top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureMike Lyons

THE SCOURGE OF PROPAGANDA AND THE BLIGHT OF BIAS

Updated: Mar 4


Support for Military Action


Journalists have become biased in favour of a highly activist US foreign policy, with the media acting as lobbyists for military action and serving as “public relations” conduits for officials, obediently disseminating government propaganda. In times of war, there is even more pressure for reporters to serve as propagandists rather than journalists and to mobilise the public behind a common goal.  


In March 2003, the US together with its allies (the UK, Australia, and Poland) went to war against Iraq based on the narrative of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The media stood behind the invasion of Iraq, declaring the existence of WMD as “hard facts”. It led to the death of a million men, women and children and the ruined nation became a breeding place for fanatics which became known as “Islamic State”. Even after it turned out that the WMD did not exist, the media continued to support the US led military intervention to topple Saddam Hussein. The campaign to unseat Syria’s Bashar al-Assad followed a similar pattern with most media supporting regime change in Syria. The result was a slaughter which consumed 500,000 Syrian lives by 2021 and created more than 6 million refugees.[i]


After the attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001, America stepped up its attack against terrorism. When it was pointed out that American weapons were killing thousands of Afghan citizens, Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the charge saying “We did not start this war. Responsibility for every single casualty in this war, whether they are innocent Afghans or innocent Americans, rests at the feet of Al Qaeda and the Taliban”. The deaths of Afghan civilians were discounted as “collateral damage”[ii] However, in the case of Israel’s response to the Hamas attack on 7 October, this is called “genocide”.

During the Vietnam war there was little in the media about the suffering and death of Vietnamese citizens. Editors were expected to omit excessively grizzly shots “to shield the audience from the true horror of the war”. Nevertheless, reporting by the media in the West about the Russian war in Ukraine, could hardly be more graphic.


Trump and Russia-Collusion


The anti-Russia narrative led to allegations that Moscow had meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, to assist Donald Trump and there were accusations that Trump had colluded with the foreign “enemy”. The media not only treated the allegations seriously but assumed that they were true and enthusiastically pushed the “Trump is a Russian agent” theme. Ultimately this led to the appointment of special counsel, Robert Mueller to investigate. However, to the dismay of many, the Mueller investigation concluded that “The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government”. After that, the Attorney General William Barr declined to prosecute. The outcome of the Mueller enquiry did no favours for the reputation of the American news media. The US journalist Glenn Greenwald remarked that Mueller “Did not merely reject the Trump-Russia conspiracy theories. He obliterated them”. Mueller on whom the media and the Democrats had so heavily relied quickly disappeared from view.


Media Treatment


What began in March 2003 in Iraq and in February 2022 in Ukraine set off horrendous fear, anguish, pain and death in both of those countries. However the US responses regarding Iraq and Ukraine were worlds apart. Little was said about the suffering of the people in Iraq, but Americans were given to understand that the Ukrainian people were fully deserving of their sympathy, concern, and support. The Iraq invasion inflicted unimaginable violence but any suggestion that any US officials might be charged with war crimes was assumed to be outside the bounds of reasonable discussion. However, only days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, accusations of “war crimes” became common in the media.


The Biden Administration and the US media have worked themselves into a frenzy over a recent interview which Russian President Putin gave to American journalist, Tucker Carlson. However, Carlson accused Western media of misleading their viewers by promoting Ukraine’s stance while ignoring the position of Russia. Carlson argued that Americans “Have the right to know” all they can about a war in which they are implicated, adding that “Most Americans have no idea why Putin invaded Ukraine or what his goals are”.


Cluster Bombs


It was uncontroversial when the US military dropped cluster bombs in Afghanistan and the Pentagon fired cluster munitions on a large scale in Iraq. However, when Russia used cluster munitions during its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, American media put those “horrible” weapons into a glaring spotlight. Despite that, in July 2023, Biden approved the provision of cluster munitions to Ukraine because the US military had assessed that cluster munitions would be “useful” in Ukraine’s effort to push back the Russian forces. The media proved to be far more subdued.


Watchdog, NOT Lapdog


Greater independence and scepticism is essential for the media to play an effective role in society. Journalists should act as dispassionate observers, not salespeople for government policies. Unfortunately, they have failed in this mission more often than they have succeeded. In a democracy the media is critical in holding the government to account, but critics of the Iraq war concluded that the media frequently played the role of “lapdog” rather than “watchdog” and became an echo chamber in support of the government’s arguments.[iii] 


The madness which envelops much of the media could easily lead to the world stumbling into World War III.


Retaliation


At the end of January 2024, three US soldiers were killed and 40 others injured in a drone attack in Jordan. President Biden soon announced the start of the US response which would continue “at times and places of our choosing”. The US military struck more than 85 targets in Syria and Iraq. Biden said, “The US does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world.  Let all those who might seek to do us harm know this: If you harm an American, we will respond”. The Washington Post had published an article suggesting various possible responses, including the possibility of diplomacy, but diplomacy was quickly rejected.


In a comment section following the Washington Post article I wrote “The USA way is to reach for the gun. Instead Biden and the Washington elite might benefit by asking: What did JFK do in Cuba in 1962. What did Ronald Reagan do in discussions with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. And what did Nixon and Kissinger do when opening up to China in 1972. Sadly, America has forgotten the meaning of diplomacy. World War III is not a good option”. My comment was rejected by the Washington Post because “It did not conform with their guidelines”. So much for the media!

 

The Mainstream Media Can Contribute to the Solution


What is desperately needed is journalism which counters propaganda instead of being the agents of power. The overwhelming influence of the mainstream media is such that with a real and meaningful change of attitude and the courage to cleave independently to peace, not war, it can be a force for peace.


Instead of playing the role of mouthpiece and spewing propaganda, the media can and it should use its powerful voice and influence by thinking, speaking, and acting independently. Accurate information and knowledge provides power to society. If the great powers could no longer depend on the voice of the media, they would be muted and the drums of war might fall silent. Can the media find the courage?


I am told that this is naivety on my part. That may be true, but what is there to lose? If the media can be persuaded to edge in the direction of a voice for reason, that might conceivably be enough to move the Doomsday Clock back by 30 seconds from 90 seconds to 120 seconds from midnight!


"AUDI ALTERAM PARTEM" - HEAR THE OTHER SIDE!


________________________________

[i]  Unreliable Watchdog by Ted Carpenter 2023

[ii]  War Made Invisible by Norman Solomon 2023

[iii]  The Iraq War and Democratic Governance by J Betts and M Phythian 2021





31 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page