Despite bouts of superficial self-criticism, when it comes to war, the US media excel at following the White House line
by Norman Solomon
At times, long after laying the big flagstones on the path to war, mainstream US media outlets resolve to be more independent next time. And why not? As Mark Twain commented, “It’s easy to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times.”
When the president and his team set out to prepare the media ground for war, they can rely on a repetition compulsion that’s widespread in the American press. Major outlets seem unable to resist White House agenda-setting for war. Cases in point span decades, from Vietnam and the Dominican Republic to Grenada and Panama, to Iraq and Yugoslavia, to Afghanistan and Iraq again - with Iran likely to join the list next year.
Along the way, beginning with the 1991 Gulf war, the better performances of the British press compared to the American media - high jumps over low standards - have not prevented the British government from requiting the worst aspects of the special relationship by supplying troops and weaponry for US-initiated war efforts based on deception.
The political feasibility of waging these tragic wars can be largely traced to the US media’s reflexive capitulations to the administration in Washington - providing stenographic services far more often than tough scrutiny.