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