A tale of two statues: Contemporary conflict reporting constraints and the Battle of Baghdad

  • Stephen Ellmers UNITEC NZ

Abstract

Although television conflict reporting has usually been limited by risks to journalists’ safety, the death throes of Baathist Iraq in April 2003 provided viewers with a unique opportunity to vicariously witness the fall of a large modern city.  Yet if the iconic moment of the Second Gulf War came when Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square was toppled, then it was at the expense of another image event which unfolded earlier a short distance away.  Because the US military’s violent destruction of the equestrian statue close to the ‘Hands of Victory’ monument better encapsulates the conflict than the sterile bloodless ‘cakewalk’ description it’s usually labelled with.  This article shows how the tale of these two statues is also in some ways the tale of two Fox News correspondents, and how an alienation from military service conditions and methods can leave reporters and their audiences with no sense of what the participants on their screens endured in order to reach Baghdad; or what they had also inflicted upon others. In retrospect, the circumstances which allowed one Fox reporter to provide the world with what might have been its first taste of live, unedited combat footage seem more like an accidental success than the result of systemic best practices. Especially when this network and even its most credible host remain committed to ensuring a particular partisan perspective dominates all their broadcasts.

Author Biography

Stephen Ellmers, UNITEC NZ

Steve Ellmers is fascinated by conflict reporting and how military affairs are framed. He is a former Part-time Lecturer and Tutorial Assistant at UNITEC's Department of Communication Studies.

References

Atkinson, R. (2004). In the company of soldiers: A chronicle of combat in Iraq. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.

Baudrillard, J. (1995). The Gulf War did not take place. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Behr, E. (1987). Anyone here been raped and speaks English? New York, NY: Viking Press.

Braestrup, P. (1983). Big story: How the American press and television reported and interpreted the crisis of Tet 1968 in Vietnam and Washington. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Chenoweth, N. (2002). Rupert Murdoch: The untold story of the world’s greatest media wizard. New York, NY: Crown Business.

von Clausewitz, C. (1982). On war. London, England: Penguin.

Collins, S. (2004). Crazy like a fox: The inside story of how Fox News beat CNN. New York: Penguin Group.

Conroy, J., & Martz, R. (2005). Heavy metal: A tank company’s battle to Baghdad. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books.

Cordingley, P. (1996). In the eye of the storm: Commanding the Desert Rats in the Gulf War. London, England: Hodder and Stoughton.

Coscarelli, J. (2012, January 26). Meet Greg Kelly: The fighter pilot, war reporter, news anchor, and police commissioner’s son accused of rape. New York Magazine. Retrieved from http://nymag.com

Cottle, S. (2007). Mediatized conflict. Retrieved from EBL database.

Drew, D., & Weaver, D. (2006). Voter learning in the 2004 presidential election: Did the media matter? Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 83(1), 25-42. Retrieved from http://jmq.sagepub.com

Eveland, W., & Seo, M. (2007). News and politics. In D. R. Roskos-Ewoldsen and J. L. Monahan (Eds.). Communication and social cognition: Theories and methods. Retrieved from EBL database.

Gordon, M. R., and Trainor, B. E. (2007). Cobra II: The inside story of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Greg Kelly recounts his ride into Baghdad. (2008). Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyjRNbi8BBM

Greg Kelly reflects on his coverage of Iraq. (2010). Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpVLQLOYYNs

Hallin, D. C. (1986). The ‘uncensored war’: The media and Vietnam. Retrieved from Ebrary database.

Hallin, D. (1997). The media and war. In J. Corner, P. Schlesinger, & R. Silverstone (Eds.). International media research: A critical survey. (pp. 206-231). New York, NY: Routledge.

Herman, E. (1999). The myth of the liberal media. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.

Herr, M. (1991). Dispatches. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

House now serving ‘freedom fries’. (2003, March 11). Retrieved from www.foxnews.com/story/2003/03/11/house-now-serving-freedom-fries

Inmarsat honoured with prestigious IVCA award. (2014). Retrieved from www.inmarsat.com/news/inmarsat-honoured-prestigious-ivca-award

Iraq Survey Group. (2004). Comprehensive report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD. Retrieved from www.cia.gov/library/reports/general-reports-1/iraq_wmd_2004

Judt, T., & Lacorne, D. (Eds.). (2005). With us or against us: Studies in global anti-Americanism. Retrieved from Ebrary database.

Kelly, M. (2011). Martyrs’ day: Chronicle of a small war. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Lacey, J. (2007). Takedown: The 3rd Infantry Division’s twenty-one day assault on Baghdad. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press.

Lin, C. A. (2009). Selective news exposure, personal values, and support for the Iraq War. Communication Quarterly, 57(1), 18-34. doi:10.1080/01463370802662440

Mathews, J. J. (1957). Reporting the wars. Retrieved from Ebrary database.

McLaughlin, T. (2008, March 18). From 9/11 to fall of Baghdad, an ex-Marine explains what it means to him. The New York Times. Retrieved from www.nytimes.com

NBC News: Liberation of Kuwait, February 1991. (2014). Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=858lvXand1U

On air personalities. (2008). Retrieved from www.foxnews.com/on-air/personalities/brit-hume/bio/#s=h-l

Poole, O. (2003). Black knights: On the bloody road to Baghdad. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Reynolds, N. E. (2007). US Marines in Iraq, 2003: Basrah, Baghdad and beyond. Washington, DC: United States Marine Corps History Division.

Ricchiardi, S. (2003). Close to the action. Retrieved from http://ajrarchive.org/article.asp?id=2991

Ricks, T. E. (1997). Making the corps. New York, NY: Scribner.

Ricks, T. E. (2006). Fiasco: The American military adventure in Iraq. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

Ricks, T. E. (2009). The gamble: General David Petraeus and the American military adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008. New York, NY: Penguin Press.

Saddam statue falls. (2012). Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uyttSrkW6Q

Scheufele, D. A. (1999). Framing as a theory of media effects. Journal of Communication, 49(1), 103-122. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1460-2466

Schwarzkopf, N. (1992). It doesn’t take a hero. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

Soldiers destroying statue in Iraq (2006). Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsUeq48ALsc

Stam, R., & Shohat, E. (2007). Flagging patriotism: Crises of narcissism and anti-Americanism. New York, NY: Routledge.

Swint, K. (2008). Dark genius: The influential career of legendary political operative and Fox News founder Roger Ailes. New York: Sterling Publishing.

The thunder run, US 3rd Infantry Division’s drive to Baghdad. (2010). Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9oQpBH9Zcw

United States Army Center of Military History. (2010). War in the Persian Gulf: Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm August 1990-March 1991. Washington, DC: Author.

United States Department of Defense. (1992). Conduct of the Persian Gulf War: Final report to Congress. Washington, DC: Author.

West, B. (2006). No true glory: A frontline account of the battle of Fallujah. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.

West, B. (2008). The strongest tribe: War, politics, and the endgame in Iraq. New York, NY: Random House.

West, B., & Smith, R. L. (2003). The march up: Taking Baghdad with the 1st Marine Division. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.

Woods, K. M. (2008) Um al-ma’arik (The mother of all battles): Operational and strategic insights from an Iraqi perspective (Vol. 1). Alexandria, VA: Institute for Defense Analyses.

Woods, K. M., & Lacey, J. (2007). Iraqi perspectives project—Saddam and terrorism: Emerging insights from captured Iraqi documents (Vol. 1). Alexandria, VA: Institute for Defense Analyses.

Woods, K. M., Palkki, D. D., & Stout, M. E. (Eds.). (2011). The Saddam tapes: The inner workings of a tyrant’s regime, 1978-2001. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Woods, K. M., Pease, M. R., Stout, M. E., Murray, W., & Lacey, J. G. (2006). Iraqi perspectives project: A view of Operation Iraqi Freedom from Saddam’s senior leadership. Alexandria, VA: Institute for Defense Analyses.

Woodward, B. (2004). Plan of attack. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Wright, E. (2008). Generation kill. New York, NY: Berkley Publishing.

Yetiv, S. A. (1997). The Persian gulf war. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Zucchino, D. (2004a). Thunder run: The armoured strike to capture Baghdad. New York, NY: Grove Press.

Zucchino, D. (2004b, July 3). Army stage-managed fall of Hussein statue. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from www.latimes.com
PJR icon
Published
17-07-2018

How to Cite
Ellmers, S. (2018). A tale of two statues: Contemporary conflict reporting constraints and the Battle of Baghdad. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 24(1), 195-204. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v24i1.47