At war with the media

6ab2f3b776326c8aefee6500f4dd7cbb_nWith Australian troops returning from Afghanistan, a new book focuses on media coverage of the war and how it was influenced by the Australian Defence Force.

In Don’t Mention the War: The Australian Defence Force, the Media and the Afghan Conflict,Monash University media and cultural historian Associate Professor Kevin Foster examines how reporters covered the war. He looks at how the ADF impeded journalists’ access to the country or interfered with their freedom of movement among the troops, how the government looked the other way, how some in the fourth estate were happy with the lack of coverage, and how public understanding of the conflict was affected by these dispositions.

“The war in Afghanistan is now the longest and, arguably, worst reported conflict in Australian history,” Associate Professor Foster said.

“The Australian media coverage ensured the war functioned as another platform for the celebration of national military virtues, that why the ADF was in Afghanistan was far less important than how it performed there.”

Don’t Mention the War considers how the ADF’s arrangements for media access reflected the status of the military in Australian society and compares it with the status of the military and their relations with the media in Canada and the Netherlands. Where the Dutch and Canadian forces went to Afghanistan eager to re-build tarnished reputations and interact candidly with the fourth estate, Associate Professor Foster says the ADF was determined to defend its exalted status and fashioned a media management program tailored to this purpose. 

“Transfixed by the ritual affirmation of identity, neither the military nor their political leaders appear likely to learn from the reverses they suffered in Afghanistan or the lives they cost. Our worst reported war may also tur n out to be our least illuminating,” Associate Professor Foster said.

Associate Professor Kevin Foster teaches Media and Cultural Studies at Monash University. He has written widely on war, cultural history and national identity. His books include a study of the Falklands conflict, Fighting Fictions: War, Narrative and National Identity (1999), What Are We Doing in Afghanistan? The Military and the Media at War (2009) and The Information Battlefield: Representing Australians at War (2011).

Don’t Mention the War: The Australian Defence Force, the Media and the Afghan Conflict will be launched by Overland editor Jeff Sparrow on Thursday 5 December at the Avenue Bookstore Elsternwick, 434 Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick at 6pm.

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