Many mainstream journalists love conflict. Gives them the opportunity to hang with military types in war zones and feel important. Truth be damned. Repeating official talking points is par for the course.
History has shown that far too many blindly (wilfully?) spread propaganda. The next target is Iran. Why? Because Israel and Washington tell them so.
What would it take for journalists to seriously challenge government propaganda? A war with over one million dead, four million refugees, a country’s infrastructure shattered, and the increased threat of retail ‘terror’ in response to the West’s wholesale ‘terror’? How horrifying do even very recent experiences have to be, how great the war crimes, before media professionals begin to exhibit scepticism towards Western governments’ hyping of yet another ‘threat’. Why is warmongering the default mode for the corporate media?
On Channel 4 News, the famed ‘pinko-liberal’ news presenter Jon ‘Six Pilgers’ Snow intoned ominously:
‘It is still not a nuclear weapon, but an upgrading of Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium ostensibly for its nuclear power plant.’ (C4 News headlines, February 15, 2012)
‘Still’ not a nuclear weapon – not yet? – but the primary focus is absolutely on an alleged military threat that does not actually exist. Foreign correspondent Jonathan Miller added:
‘This development does not bring Iran any closer to building a bomb… But if Tehran is trying to convince the world that its purpose is peaceful, no-one’s buying it…’ (C4 News, ‘Iran reveals its latest step in nuclear arms’, February 15, 2012)
That is not quite true, as we will see below. Miller added:
‘This may look like the set of a 70s Bond movie, but this is the Natanz reactor…’
The reference is telling – much media reporting does seem to be inspired by a Bond movie vision of the world. Token balance was provided:
‘There’s no evidence that Iran is intending to construct a nuclear weapon.’
This put Snow’s opening comment in perspective. A more accurate version would have been: ‘It is still not evidence that Iran has plans to build a nuclear weapon.’
Instead, the required propaganda pitch was clear. Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was defiantly sticking ‘two fingers up to the UN and a hostile world’. As ever, it is ‘us’ (the ‘world’) versus ‘them’. Miller continued:
‘The 74 million people of the Islamic republic are paying a high price for their leader’s defiance.’
As in Iraq, the Bad Guys, not the West, are responsible for any suffering caused. No question that Israel, the US and its allies bear any responsibility for the tension, or the lethal effects of sanctions. Miller added:
‘Their nation is isolated, they’re suffering from sanctions – prices are rising, credit tightening, currency plummeting. The Tehran regime thinks its brinkmanship gives it leverage – it has written to the EU offering to resume stalled nuclear talks.’
In media Newspeak, ‘isolated’ means ‘bad’. Likewise, ‘secretive’ and ‘hermit’. When North Korea is described as ‘the secretive, hermit state’ that is ‘increasingly isolated’, it means North Korea is Bad! Bad! Bad!
Meanwhile, on the BBC’s News at Ten, Huw Edwards presented the headlines:
‘The Iranians delight in the latest advances in their nuclear programme.’
Little wrong with that. But moments later, when the actual news report was introduced, ‘nuclear programme’ had mysteriously morphed into ‘nuclear weapons programme’. Edwards told the watching millions:
‘Iran has announced new developments in its nuclear weapons programme. State television reported that for the first time Iranian-made nuclear fuel rods have been loaded into a research reactor in Tehran. The event was attended by President Ahmadinejad.’
Behind a veneer of polite impartiality, the BBC – like Channel 4 News and the rest of the media – presents official enemies as Bond villains: grandiose, dangerous and absurd. Thus James Reynolds began his report:
‘Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a PhD in traffic management. But he often likes to play the part of nuclear physicist. This afternoon Iran’s president inspected new home-made fuel rods for a research reactor in Tehran, all made without any help from the West.’
Claims that Iran has a nuclear weapons program are allegations, not facts (Extra!, 1/12)—but are treated as established background material in the corporate media: “The president, as you know, has been trying to force Iran to give up its nuclear weapons program,” explainsCBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley (2/6/12). The Washington Post editorializes (1/11/12) that Iran’s “drive for nuclear weapons continues.”
At the end of January, another provocative claim emerged: Iran was ready to unleash terrorism against the United States.
ABC World News (1/31/12) featured a blatantly propagandistic report on the Iranian threat. “America’s top spy warns that Iran is willing to launch a terrorist strike inside the U.S.,” announced anchor Diane Sawyer at the top of the program. “We’ll tell you his evidence.”
The ABC report was actually very light on evidence, but heavy on incendiary allegations from government officials—without the skeptical scrutiny that should be journalism’s primary function. The report was pegged to that day’s Senate testimony by James Clapper, director of national intelligence, who told lawmakers that the U.S. intelligence community believes that Iran may be “now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime.”
Sawyer amplified Clapper’s allegation by setting up the report with the assertion that Iran is “more determined than ever to launch an attack on U.S. soil.” Correspondent Martha Raddatz, claiming that the “the saber-rattling coming from Iran has been constant,” told viewers that Clapper delivered “a new bracing warning…. Iran may be more ready than ever to launch terror attacks inside the United States.”