In the documentary Control Room, the curtain is pulled behind the scenes of media outlets reporting from Central Command (CENTCOM) in Iraq at the height of the Iraq War. What else is seen is reporting and the situation of the escalating war through the controversial news network (at the time), Al Jazeera. What is witnessed is journalism being attacked, manipulated, and being used as less of a source to get the word out and more of a mouthpiece for the US military.
In relation to this is Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperatives, specifically the formula of humanity. According to Crash Course Philosophy, hosted by John Green’s cooler brother Hank, the Formula of Humanity is defined as “Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person, or in that of another, always as an end and never as a mere means.”
To distill it further, treat others as a person with goals and ideas, rather than someone to benefit from. Green says it best by stating, “We’re not mere objects that exist to be used by others. We’re our own ends. We’re rational and autonomous.” Humans are end-in-ourselves and we must treat others as ends-in-themselves. “We’re able to set our own ends, to make our own free decisions based on our rational wills,” Green continues to see.
This seems to fall short when it comes to the case of the US military’s treatment of the press. There seems to be times where they use the press to their advantage and not giving the full story or insight. A scene that stands out in particular is the Army stating they have tanks in Baghdad ready to go, yet there is no footage, nor any clear answers from military officials including public relations officer Captain Josh Rushing.
Instead, the next day they focus on the rescue of soldier Jessica Lynch providing clear play-by-play details to divert the story to that. “They buried the lead and they’re pretty good at that,” Tom Mintier of CNN said after the press conference. The heroic rescue story is only a ploy to send out to the media in order to get the attention off of the lie they were currently approaching Baghdad.
This is carried into Al Jazeera and the aforementioned Rushing. At the time, Al Jazeera was deemed as the mouthpiece of Osama Bin-Laden with Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld being the toughest critic of them stating they were focused on propaganda and radicalizing the news. However, Al Jazeera is catering to their audience much like other international media.
Quick Aside: Donald Rumsfeld still has issues with Al Jazeera as of 2011 as evident in this interview with the news organization.
This influences the viewpoint of Rushing as he himself sees the reflection in Western media. He sees they are showing the tragedy of war and the innocent lives lost while the western spin shows soldiers. He is the voice of the government line at the time wondering if he himself is just being used. This comes to a head years later as Rushing goes on to work for Al Jazeera English and focuses on showing both sides of the story, rather than a biased one-sided form.
Rushing himself is a grand example of someone using the Formula of Humanity in a positive way in order to get the real truth and news out there as evident in his interview on The Daily Show. Journalism is about bringing the news and the most important and not just for the use to spread a good name for the sake of a war, nor as a propaganda machine. Rushing has an understanding of this, as does Al Jazeera and any network not associated with a forest animal.