Documentarians Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp provide a powerful indictment of the mainstream media's role in persuading the American public to support military aggression in War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (2007). The documentary is a summation of the argument proffered by media critic Norman Solomon in his identically titled 2005 book. Solomon appears throughout to state his case, but the numerous footnotes and examples provided in the book are replaced in the documentary with ample footage from mainstream American television news programs. Solomon's arguments and the media footage are tied together by narration from actor Sean Penn.
Solomon argues that the U.S. Government uses propaganda to demonize enemies and to persuade the American public to support war, and that the mainstream media is complicit in this process. Solomon asserts that the biggest lie that the Government and mainstream media sells the American public is that the United States uses force only as a last resort, and only for the most virtuous reasons, namely to spread democracy and freedom.
Solomon claims that there are very few examples of the mainstream media challenging the U.S. Government's aggressive agenda. When mainstream media personalities have questioned the Government's preparations for war, they have been quickly silenced. Examples offered are Phil Donahue whose show was cancelled by MSNBC despite being the network's most watched program, and Peter Arnett who was fired by NBC for participating in an interview on Iraqi television prior to the U.S. invasion. On the other hand, the networks go out of their way to present a pro-war message, the argument goes. Examples include media pundits echoing and amplifying calls for war, the hiring of Pentagon-approved retired military consultants as on-air advisers, embedded journalists who've lost objectivity, a demonstrable willingness to downplay foreign civilian casualties, and a lack of any hard questions of the Government's assertions.
The best value of this disc, and why it makes a powerful case despite being a significantly abbreviated summation of the book, is the footage documenting the barrage of inaccurate statements and bad prognostications by American officials echoed by news sources regarding Iraq. The hubris or deception of the official position is demonstrated by footage of U.S. officials asserting unequivocal proof of the presence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, prognosticating that American troops will be greeted as liberators, that there will be no need for large numbers of troops to police post-war Iraq or for a long-term U.S. military commitment, and that Iraq will pay for its own reconstruction with oil revenues.
Solomon further argues that the mainstream media rarely retracts incorrect past reporting, and that when it is confronted with proof that the information it relied upon was wrong, the mainstream media claims that there was no way it could have known the information was inaccurate. Contrary to this, Solomon argues, there is generally ample evidence and dissenting expert opinion that the mainstream media ignores. Alper and Earp illustrate this point best with an examination of former Secretary of State Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council on Iraq's alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The American mainstream media characterized it at the time as an airtight case, even as many other sources including major media outlets around the word such as London's Financial Times and Paris' La Monde, found Secretary Powells' case less than conclusive.
The video quality of this release is substandard. The original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 is maintained, but the image is letterboxed. Further, while archival footage is understandably of varying qualities, the interview of Norman Solomon appears soft and slightly washed out given it was made specifically for this documentary.
Optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired are adequately sized, paced, and placed.
The audio is presented in a 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo mix with no noticeable differentiation between the channels.
Trailers for other Disinformation releases are the only extras provided.
All Americans owe it to themselves, to their fellow citizens, and to the world, to require accountability from their government regardless of whether the mainstream press serves as a watchdog or a tool of propaganda. War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death provides a powerful indictment of the mainstream American media's complicity in selling war to the American people. The documentary is fascinating on its own, or as a companion piece to media critic Norman Solomon's 2005 book of the same name. Regardless of one's political stance, War Made Easy is highly recommended viewing.