Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Despite Objections from the Bush Administration
NBC News announced on Monday that it would begin describing the violence in Iraq as a civil war. NBC became the first television network to make such a decision despite objections from the Bush administration. On Monday National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said "We're clearly in a new phase." The Los Angeles Times reports that at least 524 people have died in Iraq since Thursday. [emphasis mine]That's the totality of the item. What caught my eye was the phrase "...despite objections from the Bush administration." I was wondering whether these were direct objections to NBC in particular over this story or just the Bush administration's general objections to news outlets using the term "civil war" as a descriptor of the situation in Iraq.
The obvious point to me is: Why should the Bush administration have any say in what words a news organization uses to describe a situation their reporters observe? Of course, the consequences for defying the Bushites are quite real: the denial of access to press conferences, handouts, interviews, etc.
The ability to describe an event seems to me a basic function of the media. We may question whether the words are accurate - that is the nature of public debate - but for the White House to essentially deny and penalize journalists for some descriptions, that is a highly cynical and manipulative form of censorship.