White House Counting on Public Apathy

You know, of course, that the alleged handover of Iraqi sovereignty on June 30 is a phony-baloney public-relations stunt. The armed forces will remain in the country. A U.S. embassy with 1,000 employees will open. In other words, it will be a continued occupation with an Iraqi face.

What the White House hopes will happen is that the American media, once Iraqis are allegedly in charge, will lose interest in Iraq, and American casualties, which shall surely continue, will be relegated to the inside pages of the newspapers and barely mentioned by the television talk-show crowd.

This might work, because the American media are notoriously xenophobic and show little interest whatsoever in any country other than our own. That’s why Americans as a whole are notoriously ignorant of the world. It’s simply impossible to develop knowledge about what’s going on in most countries of the world from reading American newspapers and watching television.

It’s ironic that as communications technology has exploded, intelligent content has shrunk. That’s because most corporate moguls simply don’t want to go to the expense of stationing permanent foreign correspondents in most parts of the world. If some disaster occurs, they can always buy footage from a local unit or, on rare occasions, fly their pretty faces over for a quickie report.

The information age produces largely static. We can all find out more than we want to know about Hollywood and its actors and actresses (I refuse to allow feminists to dictate my language), but information about the rest of the world is hard to come by. Even the nuts and bolts of our government are not well-reported these days. Ask yourself if you know exactly what your own congressional official is doing based on reading your local newspaper. I’ll bet you don’t.

It’s sad to say, but the American media are undermining the foundation of self-government. The Founding Fathers believed that the common people could govern themselves – provided they were given the facts on which to make their judgments. You are lucky if you live somewhere with a newspaper that makes an honest attempt to give you those facts. In my opinion, the best newspapers in America today are in the small to medium-size cities where editors and reporters haven’t succumbed to sensationalism and celebrity worship.

Unfortunately, most of the day-to-day business of America, whether government or private, is not sensational, sexy or scandal-ridden. A lot of it is downright dull. Yet people need to know what is going on. They need to know when their government is doing things right as well as when their government does things wrong. I share the Founding Fathers’ faith that if the people are given the facts, they will, in the long run, make the right decisions.

Unfortunately, television seems intent on turning Americans into adrenaline junkies. The world is, in fact, a whole lot less dangerous and violent than you would think from watching television and movies. It’s still true, for example, that most police officers graduate from the academy and retire with their gold watch without ever once firing their gun at another human being.

Let’s hope the White House scheme to take Iraq off the front pages won’t work and that the American press, such as we are, will continue to report on Iraq as long as American troops remain there.

I’ve even hoping that the Iraqis themselves will rebel against their American controllers and tell us to get out of their country altogether. That would save us a lot of lives and treasure.

Author: Charley Reese

Charley Reese is a journalist.