Events Reported by the Media since 9/11

Length: 2304 words

To what extent has the media ‘independently reported events since 9/11 ‘. This essay critically explores the independence of the media in reporting events in the post 9/11 period. It particularly focuses on independence from the government and the military. The essay begins by exploring the claims of critics who suggest that professional journalistic practices such as over reliance on official sources and fear of lawsuits from powerful interests contribute to the manufacture of consent. For these reasons the mass media has become little more than propaganda instruments for a dominant elite. Herman and Chomsky 1994, p19-23]. It then reviews recent conflicts to explore the extent to which this theory is based. In exploring these issues the essay endorses the view that the media post 9/11 became weapons of mass hysteria used by the State to create fear in the population rendering the population liable to manipulation. It also seeks to highlight a number of potential limitations to this position particularly in regard to unilateral reporting during conflicts and discussion around the Gilligan interview on the BBC broadcast.

Herman and Chomsky’s position is that the mass media are drawn into a relationship with powerful sources of information by economic necessity

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and reciprocity of interest. Drawing on the work of Mark Fishman [1986 p. 143] entitled Manufacturing the News, which claims ‘ In particular a news worker will recognize an official’s claim to knowledge , not merely as a claim , but as a credible, competent piece of knowledge. This amounts to a moral division of labour; officials have and give the facts, reporters merely get them ‘.

Herman and Chomsky go on to say that the media may feel obligated to carry dubious stories and mute stories so as not to offend their sources and disturb close relationships with the military or the government. The information given by the media tends to be selected and shaped in ways that support the world-views and interests of the people and organizations making the media text. This does not say that they are fiction but more to suggest what is often authoritatively presented as real and factual is constructed through a process of selection. [ Banks 2009]

The notion of media independence can be analysed in the context of how governments and the military can influence the ways in which news agendas are made. In his press article based on an interview with a female Captain in the army who is also a member of the media operations, Smith gives an insight into her partisan views with ‘ The British army needs the media on side ‘. She also states ‘ It is our voice to the people at home ‘ [ Smith 2005, personal conversation with author]. This is an example of how, in some instances, the government or military can influence or determine the ways in which news agendas are made.

The lack of apparent media independence is continued by Kellner. ‘ The lack of debate in the U. S. corporate broadcasting media points to an intensifying crisis of democracy in the United States. While the media are supposed to discuss issues of public importance and present a wide range of views, during the epoch of the War on Terror they have largely privileged Bush administration and Pentagon positions. ’ [ Kellner 2007 p. 12]. When examining the war on Iraq Kull et al also question media independence ‘ It also appears that the media cannot be necessarily be counted on to play the critical role of doggedly challenging the administration.

The fact that viewers of some media outlets had far lower levels of misperception than did others suggests that not all were making the maximal effort to counter the potential for misperception. [ Kull et al 2004. p597]. This general argument informs the views of Mythen and Walklate when discussing the culture of fear that has been created within British society as a result of the terrorist threat. They argue that democracy depends on unbiased information, and accepting security considerations associated with terrorism there is a suspicion this has given the UK government to pick and choose information given to the public via the media. Mythen and Walklate 2004 p. 138] There are however limitations to the view that the media has lost it’s independence from the government or the military when reporting on conflicts. The Gilligan interview and debate is arguably an example of the media challenging and not collaborating with government. In his interview with John Humphrys on a ‘Today’ broadcast on the BBC , Gilligan suggested the Prime minister knowingly lied about the strength of the intelligence which suggested that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

It could be argued that Gilligan felt confident in criticizing the government due to the political lack of consent for the war at the time. Wile the BBC depends on the UK state for funding it is required to demonstrate its independence and opposing Government is one such way. The Gilligan incident suggests that journalists are in a difficult, conflicted situation. Lloyd concludes ‘ If the BBC could put out a report like that and defend it, and remain convinced it had been unfairly treated by Hutton and traduced by government, then we have produced a media culture which in many ways contradicts the ideals to which we pay homage ‘. Lloyd, 2004. p. 2-4 , 136-40]. Limitations to the view the media may have lost its independence, can also be found when comparing embedded reporters to unilateral reporters. Being able to challenge official versions of the truth is an important role of the media in democratic societies, and one which the unilateral reporter may be in a stronger position to do. This is because their reporting is not subject to the same levels of scrutiny or censorship as that of embedded reporters. Unilateral reporters can become more involved in revelatory reporting.

Recent critics of media independence make a systematic case in support of the proposition that media reporting lacks independence. It argues that practices illustrate the manufacturing of consent in favour of the government and military. In particular, following Hersh, the uncovering of the lack of substance to intelligence reports regarding Iraq’s ability to produce Weapons of Mass Destruction provoked only a few news stories in America, and little sustained questioning about how the White House could endorse such an obvious fake. Hersh 2003]. This lack of reporting of such a huge issue is quite remarkable given its significance. Word Count 1074. References Banks, M. [2009] Week 7 Media and the Production of Spectacle , D271 Course Website, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Fishman, M. [ 1980 ] Manufacturing the News [ Austin : University of Texan Press p. 143]. Herman , E. S. and Chomsky, N. [1994] Manufacturing Consent :The Political Economy of the Mass Media London: Vintage [ p19-23]. Hersh, S. M. [2003] ‘ Who lied to Whom ? ‘ The New Yorker, 31 March Kellner, D. 2004] 9/11 Spectacles of terror, and media manipulation . Apr 2004, Vol 1 Issue 1, p 41-64, 24 p. Kull, S. Ramsay, C. and Lewis, E. [ 2004]. Perceptions, Misperceptions and the Media :Political Science Quarterly ; Winter 2003/2004, Vol 118 Issue 4, P569-568. Lloyd, J. [2004] ‘ What the media are doing to our politics , London: Constable & Robinson, [ p2-4, 136-40] Mythen, G. and Waklate, S. [2006] ‘ Communicating the Terrorist Risk :Harnessing a Culture of Fear ? ’ Crime, Media, Culture, Vol. 2 No 2, 123-142. Smith, D. [2006] ‘ Embedded lines in the sand in Basra ‘ The Observer, 2 July

Section B Domestic Impacts. To what extent, in the wake of 9/11, can the state both provide security and protect civil liberties ? This essay critically examines how the government has dealt with the threat of terrorism since 9/11 and the effects on the civil and political liberties of people since. The essay begins by outlining how the anti-terrorism narrative adopted by the government has had huge implications for our civil liberties. It then reviews legislation that has been passed in the wake of 9/11 and their effects.

The essay endorses the view that the standpoint adopted by the executive or government in combating terrorism has not been proportional and this has had a detrimental effect on freedoms. The individual –versus –state divide is at the heart of human rights, and this essay examines which human rights have been brought into conflict with anti terrorism legislation and approaches. The essay also seeks to highlight a number of potential limitations to this position, particularly as these relate to views that the Government response has been proportional and necessary, and how the judiciary can still be effective in safeguarding our rights.

Porter, a critic of the government says ‘The human Rights Act , has allowed the executive to roll back individual liberty and privacy and has done almost nothing to defend the British public from the accumulation of centralized power’. Porter criticises the concept of Parliamentary Sovereignty which should offer protection from the will of the executive or the Government. Porter states’ Parliament is obviously not sovereign because the executive runs everything. The government schedules parliamentary business.

The truth is that Parliament can offer the public little effective protection because it is itself in the thrall of the executive’. [Porter 2008]. In reference to Article 8 which is the Right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence he adds, perhaps the most obvious means by which we can see the effects of ‘this mass surveillance of free people ‘ is in CCTV systems and a surge in the growth of the database state. [Porter 2008]. Broadly, critics of the Government, point to a surge in new legislation in the aftermath of terrorist atrocities as further evidence of a disproportionate response.

Saward [2006,p. 212-8 ]. outlines the Terrorism Act [2000], The Anti –Terrorism Crime and Security Act, [2001], The Prevention of Terrorism Act [2005], and finally the Terrorism Bill [2005], as unprecedented in terms of government responses to threats of national security. Some of the more controversial issues have been detention without trial of foreign nationals suspected of involvement in Terrorism, which was a feature of ATCSA. Eleven people were held in Belmarsh prison under the Act. Several subsequently appealed to the House of Lords.

Arguments were raised that the Act was an affront to democracy and the internationally accepted nature of justice’. The lawlords ruled that detention without trial contravened Human Rights as it discriminated against foreign nationals. The House of Lords was scathing in declaring this unlawful. The Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, was the Government’s response to the Lords ruling in relation to ATSCA. This new act replaced detention of suspects with control orders of suspects in terrorism cases. The most stringent and controversial of which was house arrest. This new act applied not only to foreign nationals but also British suspects.

The legislation and debate around it brought into conflict Rights such as the Right to Life , with others such as the Right to Liberty, the right to a Fair Trail , and Freedom of Assembly. The Prime Minister Tony Blair regularly repeated ‘ to protect British lives, some other civil liberties may need to be curtailed’. [Saward 2006, p212-8]. Drawing on the international aspects of Human Rights, Gearty, another Government critic ,claims, when referring to the Human Rights Act, ‘What the executive resolutely refuses to accept , is that these obligations should have any international dimension ‘. [Gearty 2007, p 354].

Gearty quotes the comments of former Home Secretary John Reid as evidence of the hardening of the attitude of top government officials. He quotes Reid as saying some people just ‘don’t get ‘how little the old rules matter anymore. [Gearty 2007, p353]. Reference is drawn by Gearty to tensions between the judiciary and government in relation to recent case law. Included in these are the Chahal case which ruled a person could not be deported from Britain to a country where their safety maybe at risk. Secondly, the successful efforts of Human Rights lawyers in holding to account the government relating to the invasion of Iraq [ Gentile].

Gearty also refers to the conflict between security and human rights, detailing different priorities for each. The counter terrorism perspective being driven by a desire to protect land and systems , while the ‘human’ perspective sees peoples and cultures as being in need of protection. He suggests not only insurgents and subversives kill innocent people for a political message. This can also come from governments. Accepting that states are fully entitled to act in the face of the terrorism threat, Gearty concludes the counter-terrorist talks of rooting out evil , while the human rights perspective talks of legality and proportionality. Gearty 2007, p361-362]. Limitations to the disproportionate counter terrorist narrative of the Government are highlighted in the reports of Mottram, who was permanent secretary to the Cabinet for security and intelligence in the Blair Government. Responding to the threat of terrorism ,Mottram states the aim of the Government is ‘to reduce the risk, so that people can go about their daily lives freely and with confidence’. As the Islamist threat has a number of both international and domestic elements, international and domestic policy needs to be brought to bear.

Mottram considers the global nature of the terrorist threat, the variety of networks involved, the intention to cause mass casualties, and the violent and extreme beliefs of those involved. In his view the response has been legal, proportional and necessary. Mottram also points to the influence of judicial independence as a means of ensuring our rights are not compromised. [Mottram 2008, p46-51]. The recent counter-terrorism critics have therefore, made a systematic case to support the proposition that the balance between security and human rights has swung too far in favour of the former.

It argues that the individual suffers a lack of freedoms as a consequence. The Belmarsh ruling is evidence of judicial intervention opposing the will of the government. Furthermore it is accepted that legislation such as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers act which deals with surveillance is subject to close scrutiny to ensure proportionality and necessity, which protects our rights. However Government critics make a compelling argument to support the claim that the balance between state power and individual freedom has been critically altered in the state’s favour.

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