“How does the media cover horrible tragedies? There isn’t just one truth,” said Dan Raviv, news correspondent for CBS Radio, in a lecture on the role of the news media during wartime. Drawing comparisons between the United States’ current situation with Iraq and U.S. involvement in World War II, Raviv’s lecture served as the keynote address for the University’s 24th Annual Conference on the Holocaust.
Raviv said the gathering of news information is often like connecting the dots in a puzzle. He defended the news media’s inability to present all possible information on certain occasions.
“How can we know if a war is worthwhile if we don’t have all the information?” Raviv asked the audience last night at Rackham Auditorium. “The news media don’t even have all the dots.”
Raviv compared the Americans who want to avoid war with Iraq to those Americans who wanted the nation to stay neutral in World War II – prior to the Pearl Harbor bombing. He also drew a parallel between Bush’s term “axis of evil” and the Axis powers of World War II.
When discussing the lack of attention the news media gave to the Holocaust during World War II, Raviv said that situation is similar to the current confusion about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons. “There were conflicting stories (that) diminished the credibility of the stories,” Raviv said. “The real breakthrough was evidence and victim testimony.”
Much of Raviv’s lecture focused on the media’s lack of attention toward Adolf Hitler’s murder of Jews and other groups during World War II, yet Raviv said he did not blame the media. “We were unfolding truths and lies while the Holocaust was taking place,” Raviv said. “Radio correspondents didn’t see the round-ups, didn’t see the camps. But most of the reports were aimed at proving that Nazi Germany was terrible.”
To illustrate conflicting news reports, Raviv pointed out that many European nations and media are reluctant to denounce Iraq, although they have the same information as the U.S. “What does the media believe? The Europeans don’t believe he’s that bad,” Raviv said. “But Dan Rather won’t lose any sleep if Saddam Hussein is arrested or killed.”
When asked about the media’s social responsibility during warfare, Raviv said the media should calm the public. “I think, what are my kids going to think when they hear this?” Raviv said. “I’m going to keep you informed. I don’t want to exaggerate.”
Students who attended the lecture were divided on Raviv and his speech. Bobby Nooromid, an LSA junior, said he felt satisfied with Raviv’s conclusions of the current Iraq situation and the Holocaust. “I thought his speech was excellent. I loved the way he compared the Holocaust with today’s situation and the way the Jewish people have played a role both now and then,” Nooromid said.
But LSA senior Nicole Scher, who attended the lecture to hear Raviv’s insider perspective on the news media, said she felt disappointed by both Raviv and his speech. “I thought he was a practiced politician-type speaker. He seemed to believe very strongly that America is following the right course and I would tend to take issue with that,” Scher said. “Just because America is a superpower doesn’t necessarily make our policy right.”