Sarah Maltby & Richard Keeble (eds)
Communicating War: Memory, Media and Military
2007 Arima Publishing
Communicating War Memory, Media and Military is of great relevance, particularly to those interested in the intrinsic challenges of war reporting in a new information environment. Its collection of essays goes beyond the vast number of journalistic and scholarly articles produced since the events of September 11, 2001 on violence, conflict, war and terrorism, and war as media spectacle.
The book opens with Sarah Maltby's strong introduction in which she reflects broadly on the political usage of media. Sarah anchors the books remaining chapters by concisely discussing the issues relevant to ‘Western’ warfare in the 21st century, media and military, and media and terrorism. The engagement of journalists in the debate about media coverage of violent acts helps to make sense of media agents to understand their role as story tellers. This conceptually and historically grounded introduction to a broad series of multifaceted issues will stimulate discussions in classrooms, among academics and journalists, the military, and politicians.
The remainder of the book is organised in three sections: Memory, Media and Military. The agenda is ambitious but its scope allows the editors to illustrate the development of war reporting. Well regarded for their previous work in this area, the contributors scrutinize key issues. During the past two decades the literature on media and terrorism has grown rapidly with several important topics losing their media and scholarly relevance but Communicating War successfully stitches together dormant issues alongside new themes.
A serious examination of ‘Memory’ in international politics and the media reporting on conflicts is long overdue. Maltby and Keeble are to be congratulated for their efforts in bringing together a wide variety of specialists to address this issue broadly and inclusively. Memory of past conflicts is being relegated in the contemporary scholarly production whereas the media spectacle has been one of the most explored since the events in the United States in September 2001. In fact, the struggle over memory is a global phenomenon with the advent of new technologies.
In Part I, the authors raise complex issues including fundamental arguments for future studies such as the under reporting of mass killings in parts of the world, investigative journalism in democratic and non-democratic societies, and social movements. These topics call for transnational comparison studies out of the Anglo- American orb. Andrew Hoskins offers a fascinating essay on the mediatization of the memory in the twenty first century and the role of the media in the representation of events. John Tulloch explores the performance of investigative journalism regarding rendition flights. Lara Pawson puts forward an insightful piece into the real world of journalism practices where word counting, how many minutes a particular conflict is given and news gathering procedure have an effect on the outcome of a story.
Issues on ‘digital democracy’, the concept of participatory democracy via Internet, and the role of citizens in representing events make an interesting reading in Part II. Howard Tumber and Frank Webster review the theory of democracy, the questions on objectivity, truth, the reliance on sources to discuss the contemporary information environment in which bloggers, frontline correspondents and embedded journalists define realities with the use of technological innovations to a globalized public audience.
Media coverage of war and terrorism continue to raise ethical dilemmas for scholars and journalists. In this context, Donald Matheson and Stuart Allan discuss aspects of ethics in citizen journalism in an emergent format and practices of war reporting in which blogs function as news sources. This new cultural mode of disseminating news and information in a growing activist environment reveals a general reorientation of media representation of the everyday life in conflict areas. This excellent essay is a reflection of a burgeoning literacy.
Oliver Boyd-Barrett explores the implications of the manufacturing of pretexts for war and the war on terrorism while Nico Carpentier, outlining on Laclau and Mouffe’s theoretical elaborations on hegemonic concept, examines the media under representation of complex causes of conflict. Appropriately, Chris Atton makes a brief reference to the Hutton Inquiry and the death of Dr. David Kelly in his essay on the press coverage of anti –Gulf war protests in 2003 and 2006.
In Part III the writers explore the relationship between the military and the media. With a higher number of essays when compared to Memory and the Media sections, military experts and scholars interested in militarist strategy provide a glance at ‘psyops’ (psychological operations), also known as combat propaganda or psychological warfare (Taylor 2007).The authors generally discuss the impact of new information technologies in the process of communicating war. Minorities, marginalized groups and audiences are now engaged in their own process of representation of war, including responding to and challenging the Western ways of political communication and war propaganda.
Martin Shaw centres his discussion on media management as a new form of influencing rather than controlling media outlines. Angus Taverner, writing as a militarist, refers to the use of communication focused on a desired outcome by placing greater emphasis on perceptions and psychological influences. Neal Curtis offers an engaging article on the digitization of war games, a developing popular culture in which violence is emphasised as valour. Richard Keeble completes the collection of essays with an essential reading in which he argues that the media acclimatize the public to the acceptability of war. Fittingly, Keeble makes reference to newspapers and editors in Fleet Street going to war in 1990.
The book admirably juxtaposes readable essays that argue collectively that the post-cold war changes, globalization and media technology have sharpened the incompatibility of historical memories as well as their political usefulness in negotiating past relations. The generation of interactive systems, the sheer explosion of information create a world in which the media are the only reality. Most importantly, the work points to a world of electronically coordinated social movements with many different scenarios competing for attention.
Communicating War reveals that despite greater news management in recent conflicts this should not stop inquisitive journalism. It also sparks the need for a reflection on media shortcomings in its reporting of important issues. Furthermore, a better understanding of the role of news media in peacetime and in wartime as well as the political importance and consequences of a globalized media become relevant in media studies and the formation of future journalists.
This thought-provoking work will stand out in the literature devoted to media reporting of violent acts. Communicating War brings fresh perceptions to the subject, extending awareness above and beyond current works of a similar genre.
Sonia Ambrosio de Nelson
Taylor, P. M. (2007). “They” Shocked, “We” Saw – Psychological Operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In Hillel Nossek, Annabelle Sreberny & Prasun Sonwalkar (Eds.), Media and Political Violence (pp.307-324). New Jersey: Hampton Press.