Symposium discusses different perspectives on ‘new war’

Liz Kohman

Human rights, mass media and military meshed in a University forum addressing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The University Student Union Programs and Activities Board hosted their final forum in a series of four Tuesday at the St. Paul Student Center.

Eighteen students, staff and faculty members attended the noon-hour session titled “Perspectives on the ‘New War.'” The first three forums focused on issues surrounding the terrorist attacks and attracted larger audiences ranging between 40 to 50 people.

“The programs are promoting discussion,” said Brad Hasskamp, forum moderator and co-planner. Hasskamp said students seem more interested in discussions about current events following the attacks. “I hope it’s not a fad,” Hasskamp said.

“I never realized the connection between media and military,” said Crystal Neumann, a pre-veterinary senior who attended the forum.

Audience members heard perspectives from Ruben Rosario, a Pioneer Press columnist; Joe Kirchoff, a student representative of Amnesty International and Lt. Col. Robert Biller, a University professor of military science and ROTC program representative.

The forum explored the connections between the media and military, spending time discussing military and human rights issues.

Rosario, the media representative, said newspapers and radio tend to question the military more, but those questions can be drowned out by the powerful visual images of the Sept. 11 attacks shown on television. He said public opinion influences media coverage of the attacks and the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

“The media reflects issues of most concern to dominant society, which is the reason we cover the opening of Harry Potter rather than human rights violations in Afghanistan,” Rosario said.

Biller, chosen for his military expertise, said the military might seem to have an oppositional relationship with the media, especially since much of the special operations intelligence cannot be revealed to the public, but the military wants to work with the media.

“We’re the ones who defend freedom of the press,” Biller said.

Kirchoff focused on human rights concerns and said it is important to remember human rights principles learned throughout history.

“When a new government is set up, we need to put human rights at the forefront,” Kirchoff said.

Marie Rau, a German foreign exchange graduate student in the applied economics department, said she attended all of the forums because she liked the opportunity to ask questions and interact with panelists.

“I’m interested in the war because it involves all of us,” she said.

Liz Kohman welcomes comments at [email protected]