A variation of the theme: we’re from the government and we’re here to help.
Scrub ISIS footage, Obama administration tells networks
I, along with a handful of my colleagues, have been documenting, exposing and shaming the media’s and Obama administration’s whitewashing and scrubbing of jihad and the religious motive behind this holy war.
It’s no longer whispered. Obama is out and out telling the news media to scrub Islamic State footage. Will they follow their leader? When haven’t they?
“Stop using ISIL footage, Obama administration asks networks,” By Michael Crowley and Hadas Gold, Politico, May 15, 2015
U.S. bombing campaign has militants on the run, U.S. officials say.
Frustrated that coverage of the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant isn’t reflecting reality on the ground, senior Obama administration officials are urging television networks to “update” their footage of the radical militant group.
Senior State Department and Pentagon officials have begun contacting television network reporters to ask them to stop using “B-roll” — stock footage that appears on screen while reporters and commentators talk — showing ISIL at the peak of its strength last summer.
“We are urging broadcasters to avoid using the familiar B-roll that we’ve all seen before, file footage of ISIL convoys operating in broad daylight, moving in large formations with guns out, looking to wreak havoc,” said Emily Horne, spokeswoman for retired Gen. John Allen, the State Department’s special envoy leading the international coalition against ISIL.
“It’s inaccurate — that’s no longer how ISIL moves,” Horne said. “A lot of that footage is from last summer before we began tactical strikes.”
The effort is ad hoc for now, with U.S. officials approaching correspondents from several networks in informal settings. Representatives from CNN, NBC, Fox, or ABC did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A source at CBS said they hadn’t heard from the administration yet regarding their footage.
Since the U.S. began conducting air strikes against ISIL positions and convoys last August, America and its allies have dropped thousands of bombs against the group in Iraq and Syria. U.S. officials say ISIL fighters can no longer congregate in daylight or move in large convoys that are easily spotted — and struck — from above.
A more accurate image, said Col. Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, would be “one Toyota speeding down the road by itself at night with its headlights off.”
Horne suggested alternate imagery, including footage of U.S. troops training Iraqi security forces and video of strikes against ISIL targets.
The officials were quick to add that they are sympathetic to the challenge of collecting fresh footage in Iraq and Syria given the extreme danger to reporters there. But they noted that some of the B-roll in use now is drawn directly from ISIL-made propaganda videos.
ISIS has played the needs of television “like a fiddle,” Warren said.
Networks face a challenge in finding footage that’s accurate, available and captivating, said Kelly McBride, vice president for academic programs and resident ethicist of The Poynter Institute.
“It’s long been understood in TV that B-roll can be very problematic because we don’t freshen it up enough, we rely on the same B-roll over and over again and in complex stories,” McBride said. “B-roll can often become a cliche or a trite reference that doesn’t convey the most accurate version of the contemporary truth.”
At the same time, McBride said she is wary of news organizations accepting footage the administration might provide from their own tactical strikes.
“The best way to look at that request, is the Obama administration just wants the American public to be articulately informed about [ISIL]. The worst possible scenario is the Obama administration wants to manipulate the information the American public receives about [ISIL]. I don’t know how you know the answer to the question,” McBride said.
Horne said that officials were sensitive to suggestions of manipulation, and argued that the government’s main goal is accuracy. “We’re here to help you get it right,” she said. “What we’re pointing out is something that we think is inaccurate.”
She acknowledged that one aim is to counter ISIL propaganda.
“When that file footage gets out there it actually risks bolstering their image, and can contribute to foreign fighter recruitment and supporting the myth of their invincibility,” Horne said.
ISIL has suffered key defeats in recent weeks, including losing the Iraqi city of Tikrit. U.S. officials estimate that the group has lost as much as a quarter of its territory and as many as 6,000 fighters.
But the group still holds Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and is mounting fierce attacks in Iraq’s western Anbar province.