Saving Private Lynch

Image

On March 23, 2003, a US battalion was ambushed near Nassiriya in Iraq. Nine soldiers were killed, and 19-year-old Private Jessica Lynch was captured and taken to the local hospital, where it was alleged she was beaten and interrogated.

US Marines stormed the hospital eight days later, after a tip off from an Iraqi lawyer, and rescued Lynch. They captured dramatic footage of the rescue, which was then broadcast to the public. Lynch was celebrated as an all-American hero, and her rescue paraded as the first of an American prisoner of war since Vietnam.

But the rescue turned out to be an elaborate propaganda ploy.

Accounts from eyewitnesses and doctors at the hospital presented a very different story, in which Lynch was given the best treatment possible in the midst of a war, and was shielded from the Iraqi military. It was also claimed US forces knew Iraqi soldiers had fled the area the day before the raid, but had staged it anyway, firing blanks for the cameras.[1]

Lynch was unconscious in the immediate aftermath of the ambush, but in an interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC News, she said:

“From the time I woke up in that hospital, no one beat me, no one slapped me, no one, nothing… I’m so thankful for those people, because that’s why I’m alive today.”

Before criticising the military’s glorification of her rescue:

They used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff. Yeah, it’s wrong,”[2

On the surface the showpiece operation could be seen as simple propaganda of the deed – a statement from the US military showing the capability of their Special Operations teams, and refusal to leave any man, or woman, behind.

But staging the rescue of a patient, who the hospital authorities had attempted to return to the American forces anyhow, runs deeper. It was a deliberate attempt to serve the ends of the US military by deceiving the American public, and media. The Iraq Invasion, which had only just begun, had been bombarded by public criticism, and propaganda campaigns such as this one were necessary to justify the incursion.

Footage showing the saving of Private Lynch was taken and distributed by the military, making this an example of white propaganda. But, though the source was clearly declared, the manifold deceptions were not, so it remains an example of propaganda.

 

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/may/15/iraq.usa2

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/07/us/jessica-lynch-criticizes-us-accounts-of-her-ordeal.html

Journalism of Attachment: principled reporting or propaganda?

In 2002, BBC journalist Martin Bell outlined a new form of reporting, called Journalism of Attachment, which he defined as: 

“A journalism that cares as well as knows; that is aware of its responsibilities; that will not stand neutrally between good and evil, right and wrong, the victim and the oppressor.”[1]

This form of journalism refuses to turn a blind eye to the victims of a conflict. It reports on their suffering to provoke outrage back home, and demands action be taken. This is often in the form of sanctions, like those recently imposed by the EU and US on Russia, in response to its deployment of soldiers in Crimea.

But sometimes Journalism of Attachment demands direct intervention. The Serbian-Albanian conflict in Kosovo is one such example. High profile journalists, including Martin Bell, aligned their sympathies with the Albanian population, which, they argued, was the victim of a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Marie Colvin was often celebrated as a champion of Journalism of Attachment, and her reports from Kosovo are clearly supportive of the Albanian cause. She begins one article by blaming Serbian Communist Party Leader Slobodan Milosevic for the conflict: “the rise of virulent Serbian nationalism was the trigger for the current conflict”.[2]

But some people criticise this moral journalism, as a propaganda tool that simplifies conflicts, seeking to justify intervention. Mick Hume, former editor of LM Magazine, wrote an essay tellingly titled: Whose War is it Anyway?

He claims: “Journalism of Attachment depicts [wars] as exclusively moral struggles in which Right fights Wrong.” – journalists approach war zones and make quick judgments based on their own subjective Western values. These then influence their reports, preventing all sides from receiving a fair hearing.

Hume points to NATO’s air strike against Bosnian Serb forces as an example of the dangerous power of journalism of attachment. Reporters like Bell and Colvin shed light on Albanian suffering, lending legitimacy to the air strike, while failing to report the considerable suffering of the Bosnian Serbs. [3]

Partial media coverage, such as journalism of attachment, continues to thrive. It leads to all manner of positive work, including humanitarian aid, but continues to divide opinion. In the murky realm of morality, what right do journalists have to decide who is good or evil? And if they take on this judgmental role, are they in danger of becoming unconscious propagandists of Western values?

 

 

[1]Bell, Martin. (2002) The Journalism of Attachment. In: Matthew Kieran (ed) Media Ethics. Routledge, London. p. 15-23.

[2]Colvin, Marie. (2012) The centuries of conflict over a sacred heartland. In: On the Front Line. HarperPress, London. p. 94-95.

[3]Hume, Mick. (1997) Whose War is it Anyway?: The Dangers of the Journalism of Attachment. InformInc.

 

Hand In Hand – an unusual radio package

I recently got involved in Hand In Hand, an interactive adventure game in Doncaster.

It unfolds like a treasure hunt – you arrive at a destination where an actor(s) performs, and then gives you a clue to find the next location.

The game was designed by Steve Manthorp and Shanaz Gulzar – of Adept - and was commissioned by Right Up Our Street to get more people involved in the local arts scene.

I had a great time putting this together, and I hope you enjoy listening.

CUE:

A romantic story’s blossoming in Doncaster, and over two hundred people are involved.

Hand in Hand’s an adventure game that has participants exploring the town for clues.

It’s free to play, with the aim of boosting local involvement in the arts.

Greg Hoare went to investigate.

 

This radio package looks at events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Great Sheffield Flood.

On March 11th, 1864, close to midnight, the newly constructed Dale Dyke Dam collapsed, sending six hundred and fifty million gallons of water crashing down the Loxley Valley into Sheffield. At least 240 people died, in one of the biggest man-made disasters in British history.

The first song in this package is ‘The Moon Shines Down’ by Toffee Music (Dave Markham), performed by children at Bradfield Dungworth Primary School during a memorial service.

The second song is ‘Dale Dyke Dam Disaster’ by Toffee Music (Mike Lydiat).

Toffee Music kindly gave me permission to use these songs.

Occasionally the audio doesn’t appear on this page. If so, here’s the link: https://soundcloud.com/gregory-hoare/flood-package-newsday-final

‘Agents of influence’: black propaganda in the Cold War

The Cold War was a battle of ideologies, during which propaganda was every bit as important as weaponry, but usually more subtle.

The Cambridge Five have become a high-profile example of the influence of Soviet propaganda – students at a top university, and later MI6 spies, who developed communist sympathies and turned on their country.

But Western powers were equally adept at manipulation, as Richard Beeston acknowledges in his memoire: Looking for Trouble.

Beeston recalls working for an Arabic broadcasting station in Cyprus, in the 1950s, which ‘unknown to most of its staff, came under the authority of the Secret Intelligence Service’. (1)

He notes that the station ‘could take a stronger pro-British political slant than the BBC could afford to’, and that its objectives were ‘to protect Britain’s strategic and oil interests in the Middle East’.

The British government asserted that the station was ‘a private company registered in Cyprus to promote cultural and information exchange’.

Interestingly, Beeston notes ‘none of our listeners were fooled by this’, but says the station remained hugely popular because of  ‘a first-class drama and music programme’. (4)

The Near East Arab Broadcasting Station at which Beeston worked was a classic tool of British propaganda. It was a means of using soft power – British culture and entertainment, to attract an audience, and raise sympathy for the British cause abroad.

It was deceptive propaganda, dubbed ‘black propaganda’ by Jacques Ellul, as it was covert – propaganda disguised as news and entertainment.

In Munitions of the Mind: a history of propaganda from the ancient world to the present day, Philip Taylor argues the pervasiveness of black propaganda came about because of the development of nuclear weapons. These forced the US and USSR into a standoff, in which military action was too dangerous. To justify continued military spending in the absence of conventional conflict, the two superpowers had to ensure ‘fear of the enemy was sustained at a higher level than fear of the bomb’.[1] 

Elaborate propaganda campaigns were established, in which ‘agents of influence’, spread throughout the world, disseminated information to help their cause. Richard Beeston was one such agent – a journalist broadcasting a pro-British message to a foreign audience.

 

Sheffield Photographic Society’s annual exhibition

I scripted, presented and edited this video package covering the Sheffield Photographic Society, one of the oldest photography groups in the world.

The package was filmed by Princess Abumere.

It was filmed and produced in 5 hours, in simulated news room conditions.

Of course, we still found time for a token selfie.

Radio News Bulletin

My assessed radio bulletin for the University of Sheffield. Story formats include copy story, cue and clip, voicer, wrap. All stories were found, scripted and edited by me.

  1. HS2 in Derbyshire.
  2. Main jailed for raping teenager in Rotherham.
  3. Toby Foster.
  4. Cuts to Rotherham Hospital.
  5. Book banned for promoting witchcraft.