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Media, War, and Propaganda - Communication and...

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Media, War, and Propaganda: Strategies of Information Management During the 2003 Iraq War Deepa Kumar It is now widely acknowledged that the Bush administration used faulty and false information to justify the 2003 war on Iraq, and that the mainstream media, by not adequately investigating the case for war, assisted with the project. In this paper, I outline the particular strategies employed by the media ± / military industrial complex to ensure a dominance of pro-war arguments in the public sphere. I conclude by arguing that the failure of the media in the US to meet the democratic needs of this society places enormous responsibility on intellectuals to produce scholarship critical of the new imperialism. Keywords: Media; Iraq War; War Rhetoric; Democracy; Propaganda Today, few would disagree that the Bush administration resorted to propaganda in order to justify its war on Iraq and that the news media simply presented as fact information that they should have carefully scrutinized. Some media outlets have even admitted to this. An editorial on May 25, 2004 in the New York Times states that in a number of instances, their coverage of the Iraq war ‘‘was not as rigorous as it should have been’’ and that ‘‘information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged.’’ 1 Deepa Kumar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University. Correspondence to: Deepa Kumar, Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 4 Huntington Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA. E-mail: [email protected] rutgers.edu. I want to thank all the wonderful women and men that I have worked with in the anti-war movement and from whom I have learnt so much. This article comes out of several talks, discussions, and short pieces at various peace/anti-war meetings and other venues. In the academic arena, the paper was first presented at the First Vice President’s Program Panel Session at the National Communication Association, November, 2003. I want to thank Dana Cloud for organizing the panel titled ‘‘Academics against War.’’ Special thanks to Robert Ivie, the anonymous reviewers, and Dhavan Shah for their useful comments and suggestions. ISSN 1479-1420 (print)/ISSN 1479-4233 (online) # 2006 National Communication Association DOI: 10.1080/14791420500505650 Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies Vol. 3, No. 1, March 2006, pp. 48 ± / 69
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Several scholars such as Orville Schell have argued that the news media not only accepted but actively embraced information based on spurious intelligence. The result was that dissenting voices were ‘‘buried on back pages, ignored on op-ed pages, or confined to the margins of the media, and so denied the kinds of ‘respectability’ that a major media outlet can confer.’’ 2 This raises disturbing questions for democracy and the role of the media in facilitating the widest possible exchange of ideas.
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