Thursday, July 06, 2006

U.S. Military Interfering With Objectivity Of Embedded Reporters

You knew this was happening, right?
FP: How often do you travel outside of the Green Zone?

RN: The restrictions on [journalists’] movements are very severe. It is extremely dangerous to move around anywhere in Iraq, but we do. We all have Iraqi staff who get around, and we go on trips arranged by the U.S. State Department as frequently as we can.

But the military has started censoring many [embedded reporting] arrangements. Before a journalist is allowed to go on an embed now, [the military] check[s] the work you have done previously. They want to know your slant on a story—they use the word slant—what you intend to write, and what you have written from embed trips before. If they don’t like what you have done before, they refuse to take you. There are cases where individual reporters have been blacklisted because the military wasn’t happy with the work they had done on embed. But we get out among the Iraqi public a whole lot more than almost any American official, certainly more than military officials do.
They use the word "slant" now. And, like General Dreedle and Colonel Cathcart from Catch-22, it doesn't matter whether you are doing your job and reporting the facts accurately and precisely— the military brass want you to like them, and if you don't like them, then they'll find somebody to take your place who does like them.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the military shouldn't be able to choose who to let into their operational security perimeter. I'm just saying that you're an idiot if you think any report originated by a "journalist" embedded with the U.S. military is any more independent and credible than a press release from CENTCOM or some geeky lieutenant in a PIO billet.

If you're an embed, then you are simply not credible anymore. If you're an embed, then your job is to produce messages that the military doesn't want to be caught making in an official capacity itself, which means they are necessarily suspect as a result. If you're an embed, then you are lower than the snakes who print celebrity porn gossip in supermarket tabloids. At least, they have honest jobs.

Update: And, oh yeah— I shouldn't have to say it, but this means you, too, Matt Taibbi.

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