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The Embedding Apparatus

Media Surveillance during the Iraq War

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Aimé-Jules Bizimana

When the war in Iraq began in 2003, the issue of the special status accorded to journalists covering the military operations arose quite naturally. Promising innovation, the Pentagon’s announcement that they would integrate hundreds of journalists into combat units—what has been known as embedding—attracted the attention of the international media and other observers. How would this be different from previous interactions between the military and the media?

The Embedding Apparatus explains the functioning of the informational control apparatus at work during the Iraq War and the relationships between embedded journalists and the military in the American army’s area of operations. The concept of the apparatus guides this case study, one that brings together the experiences of almost forty participants, journalists and military personnel. The study borrows Michel Foucault’s modern surveillance mechanisms of the disciplinary apparatus and the panoptic apparatus, bringing embedded journalism into close contact with the ubiquitous and flexible surveillance that characterizes the "control society." The author exposes a new embedding apparatus where the power relations between journalists and the military are at play, an apparatus operating within a circumscribed space where all of a journalist’s movements, reporting, behavior and communications are surveilled.

This book offers a fresh insight into this important issue and will certainly be of interest worldwide to scholars and students as well as media and military practitioners interested in this topic. Embedded journalism is studied from a new angle, one related to the broader context of surveillance in contemporary society.

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Chapter 8. The Panoptic Apparatus

Extract

·8·THE PANOPTIC APPARATUS

The war in Iraq was most definitely a high-tech war where the battlefield was surveilled in real-time by the command centers. A group of reporters embedded in the headquarters of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was able to see, close up, this facet of the technological reality of the war. In the ultrasecret nerve center headquarters, where the war was conducted on screens, Mark Mazzetti of the magazine U.S. News & World Report witnessed military personnel following the path of tanks connected to computers and to watch live transmission of a battle. “It’s disturbing how war can resemble a video game,” he said.1 David Lynch of daily paper USA Today was also in the Marines Combat Operations Center: “You could really see everything in real-time.”2 With the help of officers, it was possible to see, on a screen, the location where the military units were parked and where they were headed, or watch air attacks on ground targets live, explained Lynch.

The Eye of God

Surveillance of the media on the battlefield is done through both simple and sophisticated means thanks to information and communications technologies. The reports, conversations, and movements of embedded journalists are←117 | 118→ surveilled from different observation points and through military eavesdropping. With telemonitoring and the ability to locate individuals at any moment, the embedding apparatus is transformed into a technology of control that places embedded journalists on the field of permanent panoptic visibility.

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