This may turn out to be the web’s “first war.” During the Gulf War in 1991, it was 24-hour cable news coverage, especially from CNN, that became a factor in the media management that accompanies every military intervention. I remember marching with tens of thousands of protesters who were chanting “Where’s CNN? Where’s CNN?” in anger at the underreporting of anti-war opposition and the media’s slavish service to U.S. war policy. In the decade since, it’s the Internet that has emerged as a new media battleground and source of information, one which may offer more opportunities than TV to counter official versions of reality with alternative views.
A prime example is www.iraqjournal.org. The site is an excellent source of independent reporting and alternative views on Iraqi issues and U.S. policy. Coordinated by independent journalists Jeremy Scahill and Jacqueline Soohen who are working in Baghdad, IraqJournal describes its reason for existence this way: “As the Bush administration threatens a massive attack on Iraq, many within the corporate media have chosen to become cheerleaders for the war cause. The words “we” and “us” and “our forces” are used so frequently by major corporate media personalities that it has become difficult to figure out if it is the Bush Administration or Rupert Murdoch and Fox that are gearing up to bomb Iraq. With Washington on the verge of seeking to destroy an already devastated country, a group of independent journalists and activists — working together with Democracy Now! the nationally distributed community radio and television program — are breaking ranks with the war chorus.”
Visitors to IraqJournal will find background material, print, audio, and video reports from official Iraqi sources and on-the-spot journalists. Instead of “pack journalism” that follows the administration’s lead, IraqJournal provides a much-needed counterpoint. For example, in December, while the U.S. government was issuing daily critiques of a 12,000-page account of Iraqi weapons programs, IraqJournal highlighted “another report central to the ‘Iraq crisis’ [that] is being ignored by Washington.” It was the annual report of the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, on The State of the World’s Children which documented the devastating impact of U.S. sanctions on the most defenseless Iraqi citizens.
Links are provided to alternative news sources at home and abroad, including a link to the English language section of the Arab-based Al-Jazeera news service. Other links take you to progressive news sources like www.indymedia.org, www.commondreams.org, and www.democracynow.org
Finally, a terrific photo gallery at www.iraqjournal.org/photo/index.html humanizes the people who stand behind the headlines and in the line of fire of the war machine now being assembled.
IraqJournal is an antidote to the war propaganda that fuels the Fox news channels of the world. Whether the global peace movement succeeds in delaying the onset of war or the bombs start to fall, such alternatives will remain indispensable.