“Propaganda smoothly infiltrated into the news.”
Filmmaker Danny Schechter brings some impressive credentials to his documentary film Weapons of Mass Deception. Schechter, a former producer for both CNN and ABC, argues that the American media has a sycophantic relationship with the Bush administration to push a pro-war agenda on the American public. According to Schechter, in the period leading up to the invasion of Iraq, the news media was doing little more than “cheerleading.” Schechter argues that there was “one storyline in the media”–the ever elusive WMD, and that the Pentagon made “media management a priority.” This argument is backed up with facts and figures as news analysts dissect and examine the stories leading up to the war and reveal that only 3% of the analyzed mainstream news sources were anti-war. Now, more than 2 years into a war that was ill advised and reckless, with body counts mounting, and no end in sight in Iraq, some news sources are sheepishly admitting that their coverage of the facts before the war was less than perfect.
The film also analyzes the stance of the media both before and during the war, and there are several news clips of television journalists crowing about the great weapons being used and asking if a particular bomb can be dropped. Schechter’s argument that the Iraq invasion and occupation is “war as entertainment” (complete with countdown and kick-off) is a powerful one. For one thing, it allows an audience to minimize the moral consequences of their viewing, and it also allows the audience to participate in a vicarious, non-lethal (to them, anyway) spectator sport.
I found the news media’s unequivocal position prior to the invasion of Iraq absolutely appalling, and the media’s role in this war is a subject that interests me. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, many people wondered where the anti-war movement was, and thanks to Schechter’s film, it’s clear. Anti war activists tried to buy airtime on the major network news channels and were turned down for the most part. Massive demonstrations were given little or no coverage. Journalists who debunked the 9/11-Iraq connection were fired. News stories that questioned the theory that Iraq had nuclear weapons were squashed. And so a nation marches to war…
The film also covers some of the news stories that were created as the war continued. The fabrication of the story of Jessica Lynch, for example, and Bush’s photo op on the U.S.S Lincoln in May 2003 when he announced the end of major hostilities in Iraq. The film also traces the involvement of journalists in war and notes that correspondents were “pivotal” to exposing war crimes in Vietnam. Then Schechter moves on to the coverage of the war itself, and the reporters who are embedded with troops in Iraq.
Watching and reading the news coverage of the war continues to be a rather sickening experience for me, and watching the film Weapons of Mass Deception made me angry. I’ve watched a number of documentaries on the subject of the war in Iraq, and Weapons of Mass Deception rates very well. It’s fact filled, thought provoking, and its message resonates long after the final credits roll. DVD extras include: the trailer, an interview with the director, poster art, filmography and a section on “getting involved” with several web references.