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The media’s ‘fog facts’ on Iran

Fog facts? This is a description that attaches to facts that are apparently fogged out, unduly buried or consigned to the obscure section of a paper. In his book entitled Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin, Larry Beinhart describes how fog facts can cloud an otherwise relatively free press, obfuscating a fuller, more well-informed picture of political reality. In his conception, fog facts are a regular feature of the corporate mainstream media (MSM) and are qualitatively different from outright lies and distortions of disinformation, or sins of outright omission. Rather, fog facts obscure crucial facts by hiding them in the fine print, as it were. The contention here is that the MSM do in fact report on most things (that’s subject to debate, of course), but bury crucial points which serves to obscure the reality and impression presented to readers and viewers.

(See also Neil Clark’s Guardian commentary Silence of the Hawks, wherein he surveys the war hawk bloggers in his coverage of another tactic, that of deflection). Celebrity gossip, anyone?

Joshua Holland (AlterNet, 10 April 2007) offers a recent example of fog facts related to reporting about Iran, recognising them as “crucially important items that defy the dominant political narratives of the day” that are “reported and placed in the public record but buried deep down to die lonely deaths in stories below the fold on page B 27”. (See also Holland’s interview with Beinhart here).

Holland then hones in on the Iranian nuclear program as an example of how the media creates fog facts:

Yesterday, the AP ran a story about Iran’s nuclear program that was a perfect example of the phenomenon. Consider the opening four paragraphs …

NATANZ, Iran — Iran announced Monday that it has begun enriching uranium with 3,000 centrifuges, defiantly expanding a nuclear program that has drawn U.N. sanctions and condemnation from the West.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at a ceremony at the enrichment facility at Natanz that Iran was now capable of enriching nuclear fuel “on an industrial scale.”

Asked if Iran has begun injecting uranium gas into 3,000 centrifuges for enrichment, top nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani replied, “Yes.” He did not elaborate, but it was the first confirmation that Iran had installed the larger set of centrifuges after months of saying it intends to do so. Until now, Iran was only known to have 328 centrifuges operating.

Uranium enrichment can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material for a nuclear warhead. The United States and its allies accuse Iran of intending to produce weapons, a charge the country denies.

That’s followed by comments by a U.S. State Department spokesman and a White House official condemning Iran, a “no comment” from the IAEA, an inflammatory quote or two from a speech given by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a quote from Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations.

If you make it through all of that, you’ll eventually reach the 22nd paragraph, where you’ll unearth this pertinent little fact:

Experts say the Natanz plant needs between 50,000 to 60,000 centrifuges to consistently produce fuel for a reactor or build a warhead.

Yes, in the 22nd paragraph of the 28-graph story, we learn that the 3,000 centrifuges are one twentieth of the number experts say are needed to build a warhead! That, my friends, is a fog fact.

PS: I know it would be asking too much for these reports to mention a key aspect of the UN sanctions against Iran. The resolution authorizing them offers no cause that justifies them. There’s no sentence in there like, “whereas Iran is violating blah blah blah.” That’s because Iran — like all other signatories of the Non Proliferation Treaty — is guaranteed the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, and the process is the same until you stick the enriched uranium in a weapon.

I would go further. Iran not only does not pose an imminent nuclear threat, but there are no sound reasons for denying it nuclear capability even if it were for military rather than civil applications, notwithstanding the dangers of nuclear proliferation and my own opposition to nuclear weapons. But to prevent Iran from joining the nuclear club simply because it threatens Israel’s nuclear and military hegemony in the region is, of course, sheer hypocrisy to say the least. More focus ought to be applied on Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, and questions asked about its intentions and refusal to sign the NPT, now that it has finally, belatedly admitted it has nukes.

Related posts:
* Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh on Iran
* Iran, Israel, The Big Lie and The Real Threat
* Lest we forget who the warmongers are re Iran …
* Stopping the Neocon March to War with Iran
* Olmert’s Nuclear Gaffe
* Iran’s President Did Not Say “Israel must be wiped off the map”
* Iran, Israel and the UNSC: Press Picks
* Neocon Zionazis desperately seeking war with Iran
* The case for Iran
* Jonathan Cook: Israel, Iran and the BBC
* Uri Avnery: Who is Afraid of the Iranian Bomb?
* Israeli-US Strategy: Lebanon and Iran
* Nuclear Egypt?

5 comments on “The media’s ‘fog facts’ on Iran

  1. amre El-abyad
    17 April, 2007

    Very good Post. Actually, i do agree with the main point about biased anti-Iranian media that entail clear double standards when dealing with Iranian Nuclear programme while they totaly overlook the illeagal Israeli programe.

    Indeed it is disappointing for a world citizen like myself to understand the basis on which the international system legitamises the possession of Mass destruction arms by certain nations(including U.S and Russia) while it is denied to others! in a clear violation of the core values of U.N and the ideas of international equity and sovernigty upon which the idea of an “international community is based.

    But what i cant understand, is your tendency to mix up things in an unjustifiable way. For instance, you deleted a comment i left about the well documented and well acknowledged criminal role of Iran in the fall of Bahgdad and the instigation of sectarian strife in iraq as well as sponcering genocides and reconstruction of the Iraqui demograhic structure!

    Kind regards

  2. Jack
    17 April, 2007

    Hi Ann,

    Bernard Goldberg brought this out very clearly in his book “Arrogance.” He referenced a story that many people followed closely over here on Erica Pratt, a young black girl who was kidnapped and managed to free herself. The thing the media DIDN’T report was that there was a relevent tie in to drugs and familial involvement–basic ghetto stuff that would the MSM feared would feed into racial stereotypes. The problem was, that it had everything to do with the story itself but this didn’t fit with the needed promotion. The only one who really had the courage to face it head on was Bill O’Reilly for which he drew condescention and stinging criticism from the MSM elites.

    The setup for this whole issue was that just prior to this incident, there was a young white girl named Elizabeth Smart who had been kidnapped who gained widespread and intense media coverage. The black activist groups in this country (Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton’s and others’) had leveled an accusation against the media that “if it had been a black kid the coverage wouldn’t be near as grand.” Of course, opportunityed knocked as shortly thereafter black Erica Pratt was kidnapped giving the media elites an opportunity to absolve itself of guilt. In thier effort to cleanse themselves of supposed racial bias they reported fog facts. Facts reported in such a way that the real story was left untold.

    I trust the media as much as I do the government.


  3. Pingback: The Echo Chamber « Forever Under Construction

  4. Curtis
    21 April, 2007

    Uncharmingly typical of the “fair and balanced” press. I couldn’t agree more with your analysis, as I’m sure you’re aware.

    Amre: I cannot speak to the role of Iran in sponsoring genocide in Iraq, but I can produce plenty of evidence of US involvement in the same, particularly in the 1980s, when the US government was, as you must be well aware, nothing less than enthusiastically supportive of the Hussein-style genocide and warmongering which it now characteristically takes the credit for having ended.

    Best wishes in your work, Ann…we know you’re working on bigger and better things. :-) Do let us have a peek at some point!! Cheers.

  5. Pingback: Compliant Press, etc. « Forever Under Construction

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