Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Coverage of Georgian crisis: White House still calling the tune

Despite Russian president Dmitry Medvedev's announcement yesterday that the Russian offensive into Georgia would be halted, there are still reports of fighting. Aljazeera reports that Russian naval forces have sunk Georgian vessels in the port of Goti. There are also reports that Russian troops entered the Georgian town of Gori, but now appear to be pulling out.

The situation is murky, to say the least. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is engaged in diplomatic efforts to broker a truce. Let's wish him luck on that.

Rather than try and sort out what is currently happening, however, I think it is informative to note how woefully Americans have been served by our own media.

The initial reports of the crisis led me to believe this was an assault on Georgia initiated by Russia. It wasn't until several days after violence broke out that I learned that it was Georgia that initiated hostilities in South Ossetia in an attempt to settle a long simmering territorial dispute. Granted, the Russians were prepared (and probably eager) for a military confrontation, but it was Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili who launched the initial military assault on August 7th. This fact received very little attention in the US media. The perception that was fostered in our news organizations was that of tiny Georgia being crushed by the mighty Russian bear.

Further, very little mention has been made of the presence in Georgia of 127 United States military advisors. Nor of how the pathetically-underskilled US Secretary of State, Condi Rice, was in Tblisi in July, where she gave public assurances (read: warnings to Russia) about Georgian "territorial integrity." The Russians viewed the trip as highly provocative, especially when Condi went on to sign an agreement with the Czech Republic to station US missile defense radar within the Czech Republic. Fox News (and pretty much everyone else) left these little tidbits out of the breathless coverage of Russian armed forces rolling into Georgia.

So, what gives?

It's no secret, really. Ever since Junior Bush got the political godsend of 911, his administration has waved the bloody shirt, using a warped sense of patriotism as a cudgel to beat the sheep-like media into line. Remember the fake stories about Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan? Remember the fake story about the Jessica Lynch rescue in Iraq? Remember the yellowcake uranium lie that appeared in the New York Times?

More of the same, people. This country has been poorly served by our supposedly independent media. In fact, the average American news consumer, if he relies solely on American media outlets, is no better informed than was the average Chinese citizen at the height of Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution.

Well, I'm embarrassed that I fell for this line of garbage that the White House vomited out through their reliable and compliant channels. I'm grateful to Arthur and the anonymous poster, who commented on my blog, and Eclectic Dilettante, who had a very informative post. They helped me get informed.

If you want to know what's really going on, check out the BBC or al Jazzera or any number of other news sources. There are still media that report the news independent of any political bullying. On the other hand, if you'd rather not know, why bother going to Fox News? Just read the White House press releases directly.


Dan Binmore said...

It is interesting. I got my first information from The Guardian, a left leaning english paper. All of this was mentioned, the back story back to 1992 filled out (both sides have valid points to some extent). If I had to pick anyone who has really screwed up it would be the Georgian president, who seems to have hugely over-estimated the support from the USA.
BTW, here's a link to an article that might be interesting, if hard to swallow, Fareed Zakaria (the best journalist in the USA) on what Bush got right,

Eclectic Dilettante said...

The American press has gone way beyond "misinformed" in this anti-Russia media campaign. And I thought they would learn from McClellan. HA! It's only gotten worse. Frankly, our loss of a free press scares the hell out of me.

Russia claimed the American media was "biased". Personally, I thought that was rather polite. Espically since flat out wrong is closer to reality.

Argh. Is the first amendment dead?