One of the most dismaying concepts to arise from the US occupation of Iraq is the concept of “embedding” the press in the military. The concept involves flipping a metaphorical bird to the First Amendment for the sake of maintaining absolute control over the media. (Before you write: I don’t consider violations of the First Amendment a political issue; the First Amendment to the Constitution is supposed to be a settled issue.)
Today we hear so little about embedding, though, and questions do arise. For example, do you get free embedding and embedclothes with this job? What do the embedsteads look like? Are they militarily spartan or regal to lull the press into thinking it is respected.
Where do the embedtime stories coming out of Iraq originate? Are they read to reporters when they are tucked in every night or are reporters left on their own to organize boilerplate news releases into something more entertaining?
The first victim of war, of course, has always been the truth. I now forget who said that but we should all credit whomever put this fundamental truth into memorable words.
During the Vietnam War journalists were able to regain a hold on truth, a heroic effort that contributed in a major way to bringing that attempted occupation to an end. However, following that war, all the genuine journalists at CBS, ABC, and NBC and many of the newspapers were sacked and replaced by sweet, gentle, sleepy-eyed faces reading us embeddy-by stories from the front.
As a result we are stuck with news reporting in nightclothes from a press sound asleep in its embed.