United States Needs Mass Media

Before going to war in Iraq several years ago, the people at large in the United States were prepared psychologically for war through the mass-media every day for about a year. Whenever there was “news” on the television, there were indications that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The United States has about 10,000 weapons of mass destruction, which must not be as newsworthy as speculation about other nations.

The case of Iraq makes clear that for the people at large to have any influence on international policy or decision-making in the United States, the people must reclaim the mass-media to educate the public and to communicate information and ideas instead of accepting rumors as truth and acting without knowledge – which is acting out of ignorance, much more dangerous for a nation than a single person.

While still fighting in Afghanistan, almost 300 million people in the United States were exposed to the idea and prospect of war with Iraq – war with Iraq it was. The psychological preparation in the United States was extensive and disturbing. The simple exposure, repetition, and increasing frequency of the idea of a dangerous Iraq convinced some. Few people exposed to the mass-media could have been excluded from the “concerns” of the administration.

The issue of war with Iraq was presented as a high-profile court-case in which there appeared to be two sides in the dispute for and against war. These two sides seemed incompatible. President Bush had already stated, “You are for us – or against us.” The only judge in the matter appeared to be the administration, but what happened to the people, and what happened to the mass-media?

As it turned out, only the prosecution in the case for the war was able to present its case, and the defense (against the war) was nowhere to be found. This is not because the defense did not exist – it is because the defense was not portrayed in the mass-media except in a derogatory and degrading fashion. People who exercised their rights to protest were portrayed as “traitors” and “dissenters”.

In the case for and against war in Iraq, the Bush administration presented its case, refused to listen to ideas or information that ran counter to its “intelligence sources,” then served as a judge in the case, deciding to go to war with Iraq despite not having been attacked. Most of what the people believed came from the mass-media, which was speculating along with the administration.

In a court of law, the decision-making process that led to war in Iraq would have been “conjecture” primarily. There would have been two-sides to the issue presented for the people, and there would have been a jury to deliberate, to think, to discuss, and to decide what to do based on available information. Contrasting perspectives about Iraq’s WMDs would have been sought instead of silenced.

The case of Iraq is a national one because it now directly concerns the people of the United States, the armed forces, their families, parents, and children. The case of Iraq is also an international case because it has established a precedent for the U.S. by invading another country that has not attacked our nation. If not the supposed WMDs in Iraq, then what does threaten the people in our country?

For any nation that is founded in the name of democracy, the greatest threat to the people in that country is the neglect of basic human resources and rights. In the United States, the Bill of Rights describes the rights of the people, among them – freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom to assemble and protest. These are very special rights that distinguish our country from tyrannical regimes, so long as the people exercise and practice them.

The primary problem in presenting the case against war in Iraq – before the bombs began falling – was that the exercise of these rights was not portrayed in the mass-media, even though people were exercising them across the nation, mostly in urban areas that have access to more ideas than one gathers from public television. Few people protest in rural areas and small towns. Without a voice in the mass-media, the people must accept what it gives them instead of using it as a tool.

For the 300 million people in the United States, the peace movement was neither broadcast nor portrayed objectively. Democracy entails the representation of the people and the process whereby their ideas, knowledge, feelings, and decisions are counted. There are possible courses of action or non-action, and the majority of people either support them or not. The mass-media must not bombard people with the conjecture of any nation or else it is not a free-press either.

With the present technological and digital tools that allow for the mass-broadcast of information all over the country, the mass-media influences the mental conditions of the people. The workings of democracy either become more refined and efficient because of these tools, or else more mediocre, illegitimate, and wasteful of time, energy, and the lives of the people. The media is a mediator between government and the people, and real communication is not a one-sided process.

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