The friendly fire of the media

Beatrice E. Rangel
Beatrice Rangel

From Sun Tzu to General Tommy Franks, one of the concerns of a military commander is to hide the war strategy and operational plan from his rivals. Because as Sun Tzu said “to win any battle it is necessary to know yourself in the first instance and hide yourself from the eyes of the enemy”.

Although the first is difficult due to all the conditioning that human beings experience through family and school education, the second has become impossible in this 21st century where there are cameras in all telephone devices and any highly confidential document can be obtained by lawful means (court order to protect the right to information) or illicit means (illegal theft). The ubiquity of photographic cameras; sound recorders and satellites has made it impossible to hide any fact, situation or human interaction. These devices bring to our screens, be they TV, computer or telephone, events in full swing and live and direct via social networks that are not regulated by anyone other than their own owners. This transmission capacity has created a culture of instantaneity that leads the media, which are subject to a universal regulatory framework, to seek exclusive content in order to compete with social networks and their infinite capacity to witness any event, be it happy or sad. This competition leads the media to reveal industrial secrets; intimate relationships of any person in a position of leadership; behavioral, ideological or sexual deviations from the past and the strategies and operational plans of a war as we are seeing in Ukraine.

This is how the Washington Post obtained and published information about the intelligence support given by the United States government to Ukraine. Thanks to that medium, we learned that the Ukrainian army had been able to significantly increase its effectiveness because US intelligence had transmitted to it the exact positions of Russian war resources and that of the commanders of the army of that country. We assume that the Washington Post did not think before publishing its finding about the impact that such disclosure would have for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who will possibly lose their homes, their health or their lives thanks to the fact that the Russian leaders have changed all their communication systems making it difficult that the United States can continue to identify the strategic path and the Russian operational field. And let’s not even talk about the notion of security for the Americans themselves. Because this revelation will make Russia redouble its efforts to identify the Achilles’ heel of the United States and attack it there.

And surely the publication of the Washington Post has caused rival newspapers to commit resources to find another exclusive information mine that will probably have a very negative impact on the ability of the West to end this tragic episode in history in which an authoritarian regime and criminal curtails the freedom and life of a nascent democracy.

During World War II, the English government developed a set of messages aimed at urging the population to protect war secrets in their fight against Nazism. One of them indicated “The word passes will make us lose the battle” (Tittle Tattle lost the battle). Perhaps civil society in Western democracies should demand equal responsibility from modern media, be they social networks, individuals or the media.

* Internationalist; Master in economic development, member of the Council on Foreign Relations of the United States

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