The Media’s Role in Asymmetrical War

Finally, an “impartial” authority takes the mainstream media to task for their despicable performance in last year’s war between Israel and Hezbollah.

According to a report just released by the Harvard Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy — and authored by Marvin Kalb, a former reporter for NBC and CBS, hardly a right-wing blowhard — the media’s willingness to be manipulated and used by Hezbollah contributed to “a definitive propaganda victory” by Hezbollah.

The Harvard paper shows the need for journalists to brace themselves and remain vigilant when they cover conflicts between open societies on one side, and media-controlling militias on the other. These conflicts, which we will undoubtedly continue to see, demand that journalists make a greater effort to provide context and to keep from become willing collaborators with one side. Islamic militant groups, such as al-Qaida and others, have openly described their strategy of manipulating the media and winning on the “information battlefield.” Hezbollah, too, had a well crafted, and ultimately successful media plan.

The challenge to keep from being used will be greatest for journalists in the field, but editors back in the newsroom also must look closely at what their organizations produce. They must be aware that their reporters on the ground are the target of media campaigns by those they cover, and that reporters can become emotionally allied with one side, as we saw last summer in Lebanon.

(Via Charles Johnson at LittleGreenFootballs, who played an early role in calling attention to the media’s shameful performance during the war.)

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