Friday, July 25, 2008

Critique of the news media's coverage, written to CNN via e-mail at when they asked for critiques.
I believe you can go deeper. Every news channel and reporter is parroting the same information and we rarely get anything new. Consider, that you state polls about McCain being percieved as better for foreign relations and this perpetuates the perception. However, if you examine in your report the true credentials of Obama and McCain, you might be revealing something. Obama has a Master's Degree in Foreign Affairs from Columbia University and is on the Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress. Obama is a foreign affairs expert, with a life long interest, and thus his ideas that seem to go frequently right - do so - because he is not just a lawyer, but also an expert on foreign affairs.
When you report polls you engage the conformity theory of social-psychology. People actually begin to believe things because others believe it. However, you can go deeper.
You could also play the c-span recordings of the senate hearings when McCain was coming to the conclusion that we needed a surge. He was really upset. Our army was clearing one area, the insurgents were running away, then they would clear another area, and the insurgents would run back to place we cleared before. He said, "What are we playing here, a giant game of whack-a-mol." If candidates make a claim to something, you can show the actual clips on your web-site in full if need be, or link to c-span.
You can go deeper on what the surge was. The strategy of the US military up until that point was to secure key people, not secure the country. The surge was the idea that we should move from a personal security role to an actual national security role, with forward bases. It wasn't about the number of troops, it was about the fact that we decieded not to play defense anymore.
You could examine how, when the Democrats started calling for withdrawl from Iraq, it may have caused the politicians there to begin to think, if they didn't get their country right and American's left - their necks could be on the line. What effect did it have when Democrats started calling for withdrawl?
You and the media report the stories as seperate things; this is the side of one, this is the other side. But, do you ever synthesize the ideas and note that maybe, one person saying they will stay, another saying we will leave - creates a lever - like a good cop/bad cop situation - that may actually compel the Iraqi's to prepare for us to leave?
What you did not report is that Iraqi generals made a plan to maintain power in case the American's precipitously withdrew. If more people knew this, maybe this idea would come up. We could help them boldster, and implement that plan - over a longer period of time than a precipitous withdrawl, and then we could leave.
In the debate - you let people frame the words about things however they want to. With the war, we should be looking for an exit strategy. You should be asking the candidates. What is your exit strategy?
Obama's strategy is to withdrawl with a massive diplomatic surge to tie things together.
McCain's strategy is to prepare the conditions first and then start withdrawing. But, he doesn't say anything about massive diplomatic efforts. The problems in the country currently, are mostly political in nature.
You cover every bombing that the terrorists do and show it in full detail and run it over and over and over again. If the "Terrorists," aim is to create terror - then when you run their attacks globally - which is what they hope you will do - you give them a platform for generating mass terror across the globe. And all they have to do is blow up a few bombs on a street corner.
In Asymetric warfare - you are allowing yourself to be manipulated that way.
What about providing coverage with a few more real people? You always bring on people who are paid by someone involved with the specific issue at hand. They often are spouting a party line - hammering the talking points. So instead of having dialogue and thoughts on an issue, you often have people competing to get their talking points out more forcefully. More exciting? Perhaps... but, you are destroying the capacity for real intellectual discourse through your approach.
I would like to see a more round table approach. Get people with ideas on there that are not talking points. Then you will be doing the real work of reporting and looking at topics.
Benjamin Corey Feinblum

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