Ukraine War, April 9, 2022 (II): CNN and other cable television networks exploit war violence, for profit; The stories not covered–U.S. and allied decision making, criticisms of Biden and NATO policies

Developing

Due to rapidly-breaking developments and in order to facilitate readers’ access to the latest dispatches, we are publishing this article as it is being written. please check back for updates and additions.

To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.

Dispatches

  1.  “Ukraine War, March 22, 2022 (II): CNN and Don Lemon show Russian video of firefight in Ukraine–without attribution; Cable TV channels exploit violent images of war to keep viewers tuned–FOR PROFIT!” The Trenchant Observer, March 22, 2022;

2)  “Ukraine War, March 21, 2022 (I): This war is not a football game; What the media are not covering–strategy and goals, strategic nuclear doctrine, and the steps in nuclear escalation,” The Trenchant Observer, March 21, 2022;

Commentary

One of the great obscenities of the Russian war against Ukraine is the nature and quality of U.S. cable news coverage of the conflict.

To be sure, earlier in the war the cable channels provided useful information regarding what was happening  on the ground and in Washington, including interviews with highly knowledgeable military and diplomatic experts.

However, the war coverage has increasingly degenerated to its present low level.

CNN in particular, but also MSNBC, have now resorted to simply providing video and live reporting from correspondents in Ukraine, and also Poland, on the latest atrocity and crimes against humanity committed by Russian forces.

What insightful analysis there is comes through interviews with real experts, usually shrunk down to 20% of the screen, appearing on the right or the left, while the rest of the screen is devoted to scenes of violence, explosions, and destruction.

The programming includes interviews with young, telegenic war victims, often those with the most heart-rending stories of Russian terror.

The shocked reactions of politicians and others to Russian crimes against humanity are also given prominence. CNN and the other networks seem to assume that their audience has no knowledge of war, and are experiencing its horrors and realities, on live TV and in the safety of their own homes, for the first time.

The excitement of CNN and other presenters can be heard in their voices when they promote their programs and tout “we have new video” of violent scenes of modern warfare. They offer all of the excitement of World War II, seen earlier only in movies like “Band of Brothers”, for their audiences to view sitting comfortably in the safety of their own living rooms.

The lowest point was reached by CNN on Don Lemon’s show on March 22, 2022, when the network showed, without attribution, Russian footage of Chechen or Syrian soldiers, fighting for Russia, in a firefight with Ukrainian forces.

If the Cable channels want to or are forced to stop exploiting the violence of this war, what should they  be doing instead?

First, they should stop showing videos of e.g., people running around just after a bomb strikes, or loops of flames leaping into the air after a Russian missile strike or bombing.

It’s OK to show such footage once as part of a news story.

It is not OK to show it over and over in the pane that makes up 80% of the television screen while a reporter or host is conducting an interview with someone, usually on an unrelated subject.

All interviews should show the reporter and/or the interviewee on the full screen.  This is serious stuff. It should be treated seriously.  The audience should be treated seriously.

What can we TV viewers do to make this happen?

The Observer suggests that viewers write down the names of the companies and products that sponsor this kind of exploitative coverage, and then boycott these companies and products for a year.

Second, the cable news channels should be focusing on decision making in Washington and other capitals, and subjecting Biden’s and NATO’s response to Russian barbarism to analysis from a critical perspective.

In short, they should not just tally up the Russian atrocities one by one, with all the “exciting” video footage they can lay their hands on, but rather cover–every day–the far more consequential story of what we are going to do about it, and why or why not.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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