Credibility of the US Media

When it comes to important world news, the people of the US can count on their media to provide accurate information, right?

Just yesterday the Washington Post reported that Japan had finally agreed to accept a US relocation plan for its huge military base on Okinawa Island, after months of controversy and Japanese resistance to the plan. But later the same day, with more than 100,000 Japanese demonstrating in the streets against the US base, the Japanese premier announced exactly the opposite–”that the US plan has been all but scrapped, adding that it is “regrettable that such a report was published ahead of an important rally.”

Indeed. It boggles the mind that a flagship US newspaper could get a major story so wrong. Not just off by a little bit, but exactly opposite to the actual truth. And timed, cynically, to coincide with a huge demonstration against the base.

The question is: How often does this happen? How often does the US media get the story wrong? The answer is that, when it comes to world news issues, the US media is streaming non-stop disinformation. And has been for a long time.

The most notorious example of course is the non-existent weapons of mass destruction, which the US media hyped endlessly prior to the Iraq invasion seven years ago. Almost no one in the mainstream media questioned this obvious hoax, other than internet commentators, including this writer.

What happened next was that more than one million innocent men, women and children paid with their lives. For what? A Giant Lie about weapons that never existed?

When it became obvious that the whole thing was a lie, the media just shrugged it off and continued with business as usual, turning its sights on Iran as the next “threat.”

Now I suppose readers of the US media don’t mind being fibbed to–”since nobody seems to be raising a fuss. But we have to remember that the media is not just a bystander, it is an active player in world events. Would the US invasion of Iraq have been politically possible had the media not turned public opinion in favour of such action?

Certainly not. Launching a major war requires at least some base of popular support. Maybe not a majority, but a solid segment of public opinion nonetheless. That is what the media WMD disinformation campaign was able to deliver to President Bush in 2003.

And if we look at the news coverage of major international stories since then, we see a continuing pattern of falsification by the US media. Here is just a small selection.

A major ongoing news story has been Iran and its supposed drive to acquire nuclear weapons. For months news headlines have been dominated by the US and European push for sanctions against Iran. The stumbling block has been Russian and Chinese resistance, two permanent members of the UN Security Council, whose approval is required if sanctions are to be legitimate and not an act of aggression imposed unilaterally by the West.

For several years now headlines have appeared stating that either the Russians or Chinese, or both, have finally come on board with sanctions. For example, a headline in the London Times of September 24, 2009 stated that “Obama wins Russia’s Support for Iran Sanctions…”

Of course, no such Russian support ever materialized. The proof is that here we are nine months later and still no sanctions. A Google search shows literally dozens of similar headlines over the last three years. Each time, Russian and Chinese support for sanctions is just around the corner.

Just last month a diplomatic push by Obama resulted in a slew of news stories trumpeting a landmark shift in China’s position. For example, on March 31, 2009, the British Guardian newspaper ran this headline: “China supports Barack Obama’s call for new Iran Sanctions.”

The American magazine Newsweek ran this story on the same day: “It’s official, China has joined the club of six world powers pursuing a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran, closing the last remaining gap among the five countries with veto power on the UN Security Council.”

But less than two weeks later, the April 12 Los Angeles Times headline sheepishly admitted: “China Unmoved on Iran Sanctions: The Chinese government says it hasn’t changed its approach to sanctions against Tehran, following White House talk of cooperation.”

The picture that emerges is clear. On what is arguably the most sensitive world political issue of the day, there is serial misrepresentation of the facts by the US and European media. How can anyone take this kind of “news reporting” seriously? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

And how is it that the World’s so-called democracies, who have hoisted themselves up on a holier-than-thou pedestal and continually lecture the rest of the world about rule of law and a free press and other such high-sounding concepts, in fact have a media that is, at the very least, failing miserably in presenting accurate and truthful information to their public–”and at worst, participating eagerly in mass propaganda and disinformation directed and orchestrated by the political leadership to drum up public support for war.

A blatant example of this was an American television interview with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year. In the interview American journalist Katie Couric asked the Iranian leader why his country was in violation of International Atomic Energy Agency rules? Mr. Ahmedinejad replied that this was not the case and challenged Ms. Couric, who had dramatically waved a bunch of documents in her hand while asking the question, to show any statement by the IAEA that supported this claim. Ms. Couric, obviously caught in a lie, replied that she did not have such documents with her at the moment, but that her news program would “surely” deliver those at a later date.

Well we are still waiting. And we will continue to wait because such documents from the IAEA do not, and did not ever exist. This “fact” stated by a prominent American journalist was pure fabrication, a fiction, a lie. I decided to post this question to Ms. Couric on her CBS blog, explaining that as a viewer of what is purported to be a news program, I felt that I, and the other viewers, were entitled to a resolution of this question. Since she assured Mr. Ahmedinejad–”and the millions of viewers watching the interview–”that those documents would be forthcoming, she has an ethical obligation to either produce the documents or issue a clarification.

She has done neither to date. So it goes in the “free” and “independent” media of the West. A “journalist” can make any kind of misstatement of fact and feels no compunction whatsoever to her readers and viewers to correct the false and misleading information.

And that is just one issue. If we look quickly at some other prominent world issues we see the exact same pattern of serial disinformation. Earlier this year the presidential election in Ukraine was a major news story. The Western media heavily supported Yulia Timoshenko, while disparaging the frontrunner and pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovich.

After the first-round of voting, which Mr. Yanukovich won by more than 10 percentage points, the US and European media unanimously predicted that Ms. Timoshenko would nevertheless win in the runoff. Naturally this did not happen and Mr. Yanukovich won easily, if not resoundingly. The US media had once again turned wishful thinking into news.

In 2008, when Georgian strongman Mikheil Saakashvili launched an unprovoked attack against the separatist province of South Ossetia, triggering a Russian military response, the US and European media screamed “Russian Aggression.” Months later an EU investigation concluded that Saakasvhili had indeed started the war. Oops. Another WMD moment for the US and European media.

In 2007 when the Serbian province of Kosovo declared independence, the US and European media assured Western readers for months that the Russians and Chinese would legitimize this move by supporting it in the UN Security Council. But when the UN moment arrived, the US did not even bother drafting a resolution because both the Chinese and Russians firmly reiterated that they would veto such a resolution, as they had been saying all along.

Oops yet again. This is just a minor sampling. From Iraqi WMDs, to Iran sanctions to the Okinawa base, and just about every major international political story in between, the US and European media are spinning pure fantasy. A serial pattern of misrepresentation of the facts.

One has to ask, what about the people’s right to know the truth? Can there be a democracy if the people are not given truthful information on which to base their opinion? Or does democracy mean that a powerful media can serve the aggressive agenda of an imperial Washington and manipulate public opinion in order to launch one war of conquest after another?