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Blowing Winds of an Arab SpringAnna O'Leary Salem-News.com
Across the world, the extinction and suffering of countless human beings could be attributed to rampant America.
(DUBLIN, Ireland) - The Middle East, always a hotbed of great power rivalry, has pivoted centre stage. Having dominated the media for the past three decades the region appears incurably gripped by violence. Mired by war, it has erupted in violent turmoil.
In the last half of the twentieth century, cultural products from films and news reports to museum exhibits and novels have profoundly shaped ideas about the relationship between Americans and the Middle East. The Middle East has been grossly misrepresented in the world media – what Robert Fisk calls ‘the West’s supercilious, lying coverage of wars’.
There is a long history of injustice in the Middle East. How the region is portrayed in the media smacks of double standards. There is a dense web of spin to probe that leads to key ‘perception management’ techniques that have played a powerful role in the promotion of American wars in the last half-century of conflict. There is a long history of invasion, occupation and colonization in the region.
A reporter is supposed to lack ‘bias’ and present a ‘balanced’ report. The term ‘balanced’ suggests there are two equal sides to every story, and disregards the media’s primary responsibility which is not to ‘balance the story’, but to tell the truth. Media coverage of war can lie outright about the past, or it can omit facts that can lead to unacceptable conclusions.
The media is owned by corporations and therefore pre-disposed to favour corporatist positions in their coverage to begin with. The reporter can record the anger of the Palestinian whose land has been taken from him by Israeli settlers – but must always refer to Israel’s ‘security needs’ and its ‘war on terror’. If Americans are accused of ‘torture’ call it ‘abuse’. A ‘crisis’ in the West is not the same as a ‘crisis’ in the Middle East.
If Israel is accused of killing a Palestinian, call it a ‘targeted killing’. If a dictator is on our side call him a ‘strongman.’ If he’s our enemy, call him a ‘tyrant’, or part of the ‘axis of evil.’ Above all else use the word ‘terrorist’ often – very often. As Adolf Hitler said: ‘Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it’.
Journalist and social historian, Susan Jacoby, accuses us of spending our time ‘sucking at the video tit from cradle to grave’. She says the media, ‘while they may not be the message, inevitably reshape content to fit a form that subordinates both the spoken and written word to visual images’. Our addiction to infotainment, from television to the Internet, has resulted in a lazy and credulous public.
Each one of us is responsible for the degree to which we have allowed other people to do our thinking for us, and we need to take stock of a world where real dangers are downplayed and nonexistent dangers are trumpeted. Rupert Murdoch’s Twentieth Century Fox Corporation has admitted to planting political brainwashing within globally popular TV shows, and boasted that it was proud of the fact.
Fox executives have been bragging about how they use the platform of hit shows that are broadcast globally to implant messages, and Rupert Murdoch himself admitted that the corporation had ‘tried’ to help the Bush administration to sell the war in Iraq.1 In short, we live in a world where we are being lied to.
In the last half of the twentieth century, cultural products -- from films and news reports to museum exhibits and novels -- profoundly shaped ideas about the relationship between Americans and the Middle East.
In his epic acceptance of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Literature, Harold Pinter referred to ‘a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.’ He asked why ‘the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought’2 of Stalinist Russia was well known in the West while American imperial crimes were merely ‘superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged’. He was referring to the great silence, unbroken by the incessant din of the media age.
Across the world, the extinction and suffering of countless human beings could be attributed to rampant America. ‘But you wouldn’t know it’, said Pinter. ‘It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it never happened. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.’ To its shame the BBC ignored Pinter’s warning, and could not make room for the nation’s greatest living dramatist, so honoured, to tell the truth. For the BBC it never happened.
Salem-News.com's Anna O’Leary is based in North Kerry, although she spent 17 years of her life in the Middle East, a region that captured her fascination.
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