The Control of Media in the Gulf War
How much do you think you know about the world around you? What if everything you viewed was a lie?
During the Gulf War, the White House and the military seized and screened every news report, determining the images and information the media would relay to the public. The result was that the president and the military framed the debate, set the public agenda, supplied television with many of the defining images of the war, and enjoyed very favorable press coverage throughout the conflict .If you ask most Americans what they remember about the Gulf War, they will tell you they remember the super intelligent smart bombs, SCUD missiles, Patriot missiles, and Saddam Hussein is a very bad man, but that is only part of the story. (Muellar, 22)
The Gulf War was both the most widely cover war in history and one in which the U.S. government imposed the greatest Restrictions on the press short of outright censorship. Bush’s announcement of war to the nation on January 16 was watched by the largest American audience in history, over 120 million people tuned in. Without the Cold War or the “Americans in Danger” theme to frame the crisis, the Gulf War administration needed to work harder though the media to convince both the public and the congress that the use of military force was necessary in January.(Trevor. 185) With television technology providing instant transference of images from the front, something had to be done to prevent another Vietnam. (Muellar, 20)
On December 14, Pete Williams , Pentagon spokesperson, dropped the first on the media, issuing a memorandum to news organizations that spelled out the press ground rules in the event of hostilities .All interviews with service members will be on the record . Security at the source is the policy. In event of hostilities, media products will be subject to security review prior to release. You must retain with your military escort at all times, until released, and follow instructions regarding your activities. These instructions are intended only to facilitate troop movement, ensure safety, and maintain operational security. In a departure from Pentagon assurances and from existing policy, the press would cover Desert Storm exclusively from pools. Pentagon used pools for the purpose of secrecy on the grounds of national security. The media expected to be able to roam battlefields, as a small number of reporters had in Vietnam, but in fact, the importance of secrecy made this unacceptable from the military’s stand point. The military developed this ad hoc system of combat pools controlled by the military in conjunction with media which were taken to particular areas of news coverage.(Yetiv, 131) As of January 12, plans called for 2 eighteen member pools, consisting of reporters from television, newspapers, news, magazines, and the wire services. One would cover the Army, one the Marines. No “unilateral” or independent coverage would be permitted. The military would detain and take back to Dhahran any, journalists found within 100 miles of the war zone. Saudis were also very reluctant to have journalists running around looking for stories. The Saudis later strengthened this rule by making the punishment for unilateral reporting arrest deportation. In their rush to get their people to the Gulf and into pools, the only way they could count on being able to report at least some of the action their umber one goal after- they had been forced to comply with the pentagon’s rules. And guidelines before fully realizing the impact they had been forced to comply with the Pentagons rules and guidelines before fully realizing the impact they would have.(Yetiv, 132)
There were two options open to journalists wishing to cover Desert Storm. First, journalist could accept the pool system and work out of Dhahran, watching televised briefings. These press briefings were another way the Pentagon controlled the news. Press briefings were carried out...
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