A fascinating little piece of reporting from The Stars & Stripes that simply reminds us what this entire US military embedd fiasco is all about. In a piece called Files prove Pentagon is profiling reporters we learn that the US military and the Pentagon profile reporters before allowing them to embed with the military forces. Basically, if you are in, then you have been taken. There are some still running around pretending that their embedded reporting was done with a wide degree of ‘liberty’ and ‘latitude’ and without any specific constraints imposed on them.
Even a recent World Press Photo competition winner has been repeatedly espousing in public forums, rather vehemently and defensively I would argue, the nonsense that he was ‘never told what to shoot’, revealing once and for all the delusions such photographers impose on themselves when they refuse to acknowledge the walls of the prison, while celebrating their ability to move about freely within it.
I have repeatedly spoken out against the US military embed program, much to the dislike of many, some of whom of course have happily participated in this journalistic charade and even gone on to decorate their chests with trinkets received in competitions and such. I wrote about the embed programs recently in a piece called Wrapping Photographers Into The Packaging of War, and in another piece called How We Refused To Embed With Brittany Spears, and in a more acerbic piece called Creating Tempests In A Teapot Or What Else Is A Photoeditor To Do.
I am sure I have written more about it, particularly in my lengthy tirade against modern day photojournalism also available on this blog site. I will spare you the link.
UPDATE: The same newspaper, Stars & Stripes, recently reported that the military has cancelled its contract with the private contracter who was responsible for creating these media profiling and analysis report. In a piece called Military Terminates Rendon Contract writer Kevin Baron quotes a military spokesman Col. Wayne Sharks as saying “The Bagram Regional Contracting Center intends to execute a termination of the Media Analyst contract.”. Later a Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith is quoted as stating that ““The decision to terminate the Rendon contract was mine and mine alone. As the senior U.S. communicator in Afghanistan, it was clear that the issue of Rendon’s support to US forces in Afghanistan had become a distraction from our main mission.”
Oddly, the quotes only claim to cancel the contracts as they relate to Afghanistan. There is no claim in fact that the US military has canceled its engagement of this firm, Rendon, to carry out its controversial media analysis work. In fact, the article goes on to reveal that Rendon will continue to produce these profiles, and in fact that these reports have been regularly used by the Defense Department and the CIA to provide “…a range of media analysis services beyond just the profiles and was just the latest contract for services it had provided the military for years. The company has a long history of contracting with the Defense Department and the CIA on controversial media projects.”
So what appears to be a ‘change in policy’ is eventually revealed to in fact not really be that. Or certainly nothing more than a juggling around of ‘responsibility’. The article was confusing and obfuscating and does not attempt to separate between the US Defense Department, various departments of the military forces, the ground operations in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere. It does not make clear what this ‘cancellation’ means, the scope of its impact, the implications for future policy on the handling of embedded journalists. In fact, it just ends by pointing out that this contractor has been working for the Defense Department and will continue to do so!
Did I miss something?