Creating people's geographies
The Jordan Times :: 28 September 2006
The Sept. 25 edition of Time magazine in the United States illustrates how the US news media are gearing up for a military attack on Iran. The headline over the cover-story interview with Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is “A Date With a Dangerous Mind”.
The big-type subhead calls him “the man whose swagger is stirring fears of war with the US”, and the second paragraph concludes: “Though pictures of the Iranian president often show him flashing a peace sign, his actions could well be leading the world closer to war.”
When the USA’s biggest newsweekly devotes five pages to scoping out a US air war against Iran, as Time did in the same issue, it’s yet another sign that the wheels of our nation’s war-spin machine are turning faster towards yet another unprovoked attack on another country.
Ahmadinejad has risen to the top of Washington’s — and American media’s — enemies list. Within the last 20 years that list has included Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, with each subjected to extensive vilification before the Pentagon launched a large-scale military attack.
Whenever the president of the United States decides to initiate or intensify a media blitz against a foreign leader, mainstream US news outlets have dependably stepped up the decibels and hysteria. But the administration can also call off the dogs of war by going silent about the evils of some foreign tyrant.
Today, while the human rights situation in Iran is reprehensible, the ongoing circumstances are far worse under many governments favoured by Washington. Here at home, media outlets should be untangling double standards instead of contributing to them. But so many reporters and pundits have internalised Washington’s geopolitical agendas that the mainline institutions of journalism continue to rot from within. That the rot goes largely unnoticed is testimony to how Orwellian “doublethink” has been normalised.
These are not issues of professionalism any more than concerns about public health are issues of medicine. The news media should be early warning systems that inform us before current events become unchangeable history. But when the media system undermines the free flow of information and prevents wide-ranging debate, what happens is a parody of democracy. That’s what occurred four years ago during the media buildup for the invasion of Iraq.
Now, warning signs are profuse: The Bush administration has Iran in the Pentagon’s sights. And the drive towards war, fuelled by double standards about nuclear development and human rights, is getting a big boost from US media coverage that portrays the president as reluctant to launch an attack on Iran.
Time magazine reports that “from the State Department to the White House to the highest reaches of the military command, there is a growing sense that a showdown with Iran … may be impossible to avoid”.
The same kind of media spin — assuming a sincere Bush desire to avoid war — was profuse in the months before the invasion of Iraq. The more that news outlets tell such fairy tales, the more they become part of the war machinery.
The paperback edition of the writer’s latest book, “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to
Death”, was published this summer in the United States and Britain. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.