SAEED NAQVI | 3 FEBRUARY, 2019
In imperial expeditions, the embedded media is part of the plot.
Tectonic shifts are taking in various parts of the globe which reach us only in biased, broad brushes. The key “Ws” of journalistic inquiry, What, When, Where, Who, Why, remain comprehensively unanswered. Stories like Brexit and the Trump Hunt in the US fall in a different category.
On Brexit, British newspapers, if not the electronic media, have persisted with fair debate, reporting diverse approaches represented by, say, The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph.
Of course, nothing veers too far outside the establishment format. One reason why Theresa May has been given a long rope to hobble from capital to capital indefinitely is the almighty fear that should she trip up, God forbid, fresh elections may become inevitable. These may bring into focus the ultimate ogre, “friend of Hugo Chavez”, Jeremy Corbyn, as Prime Minister. To postpone that epic battle, which will bring the people and the Establishment on opposite sides, Theresa May must play BREXIT for as long as possible.
The American melodrama is singularly lacking in balance which one sees in Britain. It is a Media Hunt of the President which is inviting a snarled response – not an edifying sequence.
The media in the US and Britain (I suppose, elsewhere in the West too) has one set of rules when it covers itself, the Anglo-Saxon world. Rules change radically when the focus is on the “other”, when the media covers the West’s imperial expeditions like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya etcetera – and now possibly Venezuela.
National Security Adviser John Bolton has been salivating on Venezuela for military action. In fact has been carrying a notebook for ships and frigates to be deployed.
Supposing military action takes place, how shall we ever know what is happening in Caracas, how many US missiles have taken position in neighbouring Colombia, what is the civilian response to the US invasion? This last one is likely to be the most intractable because your TV screens will be saturated with “Venezuelans” berating the “brutal dictatorships of Chavez and Maduro”. Who will report the resistance?
It is a persistent American dream to have invading US troops embraced as liberators by the local citizens.
The only time such propaganda nearly succeeded was when Saddam Hussain’s statue was pulled down in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. Author of the Iraq war, Vice President Dick Cheney, was eager to announce victory within three week of the invasion. The date chosen for this global address was April 9, 2003.
By way of choreography, Cheney’s address would be interspersed with the people in a state of high agitation pulling down the statue. When the expected jubilant, masses did not materialize, the Marines placed a lasso around the neck and pulled the statue down by a crane. To insert a celebratory touch into the proceedings an ingenious script was played out. Saddam’s crackdown on Shias in Najaf and Karbala in 1993 had caused hundreds of thousands of Shia refugees to seek shelter in a ghetto on the outskirts of Baghdad popularly known as Saddam city. The visceral hatred of Iraq’s Shias for Saddam Hussain was brought into play. These Shias, mostly followers of cleric Muqtada Sadr, were mobilized to come out in celebration. They came out abusing Saddam Hussein and beating his photographs with sandals. Cheney now had a powerful visual support to adorn his address. Listen to that address again. At key points he thanks “religious leaders”. It was in gratitude that Saddam city was renamed Sadr city.
The point is this. In imperial expeditions, the embedded media is part of the plot. Supposing this expedition is totally against your national interest but the slanted media coverage conditions your masses to a point of view which is in line with the imperial purpose, do you see the fix you are in?
Should the Venezuela story be placed on John Boltan’s preferred track, what access do we have to a narrative which integrates the perspectives of Caracas and Washington in the interest of balance? Or will those who have exhausted all of the Trump Presidency blaming Russia for interference in the 2016 elections be handed a carte blanche to invade sovereign nations in the name of American Exceptionalism?
Should events take a turn for the worse (chances are they will not because Russians and Chinese too may begin to grope for pressure points), how should we confront a situation in which judge, jury, executioner and the eventual informant is one and the same?
In this phase of imperialism so much of the load has had to be carried by the so called liberal, global media, it follows logically that the cost borne by liberalism must be considerable. Indeed, the media has taken a big hit. Its credibility has collapsed. Witness the mushroom growth of the alternative media.
During the Libyan operations, stories being put out by the traditional carriers – CNN and BBC – made no impression in the region. This is when the late king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, extended his hand of peace to Qatar despite adversarial relations. He needed the relatively more credible Al Jazeera channel to help sell the yarn of Qaddafi’s brutalities to advance the Libyan expedition which will incidentally remain etched on my mind for Hillary Clinton’s imperial assertion: “I came, I saw and he died”. Accompanying this visual was one of a screaming Qaddafi, being sodomized by a knife.
When wars take place, the first casualty always is the truth. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West has been involved in umpteen wars causing the media’s image to collapse. They often look like professional drum beaters and town criers, of course with notable exceptions.
The plummeting credibility of the liberal media has spawned the social media which checks the perfidies of a propagandist information order but also has inherent misleading imperfections of its own.