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MSNBC's Banfield: Media filtered realities of war
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By Matt Moline
Special to The Capital-Journal
MANHATTAN -- War's sobering realities never reached American TV screens during the recent U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, according to NBC News correspondent Ashleigh Banfield.
"We didn't see what happen when Marines fired M-16s," Banfield said during a Landon lecture appearance today at Kansas State University. "We didn't see what happened after mortars landed, only the puff of smoke. There were horrors that were completely left out of this war. So was this journalism? Or was this coverage?"
On the other hand, she said, many U.S. television viewers were treated to a non-stop flow of images presented by "cable news operators who wrap themselves in the American flag and go after a certain target demographic."
Ashleigh Banfield, MSNBC anchor
:: Hear the Landon Lecture delivered by Banfield
:: Discuss the war in Iraq
:: K-State's Landon Lecture series
"It was a grand and glorious picture that had a lot of people watching," Banfield said, "and a lot of advertisers excited about cable TV news. But it wasn't journalism, because I'm not sure Americans are hesitant to do this again -- to fight another war, because it looked to them like a courageous and terrific endeavor."
Banfield's appearance at KSU's McCain Auditorium marked the 129th speech in the long-running Landon Lecture series, which was established in 1966 by the late Kansas Gov. Alfred M. Landon.
In addition to her duties at NBC, Banfield also hosts the popular MSNBC cable TV news show, "MSNBC Investigates."
Until last fall, Banfield anchored her own MSNBC news program, "Ashleigh Banfield: On Location," a program that included a stop last summer in Manhattan, where the Canadian-born host interviewed KSU experts who have developed methods to protect the nation's food supply from potential bioterrorism threats.
Since 9-11, Banfield has frequently reported news stories relating to the Bush administration's "war on terrorism" from the Middle East, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel Syria and Lebanon.
In her lecture, Banfield noted inconsistences in the Bush administration's announced war aims in Iraq, beginning with the original U.S. pre-war contention that Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein's alleged stockpile of chemical and biological weapons posed a serious international threat.
"Conveniently, in the week or two we were in there, it became a message of 'freeing the Iraqi people,'" Banfield said. "That should have been the message early on, in fact, six to eight months preceding this campaign, if we were trying to win over the hearts of the Arab world."
According to Banfield, U.S. broadcasters do not accurately inform the American public of the basic reason behind widespread Islamic distrust of the U.S. -- the American government's continued unwillingness to treat Israelis and Palestinians as equal partners in the future of Israel.
"As a journalist, I have been ostracized just from going on television and saying, 'Here's what the leaders of Hezbollah, a radical Moslem group, are telling me about what is needed to bring peace to Israel,'" she said. "And, 'Here's what the Lebanese are saying.' Like it or lump it, don't shoot the messenger, but that's what they do."
An audience of about 500 attended Banfield's lecture, the last event in this season's Landon Lecture series.
Matt Moline is a freelance writer in Manhattan. He can be reached at molinenetworksplus.net