The media’s coverage and advocacy of the Iraq war remains one of the most vexing problems in our politics. While many now agree that the traditional press overstated the case for war, underplayed opposition and tapped a decidedly unrepresentative and often biased punditocracy to debate our foreign policy, there’s little consensus about how to fix the problems. And while the Internet has increased the political and business pressures on the traditional press, we don’t know yet if new media will improve or further fracture our foreign policy debates. To tackle these questions, the Netroots Nation conference is convening an unusual panel this Saturday, which I’m moderating, with some important experts (and critics) on foreign policy, human rights and the media. So feel free to post comments and questions for:
Pulitzer-prize winning author and Harvard professor Samantha Power, who just published Chasing the Flame; Emmy-award winningNew Yorker writer and Berkeley journalism professor Mark Danner, author of The Secret Way to War: The Downing Street Memo and the Iraq War’s Buried History (and vigorous debater of Iraq hawks from Kristol to Hitchens); Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher, award-winning columnist and author of So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits–and the President–Failed on Iraq; and Joan McCarter, a front page blogger for DailyKos and former aide to Sen. Ron Wyden.
I hope the discussion will help pinpoint media failures in refereeing foreign policy debates and brainstorm specific ways to improve democratic discourse. That should be easy, in theory. For Iraq coverage, the liberal/netroots critique actually overlaps with the traditional media’s stated goals of accuracy and balance. By relying too heavily on government sources from one party, most pre-war coverage misstated the threat and drastically underplayed opposition to the war among experts, political elites and the general public. According to one recent academic study: