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A Book Review
by Joy Renee


Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You
By Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich
Afterward by Sean Penn
© 2003
Context Books
121p + 65 p of appendices

Subject: Iraq war 2003; Media critique

Solomon is Executive Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and Erlich is a foreign correspondent. In short, alternating essays the two of them dissect the media coverage leading up to the second Gulf War, showing how all the mainstream information sources, which an informed democracy depends on for its very sustainability, were either gullible or complicit in accepting and passing on without judgment or even elucidation, the administration’s justifications for war.

Included are glimpses of life in Iraq as the international war mongering escalates; interviews with Iraqi people; the impact of twelve years of sanctions on the Iraqi people; the reports implicating depleted uranium for increases in cancer and birth defects among Iraqi’s and U. S. Veterans of the first Gulf War; the analysis of oil as a motive behind the Bush administration’s push for war; and the influence on reporting from media owners, advertisers, and the White House--many with invested interests in the defense and energy industries.

The Afterward by Sean Penn is the open letter to the President which he published as an ad in the Washington Post on October 18, 2002.

Then there are three appendices. The first an essay by Seth Ackerman, contributing writer for FAIR (Fair & Accuracy in Reporting) which details how the press coverage of the U. S. use of U. N. inspection teams in Iraq for purposes of spying on Saddam Hussein began as fact (which it is) and devolved into allegation with implications that Saddam’s very real complaint was mere propagandistic posturing.

The second appendix is a line by line analysis of President Bush’s October 7, 2002 speech, critiquing the level of fact and reliability of sources behind each assertion.

The third appendix is a similar analysis of the U. N. Security Council Resolution 1441 November 8, 2002.

Altogether this makes for a very handy resource on the issue of the role the media plays in the forming of public consensus. An awareness of this phenomena can serve as an inoculation against the insidious propagandistic tendencies in that institution which is charged with the serious task of keeping a large enough sector of society well and accurately informed about the issues that affect their lives and the holders of power which regulate the minutia of their lives so that they can hold the abusers of power accountable via the ballot box and the court of law. But when all the main sources of information become just another tool in the hands of arrogant authority, they have forfeited that sacred trust and endangered the very democracy which created and upheld them as essential to the preservation of our liberty. Who will hold them accountable, if not the consumers of their fare? Thus it is incumbent on all consumers of information to become aware of the ways and means of the manipulation of information and thus less susceptible to the manipulation of their minds. For an awareness of the manipulation makes it less likely to be effective.

© 2004 by Joy Renee Davis

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