war, journalists, and the battle of free speech

I’ve taken to staying away from talking about, thinking about, or engaging myself in anything and everything related to Iraq, these days. Why? ‘Cause it upsets me. War upsets me. I know I’m not the only one. The number of people who are upset about Iraq just keeps on growing, and I am perfectly content to watch it grow and slowly gain more faith in the capability of the American people (and everyone else on this rather small and somewhat doomed planet we call home) to think for themselves and say, “Gee, war is bad, hey? Maybe we should stop all of this…”

Today, I’m talking about Iraq again. While on my regular visit to the BBC News Front Page and then when I took in the new Best of the 10 podcast, I was reminded that Alan Johnston was freed this week. Thinking about him and his 114 day captivity got me thinking about more journalists who’ve incurred such a fate; some who haven’t made it out alive – all because they are trying to report on a war of which most of the world is tired, and to bring the truth to whomever they can, in hopes that we can make informed decisions about the mess that is Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

I thought, as I had many times before, “I’ll just be glad when all of this is over”. After some more exploring and a little reluctant curiousity – I found a story about Iraqi politicians and how they were concerned about the American withdrawal from Iraq. I found this particularly puzzling, because most of the press we get here about Iraq doesn’t concern itself with the Iraqi view of the American led forces: most of it concerns the number of deaths for the day, occasionally accompanied by a bit of a “democratic” bias that tends to express the need to get the troops out of Iraq. All of this has me a bit confused.

I’ve been opposed to the war – insurgency, occupation, whatever you want to call it – since it began. I’m a humanist: I don’t like it when people die, no matter what it’s for. I don’t think anyone should have to die for any cause. We’re intelligent beings, you’d think we’d be able to work things out, right? Apparently not. Meanwhile, Iraq may have been a mess before George Bush and Co. charged in and things went from bad to worse, but – as we all learned in Kindergarten – if you’ve made a mess, you’d better damn well clean it up. That’s all fine and good, but this is where the journalism connection comes back into play.

I trust the BBC. I don’t doubt for a moment that they employ some of the best journalists in the western world, but I suppose the American brand of paranoia has got me wondering whether a story like the one I stumbled on today could have a shred of truth attached to it. I mean, Iraqi government officials asking the US led invasion to continue? That doesn’t sound right. Three options come to mind when I think about this story:

1. Our (read: North American) news has an increasingly democratic bias – which is just as tricky as having a Republican one in some ways – and we haven’t been getting the whole story because everyone just wants the troops out. 

2. The US government has somehow managed to get so far into the workings of the fragile Iraqi government that their officials have simply become a mouthpiece for the American (read: Republican) agenda.

3. There is a lack of truth in this story, and even the BBC is reporting with a political (read: Republican) agenda.

Now, of the three, I would like to believe it’s number 1. Even that bothers me a great deal, though. It’s almost impossible for any press to be completely devoid of any bias since – even if the author doesn’t intend it – people will put their own spin on the words, images or videos of a journalist. We all see things differently, and our experience dictates that; there’s nothing wrong with that, but I am increasingly wary of all of the news that I read, and the last few years have taught me to be both more careful where I get my news, and whether I believe any of what I read or see at any given time. As an alarming amount of press and journalism concerning war has become more like propaganda over the last few years (and before that too, I suppose, since I can only speak for what I have seen), it seems to me that we are all products of our chosen news source: our general political leanings lead us toward one source or the other, and that source has a direct impact on how we view the world. We depend on journalists to be as fair, logical and truthful as they can, and since I have friends who are aspiring journalists (not to mention myself, as I consider my blogging a form of freelance), I do have a great faith in the journalists’ profession; war and the stories that are a direct result thereof have taught me to be more cynical about news and therefore about the people who bring me the news on a daily basis.

Great! my optimism takes another harsh blow as a result of war.

To conclude:

War is no good.

Be a conscious citizen of the world and question everything; get a 360 degree view of the news.

Speak freely and openly; the more we talk, the more we know, the more we discover about ourselves, the better we can be.

And on that note, I’m off to find out more about the world.  

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