PATRICK LAWRENCE: Media’s Fatal Compromises

It is no longer enough to tether correspondents to the perspective of the military from whose side they report. We appear to be on the way to having wars fought — huge, bloody, consequential wars — without any witnesses. 

Israeli soldiers around Gaza Strip on Oct. 7. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News 

The practice of “embedding,” which requires correspondents to report in war and conflict zones as part of a given military unit, struck me as a repellent compromise with power as soon as American media began accepting this unacceptable practice. It is an undisguised effort to control what correspondents see and hear, and so what they write or broadcast, and so what their readers, listeners and viewers think.

It is a trick, in short. The ruling or governing power’s military pretends it respects the rightful freedom of an independent press, while correspondents and editors get to pretend they serve as brave correspondents and principled editors.

There is no respect, bravery or principle in any of it. Embedding is a charade, an offense on the part of everyone who participates in it.

It is an act of deprivation in that it gives those reading or viewing the work of embedded correspondents the illusion they are informed while they are, most of the time, kept ignorant of the war or conflict they are eager to understand. 

As in various other ways, Israel’s real-time barbarity in Gaza has worsened the relationship between media — Western media, I mean — and the powers they are supposed to report upon. As to audiences, they — we — are left utterly confused to the extent the common language with which people can communicate begins to fail them. 

The result is not silence. It is a senseless cacophony that echoes through a weird no-man’s land in which nothing can be said without the risk of retribution or condemnation or banishment. Civil discourse is more or less out of the question. 

We are now a dreadful step on from embedding, it seems. It is no longer enough to tether correspondents to the perspective of the military from whose side they report. We appear to be on the way to having wars fought — huge, bloody, consequential wars — without any witnesses. 

Last week Politico published a lengthy piece on the Biden regime’s argument that the current “pause” in Israel’s merciless murder spree in Gaza and the exchange of hostages proves the policy cliques in Washington have done the right thing. It does not take much for these dangerously unqualified people to fool themselves. 

But the White House remains deeply, deeply worried’ about Israel’s longer-term strategy and what the next phase of the war may look like,” Politico reported. Then this:

“And there was some concern in the administration about an unintended consequence of the pause: that it would allow journalists broader access to Gaza and the opportunity to further illuminate the devastation there and turn public opinion on Israel.”

In plain English, Biden’s people fret about what the slaughter of Palestinians will look like once it resumes — appearances being not quite all but nearly. But if there was no one there to see and report the savagery, there would be no appearances to worry about. 

Trita Parsi at the Quincy Institute brought this quotation to my attention, and I cannot do better than his comment on it: “I’m speechless.” 

It is interesting that at least some people in the Biden regime seem to consider relations between power and the media to be adversarial in the old-fashioned way. And how fine it would be were the corporate press and broadcasters to get their correspondents into Gaza on their own and report what they see as they see it. 

This seems to me perfectly possible. The BBC, Al Jazeera, and various wire services — Reuters, The Associated Press, Agence France–Presse — are among the news organizations with bureaus in Gaza City. 

Since Vietnam

Aug. 10, 1968, protest against the Vietnam War as Chicago was preparing to host the Democratic National Convention. (David Wilson, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

But the record to date indicates that cowardice and supine compliance will prevail over the aforementioned bravery and principle. This is how embedding journalists got started in the post–1975 years. The defeat in Vietnam spooked the Pentagon and the political leadership, which blamed the media for turning Americans against the war. By the Gulf War, August 1990 to February 1991, embeddedness was s.o.p. among American media. 

A reporter named Brett Wilkins published a well-reported piece in Common Dreams a month into the Israel Defense Forces’ war crimes in Gaza. In “U.S. Corporate Media Outlets Allow IDF to Vet ‘All Materials’ from Embedded Reporters in Gaza,” Wilkins laid out the whole disgusting nine. His lead:

“U.S. corporate media outlets have granted Israeli military commanders pre-publication review rights for ‘all materials and footage’ recorded by their correspondents embedded with the Israel Defense Forces during the invasion of Gaza, a precondition condemned by press freedom advocates.”

Wilkins goes on to name a few of the names — among them CNN and NBC — who indulge their spinelessness in this manner. And he quotes the feckless Fareed Zakaria offering the boilerplate excuse for this gross breach of professional ethics. “CNN has agreed to these terms in order to provide a limited window into Israel’s operations in Gaza,” Zakaria deadpans. 

Speechless a second time. 

A photojournalist named Zach D. Roberts gets my award for the pithiest summation of this daily travesty. “What CNN is doing here is creating ad b-roll [supplementary video footage] for the IDF,” Roberts said. “It’s nothing resembling news and the CNN employees that participated in it aren’t anything resembling journalists.” 

So far as I can make out there are few-to-no exceptions to this condemnable practice. The New York Times sent two correspondents and a photographer into Al–Shifa Hospital earlier this month and had the integrity to acknowledge they were escorted by the IDF and to report that a hole in the ground the diameter of a manhole cover did not look much like a Hamas command center. 

[Related: IDF Knew Real Hamas HQ While Lying About al-Shifa]

But “limited windows,” in Zakaria’s slithery phrase, are nonsense, and the Times should have declined the tour on any terms but its own. This seems to me the only way the press and broadcasters can reclaim the professional sovereignty they gave up in the post–Vietnam years. 

Devastated Credibility

Since then we have witnessed a succession of what I count as fatal compromises. This kind of conduct is part of what has devastated Western media’s credibility and left the reading and viewing public abandoned in the dark. Now we are down to embedding as bog standard procedure and the hinted possibility that correspondents may not be able to bear witness to conflicts and wars under any circumstances. 

Journalists were once considered among the guardians of language. Writing and editing with rigorous attention to clarity and correct usage was how language as a vessel of meaning was preserved and protected. 

Look at the circus all around us now. Anti–Semitism can mean anything you want it to mean. Ditto anti–Zionism. Anti–Israel can mean anti–Semitic, Hamas can be cast as a terrorist organization, a real-time genocide can be marked down as self-defense. The Times invites us, in Sunday’s editions, to wring our hands as we search for “a moral center in this era of war.” 

It is an invitation to drown in blur and induced confusion. I put this down in part — in large part — to the derelictions of those reporting what is called — incorrectly, a case in point — the Israel–Gaza war. 

I have watched recently a goodly number of videos recorded in Gaza and seen many photographs taken on the ground there. Here is a video of Gazans fleeing for their lives, published two weeks into the bombing by Al Jazeera. Here are some photographs shot by Mohammed Zaanoun, a Palestinian photographer, and published on Nov. 23 by The New Humanitarian, which was founded at the U.N. in the mid–1990s. 

This kind of material, produced by professional journalists, various kinds of nongovernmental organizations, relief agencies and the like, is readily available. How differently would people think, how much clearer would their understanding and conclusions be, were our major media to make it available. 

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, lecturer and author, most recently of Journalists and Their Shadows, available from Clarity Press or via Amazon.  Other books include Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored. 

TO MY READERS. Independent publications and those who write for them reach a moment that is difficult and full of promise all at once. On one hand, we assume ever greater responsibilities in the face of mainstream media’s mounting derelictions. I take up this very topic in the commentary you have just read. On the other, we have found no sustaining revenue model and so must turn directly to our readers for support. I am committed to independent journalism for the duration: I see no other future for American media. But the path grows steeper, and as it does I need your help. This grows urgent now. If you are already a supporter, big thanks. If you aren’t, please subscribe to The Floutist, or via my Patreon account.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

21 comments for “PATRICK LAWRENCE: Media’s Fatal Compromises

  1. Paula
    November 30, 2023 at 05:03

    What we have going on here is called a Hybrid War along with a genocide. This media and information war needs to be ramped up. We need to get truths out like Dick Cheney as VP in Bush administration introduced 2 dozen crypto zionists neoconservatives into key positions. Two of them, Richard Perle and Douglas Fieth in 1970 were accused by the FBI of passing classified documents to Israel. They were expelled from the National Security Council. Under the Bush administration Fieth was appointed as Under Secretary of Defense and Richard Perle as Director of Defense Policy. These people were traitors in 1970.

    Neoconservatism has been defined as “a complex interlocking professional and family network centered around Jewish publicists and organizers flexibly deployed to recruit the sympathies of both Jews and non-Jews in harnessing the wealth and power of the United States in the service of Israel. The proof of the neocons’ crypto-Israelism is their US foreign policy.”

    “Irving Kristol explained to the American Jewish Congress in 1973 why anti-war activism was no longer good for Israel: “”it is now an interest of the Jews to have a large and powerful military establishment in the United States. American Jews who care about the survival of the state of Israel have to say , no, we don’t want to cut the military budget, it is important to keep that military budget big, so that we can defend Israel.” It is comments and writings and truths like these that must be given to the American people. I firmly believe if they knew how Israel is stealing the wealth and power of our nation to benefit theirs, we can win this war the neocons and their allies are waging against truth. Long live Julian Assange!

  2. LeoSun
    November 29, 2023 at 18:23

    ”The reporter’s task is to find a way of weaving these threads of unreality into a fabric the reader will not recognize as entirely untrue.” Daniel Boorstin, “The Image,” 1962, @ Page 84, “Journalists And Their Shadows,” Patrick Lawrence.

    “I LOVE this Book!!! TY, Mr. Lawrence.

    IMO, Slogans & Symbols resonate. For example, “Make America Great Again,” Gots Staying Power! versus “Keep America Dumb!” IMO, the fuel that fires-up Common Democrats’ is as tasteless as, “I’m w/HER!” However, those Common Democrats never changed lanes. They’re still driving the wrong way on a one-way track to disaster.

    “It’s $howtime….” Three (3) years of “Let’s Go Brandon; but, we know what they say’n!” has morphed into “Lieden, Biden, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide.” Followed by, from sea to shining sea, “Come Out! Come Out, from wherever you’re hiding! Lieden Biden.”

    “We asked for “Signs,” and; the Signs were sent:”

    ………KARMA!!! 11.28.23, The National Christmas COLLAPSES!!! Just like POTUS. All by itself, the Xmas tree “Fell Over.” It totally CRASHED!

    The NY Times says, “INSERT Metaphor HERE:” i.e., “Bidenomics, Middle Out. Bottom, Up!” “A fitting image of the Biden-Harris WH.” “OMG, The WH Xmas Tree blew over, today! It’s a perfect reminder of all things Biden-Harris, feeble, frail, fractured.”

    “Human consciousness is dominated by mental narratives,” Caitlin Johnstone.

    …….“so, [IF, the WH, the Deep $tate] “can control society’s dominant narrative,” “Biden, Biden you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide,” by keeping POTUS away from the public & a mic, the WH & the Deep $tate “can control society’s narratives;” consequently, “controlling humans.”

    …..Exhibit A: “Some things are just too hot to touch. The human brain can only stand so much.” Consequently, by design, “No COP28 Climate $ummit for POTUS!”

    11.27.23, A public event like the COP28 Climate Summit, could be nothing but perilous for POTUS. It’s been a grueling November. Hence, POTUS cops outta COP28. The Deep $tate is sending their Climate Czar & POTUS’ Veep.

    Plus, the universal vibe is POTUS’ has flamed out! POTUS is burned out!! POTUS is Toast!!! POTUS prefers the climate in his basement. The majority of the Nation, prefer he’s holed up in his safe zone where he can sleep.

    Concluding, “where a donkey falls is slippery ground.” Ciao.

  3. CaseyG
    November 29, 2023 at 11:00

    Maybe if the head honchos of the military—maybe if they too had to have their baots on the ground—maybe then we would see realistic and worthwhile reporting.

  4. Selina Sweet
    November 28, 2023 at 20:32

    Is this betrayal of the journalistic mission cultivated by the corporatization of journalism schools? And, or a function of the character of those choosing journalism? (other-directed, co-dependent, as opposed to inner-directed?)

  5. November 28, 2023 at 18:53

    “Though seldom remembered today, the 1983 US invasion of Grenada [‘Operation Urgent Fury’] provided the template for Pentagon control of how its wars are covered [consolidated by the 1989 US Invasion of Panama, as chronicled in Barbara Trent’s Oscar-winning documentary ‘The Panama Deception’ (1992), available at, and the 1991 Gulf War, as Lawrence mentions here].


    Unlike the unlimited access journalists had in Vietnam, the media were barred from covering Urgent Fury. Adm. Wesley McDonald banned reporters for ‘operational reasons.’

    Nightly news broadcasts showed images of journalists in helicopters circling the island in a futile attempt to cover the combat. After three days of heated charges by media organizations of Pentagon censorship, and pressure from some members of Congress, Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Gen. John W. Vessey directed McDonald to allow reporters on the island by October 28.

    Urgent Fury, carried out 20 years before Operation Iraqi Freedom, has faded from public and political memory.”

    Robin Andersen, “Invading Grenada,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), January 1, 2007

  6. Rafi Simonton
    November 28, 2023 at 18:01


    Consider the unquestioned “logic” justifying the destruction of a hospital–that it was a Hamas center. As if a mobile guerilla group would stay put in a known location. As if the Israeli military were so uninformed and inept they wouldn’t think of that.

    Then consider the implied philosophical and moral basis, also never questioned. That if babies in incubators, mothers in labor, or patients in ICUs are anywhere near the bad guys, they must be bad, too. Or will be. Therefore their deaths are perhaps a good thing and the presence or absence of Hamas is irrelevant.

  7. Lois Gagnon
    November 28, 2023 at 16:43

    Our media has been captured by the same financial interests that have captured all of our formerly public institutions. We are all Gazans now. Our government no longer works for us, but exclusively for those financial interests. We need to operate from that premise.

  8. Drew Hunkins
    November 28, 2023 at 16:21

    “…The Times invites us, in Sunday’s editions, to wring our hands as we search for “a moral center in this era of war.”…”

    What a sick joke, but totally expected from the “respected and heralded” mainstream.

    The Times ponders for a “moral center” in a disgusting, crude and fumbling attempt at both sides ism.

    This beyond shameful display comes at a time when the Zio supremacists are clearly intent on making all of Gaza totally uninhabitable, bombing with a sadistic ferocity — hospitals, apartments, schools, houses of worship — that’s unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime (I was one to four years old when Kissinger and Nixon annihilated North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia).

    The goal is to eventually herd the still living Palestinians to southwest Gaza where the Rafah crossing is located, then Egypt will eventually have no choice but to allow in the starving and maimed desperate refugee hoards fleeing U.S. taxpayer supported ethnic cleansing.

    But not to worry, the Times is there to rush in and assuage the consciences of its all-knowing readers. After all, any smart person can see both sides. Right? Both sides, both sides.

  9. mary-lou
    November 28, 2023 at 16:14

    FWIW: Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen is very readable, although understandably biased (anti-I*rael), but has its own reporters in Gaza –

  10. John Manning
    November 28, 2023 at 13:53

    For all of my lifetime (I am 67) we have been told that Israel’s army are the heroes defending a small piece of European democracy in the middle east. When their barbarity is revealed, when the truth is exposed, so many in western Europe cannot comprehend that the heroes are in fact the villains.

    Whenever you can, keep repeating that Palestinians are fighting for the land and the homes that Israel invaded and stole from them.

  11. robert e williamson jr
    November 28, 2023 at 13:13

    Our grand fathers and fathers made a crucial mistake in not taking on the Warren Commission and the bullshit right wing Zionists pushed to cover the story of the JFK murder. I’m trying desperately to send the message it still might not be too late.

    I see that event as paramount in the process of government officials gagging of the press and it simply got worse and worse.

    No would be a great time to push such an event as would point this out to the soon to the uninformed masses.

    One way is to let your senators and congressmen know “Bennie the Blade” doesn’t have near as many friends in the American public as he once thought he had and we all want to know exactly what happened on Nov 22, 1963.

    Turns out those developments are as important now as ever, your future and that of your children depend on it.

    Thanks CN

    • Paula
      November 30, 2023 at 05:29

      I tried to get an interlibrary loan on Final Judgment by Michael Collins Piper. My library said my request was denied. This in the state of Washington. I wrote the librarian back to ask what she meant by “denied,” that no library had the book or that is just wasn’t available for interlibrary loan? Still waiting for her reply, but she doesn’t know I have already bought a copy. It was expensive for a paperback, but I like collecting censored books for posterity and the truth. It was very hard to find due to the censorship in this country and the power of the ADL and AIPAC and my request was a ploy just to see if its censored that way as well. Every library has an interlibrary loan program. Request the title and author and see what happens.

  12. Gypsy33
    November 28, 2023 at 12:46

    I clearly recall the body bags being discharged from planes during Vietnam.
    And iconic photos such as the young woman at Kent State right before she was shot by the National Guard.
    Perhaps most infuriating (and heart-tending) of all was the image of the little naked Vietnamese girl who’d been napalmed.
    Well, the good ol’ US of A wasn’t about to make THAT mistake again. Cover up your atrocities by regaining from showing images of them, and pretend that they don’t exist.

    • Paula
      November 30, 2023 at 05:32

      Exactly. That’s why Julian Assange is still in jail.

  13. Michael L Falk
    November 28, 2023 at 11:37

    The Al Jazeera video is absolutely shocking in providing the true horrors of US supported genocide. Shame, Shame, Shame. War coverage under the guise of “news” has degenerated into political propagandia.

  14. Bushrod Lake
    November 28, 2023 at 10:54

    I watch (tape) MSNBC and CNN because I’ve grown familiar with a few of their “commentators” and like them despite their biases, which are obvious; however when they talk of Ukraine, Russia, Palestine, the MIC and their Generals, I just zip right over that to get other topics they cover. FOX, for instance, is good on Biden’s probably bribes, and vibes (aging), costs of war to the taxpayer if not to the planet, etc.

  15. Eddie S
    November 28, 2023 at 10:52

    For me, the MSM finally lost all credibility on international issues in 2003 when they blindly parroted and promoted the WMD canard, and at least 100K people died.

    And BTW, the mention of the U.S. military trying to blame the media for the ‘loss’ in Vietnam is not really the truth as I recall it. It was more that the war-weary US populace got tired of continually seeing their sons come home ’in a box’ while not seeing any victory after 7 or 8 years.

  16. Paul Citro
    November 28, 2023 at 07:51

    Time to let go of the mainstream news media. They have lost all credibility. Now we can have independent journalists and even citizen observers filming events on the group and publishing them. The truth will out.

  17. Thors Hammer
    November 28, 2023 at 05:45

    The proper term is “in bed with”. not embedded.

    • Steve
      November 28, 2023 at 09:10

      Or maybe the term is complicit.

    • jean maxime
      November 28, 2023 at 13:17

      Bravo! Well said.

Comments are closed.