The ABC's 7:30 Report ran a string of interviews on Monday night about the nature of war coverage by the US media. Like everyone else I was overwhelmed by the rush of images. From the ABC report:
JILL COLGAN: Anti-war protesters don't agree but Fox is not alone in choosing to be on side with the military.
TOM ROSENSTIEL: In the study that we did, there was not one image of a person actually being struck by a weapons fire.
There were some pictures of people in hospitals and there was some very few pictures of dead bodies but usually only partial photographs.
This is not graphic.
JILL COLGAN: Why is it we do see fewer pictures on American networks about Iraqi civilians injured or dead?
TOM ROSENSTIEL: There's a strong patriotic feeling in the US and showing the war as a graphic, horrifying event would be, might rub the audience the wrong way.
JILL COLGAN: Finally, it may be viewers themselves who shape what they see and hear.
Research has found there is a limit to what people will watch.
TOM ROSENSTIEL: The studies we've seen so far the people are numbed by it, saddened by it, they're pulling back and not watching as much as they did.
We're seeing the fog of war in embedded reporting.
It's more real than reality television.
Tim Dunlop has already spoken about John Howard's frequent one-on-one press interviews and the total lack of appearances by George Bush. New blogger Zach Meares has a nice analysis of the way media select image over content in war coverage.
To me the worst effect of sanitising war reportage in this way is that the story will end with the final occupation of Baghdad and Tikrit. In reality that will only be the beginning. The coalition will need to do better in reconstructing Iraq than has been done in Afghanistan. Forgetting to budget for Afghan reconstruction does not speak volumes for the Bush administration's capacity to think beyond the current news cycle.
Forgetting Afghanistan suggests that neither the neocon war party in the US nor the media which covers them have thought much to what happens once the cameras stop rolling. No doubt the next war will keep both administration and media too busy to do any thinking.