guardsman ( July 1960): 4-5, 26-28.
2.
Ferdinand M. von Senger und Etterlin, "New Operational Concepts", Journal of the Royal United Service Institute for Defence Studies ( London) ( June 1983): 11- 15.
3.
Richard E. Simpkin, Race to the Swift ( London: 1985). Brassey's Defence Publishers. The recommendation appears on page 128 in a chapter entitled "The Rotary Wing Revolution," a thoughtful analysis developing many of General von Senger und Etterlin's themes.
4.
"Gazelle de sables: Des helicopteres . . . mais surtout des hommes", Armees D'Aujourd'hui (Ministry of Defense, Paris) 161 ( June-July 1991): 82-84.
5.
"What to Deploy" (Opinion), Christian Science Monitor, 20 August 1990.
6.
"Only a Helicopter Cavalry Can Beat Armored Iraqis" (Viewpoints), Newsday, 31 August 1990.
7.
The description of air cavalry operations that follows is based on briefings by the U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), July 1991; verbatim after-action debriefings of attack helicopter battalion commanders; summaries of unit staff journals; and interviews with major participants. The 24th Mechanized Division did not reply to an offer to discuss the evidence presented in the foregoing research that it performed a follow-on role to the air cavalry, rather than the lead role ascribed to it in Department of the Army pronouncements, notably the nationally broadcast script read during the post-war Washington victory parade.
8.
U.S. Congress, Congressional Budget Office, Rapid Deployment Forces: Policy and Budgetary Implications February 1983.
9.
"Military Strategy Overextends U.S." (Opinion), Philadelphia Inquirer, 17 October 1983.
10.
"When the Best Defense Is a Smokescreen" (Viewpoints), Newsday, 3 May 1990.

-11-

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The Military and the Media: Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover a War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Notes xi
  • 1 - Why the Press Cannot Be Trusted to Cover A War 1
  • Notes 11
  • 2 - The Roots of Conflict 13
  • Notes 18
  • 3 - Television: The Here, Now, and Obituary Medium 21
  • Notes 39
  • 4 - The Dailies: Shaky Bedrock 41
  • Note 58
  • 5 - The Wire Services: The Weakest Reed 61
  • Notes 71
  • 6 - The Magazines 73
  • Notes 85
  • 7 - Vietnam: The Watershed 87
  • Notes 104
  • 8 - Aftermath 109
  • Notes 125
  • 9 - Managing the "Right to Lie" 129
  • Notes 140
  • 10 - How to Defeat the "Right to Lie" 143
  • Notes 154
  • Epilogue 157
  • Select Bibliography 159
  • Index 163
  • About the Author *
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