By Daniel Margrain
In this article I will argue that the corporate mainstream media uncritically promulgate regime change narratives in the middle east that coincide with the interests of Western imperial power whose latest goal is the removal of president Bashar- al-Assad from power. As with Iraq, this goal preceded the stated justifications which were retrofitted to an act of aggression.
In 2011, Time reporter, Rania Abouzeid, announced the March 4 and 5, “Day of Rage” against the Syrian president, which was intended as an invocation to the masses in Syria to rise up against their “brutal dictator”. However, the planned action ended up a complete failure.
At this stage, the empire pinned its hopes on the fact that the culmination of eight years of crippling U.S-led economic sanctions would be sufficient enough a catalyst for mass protests against the Assad government. However, the said sanctions had the reverse affect. On the March 29, 2011, tens of thousands of Syrians gathered at Central Bank Square in Damascus in support of their president.
Nevertheless, the pro-government rally was inaccurately portrayed in the Western media as an anti-government demonstration. The Guardian, for instance, reported the rally, not as a celebration, but as a “military crackdown [by the state] against civilians.”
A year later, on March 27, 2012, president Assad accepted in good faith the six-point Annan peace plan which was ostensibly intended to secure a diplomatic solution to end the growing violence in the country that escalated on March 17, 2011 in the Syrian-Jordanian town of Daraa.
The mainstream media collectively failed in their duty to report the fact the imperial powers reneged on their obligations. To my knowledge, not a single prominent journalist brought to the public’s attention that the U.S and its allies broke their “crystal-cut commitment” to stop aiding rebel fighters which was an integral part of the agreement between the respective parties.
The jihadists continued to rain shells down on the cities of Hama and Homs despite Syria’s commitment that it would abide by the terms of the ceasefire on the condition that the West stop arming the rebels.
That the Western imperial powers have shown no intention of reaching a genuine peaceful outcome to the regional mess they instigated, has never been the preferred media narrative. In Iraq, for example, the evidence that NATO did everything they could to obstruct a peaceful resolution in the country is overwhelming but, to my knowledge, has not been reported as such.
The same can be said of Libya. According to the text of UNSCR 1973, the aim was to facilitate dialogue between the various factions in the country. But this was rendered absurd by the subsequent rejection by the West of proposals put forward by the African Union.
So why wasn’t this reported?
A rare voice of dissent was Seumas Milne who observed:
“If stopping the killing had been the real aim, NATO states would have backed a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement, rather than repeatedly vetoing both.”
This is not a theoretical point. NATO flatly rejected all ceasefire and peace proposals in Libya and demanded that Gaddafi “step down” in much the same way they demanded it of Assad in Syria. The motives of the imperial powers and their proxies in the middle east are characterized as benign. But this is an illusion.
The fomenting of war and chaos in Iraq and Libya by the U.S and its allies, from which spawned al-Qaida and ISIS, are the same forces that are tearing Syria and, at the time of writing, Iran apart. Recent reports of widespread protests throughout the latter are the consequence of U.S economic sanctions of the kind used against Iraq and Syria. As journalist Nafeez Ahmed reported, the said protests were fomented by the U.S State Department.
Iran is being punished for fighting Western-backed jihadists and standing in the way of US-Israeli hegemony in the region. But it’s unlikely the public would be able to reach this conclusion by reading the so-called progressive liberal press.
The BBC Panorama documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, Channel 4 News, Up Close With the Rebels and The Caesar Torture Photos represent far more overt attempts at disorientating the public. The former, in particular, is arguably the greatest single piece of state-sanctioned propaganda to have been produced anywhere in the world.
By repeating the propaganda of Western governments, the media have consistently acted as stenographers. Examples include the Telegraph’s reaction to the Houla massacre of May 25, 2012 which cast Syria into the ‘civil war’ of the Wests making, and the widespread misrepresentation of the UN report into the Ghouta chemical attack of August 21, 2013.
One day after the attack, a Guardian editorial claimed there was not “much doubt” who was to blame for the incident, as it simultaneously assailed its readers with commentary on the West’s “responsibility to protect”.
Journalist Jonathan Freedland’s reaction in the Guardian to the alleged chemical attack on April 4, 2017 in the Syrian town of Khan Seikhoun, was a virtual carbon copy of the papers reaction to Ghouta almost four years previously.
Freedland wrote a day after the incident:
“We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.”
What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.
Freedland’s rush to judgement, was similarly adopted by George Monbiot. On Twitter (April 7, 2017) the writer claimed:
“We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.”
Three days later, media analysts Media Lens challenged Monbiot by citing the views of two former UN weapons inspectors, both of whom contradicted Monbiot’s assertion. “What do you know that Hans Blix and Scott Ritter don’t know?”, inquired the analysts. Monbiot failed to reply.
Corporate mainstream journalism is predicated on sustaining the illusion that ‘progressive’ writers fundamentally challenge the status quo. The reality is, if journalists in highly influential positions really posed a threat to established power, they wouldn’t be in the positions they are in.
As Upton Sinclair famously remarked:
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Thus, highly paid corporate journalists are akin to gatekeepers. Their role is to manipulate public opinion in the service of power rather than to fundamentally challenge it.
One of the key signs of a healthy democracy is the extent to which both the state and corporate media encourage a genuine diversity of opinions and the conditions for alternative narratives to flourish. On both counts, the mainstream corporate media have failed not only the Syrian’s but the people of Iraq, Libya and Iran.
The inability of corporate journalists to report truthfully, is indicative of a structural and systematic media bias. Its highly concentrated nature has resulted in a sustained narrative of misinformation, deceptions and outright lies.
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