Media

The Politics of Fear

The same message is clear everywhere you look: be afraid, be very, very afraid. Whether it is about terrorism, jobs, or who to vote for, fear is a powerful weapon, economically and politically, in the hands of the ruling class. Fear is divisive, it is incapacitating, and ultimately immobilizes the working class and everyone struggling for social change.

The power of fear is that it shuts down. It shuts down debate, it shuts down dialogue, it shuts down meaningful action. Whether or not the fear is rational is largely irrelevant. Many people fear many things with very little, if any, rational explanation for the fear. According to a public survey, Iran was ranked as the biggest threat to world peace in the U.S. and Canada. Why? Iran hasn’t attacked another country since 1798. On the flip side, Iran has been attacked on many occasions by the U.S.-NATO alliance. The U.S. and Britain overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government in 1953 on behalf of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, BP’s predecessor, ushering in a reign of terror by a brutal monarch. The U.S. supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons to attack the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War, the very same weapons the U.S. illegally occupied and destroyed Iraq for allegedly possessing. In 1988, the U.S. Navy shot down a civilian airliner, Iran Air flight 655, killing all 290 people on board, while the plane was over Iranian territory, in Iranian airspace, traveling the plane’s standard flight path. There is no basis to any claim that Iran is a threat to world peace, but there is overwhelming evidence the U.S. and its allies are. (more…)

U.S. Media Condemns Iran’s “Aggression” in Intercepting U.S. Naval Ships — In Iranian Waters

U.S. Media Condemns Iran’s “Aggression” In Intercepting U.S. Naval Ships — In Iranian Waters

Even when the White House was saying they did not yet regard the Iranian conduct as an act of aggression, American journalists were insisting that it was.

News broke last night, hours before President Obama’s State of the Union address, that two U.S. Navy ships “in the Persian Gulf” were “seized” by Iran, and the 10 sailors on board were “arrested.” The Iranian government quickly said, and even the U.S. government itself seemed to acknowledge, that these ships had entered Iranian waters without permission, and were thus inside Iranian territory when detained. CNN’s Barbara Starr, as she always does, immediately went on-air with Wolf Blitzer to read what U.S. officials told her to say: “We are told that right now, what the U.S. thinks may have happened, is that one of these small boats experienced a mechanical problem . . . perhaps beginning to drift . . . it was at that point, the theory goes right now, that they drifted into Iranian territorial waters.”

It goes without saying that every country has the right to patrol and defend its territorial waters and to intercept other nations’ military boats that enter without permission. Indeed, the White House itself last night was clear that, in its view, this was “not a hostile act by Iran” and that Iran had given assurances that the sailors would be promptly released. And this morning they were released, exactly as Iran promised they would be, after Iran said it determined the trespassing was accidental and the U.S. apologized and promised no future transgressions.

Despite all of this, most U.S. news accounts last night quickly skimmed over – or outright ignored – the rather critical fact that the U.S. ships had “drifted into” Iranian waters. Instead, all sorts of TV news personalities and U.S. establishment figures puffed out their chest and instantly donned their Tough Warrior pose to proclaim that this was an act of aggression – virtually an act of war: not by the U.S., but by Iran. They had taken our sailors “hostage,” showing yet again how menacing and untrustworthy they are. Completely typical was this instant analysis from former Clinton and Bush Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller, now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:

[Isn’t it such a mystery – given “even-handed” diplomats like this – why the U.S. failed to facilitate an Israel/Palestine peace deal and is perceived around the world as hopelessly biased toward Israel?] Miller’s proclamation – issued when almost no facts were known – was immediately re-tweeted by New York Times columnist Nick Kristof to his 1.7 million followers [amazingly, when numerous people pointed out that Miller issued this inflammatory claim without any facts whatsoever, he lashed out at critics with the condescension and limitless projection typical of US establishment elites: “Twitter is an amazing vehicle: it allows instant and at times inaccurate analysis but always intemperate and ad hominem responses”; by “instant and at times inaccurate analysis,” he meant his critics, not his own fact-free claim]. Nick Kristof himself then added:

 

The truly imbecilic Joe Scarborough of MSNBC turned himself into an instant self-parody of a pseudo-tough-guy compensating for all sorts of inadequacies:

But, as usual, the most alarmist, jingoistic coverage came from the always-war-hungry CNN. For hours, they emphasized in the most alarmist of tones that the sailors had been picked up by the Revolutionary Guard which, in the words of Starr, is “one of the most aggressive elements of the military and national security apparatus in that country.” CNN host Erin Burnett intoned at the top of her prime-time show: “Next, breaking news: American sailors seized by Iran. The revolutionary guard arresting ten American sailors in the Persian Gulf.”

For hours, CNN anchors and guests all but declared war on Iran, insisting that this behavior demonstrated how aggressive and menacing they were, while warning that this could turn into another “hostage crisis.” Immediately after her opening headline-alarm, here is how Burnett “explained” the situation to CNN viewers:

Ten American navy sailors, nine men and one woman seized by Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf tonight. The Americans ran two boats, each equipped with three 50 caliber machine gun. Iran’s news agency announcing those sailors are under arrest. U.S. officials say the sailors were simply on a training mission traveling from Kuwait to Bahrain. It is a major embarrassment for the Obama administration coming just hours before the President will be here delivering his final State of the Union Address.

Notice what’s missing? The fact that the ships had entered Iranian waters. Instead, they were “simply on a training mission traveling from Kuwait to Bahrain” when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard “seized” them. That is Baghdad-Bob-level propaganda.

They then brought on CNN national security reporter Jim Sciutto. Throughout the show, Burnett kept implying that Iran did this on purpose to humiliate Obama and the U.S. during his State of the Union speech: “Iran is acutely aware of important events in American politics tonight,” she told Sciutto. Only then did Sciutto mention that the ships were in Iranian waters as he gently pointed out the blatantly irrational nature of her conspiracy theory: “Who could have predicted that you would have two U.S. small navy boats, one of which either had a mechanical problem or a navigational error that put it into Iran’s territorial waters?” He then added: “But you know, I don’t like the sound, it sounds like a cliché to say the timing, whether accidental or not couldn’t be worse.”

CNN then brought on its White House correspondent Jim Acosta to say: “this is sort of like an October surprise right before the State of the Union Address.” They then spoke to a former U.S. intelligence official who, citing Iran’s language, suggested that “what that means is that the Geneva Convention protections that are established by international law may not be invoked by the Iranians”: in other words, they may abuse and even torture the sailors. Former CIA operative Robert Baer warned viewers: “I’m not saying that’s going to happen but it could be another hostage crisis which would very much cloud this administration’s foreign policy in a very, very ugly way.” David Gergen warned that this was part of a broader trend showing Iranian aggression: “We have understood that with the nuclear agreement it not only would contain their nuclear program but they would start behaving themselves constructively. And that is exactly what they are not doing now.”

Over and over, CNN’s on-air personalities emphasized the Revolutionary Guard angle and barely acknowledged, or outright ignored, that the ships had entered Iranian waters. This was how Sciutto “reported” the event on Jake Tapper’s The Lead:

TAPPER: Jim, you have some new details on who precisely may be behind this?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is a key detail. Iran’s state Fars News Agency is reporting that the U.S. sailors were picked up by boats from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. This is very much tied to the hard-line camp in Iran, which has, in effect, its own military, including its own navy really in the Persian Gulf, which has contested U.S. ships before, U.S. aircraft carrier a couple of weeks ago.

To be clear, that is a hard line camp that is opposed to detente in effect with the U.S. and certainly opposed to the nuclear deal, which is meant to be implemented in the next several days. . . .

TAPPER: Obviously, we are praying for those ten sailors. Thank you so much, Jim Sciutto.

Just imagine what would happen if the situation had been reversed: if two Iranian naval ships had entered U.S. waters off the East Coast of the country without permission or notice. Wolf Blitzer would have declared war within minutes; Aaron David Miller would have sprained one his fingers madly tweeting about Iranian aggression and the need to show resolve; and Joe Scarborough would have videotaped himself throwing one of his Starbucks cups at a picture of the mullahs to show them that they cannot push America around and there “will be hell to pay.” And, needless to say, the U.S. government would have – quite rightly – detained the Iranian ships and the sailors aboard them to determine why they had entered U.S. waters (and had they released the Iranians less than 24 hours later, the U.S. media would have compared Obama to Neville Chamberlain).

But somehow, the U.S. media instantly converted the invasion by U.S. ships into Iranian waters into an act of aggression by Iran. That’s, in part, because the U.S. political and media establishment believes the world is owned by the United States (recall how the U.S., with a straight face, regularly condemned Iran for “interference” in Iraq even while the U.S. was occupying Iraq with 100,000 troops). Thus, the U.S. military has the absolute right to go anywhere it wants – even into Iranian waters – and it’s inherently an act of “aggression” for anyone else to resist. That was the clear premise of the bulk of the U.S. commentary last night.

But the media reaction last night is also explained by the fact their self-assigned role in life is to instantly defend their government and demonize any governments that defy it. Even when the White House was saying they did not yet regard the Iranian conduct as an act of aggression, American journalists were insisting that it was. The U.S. does not officially have state TV; it has something much better and more effective: journalists who are nominally independent, legally free to say what they want, who are voluntarily even more nationalistic and jingoistic and government-defending than U.S. government spokespeople themselves.
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Jason Kenney Falsely Claims Canada is “the only country in the world” to Eliminate its Deficit

From Press Progress

Canada’s Defence Minister Jason Kenney is gaining quite the reputation for saying things that later prove untrue!

This year, Kenney claimed a Canadian frigate was “buzzed by Russian fighter jets,” but NATO officials later said the plane was 128 km away. He also tweeted photos of women in chains to drum up support for Canadian military actions in the Middle East, but it turns out that was a religious ceremony, not ISIS.

Well, here’s another yarn to add to Kenney’s long list of tall tales.

According to local media, here’s what Kenney had to say last week campaigning for Montreal-area candidate Wiliam Moughrabi (whose controversial dating advice has also landed him in hot water):

« Le Canada était le dernier à entrer en récession lors de la crise économique en 2008 et le seul pays au monde à avoir éliminer le déficit »

Don’t speak French? Here’s how that translates:

“Canada was the last to enter into recession during the economic crisis in 2008 and the only country in the world to have eliminated its deficit.”

Is that really true? Is Canada really “the only country in the world” to eliminate its deficit?

According to OECD data, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, Korea, Iceland, Luxembourg, Estonia and Switzerland are all currently in surplus.

And following the 2008 economic crisis, China, Russia, Germany and Korea eliminated their deficits before Canada.

Norway, on the other hand, never went into deficit.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Budget Office projects Canada will not balance its budget this year and will instead end the year $1 billion in deficit.

Although the Conservatives’ obsession with balancing the budget is more symbolism than good economics – reducing spending when the economy is weak can do more harm than good.

Either way, Canada is on pace for its eighth deficit in a row under Harper’s Conservatives.

A Response to a Comment from “Jason”

Earlier this morning I received a comment on my article about the shooting in Paris from a user named Jason. In this comment this user said my article lacked substance, sounded like something from FOX News, and was total “bullshit”.

The shooting in Paris I do not believe to be a case of “murderers being murderers,” as I believe Jason described it. There are no isolated phenomenas in the world, all phenomenas are interconnected and interdependent, and this is clearly evident in the Paris shooting of the satirical magazine. Two French-born citizens of Algerian heritage – let me remind readers that Algeria suffered a devastating war of independence from France between 1954-1962 that killed 1.5 million and remains under the economic domination of France – returned from Syria, where these suspects received paramilitary training in Islamist camps with the support of the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Turkey, and Israel, and attacked a magazine that was virulently racist and xenophobic.

(more…)

The Modus Operandi of Imperialist Propaganda

From Global Research

Coming soon to a theater near you, a US imperialist propaganda blockbuster, the latest production from CIA Pictures, made in participation with Pentagon Entertainment, and with the collaboration of American Media Partners: Cyberwar North Korea.

Such an announcement would have been useful last week, to alert American public opinion to the impending avalanche of entirely unsubstantiated assertions by US government officials, rebroadcast uncritically by the major newspapers and television networks. The target of the blitz was North Korea, blamed for the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which led the studio to cancel the premiere of The Interview and withdraw the film from circulation.

Zero facts and evidence have been made public to support the claims of North Korean hacking. The isolated Stalinist regime was certainly hostile to the film, a comedy based on the premise that the CIA contracts two American journalists (played by James Franco and Seth Rogen), to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after he agrees to be interviewed by them.

But Pyongyang has vociferously denied any role in the hacking attack on Sony, and proposed Saturday to join the US government in an investigation of the attack’s origins, declaring, “Whoever is going to frame our country for a crime should present concrete evidence.” This offer was quickly dismissed by Washington, which has presented no evidence whatsoever.

The FBI issued a statement Friday declaring that it had enough information to conclude that North Korea was responsible for the hacking attack, but it gave no details. President Obama pinned the blame on North Korea at his press conference later that day, but cited only the FBI statement.

Since then, the US media, with very few exceptions, has routinely described the event as “the first major, state-sponsored destructive computer-network attacks on American soil” (New York Times) and “North Korea’s cyberattack on Sony Pictures” (Wall Street Journal). North Korean responsibility for the Sony attack is reported by the television networks as unquestioned fact.

It has been left to the Christian Science Monitor to cite cautionary statements from security experts in Silicon Valley, to the effect that the presence of Korean-language code in the malware and the use of servers in China and Taiwan are not unusual for hackers, who grab bits of code from multiple sources, in many languages, and use vulnerable servers wherever they can be found.

“The speed at which US officials identified North Korean involvement in the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack surprised many experts familiar with the enormous challenges of pinpointing the origins of cyberattacks,” the online newspaper reported.

Pyongyang denounced the Sony film as a provocation commissioned by Washington for the purpose of destabilizing the North Korean government, a claim that, as the WSWS noted Saturday, is substantially true.

In a remarkable interview with the New York Times, given just before the film’s withdrawal from circulation, co-director Seth Rogen confirmed that he made the film in collaboration with the military-intelligence apparatus. “Throughout this process, we made relationships with certain people who work in the government as consultants, who I’m convinced are in the CIA,” Rogen said.

The North Korea-Sony affair is just the latest example of the type of provocation regularly employed by American imperialism to manipulate public opinion, either in support of US military and foreign policy, or, as appears likely in the current case, when the military-intelligence apparatus wishes to distract public attention from the exposure of its own crimes (last week’s report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on CIA torture).

Five months ago, the US government and the US media declared with one voice that the Russian government, or separatists armed by them, shot down Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people. The claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin was the moral author of mass murder became the basis for a full-blast propaganda campaign. But the official investigation into the MH-17 disaster, conducted by the Netherlands, home of most of the victims, could produce no evidence of Russian involvement in shooting down the plane.

A year earlier, the US government and the US media waged a similar campaign against Syria, charging the government of President Bashar al-Assad with responsibility for an alleged nerve gas attack on US-backed “rebel” forces outside Damascus. The Obama administration declared that Assad had crossed a “red line” and ordered air strikes against Syria, only to pull back because of divisions among its allies, most notably in Britain, where parliament voted not to back such an attack. Months later, the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh uncovered evidence that the gas attack was staged by the “rebels” themselves to provide a pretext for US intervention.

These methods go on from administration to administration: Clinton used alleged atrocities in Kosovo as the pretext for bombing Serbia in 1999; Bush used bogus claims of “weapons of mass destruction” and ties to Al Qaeda as the pretext for the invasion of Iraq in 2003; Obama cited impending massacres in Benghazi as the pretext for the US-NATO bombing of Libya in 2011 and a CIA-backed Islamist uprising that culminated in the murder of Muammar Gaddafi.

There is a definite modus operandi at work. In each of these campaigns, the American government counts on the American media as a willing and entirely uncritical partner, pumping out propaganda to delude the American population. The technique is to demonize the leaders of the target countries, with Kim Jong-un only the latest in a long line, from Slobodan Milosevic to Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Assad and Putin.

Certain conclusions can be drawn. No one should believe anything that comes out of Washington, a cesspool of official lying and provocation and the principal organizer of military violence all over the world. And no one should believe anything simply because the entire American media repeats it, as there is no media so shamelessly uncritical of official lies as in the United States.