Al-Jazeera English’s Meenakshi Ravi has very kindly asked me to appear once again on Listening Post, so I thought I should sort out my thoughts before I committed them to camera. The problem is that Logitech has not been able to solve the problems with my software—there’s still interference and the recording software still gives up the ghost after a minute or so. (The camera works with Skype perfectly, so we know the unit works—so if anyone has better software to suggest than what came with the camera, give me a shout.) I’ve heard from Randy Thomas that he experienced the same problems with his Logitech camera, so the company’s claim that my issue is isolated doesn’t ring true to me.
But to answer some of the issues outlined, I don’t think the US media is actually trying to make a case for attacking Iran—not in the basic way people think. If they are, they should know that they will fail, because certain ingredients are missing: (a) the “excuse” of 9-11; (b) partisanship in Congress. They may well be trying to make the present administration look bad, even though everyone from the President to the Secretary of State have said that they will seek a diplomatic solution with Iran. (Plus President Ahmadinejad loves these diplomatic games. Sneaky bloke.)
The media often see themselves as a force to change governments, and it doesn’t matter who is in power. In the 1990s, we heard about conservative biases in New Zealand in the news. Now we hear of liberal bias. Rule: if you show yourself to be antiestablishment and anti-government, then you are showing you have power—you have something to use against politicians. Every western government feels that the media are trying to get them out of power. It doesn’t matter if you supported Clinton in the 1990s (the Monica Lewinsky scandal) and Bush in the 2000s (the War on Terror): the media are the baddies. That conclusion is not totally wrong.
This next point is connected: if they are trying to stir things up, then it’s solely for ratings. The media business has got to the point, in some areas, where sensationalism triumphs over journalism—something one of my team discovered this weekend when she found something about her misrepresented (though she was not named). The long term does not matter to the business, trying to drive the stock price up for the quarter.
These explain such illogical editorial decisions as publishing the Jyllands-Posten cartoons of the prophet Mohammed (peace be unto him), even when the consequences are very, very predictable.
Christiane Amanpour, the Iranian-born journalist working for CNN, told David Letterman on his show earlier this month that certain terrorist groups and militia now target her colleagues for murders and kidnappings, whereas once upon a time, they were seen as noble and impartial. Perhaps these groups see how the media have become tools of corporations and share prices, rather than any ill education on their part. Add in the fact they can be paranoid and they are armed to the teeth, and the profession is going to ﬁnd things harder unless things begin changing.
If the US media are trying to state a case for war, then it’s only to prolong their own cause. Many Americans want their troops home, regardless of the commanders’ judgements, and in the battleﬁeld the only parties that would want the US to remain in Iraq are actually the nation’s enemies. Why not see the Yanks stay and spend all their money, weakening the country? The Americans and their allies help the terrorists justify their attacks: even though many terrorist bombings are founded on hatred of various Muslim groups, the Americans, the British and others are far more convenient a target for blame. ‘We are bombing so the inﬁdel will go home.’ It is also simpler to get new recruits: images of destroying Black Hawks and tanks are more powerful and easier to market than blowing up innocents. These media and the terrorists are, unintentionally, united, for very different reasons.
It just so happens that all this coincides with President Bush’s belief that retreat will cause greater harm to the United States, strengthening an enemy that reaches from Afghanistan to Iran and creating a base from which his country can be attacked. There are elements of three different sides that are keeping this war going. The anti-war movement can only hope that its own elements can rival the pro-war ones.
If the Americans and other allied nations accede to this request, the bombing will continue—just that Americans won’t see it on TV as often. It’ll be like the 1980s, when we saw plenty of carnage in Lebanon, but it never affected most of us in the west, unless you had Lebanese roots. When Reagan pulled the Marines out of Beirut, the Hezbollah got a lot stronger—and are continuing on their cause 20 years later. Just that no one outside the region knew. That might, fortunately, change with the globalization of Arab media—al-Jazeera, which is not subject to quarterly share price reporting, is the best example of this. There is an alternative. It’s just a pity few Americans can get this excellent alternative which, ironically again, helps their desire for transparency and objectivity in reporting.
War is founded on ironies. It either indulges in them or exposes them. War is the game where everyone says what they think will unsettle their audience, but never what they mean. The media are not immune to that. Posted by Jack Yan, 03:10
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