Last night, I attended the premiere of the movie “War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” It was a documentary-style film version of the 2005 book by the same name written by Norman Solomon, a longtime lefty media critic. (PRWeek reviewed the book and has run two separate Q&A’s with Solomon in the past– subscription necessary).
In the film, as in the book, Solomon asserts rather persuasively that the US government has, for the last 50 years, succesfully co-opted the press in order to rouse up support for wars that are generally started for purposes far removed from the “democracy and freedom” rhetoric that so often accompanies them. The film focuses on Vietnam and the current Iraq war, but every military engagement since WWII gets attention, as presidents are shown repeating the same catch phrases in the various run-ups to conflict.
The failure of the mainstream media to thoroughly report on legitimate doubts preceding the Iraq War has been covered well by Solomon and others, perhaps nowhere better than on Bill Moyers’ recent PBS special, “Buying the War.” Solomon noted in a Q&A session last night that the press often does an exemplary job reporting on its failures well after a war has started– but by then, it’s too late. He said he hopes to persuade hundreds of people across the country to hold screenings of the movie in their own homes, a tactic used successfully by other liberal, independent filmmakers like Robert Greenwald.
In one form or another, those outlets that symbolize “the mainstream media” in the public mind will have to have a very public reckoning soon about their failure to unearth the flaws in the Iraq arguments. The constant and continual drumbeat of criticisms over their reporting will do much to damage the already low public opinion of the journalism industry.