December 06, 2010

Why the US mainstream media cannot be trusted

Gareth Porter uses the latest WikiLeaks release to illustrate how the New York Times and the Washington Post lie to their readers by omission, carefully editing their stories to reflect the views of the government.

A diplomatic cable from last February released by Wikileaks provides a detailed account of how Russian specialists on the Iranian ballistic missile program refuted the U.S. suggestion that Iran has missiles that could target European capitals or intends to develop such a capability.

In fact, the Russians challenged the very existence of the mystery missile the U.S. claims Iran acquired from North Korea.

But readers of the two leading U.S. newspapers never learned those key facts about the document.

The New York Times and Washington Post reported only that the United States believed Iran had acquired such missiles - supposedly called the BM-25 - from North Korea. Neither newspaper reported the detailed Russian refutation of the U.S. view on the issue or the lack of hard evidence for the BM-25 from the U.S. side.

The Times, which had obtained the diplomatic cables not from Wikileaks but from The Guardian, according to a Washington Post story Monday, did not publish the text of the cable.

The Times story said the newspaper had made the decision not to publish "at the request of the Obama administration". That meant that its readers could not compare the highly-distorted account of the document in the Times story against the original document without searching the Wikileaks website.

NPR is only marginally less obsequious to US government interests. As Paul Craig Roberts writes,

On November 29, National Public Radio emphasized that the cables showed that Iran was isolated even in the Muslim world, making it easier for the Israelis and Americans to attack. The leaked cables reveal that the president of Egypt, an American puppet, hates Iran, and the Saudi Arabian government has been long urging the US government to attack Iran. In other words, Iran is so dangerous to the world that even its co-religionists want Iran wiped off the face of the earth.

NPR presented several nonobjective "Iranian experts" who denigrated Iran and its leadership and declared that the US government, by resisting its Middle Eastern allies' calls for bombing Iran, was the moderate in the picture. The fact that President George W. Bush declared Iran to be a member of "the axis of evil" and threatened repeatedly to attack Iran, and that President Obama has continued the threats--Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has just reiterated that the US hasn't taken the attack option off the table--are not regarded by American "Iran experts" as indications of anything other than American moderation.

Somehow it did not come across in the NPR newscast that it is not Iran but Israel that routinely slaughters civilians in Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank, and that it is not Iran but the US and its NATO mercenaries who slaughter civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yeman, and Pakistan.

Iran has not invaded any of its neighbors, but the Americans are invading countries half way around the globe.

Notice that the items in the cables that have received the most publicity is how some Arab leaders want Iran to be bombed. The media spotlight this because this continues the demonizing of Iran, which is a key policy objective of the US and Israel and helps prepare the groundwork for a potential attack on Iran. They also act as if the views of these leaders are also the views of the people in those nations. Noam Chomsky, appearing on Democracy Now!, gives the unreported other side of the story:

[T]he main significance of the cables that have been released so far is what they tell us about Western leadership. So, Hillary Clinton and Binyamin Netanyahu surely know of the careful polls of Arab public opinion. The Brookings Institute just a few months ago released extensive polls of what Arabs think about Iran. And the results are rather striking. They show that Arab opinion does—holds that the major threat in the region is Israel, that’s 80 percent; the second major threat is the United States, that’s 77 percent. Iran is listed as a threat by 10 percent. With regard to nuclear weapons, rather remarkably, a majority, in fact, 57 percent, say that the region will be—it would have a positive effect in the region if Iran had nuclear weapons. Now, these are not small numbers. Eighty percent, 77 percent say that the U.S. and Israel are the major threat. Ten percent say that Iran is the major threat.

Surely the question of why the dictators of these Arab countries want the US to attack Iran in the face of wide opposition of their own people should be of some interest? But that is a discussion that you will rarely hear. But Roberts gives a possible explanation:

The "Iranian experts" treated the Saudi and Egyptian rulers' hatred of Iran as a vindication of the US and Israeli governments' demonization of Iran. Not a single "Iranian expert" was capable of pointing out that the tyrants who rule Egypt and Saudi Arabia fear Iran because the Iranian government represents the interests of Muslims, and the Saudi and Egyptian governments represent the interests of the Americans.

Think what it must feel like to be a tyrant suppressing the aspirations of your own people in order to serve the hegemony of a foreign country, while a nearby Muslim government strives to protect its people's independence from foreign hegemony.

Undoubtedly, the tyrants become very anxious. What if their oppressed subjects get ideas? Little wonder the Saudis and Egyptian rulers want the Americans to eliminate the independent-minded country that is a bad example for Egyptian and Saudi subjects.

Pause for a moment and reflect. The government of Iran is by no means an admirable one. It has many, many serious defects. But the US and Israel would be very pleased if it were replaced by dictators like those in Saudi Arabia, a proud US ally, but a country whose rulers are far worse than Iran's in almost every respect.

This is why anyone who really seeks to be informed has to find sources beyond the ones that are not mainstream ones. In a future post, I will try and provide a list of the sources I use that some readers might find helpful.


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Shalom Mano,

I'm beginning to wonder if Wikileaks will be the end of the Obama administration.

What troubles me most is not that a president I voted for may be headed out the door, but rather that I can no longer lament that the alternative is many times worse.



Posted by Jeff Hess on December 6, 2010 12:07 PM