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100 articles – ‘Now they tell us – parts 1, 2, & 3’

Jean Kemshal-Bell presents our latest '100 articles' selection, which is a trilogy of pieces by Michael Massing about the failure of journalism to challenge the widely held claim that Sadam Hussein's Iraq was hiding weapon of mass destruction.

Now They Tell Us (Part 1, 2 and 3)’ by Michael Massing

Published in The New York Review of Books , 26 February, 25 March and 8 April, 2004

Few US governments have done a better job manipulating the media than the Bush administration. In the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War the world was told, by the US and often by their own governments, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, posing a massive threat to western society. The media was all too eager to accept this official conclusion.

After it was revealed that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, the media started to question the validity of Bush’s pre-war excuses. But Michael Massing, a contributing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, who regularly writes on the press and foreign affairs, asks the media, ‘Where were you all before the war?’

Massing not only stresses that before the invasion there was a lot of information suggesting there were no weapons of mass destruction, but also that this information was widely available, and known, to journalists. It wasn’t simply a case of the media misled by their governments.

Using incriminating examples from respected, leading US newspapers, Massing shows us exactly how the media failed the public in the lead up to the war.

The third chapter, ‘An Exchange’, is particularly interesting, with the criticised journalists responding to Massing’s articles attempting, but doing little, to justify their shortcomings.

Jean Kemshal-Bell is an Honours Journalism student at La Trobe University.  More on the ‘100 articles’ project, including the list so far, can be found here.

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