Past Event

Café Society: Civil War in Iraq?

Two weeks ago, Today show host Matt Lauer announced that NBC decided to change the language it uses when describing the conflict in Iraq. After consulting with numerous scholars, current and former military officials, and political analysts, the network declared that a “change in terminology is warranted and what is going on in Iraq can now be characterized as civil war.”

NBC’s proclamation unleashed a maelstrom of commentary regarding the role of the American press. Some media critics contended that news media did not have the authority to redefine political affairs. Had the network crossed the line in reporting the news by making the news?

Critics immediately claimed this was yet another example of liberal bias in the media, and that using the term “civil war” is part of a larger effort to discredit the Bush administration. Others attacked the media for having avoided the use of the term, which they argued had long described the situation.

How is this semantic argument relevant to the overall effort in Iraq? How do you define “civil war,” anyway? Is this argument proving a distraction from a discussion over actual events in Iraq and what the U.S. needs to do about it?

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For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.