With Time Magazine honoring three women for blowing the whistle
on corporate illegalities and FBI incompetence, perhaps it is time
to broaden the frame and single out some journalists and media
makers who are sounding the alarm about the rush to war in Iraq.
Their work deserves attention too, as the stakes may be much
The Hollywood awards season is now abuzz with speculation. The
Golden Globes and Oscars honor excellence in films of the
imagination. Maybe it is time for a new award, ?The Izzie,? named
after the American journalist I.F. Stone (aka Izzy Stone) who, as
columnist and reporter for his independent I.F. Stone?s
Weekly, was more consistently right about events in Vietnam
than most of the mainstream outlets of his time. Everyone in the
news business knows that truth is one of the first casualties in
any armed conflict. But knowing that does not seem to inform or
improve most conflict reporting.
What would the categories be? There might be the Emperor Has No
Clothes Prize. Paul Robinson of the conservative Spectator
magazine is already in contention for heresies such as this: ?There
exists no legitimate reason for us to wage or threaten war against
Iraq,? he wrote recently, ?Saddam Hussein poses no threat to
?As recently as 10 years ago, it is unlikely that any British
government would have considered taking military action unless
there was a genuine threat to our national security.? Robinson
writes. ?Today we are reduced to twitching over fantastic delusions
of enormous enemy capabilities and make-believe scenarios of future
holocausts, and Tony Blair can drive us inexorably toward an
unnecessary and quite unjust war. When we were fighting the Cold
War, the British Army Intelligence Corps used to produce a
marvelous magazine called Threat. Full of grainy pictures
of the latest sexy Soviet equipment, articles about the newest
variant of the rear sprocket of the T-80 or BMP-2, and depictions
of Motor Rifle regiments attacking from the line of march,
Threat drew its readers? attention to a serious danger
existing just beyond our borders. The point about Threat
is that the capabilities described were real. The equipment
actually existed. The tactics had been used in recent military
operations. By contrast, the threat? from Iraq is a figment of some
Next, there?s a Take No Prisoners Award for debunkers.
Journalists James Cusick and Felicity Arbuthnot of the Glasgow
Sunday Herald are my nominees for scooping the rest of the
world media on the extent of Washington?s interception of Iraq?s
weapons declaration before other U.N. members could even see it.
They discovered that ?the United States edited out more than 8,000
crucial pages of Iraq?s 11,800-page dossier on weapons, before
passing on a sanitized version to the 10 non-permanent members of
the United Nations security council.?
Next, there would be the Lifetime Achievement Award for
investigative reporting. One candidate might be Seymour Hersh, now
of TheNew Yorker, who has covered nine U.S.
administrations and all the wars in between. In a recent interview,
he said the Bush administration is the hardest to get access to:
?Oh, it?s much harder. There?s almost a ferocious animosity toward
people in the press who ask questions they don?t want to hear. And
this is a government that has tremendous influence over cable
television, over radio talk. They really don?t need the New
York Times, or The New Yorker, or the Washington
Post to get their message out, so it?s very hard slugging.
This administration is tough. It?s a very punitive crowd, and
anyone who steps over the line gets into trouble.?
In the running for most controversial war on terrorism TV
documentary is Scottish filmmaker Jamie Doran?s film of an alleged
massacre of Taliban prisoners of war last year. It has created a
stir in Europe. He says he would lead U.S. authorities to
investigate any involvement of American soldiers.
Doran told Reuters?before screening Afghan Massacre: The
Convoy of Death on Germany?s ARD television network (Germany?s
PBS)?that witnessses saw U.S. special forces stand by and watch as
Northern Alliance allies murdered Taliban POWs. BBC covered aspects
of this story at the time, but it was largely ignored by U.S. TV
outlets who focused on the death of a CIA agent during the
Mazar-e-Shrif prison revolt. They ignored well-documented charges
of human rights abuses at the time.
What unites all of these disparate voices, some of the right,
and others of the left is their willingness to probe below the
surface layers of the conventional wisdom and the official story to
take a more critical approach in terms of the questions asked and
While so much of the news media tends to carry look-alike and
think-alike journalism, potential contenders for my imagined ?Izzy?
would turn away from accepted and acceptable ways of seeing. They
would pursue their craft in the spirit of the Italian thinker
Umberto Eco, who advises ?sometimes you have to follow the opposite
course and find in dissent the confirmation of your own
Until the prize exists, I will be taking nominees in the spirit
of the ?people?s choice? TV awards. What journalists would you
Danny Schechter, executive editor of Mediachannel.org, is
the author of Media Wars: News at a Time of Terror
(Inovatio). ? Globalvision News Network, 2002. Distributed in
partnership with Globalvision News Network
(www.gvnews.net). All rights