New York Times reporter John Burns was reporting from Baghdad while Saddam Hussein was in power. What he has to say about the other reporters who were there and how those reporters tried to curry favor with Saddam's regime while failing to report on what the regime was doing to the Iraqi people is an extremely damning look at major newspaper and TV reporters.
There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.
In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people's stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.
Burns believes in the power of the truth and the existence of absolute evil.
Now left with the residue of all of this, I would say there are serious lessons to be learned. Editors of great newspapers, and small newspapers, and editors of great television networks should exact from their correspondents the obligation of telling the truth about these places. It's not impossible to tell the truth. I have a conviction about closed societies, that they're actually much easier to report on than they seem, because the act of closure is itself revealing. Every lie tells you a truth. If you just leave your eyes and ears open, it's extremely revealing.
We now know that this place was a lot more terrible than even people like me had thought. There is such a thing as absolute evil. I think people just simply didn't recognize it. They rationalized it away.
Read the whole article. It is moving and quite informative.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 September 16 11:54 AM Media Critique|