Panama: When Journalists Learned to Rally ‘Round the Flag

With the discussion of Afghanistan sounding more and more like the debate over Iraq these days, we thought it would be worthwhile to point out how similar the media rhetoric around all of the U.S.’s recent wars has been. To that end, we’ve put up some classic FAIR articles from the January/February 1990 issue of Extra!–which happens to be the first issue that I edited–critiquing corporate media coverage of the Panama invasion.

There’s the main piece, “How Television Sold the Panama Invasion” by Mark Cook and Jeff Cohen, documenting how U.S. journalists viewed the brief war through the eyes of the U.S. military and Panama’s tiny elite; “Censored News: Drug Links of Panama’s New Rulers,” which exposed the hypocrisy of the main rationale offered for the invasion; “‘Noriega Offered His Usual Damp, Limp Handshake to Bush’s Firm Grip,’” dissecting the propaganda offered in a Newsweek cover story; and “Reporters Rallying Round the Flag,” which offered this classic quote from a CBS producer:

When American troops are involved and taking losses, this is not the time to be running critical commentary. The American public will be rallying around the flag.

For more evidence that coverage of U.S. warfare hasn’t changed all that much in the past three decades, see FAIR’s work on Kosovo, Somalia, the Gulf War and Grenada.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.