> -----Original Message-----
NewsRoom@newsroom.co.nz, 12 February 1998
Military researchers in the United States say the gulf war of 1991 has given rise to the possibility that a new form of war and diplomacy has been born, and they are calling it "CNN war".
US Army War College Research Fellow Lieutenant Colonel Frank J. Stech says the night the Gulf War air attack began, a senior officer in the Pentagon Command Center, watching the TV transmissions from Baghdad, checked his watch and consulted those planning the air attack on the Iraqi central telecommunications tower: "If the cruise missile is on target . . . the reporter will go off the air right about . . . . . Now!" As he spoke ABC and NBC network reports from Baghdad, routed through the Iraqi communications network, went dead. CNN reports continued through a dedicated line installed before the air strikes.
In a paper published on the Internet, Stech argues satellite television is irrevocably altering the ways governments deal with each other, particularly during times of crisis. TV coverage of the Gulf War created a phenomenon that has come to be termed "CNN war", with the latest episode due soon.
Stech says CNN war leads publics and leaders to define political events in terms of the video clips and sound bites that compose TV news images. Through CNN "everyone is seeing the same thing":
The publics see events when leaders and elites see them, as they happen.
President Clinton's advisor George Stephanopoulis is quoted as saying, "In the White House. . .we have 24-hour news cycles. . . .CNN assures that you are forced to react at any time, and that's going to happen throughout the time of the Clinton presidency .. everything speeds up, and emotion competes with reason:"
Stech's paper says political groups "capture" images that serve their purposes and reuse them, creating new events to be televised. News media compete to broadcast dramatic events, which are repeated and echoed from one news channel to others, until supplanted by newer images.
Consequently, the media emphasize event coverage, exclusiveness, and distribution of images rather than the quality, nuance, substance, and interpretation of news content.
Advice on fighting a CNN war tends to echo a warning by Winston Churchill: "Nothing is more dangerous in wartime than to live in the temperamental atmosphere of a Gallup Poll, always feeling one's pulse and taking one's temperature."
Stech concludes by arguing the US military must play the game and instead of withholding information during a military operation they should dominate its release, "so individuals can understand how they personally are being affected".
Written in the Autumn of 1994, it seems the CNN War has since become a serial feature with the climax to the latest episode due soon.
Lieutenant Colonel Frank J. Stech's full article can be found in the on-line version of the US Army War College Quarterly, PARAMETERS at:
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