WASHINGTON (AFP) - Most Americans have little or no confidence in the information they receive from the military or the media about the situation in Iraq, according to a poll released Thursday.
The survey by the Washington-based Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 52 percent have little or no faith in the military's portrayal of the four-year war, compared with 60 percent who feel the same way about the press reports of the conflict.
The figures are a far cry from the overwhelming confidence Americans had in the military and the media at the outset of the war in March 2003.
At the time, fully 85 percent said they had at least a fair amount of confidence in military information and 81 percent were confident the press was giving an accurate picture of the war.
Why has that changed? Well, at the beginning of the war, the difference between what the media was showing and the military was saying was about nil. Plus, you had "Baghdad Bob" juxtaposed against the reality of cameras right in downtown Baghdad obviously showing that Americans were not held up at Saddam International Airport, but were in fact in downtown Baghdad.
We were WINNING and it was OBVIOUS that we were winning. When you are in a fight against established army with recognizable uniforms, large pieces of equipment destroyed and verifiable dead laying on the ground for quick "glimpses" by the media before the film was cut to "protect" civilians from the ugliness of war, you can tell that you are winning.
The media was RIGHT THERE with the soldiers as they rolled along. And then, there is that whole "surrender" thing, when the opposing army just goes away and stops shooting while jubilent Iraqis danced in the street and beat Saddam's statue with their shoes.
You saw all that on your TV, in pictures, in print.
Now we are in guerilla warfare. By it's nature, it is in the shadows. It is hit and run. Guerilla's use the media to its advantage, staging giant public spectacles in places that will get the biggest bang for their buck (excuse the pun) and limit their own casualties. Those they do suffer are either "martyrs" who purposefully chose to die (according to guerilla media) or are carried off along with any sign of their presence because they know that any sign of death or weakness is their own death knell. They know that they must be able to inflate their numbers and abilities to 100 times it's reality in order to gain the desired effect. No guerilla left behind, because, if their bodies are left behind, if the wounded are left behind, they can be exploited for information. They will damage the appearance of invincibility. They will damage their "mystique" of being everywhere, but nowhere.
And the media plays to that and echoes that simply by not BEING THERE. Because their reports are usually pictures of blown up vehicles and wailing, bloody people taken by stringers whose only acceptable reports are from the scene of the crime, along with clipped out phrases from Military dispatches regarding number of dead and wounded, the media echoes the insurgents.
Yet, I believe that the American populace is not completely stupid. We have learned lessons from Vietnam and from the modern media age about how the media can be manipulated. We are cognizant of guerilla warfare. Experts have explained it to us. We are savy in many ways. So, we know that the media "edits" and "selects" stories to make them more "compelling", yet "compelling" is not necessarily the whole truth.
We know that the guerillas have their own agenda and write stories to reflect that, largely playing off the Media's inability or lack of desire to BE THERE. We know that the media has been duped many times when it chooses not to follow its own best practices of verifying the story and the sources.
We know that our own military has an agenda, necessary as we see it, to get out positive stories to deflect the negative and to impact the guerillas. We are not stupid. We know by the number of bombs and dead it is not perfect. Yet, the info war must go on because defeating guerillas, and their agenda, is about keeping the people on the side of the "good" and the way to defeat the enemy "mystique" is to make them less and less and less capable, particularly in the fantastical press, which is how the guerillas are able to perpetuate this mythical, mystical "presence" and "capability".
So, by nature we do not trust any of them to give us the full picture. We feel compelled to try to "see through the smoke and mirrors", but very few are interested in helping us for various reasons. The press wants money, the guerillas want your soul and the Military wants to win.
But, the major factor here is without a doubt that the media is NOT THERE. We know they are NOT THERE. Thus, we feel compelled to believe that they are simply mouthpieces for both sides of the conflict, simultaneously, because they are no longer independent reporters, but cut and paste artists.
So, what are we left with? We are left with throwing all of these ingredients in a bowl, stirring it up and trying to "divine" the right information like fortune tellers at the fair. Like these fortune tellers, we are swayed by all things around us. That is why almost 50% can believe that Iraq and Afghanistan are about to be defeats and the other 50% believe that we are on a slow road to progress, or, at least, should keep going.
And, form all of the things I've read and heard from people regarding this matter, I don't believe I would trust even myself to truly comprehend the status.
Where does that leave us? Still trying to read tea leaves since the papers and videos have left us blind.