In 2003 when I was working as an anchor for a San Francisco television station, anchors and reporters across the country were asked by the White House to refer to the Iraqi invasion as Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
We were asked to call the war in Afghanistan Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Operation Infinite Justice (OIJ) had a rocky start because most of America's Arab allies were offended. Muslims believed only Allah could provide "Infinite Justice."
Even so, with press releases in hand journalists repeated genetically modified words as if their DNA depended upon it.
Genetically modified language is when propaganda wins, journalists sell out and the public loses. It is when words are twisted and massaged and spun until an entire suit of lies is woven to cover the guilty and cloak the truth.
The Genetically Modified language, in the case of Iraq, was full of false bravado and moral superiority, in attempts to turn lies into honorable causes our dear children were willing to go to war for.
But nothing caught on like "The War on Terror." It was a White House propaganda bonanza! Whole networks built their news around swirling "War on Terror" graphics and anchors began stories with "Today in the War on Terror," while most of the world considered Americans the terrorists.
That's when I pulled up lame and refused to dance the destructive dance. Most of us who complained are gone now after some pretty nasty break ups.
Journalists as conduits of mass manipulation. I was too naïve to understand it was nothing new. The lies were as poisonous as the tons of saran, mustard and VX nerve agents President Bush told us Saddam wanted to use on us.
But, as the lies began scrubbing the girl away and the woman's eyes opened, I started seeing the media's complicity in the pain and death that followed. I read every book on propaganda I could find. I quickly learned Genetically Modified language was one of Joseph Goebbels favorite propaganda tools. We dopes got duped.
Even so, many corporate "journalists" eagerly grabbed an American flag pining it to their lapels. Rooting for the war is much easier than asking hard questions to reveal a conflict based on lies and a country led by liars.
Hard questions lead to other hard questions. Linear logic in this case is frightening.
We all wanted desperately to believe the White House Mantras. Many are still repeating subtle propaganda in the name of patriotism on our nightly newscasts today. That's why I am writing this now.
As you most likely are standing in judgment, I offer up this sliver of attempted redemption.
Journalist like most Americans are patriots too, we don't want to believe the government is lying, but as odious as it may sound to the "My Country Right or Wrong" people, finding and revealing those lies used to be our job.
"The Fourth Branch" was created to watch the government and anyone else using lies to gain power and profit at the expense of the safety and security of the American people.
Also, I ask the American public to consider their own role in the Iraqi quagmire.
Five years ago, when President Bush likened Saddam to Hitler in order to justify going to war, questioning the President's motives was considered by corporate America unpatriotic. Corporations exist for one reason: to make money.
Patriotism and genetically modified language delivered to newsrooms directly from the White House was easy. The words were powerful because "War on Terror" not only sounds authoritative, it makes a great graphic! All the polls agreed!
The President's approval rating was high when America invaded Iraq and the media corporations blow toward the money. More viewers = more money. So patriotism was served up instead of unbiased news.
The media corporations began buying anchors and reporters who did not understand their part in the body bags. Anchors, producers and assignment editors who would go along to get alone were hired, and they got to keep their pay checks and health coverage. This is why Disney, Viacom, Westinghouse, G.E., Murdoch and Cox should not own newsrooms. They are often the very ones the press should investigate.
Cognitive journalists can now see that using the White House genetically modified language with unquestioning devotion is one of the many reasons we lost the public trust five years ago.
The Fourth Branch our fore-fathers envisioned is broken. We became stenographers. Does the red-tally light on that newsroom camera lobotomize us? Part of the problem is putting corporate anchors in anchor chairs where reporters should be. Certainly experienced reporters would notice the genetically modified words and their own complicity when it seems completely lost on those covered in layers of lip-gloss.
Now that former Press Secretary and once staunch Bush ally, Scott McClellan is walking toward redemption and has found the courage to speak the truth, the "deer in the headlights" look on his face as he turned in his resignation makes perfect sense. I knew something was up.
Practicing prevarication for a living wears most people down.
Now that the president's approval rating has plummeted, it no longer takes courage to toss the White House pompoms in the trash heap and the genetically modified language with it.
With Bush's approval rating lower than a snakes belly, no commercials will be lost if journalists are brave now, but we have lost more than we ever imagined, "the penultimate loss" nearly five thousand dead American soldiers.
I propose journalists stop repeating Genetically Modified White House language, but they also go a step further. I am about to fall on my sword here, so please open your mind.
On the very day it was leaked that Scott McClellan's book reveals the country went to war based on known lies, the sweetest shiniest, dimple faced, airbrushed Bay Area Murdoch girl began a broadcast by announcing:
"Another American has given his life for his country today."
Here is the falling on the sword part.
I was once that girl, but girls someday grow into women. Today I know that soldier was one of thousands who bravely believed in what the president said and died believing a lie the press helped promote.
I propose to this anchor women and hundreds of others like her, all of whom I imagine to be nice people, read this instead:
"Another American has died in Iraq today, he was a beloved brother and child and he was number 4,084."
Then perhaps follow that with the number of wounded Iraqi veterans 30,329.
In an attempt at truly unbiased journalism, end with the number 1,217.892 Iraqis who have lost their lives.
If this war, as McClellan says, and dozens of other experts have pointed out, was based on a great lie, let's honor those who were brave and noble and willing to believe the lie by bringing them home alive and stop repeating Genetically Modified words that glorify a conflict American journalists could have helped prevent by putting their pompoms down.