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The Electronic Journal of Communication / La Revue Electronique de Communication

Volume 2 December 1991 No. 1

THE MEDIA AND THE PERSIAN GULF WAR
LES MEDIAS ET LA GUERRE
DU GOLFE PERSIQUE

Editors/Les editeurs

Michael Morgan
University of Massachusetts


ELECTRONIC JOURNAL OF COMMUNICATION
LA REVUE ELECTRONIQUE DE COMMUNICATION

Volume 2 December 1991 No. 1

A Message From the Journal Editors

Over an eight-month period beginning in August 1990, the Persian Gulf crisis and war dominated media coverage around the world. Ostensibly precipitated by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the crisis continues as of this writing, as Saddam Hussein denies food and fuel to the Kurds in northern Iraq.[1] This deplorable persecution of Kurdistanis continues, despite the tickertape parades in the U.S. which celebrated military victory over Hussein, and have left the impression that the war and crisis are over.

Meanwhile, the U.S. administration has turned a blind eye toward torture, murder and deportation inflicted by the government on thousands of Kuwaiti residents since Iraq's withdrawal, in an attempt "to root out those who collaborated with the Iraqi occupiers and to restructure Kuwaiti society in a fashion that is deemed more reliable politically," according to Middle East Watch, a U.S.-based human-rights group which sent two delegations to Kuwait this past spring and summer.[2]

It is our hope and expectation that events of the Persian Gulf crisis and war will continue to be studied for many years to come. For the past seven months, professor Michael Morgan of the University of Massachusetts has crammed his already crowded schedule to diligently toil as guest editor of EJC/REC. The results of his efforts, and abilities, and those of the authors and reviewers herein, are evident in this outstanding special issue. We are pleased to present the ensuing articles as our initial and timely contribution to that discussion and debate.

James Winter and Claude Martin

[1] Reuters, "Hussein putting squeeze on Kurds," The Globe and Mail, November 4, 1991, p. A14.

[2] Linda Hossie, "Kuwaiti residents tortured, murdered, rights group says," The Globe and Mail, October 18, 1991, p. A16.


Un message de la part des editeurs de la Revue

A partir d'aout 1990 et pendant une periode de huit mois, la crise du Golfe persique a domine l'actualite mediatique. Clairement provoquee par l'invasion du Kuwait par l'Iraq, la crise se continue encore aujourd'hui, au moment d'ecrire ces lignes, alors que les Kurdes du nord de l'Iraq accusent Saddam Hussein de les priver de nourriture et de carburant.[1] Cette situation deplorable persiste malgre que les defiles patriotiques aux Etats-Unis chantent la victoire sur Hussein et donnent l'impression que la guerre et la crise sont terminees.

Pendant ce temps, le gouvernement des Etats-Unis feint de ne pas voir les tortures, les meurtres et les deportations infliges a des milliers de residents du Kuwait depuis le retrait de l'Iraq dans le but "de deraciner ceux qui ont collabore avec l'occupant iraquien et de restructurer la societe du Kuwait d'une facon qui semble politiquement plus fiable" (selon Middle East Watch, un organisme etatsunien de defense des droits de la personne qui a envoye deux delegations au Kuwait au printemps et a l'ete 1991).

Nous esperons et nous croyons que les evenements de la crise du Golfe Persique continueront d'etre un objet d'etude pour plusieurs annees. Pendant les derniers sept mois, le professeur Michael Morgan de l'Universite du Massachusetts a maltraite un agenda deja charge pour agir comme responsable de ce numero d'EJC/REC. Les resultats de ses efforts et de ses talents ainsi que ceux des auteurs et des evaluateurs sautent aux yeux dans ce numero exceptionnel. Il nous fait plaisir de presenter ces articles comme notre premiere contribution, juste a temps pour participer aux debats en cours.

James Winter et Claude Martin

[1] Reuters, "Hussein putting squeeze on Kurds," The Globe and Mail, 4 novembre 1991, p. A14.

[2] Linda Hossie, "Kuwaiti residents tortured, murdered, rights group says," The Globe and Mail, 18 octobre 1991, p. A16.


Introduction: The Media and the Persian Gulf War

On October 6, 1991, "The Heroes of Desert Storm," a two-hour Sunday Night Movie spectacular, was broadcast on the ABC television network. "Television news got to the heart of the Gulf War. Tonight's ABC Sunday Night Movie gets to the heart of the heroes," the publicity announced. The docudrama production was "based on the personal stories of the men and women of Operation Desert Storm," such as "Sgt. Pennington: He risked his life to save the pilots behind enemy lines," "1st Lt. Jeter: The woman who shot down the first scud missile," and "C.W.O. Guy Hunter: The tortured POW you saw on TV."[1]

The movie was introduced by George Bush, and it marked his seventh appearance on national television, outside of the news, in ten days (other events included a golf tournament and a country music awards ceremony). Don Ohlmeyer, the movie's executive producer and director, said he wanted Bush to appear because "it was meant to be a salute to the ordinary people who did extraordinary things" in the war, and "I thought having the President on would be a nice touch."[2]

The production freely (though not, as advertised, seamlessly) intermixed actual war coverage with dramatic "recreations," and included a disclaimer to that effect. Ohlmeyer saw no danger in blurring reality and fiction, and argued, "We're telling a real story. When we show a tank being blown up, what's the difference whether it was news footage or whether we blew it up ourselves?" Nevertheless, TV Guide's reviewer was unimpressed, calling the movie "strictly minor league material." Like one long, sanitized "Be All That You Can Be" military-enlistment commercial, this choppy, hastily produced docudrama re-creates the battles and sacrifices of a few of our Persian Gulf warriors. It's on video instead of film, all the better to mix recreated minted action with actual war-news footage -- disturbingly muddying the line between the staged and the real, a technique that casts doubt on the genuine footage's credibility.[3]

The irony of this statement deserves special notice; here, in a mainstream publication, is raised the possibility of questioning the credibility of the _genuine_ footage, and by implication the "credibility" of the version of the war the military gave the media (which was, almost completely, the version of the war the media in turn gave us). In that sense, it matters profoundly "whether it was news footage or whether we blew it up ourselves," and whether it is still possible to tell the difference between news and entertainment, between the "staged" and the "real."

During the Gulf War, both print and electronic media often complained of censorship, of restricted access to sources and events, of military-imposed delays in filing stories, and so on.[4] The actual imagery (much less the policy), however, was beyond the bounds of what could be analyzed or criticized. As an issue, the distinction between reality and fantasy, and the distinction between "the war" and "the war as seen on TV" (as opposed to the distinction between facts and rumors), did not really exist. Yet, the above statement hints that such questions may be starting to creep into the realm of what can now be asked about the war.

Another example: in the New York Times (fittingly, in the Arts & Leisure section), Neal Gabler recently called the Gulf War a "staggeringly successful mini-series" that was largely treated as a "new series" by the networks, complete with music, logos, and titles. Gabler argued that The real point of this war may not have been to liberate Kuwait, insure the flow of oil, or eliminate Mr. Hussein. It may have been to restore our confidence, to make us feel good -- which is, of course, traditionally not the function of warfare but of the movies or TV. "General Sherman had it all wrong," editorialized The Nation earlier this year. "War ain't hell -- it's entertainment."[5]

If the mainstream media are indeed exploring, in late 1991, some difficult questions about the war, the coverage, and the cultural contexts within which it all took place, such analysis was hard to find from August 1990 through April 1991. This is not to say that the coverage was docilely accepted, although most polls found that the U.S. public was generally favorable to the coverage, and easily tolerated the "need" to censor it.[6]

Quite the contrary. In fact, the coverage was virulently attacked by many. War opponents claimed that military censorship meant that the U.S. public saw only "good" news, or that the media acted more like lapdogs than watchdogs, and in effect served as "cheerleading" public relations arms for the government.[7] War supporters claimed that the media gave too much attention to the anti-war movement, revealed the "liberal bias" of the press, and ran the risk of supplying critical tactical and strategic information to the enemy that could endanger U.S. troops.[8]

* * *

Although opinions clearly varied, it was (and is) undeniable that the media played a crucial role in the Gulf War. lt will take a great deal of time, contemplation, and research in order to specify precisely the nature of the coverage, the ways in which it was produced, distributed, consumed, and interpreted, and the impacts it had on the massive audiences it attracted. All these issues raise many important and challenging questions about the relationships among the media, the state, the military, the culture, and public beliefs and behaviors, which may be fruitfully studied from the perspective of communication scholarship.

Collectively, the papers in this special issue of The Electronic Journal of Communication/La Revue Electronique de Communication represent a diverse range of first attempts to get us on the road towards answering these critical questions. The five papers included in this issue approach these questions from a variety of perspectives using a variety of techniques, yet converge towards some common conclusions.

One theme in some of these papers is the curious situation in which media audiences heavily consumed war news, generally approved of the coverage, and yet also approved of the military restrictions on it. This is explored by Paul D'Angelo, in "Information, Ideological Dilemmas and Persian Gulf War News." D'Angelo examines the ways in which "the media" often became "the news," and argues that this kind of "reflexive" news in popular newsmagazines revealed a rift between "coverage" (i.e., the continuous media attention) and "information" (i.e., the news as journalists routinely assemble, package, and disseminate it). He delineates some of the ideological processes involved in the production and consumption of news, and argues that the reflexive coverage actually worked to reduce the hegemonic potential of the media in this instance.

In "Purity and Gangrene: A Meditation on the Discourse of Bombs," Steve Martinot touches on some similar issues, and offers a provocative (and likely to be controversial) analysis of how the Gulf War was constructed in the media. Treating the bombing of Iraq as a text, Martinot examines the social, cultural, and political structures within which it occurred, and argues that medical terminology and metaphors -- in particular that of gangrene -- best characterize the events of the war. In his terms, the death of cells or tissues -- gangrene -- both generates and is produced by the death of cells or tissues. The key is the "hermeticism, self-referentiality, and circularity" in medical, military, political, and media spheres.

Both Douglas Kellner, in "The 'Crisis in the Gulf' and the Mainstream Media," and James Winter, in "Truth as the First Casualty: Mainstream Media Portrayal of the Gulf War," closely analyze a variety of media portrayals of the war. Winter utilizes the Gulf War coverage as a case study by which to evaluate the conflicting conceptual frameworks offered by political economy and some strands of U.S. cultural studies. Kellner critiques the (especially early) coverage of the Gulf Crisis in terms of the presumed public service functions of the press, and also focuses on gender and racial stereotypes manifested in the discourse of the media.

Through very distinct analyses, and by means of varied forms of evidence, both authors conclude that the media primarily reflected the views and arguments of the Bush administration, provided virtually no critical analysis, and largely neglected and omitted dissenting voices, all of which made it difficult to distinguish between state policy and media policy and likely contributed to the overwhelming public support for the war.

Finally, Martin Shaw and Roy Carr-Hill report results from a two-wave British survey of the public's reaction to the coverage and the war. In "Mass Media and Attitudes to the Gulf War in Britain," they present much evidence of the media's impact on public perceptions, but also show that there was significant "resistance" to media coverage -- for example, despite their support for the war, substantial numbers of people felt that television and the popular press "glorified the war too much." Their research suggests that both public attitudes and media influence were more complex and more contradictory than most opinion polls suggested. In particular, in the British context of the availability of numerous newspapers with highly diverse political perspectives, attitudes towards the Gulf War seemed to vary more strongly according to what newspapers are read than they varied by most other socio-demographic structural variables.

These are highly encapsulated summaries of five complex, diverse, and challenging papers, and do not do justice to the broad range of issues, questions, and ideas raised and articulated in these papers. I strongly encourage anyone reading this "Introduction" to view these summaries as selective and abbreviated, and to read the actual papers in order to get a much fuller grasp of what the authors are saying.

* * *

Some final editorial notes. It is quite fitting that this topic of "The Media and the War" be treated in an electronic journal. As subscribers to this Journal probably know, electronic communication had a powerful, dramatic presence during the Gulf War. Many gripping and controversial messages were widely distributed on numerous electronic newsletters and mailing lists, with an immediacy and intensity which rivaled the latest bulletin from CNN. Although electronic networks are not treated explicitly in any of the papers in this issue, their roles and functions certainly deserve continued attention and research.

It will be clear to readers that all five of the papers, in varying degrees, are highly critical of the war policy and also predominantly condemn the media's performance during the war. That I, as editor, also share these views,[9] does not account for the fairly consistent critical voice expressed in these papers. In fact, I was hoping that the issue would include "dissenting" views (i.e., papers that would take the side of the Bush Administration and/or defend the media from all these "liberal, leftist" attacks). Yet, no such papers were submitted, so none were rejected on ideological grounds.

Also, I would like to sincerely thank the reviewers, all of whom put in a great deal of serious and timely work on the original manuscripts and on the revisions the authors made in response to their comments. The reviewers' comments on the original submissions and the revisions (all papers were extensively revised -- at least once -- based on reviewer comments) were consistently detailed, thoughtful, insightful and thorough. Some reviewers thought the papers went too far and others thought they did not go far enough; although not all reviewers could possibly be pleased with the final papers (politically, ideologically, theoretically, or methodologically), I do thank them all very much. The reviewers for this special issue were: Philip Auter Dana Moser Tom Benson Tony Palmeri Philip Breeze Jeff Porten Doug Brent James Shanahan John Courtright Mike Shapiro Bill Griswold Nancy Signorielli Larry Gross Benjamin Singer Ken Hacker Mark Timoney Lance Haynes James Winter John Higgins

Whatever disagreements we may have, I think it's fair to say that we all hope that the day may soon come when there is no need for special issues on media and war.

Michael Morgan, Issue Editor

[1] TV Guide, October 5, 1991, pp. 74-75.

[2] Bill Carter, "In 7 TV Appearances, Wealth of Exposure for Bush," The New York Times, October 6, 1991, p. 26.

[3] TV Guide, October 5, 1991, p. 34.

[4] In the New York Times alone, see, for example: Malcom W. Browne, "The Military vs. The Press," New York Times Magazine, March 3, 1991, pp. 26-30, 40-45; Jason DeParle, "Long Series of Military Decisions Led to Gulf War News Censorship," New York Times, May 5, 1991, pp. 1, 20; Jason DeParle, "Keeping the News in Step: Are the Pentagon's Gulf War Rules Here to Stay?" New York Times, May 6, 1991, p. A9; Leslie H. Gelb, "Iraq, The Movie," New York Times, February 3, 1991, "The Week in Review," p. 20; Walter Goodman, "Not Letting TV Do Its Best Job in the War," New York Times, February 2, 1991, p. 18; Caryn James, "Watching the War: Viewers on the Front Lines," New York Times, February 10, 1991, "Arts and Leisure," pp. 29, 40; James LeMoyne, "Pentagon's Strategy for the Press: Good News or No News," New York Times, February 17, 1991, "The Week in Review," p. 3; and Anthony Lewis, "To See Ourselves...: The Failings of the Press in the Gulf War," New York Times, May 6, 1991, "The Week in Review," p. 25.

[5] Neal Gabler, "Now Playing: Real Life, the Movie," New York Times, October 20, 1991, Section 2, pp. 1, 32-33.

[6] Dennis, Everette E., et al. (1991). The Media At War: The Press and The Persian Gulf Conflict. New York: Gannett Foundation Media Center.

[7] Edward Herman, "Gulfspeak II," Z Magazine, March 1991, pp. 15-16; Index on Censorship, April-May 1991, "Warspeak: The Gulf and the News Media" [Special Issue]; Ernest Larsen, "Gulf War TV," Jump Cut, March 1991, No. 36, pp. 3-10; Debbie Nathan, "Just the Good News, Please," The Progressive, February 1991, pp. 25-27; Holly Sklar, "Buried Stories from Media Gulf," Z Magazine, March 1991, pp. 57-61.

[8] Jonas Bernstein, "Press Showing Its Stripes," Insight, January 28, 1991, pp. 15-16.

[9] I am the co-author of a survey research study that claimed that the more one knew about the situation in the Middle East, the less one supported the Gulf War, and that the more people watched television, the less they knew and the stronger their support for the war. See Justin Lewis, Sut Jhally, and Michael Morgan, "The Gulf War: A Study of the Media, Public Opinion, and Public Knowledge," Center for the Study of Communication, Department of Communication, University of Massachusetts, March, 1991.


Introduction. Les Medias et la Guerre du Golfe Persique.

Dans la soiree du dimanche 6 octobre 1991, la chaine ABC presente "The Heroes of Desert Storm". La publicite explique que le film expose le coeur des heros comme les nouvelles ont expose le coeur de l'action pendant la Guerre du Golfe. Toujours selon la publicite, le docudrame est base sur les temoignages des hommes et des femmes qui ont vecu l'Operation Tempete du desert, des personnes comme le sergent Pennington qui a risque sa vie pour sauver les pilotes tombes derrieres les lignes ennemies, comme le premier lieutenant Jeter, la femme qui a, pour la premiere fois, intercepte un missile Scud, et comme Guy Hunter, le prisonnier torture qu'on a vu a la television.[1]

Le film a ete presente par le President George Bush, ce qui constituait sa septieme apparition a la television nationale pendant une periode de dix jours (en excluant les nouvelles; les autres occasions comprenaient un tournois de golf et une remise de prix pour la musique "country"). Le producteur et realisateur du film, Don Ohlmeyer, a dit vouloir avoir le President comme presentateur afin de saluer "ces personnes ordinaires qui ont fait des choses extraordinaires" et parcequ'il pensait que la presence du President apporterait une certaine elegance.[2]

Le film comportait des passages tires de la couverture journalistique de la guerre entre meles (moins habilement quene le disait la publicite) a des segments ou on representait, en les "dramatisant", certains evenements. Une mise en garde signalait cette technique. Ohlmeyer ne voyait pas de danger dans cette confusion de la realite et de la fiction. Il estimait raconter la vraie histoire. "Ou est la difference entre un tank qui explose sur la pellicule d'un journaliste et celui que nous avons fait exploser nous-meme?" Quoi qu'il en soit, le critique du "TV Guide" n'a pas ete impressionne et il a qualifie le film d'oeuvre mineure. Comme une longue publicite militaire du genre "Soyez a la hauteur de ce que vous pouvez etre", ce docudrame rapidement produit recree les batailles et les sacrifices de quelques une de nos guerriers du Golfe Persique. Il est tourne en video plutot qu'en film de facon a pouvoir confondre les evenements reconstruits et les sequences de nouvelle reelles, ce qui rend obscure la demarcation entre la realite et la mise en scene et ce qui permet de douter de la credibilite des vrais nouvelles.[3]

Cet enonce ironique merite une attention particuliere. On souleve ici, dans une publication dominante, la possibilite de questionner la credibilite des sequences de nouvelles et donc aussi la "credibilite" de la version de la guerre que les militaires ont donnee aux medias (version qui fut transmise presque integralement au public). Dans ce sens, il est important de savoir "si c'etait des sequences de nouvelle ou sinous l'avions fait sauter nous-memes" et s'il est encore possible de voir la difference entre les nouvelles et le divertissement, entre la "mise en scene" et la "realite".

Pendant la Guerre du Golfe, les medias imprimes et electroniques ont souvent denonce la censure, les limites a l'acces aux sources et aux evenements, les delais imposes parles militaires pour la transmission des nouvelles, etc.[4] Cependant, l'imagerie reelle (et encore moins les politiques) etait hors de la portee de l'analyse ou de la critique. Il n'y apas eu de debat sur la distinction entre la realite et la fiction et entre "la guerre" et "la guerre vue a la television" (contrairement a la distinction entre les faits et la rumeur). Cependant, l'enonce dont nous discutons laisse penser que detelles questions commencement a faire partie de ce qui peut etre dit a propos de la guerre.

Autre exemple: dans le "New York Times" (dans sa section sur les arts et les loisirs, comme il convient!), Neal Gabler presentait recemment la Guerre du Golfe comme une "mini-serie au succes extraordinaire" que les reseaux ont en cadree comme une "nouvelle serie" avec sa musique, ses graphiques, ses titres. Gabler note ce qui suit. Le coeur de cette guerre pourrait ne pas avoir ete la liberation du Kuweit, la libre circulation du petrole ou l'elimination de M. Hussein. Il s'agissait peut-etre plutot de reconstruire notre confiance, de nous sentir bien, un role traditionnellement confie au cinema ou a la television plutot qu'a la guerre. "The Nation" affirmait recemment en editorial que le General Sherman s'etait trompe en disant que la guerre etait un enfer. Il s'agit plutot d'un divertissement.[5]

Les medias dominants se posent maintenant, a la fin de 1991, certaines questions difficiles a propos de la guerre, desa couverture mediatique et de son contexte culturel. Mais de telles questions etaient rares pendant la periode entre aot 1990 et avril 1991. Ceci ne signifie pas que la couverture mediatique de la guerre ait ete acceptee facilement, meme siles sondages montrent que le public etatsunien etait generalement favorable a cette couverture et qu'il acceptait facilement "la necessite de la censure".[6]

Au contraire. Cette couverture a ete violemment attaquee par plusieurs. Les opposants a la guerre pretendaient que la censure militaire signifiait que le public etatsunien nevoyait que les "bonnes" nouvelles, que les medias agissaient plus en animal de compagnie ("lapdogs") plutot qu'en chien degarde ("watchdogs", un jeu de mot sur le role traditionnel de la presse -N.D.T./C.M.-) ou que les medias servaient de moyen de relations publiques pour le gouvernement.[7] Ceux en faveur de la guerre pretendaient que les medias donnaient trop de placeau mouvement contre la guerre, devoilaient leur parti-pris "liberal" et courraient le risque de fournir des informations tactiques ou strategiques a l'ennemi, ce qui constituait un danger pour les soldats etatsuniens.[8]

* * *

Meme si les opinions variaient, il etait (et il est encore) clair que les medias ont joue un role central dans la Guerre du Golfe. Il faudra beaucoup de temps, de reflexion et de recherche pour comprendre la nature de la couverture mediatique, la facon dont elle ete produite, distribuee, recue et interpretee et pour connaitre les impacts qu'elle a eu sur les auditoires massifs qu'elle a attires. Ces enjeux soulevent des questions importantes et difficiles sur les rapports entre les medias, l'Etat, l'armee, la culture et les croyances et comportements publics. Ces questions peuvent etre approchees avec succes dans une perspective communicationnelle.

Dans leur ensemble, les articles de ce numero thematique d'EJC/REC presentent un ensemble varie de premieres tentatives en vue de repondre a ces importantes questions. Apartir de points de vue et de techniques varies, ces cinq articles se rejoignent sur certaines conclusions.

Un theme de certains article est la curieuse situation ou les auditoires consommaient beaucoup de nouvelles de la guerre, en approuvant a la fois la couverture mediatique et les restrictions militaires de cette couverture. On en trouve une analyse dans l'article de Paul d'Angelo, "L'information, les dilemmes ideologiques et les nouvelles de la Guerre du Golfe". D'Angelo regarde la facon par la quelle "le media" devint souvent "la nouvelle". Il estime que ce type de nouvelle auto-referentielle dans les magazines populaires montre une rupture entre la "couverture" (i.e., l'attention continuelle des medias) et l' "information" (les nouvelles que les journalistes assemblent, transforment et diffusent quotidiennement). Il souligne certains des procedes ideologiques utilises dans la production et la consommation des nouvelles et estime que la couverture auto-referentielle a, dans les faits, affaibli le potentiel hegemonique des medias a ce moment.

Dans "Purete et gangrene. Une reflexion sur le discours des bombes", Steve Martinot touche a des points similaires et offre une analyse provoquante (et probablement sujette a controverse) de la facon dont les medias ont construit la Guerre du Golfe. En traitant le bombardement de l'Irak comme un texte, Martinot regarde les structures sociales, culturelles et politiques ou ils se produisent et estime que le vocabulaire et les metaphores medicales, en particulier celle de la gangrene, representent le mieux les evenements de la guerre. Dans ses termes, la mort de cellules ou de tissus, la gangrene, est a la fois produit et source de la mort des cellules ou des tissus. la clef en est l'hermetisme, l'auto-referentialite et la circularite des domaines medicaux, militaires, politiques et mediatiques.

Douglas Kellner, dans "La 'Crise du Golfe' et les medias dominants", et James Winter, dans "La verite comme premiere victime. La vision de la Guerre du Golfe dans les medias dominants", analysent en detail un ensemble de presentation mediatiques de la guerre. Winter se sert de la couverture de la Guerre du Golfe comme d'une etude de cas permettant d'evaluer les cadres theoriques opposes de certains courants des etudes culturelles ("cultural studies") etasuniennes et de l'economie politique (dans le sens particulier de l'economie politique des medias et non de l'economie politique comme science economique -N.D.T./C.M.-). Kellner critique la couverture (surtout a son debut) de la Guerre du Golfe a partir des fonctions presumees de service public de la presse et souligneles stereotypes sexistes et raciaux dans le discours des medias.

Par le moyen d'analyses distinctes et de demonstrations variees, ces deux auteurs concluent que les medias ont surtout reproduit les points de vue et les arguments du gouvernement Bush. Ils n'ont pratiquement pas presente d'analyses critiques et ont largement neglige et oublie les voix discordantes ce quia rendu difficile de distinguer entre les politiques de l'Etat et celles des medias et ce qui a probablement contribue a l'appui general du public a la guerre.

Enfin, Martin Shaw et Roy Carr-Hill presentent les resultats d'un sondage britannique en deux vagues sur les reactions du public a la couverture du la Guerre du Golfe. Dans "Les mass medias et les attitudes face a la Guerre du Golfe en Grande Bretagne", il montrent plusieurs exemples de l'impact des medias sur les opinions du public mais ils demontrent aussi qu'il y a eu une "resistance" significative a la couverture mediatique. Par exemple, malgre qu'ils supportent la guerre, plusieurs ont estime que la television et la presse populaire ont "trop glorifie la guerre". Leur recherche suggere que les attitudes du public et l'influence des medias sont des phenomenes plus complexes et plus contradictoires que ce queles sondages en disent. En particulier, dans le contexte britannique avec plusieurs journaux refletant divers est endances politiques, les attitudes envers la Guerre du Golfe semblaient varier en fonction du journal lu plutot qu'en fonction de d'autres variables structurelles de type socio-demographiques.

Ces resumes trop brefs d'articles complexes, divers et provoquants ne rendent pas justice a la largeur de vue et al'importance des questions et des idees qu'on y trouve. J'incitetoute personne qui lit cette introduction a considerer ces resumes comme selectifs et abreges et a lire les articles de facon a saisir la pensee des auteurs.

* * *

Quelques notes en tant qu'editeur. Il est particulierement approprie que ce sujet, les medias et la guerre, se retrouve dans une revue electronique. Comme les abonnes de cette revue le savent, les communications electroniques se sont manifestees de facon dramatique pendant la Guerre du Golfe. Plusieurs messages saisissants et controverses ont ete largement diffuses par le moyen de babillards electroniques et de listes de diffusion, et ce, avec une immediatete et une intensite qui rivalisaient avec CNN. Meme si les reseaux electroniques ne sont pas analyses explicitement dans les articles de ce numero, leurs roles et leurs fonctions meritent une attention continuelle et un effort de recherche.

Les lecteurs verront clairement que tous les articles de ce numero presentent, a des degre divers, des points de vue critiques de la politique de la guerre et qu'ils condamnent clairement la performance des medias pendant la guerre. Entant qu'editeur, je partage ces points de vue[9] mais celan'explique pas le ton critique de l'ensemble des articles. Enfait, j'esperais que ce numero comprendrait des points de vue divergeants (i.e., des articles qui se placeraient du cote de gouvernement Bush et/ou qui defendraient les medias de ces attaques "liberales" ou "gauchistes"). Mais aucun article de cegenre ne fut soumis et aucun ne fut rejete pour des considerations ideologiques.

Aussi, je voudrais remercier sincerement les evaluateurs qui ont depense beaucoup de temps a lire les manuscrits et les corrections faites par les auteurs suite a leurs commentaires. Les commentaires des evaluateurs sur les manuscrits et sur les corrections (tous les articles ont ete revises au complet au moins une fois sur la base de ces commentaires) ont systematiquement ete detailles, reflechis, eclairants et extensifs. Certains evaluateurs pensaient que les articles allaient trop loin, d'autres, pas assez. Meme si les evaluateurs peuvent ne pas etre satisfaits (politiquement, ideologiquement, theoriquement ou methodologiquement) des articles tels que publies, je les remercie beaucoup. Les evaluateurs pour ce numero thematique ont ete les suivants: Philip Auter Dana Moser Tom Benson Tony Palmeri Philip Breeze Jeff Porten Doug Brent James Shanahan John Courtright Mike Shapiro Bill Griswold Nancy Signorielli Larry Gross Benjamin Singer Ken Hacker Mark Timoney Lance Haynes James Winter John Higgins

Quels que soient les des accords que nous avons, je crois qu'il serait correct de dire que nous esperons tous voir le jour ou il ne sera plus necessaire de faire un numero thematique sur les medias et la guerre.

[1] TV Guide, 5 octobre 1991, pp. 74-75.

[2] Bill Carter, "In 7 TV Appearances, Wealth of Exposure for Bush," The New York Times, 6 octobre 1991, p. 26.

[3] TV Guide, 5 octobre 1991, p. 34.

[4] Dans le New York Times seulement, voir par exemple: Malcom W. Browne, "The Military vs. The Press," New York Times Magazine, 3 mars 1991, pp. 26-30, 40-45; Jason DeParle, "Long Series of Military Decisions Led to Gulf War News Censorship," New York Times, 5 mai 1991, pp. 1, 20; Jason DeParle, "Keeping the News in Step: Are the Pentagon's Gulf War Rules Here to Stay?" New York Times, 6 mai 1991, p. A9; Leslie H. Gelb, "Iraq, The Movie," New York Times, 3 fevrier 1991, "The Week in Review," p. 20; Walter Goodman, "Not Letting TV Do Its Best Job in the War," New York Times, 2 fevrier 1991, p. 18; Caryn James, "Watching the War: Viewers on the Front Lines," New York Times, 10 fevrier 1991, "Arts and Leisure," pp. 29, 40; James LeMoyne, "Pentagon's Strategy for the Press: Good News or No News," New York Times, 17 fevrier 1991, "The Week in Review," p. 3; and Anthony Lewis, "To See Ourselves...: The Failings of the Press in the Gulf War," New York Times, 6 mai 1991, "The Week in Review," p. 25.

[5] Neal Gabler, "Now Playing: Real Life, the Movie," New York Times, 20 octobre 1991, Section 2, pp. 1, 32-33.

[6] Dennis, Everette E., et al. (1991). The Media At War: The Press and The Persian Gulf Conflict. New York: Gannett Foundation Media Center.

[7] Edward Herman, "Gulfspeak II," Z Magazine, mars 1991, pp. 15-16; Index on Censorship, avril-mai 1991, "Warspeak: The Gulf and the News Media" [numero special]; Ernest Larsen, "Gulf War TV," Jump Cut, mars 1991, No. 36, pp. 3-10; Debbie Nathan, "Just the Good News, Please," The Progressive, fevrier 1991, pp. 25-27; Holly Sklar, "Buried Stories from Media Gulf," Z Magazine, mars 1991, pp. 57-61.

[8] Jonas Bernstein, "Press Showing Its Stripes," Insight, 28 janvier 1991, pp. 15-16.

[9] Je suis le co-auteur d'un sondage qui estimait que plus une personne en sait a propos de la situation au Moyen-Orient, moins elle supporte la Guerre du Golfe, et que plus elle regarde la television, moins elle en sait et plus fort est son support pour la guerre. Voir Justin Lewis, Sut Jhally et Michael Morgan, "The Gulf War: A Study of the Media, Public Opinion, and Public Knowledge," Center for the Study of Communication, Department of Communication, University of Massachusetts, mars 1991.


Copyright 1991
Communication Institute for Online Scholarship, Inc.