Scaremongering Against Muslims,

The Importance of Reading, and Media Titillation

by Kim Petersen

Dissident Voice
October 27, 2003


It was another unmemorable edition of the New York Times on 26 October 2003. The flagship of the US press industry gives credence to the relatively unpretentious US placing on the recently released “Second World Press Freedom Ranking” by Reporters sans frontières. Noteworthy is that the US and Israel both rank inversely at home and abroad. Domestically the US ranks 31st and Israel 44th among the 166 ranked countries; however, they plunge to rankings of 135th and 146th for behaviors beyond their borders. (1)


Mr. Friedman’s real motivation


Post-“Second World Press Freedom Ranking” the New York Times foreign affairs critic Thomas Friedman blathers on about how NATO should expand to include Egypt, Israel, and, of course, Israel.


NATO was originally formed as a collective bulwark to deter attack from the Soviet Union. Now that the Iron Curtain has fallen it begs the question: what is Mr. Friedman’s rationale for this expansion? Mr. Friedman asks instead: why not? Now that the Russian bear hibernates in the western alliance, Mr. Friedman, as if taking his cue from Washington’s neoconservatives, identifies the new threat from “the south -- the Middle East and Afghanistan.” (2) Great, more scaremongering of Muslims, just what the world needs.


It is edifying to read further the logic behind each proposed new members’ inclusion. According to Mr. Friedman, Iraq’s NATO military would serve as a “guardian of Iraqi democracy the way the Turkish Army does in modern Turkey.” Gee, Iraqi Kurds will probably feel as loath about such a military-backed democracy as the Kurds living in Turkey do.


Egypt can provide some much needed manpower to NATO. Egyptian and Iraqi ties with the west would also be deepened.


As for Israel:


You would want to bring Israel into NATO because it would make any peace process easier by giving Israelis a deeper sense of security. Also, if Egypt were in NATO, Israel would have to be as well to maintain the balance of power. But lastly, if Israelis and Palestinians can ever, one day, reach a peace accord, they will very likely need a credible multinational force to police it, and the only one I can think of is a U.S.-led NATO force. If Israel and Egypt were both in NATO, NATO peacekeepers would be much more acceptable to the Israeli public and to Palestinians.


Addressed is a need for Israeli security and unmentioned is the need for Palestinian security. How is a peace process supposed to be easier when the security need of the US-financed and militarily superior belligerents is addressed to the exclusion of the security need of the immiserated, largely defenseless people under occupation?


Second, Mr. Friedman proffers a tautology: by virtue of inviting Egypt, Israel should be invited. It seems that logic applies far more readily to extending an invitation to Palestine because Israel is to become a member. It would also apply to Syria, Lebanon, and a host of Middle Eastern countries.


Third, Mr. Friedman puts the blame for failure to reach a peace accord equally on Israelis and the Palestinians. This ignores the fact that Israel contravened the so-called “Oslo peace process” by increasing the number of settlements and separating the Palestinians into Bantustans. It is President Bush’s “man of peace,” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who declared Oslo to be dead. It is Mr. Sharon who denounced the recently reached “Geneva Accord” -- a peace deal reached with moderate Israelis and Palestinians -- and instead revealed his divisive blueprint for a behemoth of a wall encroaching deep into Occupied Palestine.


Noticeable by their omission from Mr. Friedman’s proposed expanded NATO membership are Jordan and Occupied Palestine. Now what could be behind the real motivation need for expansion to the apartheid state of Israel?


There is likeliest another motivation at play here. Each member country in NATO has agreed to treat an attack on any other member as an attack on itself, the most recent example being the condemnation by NATO of the terrorist 9-11 attack in the US. NATO membership would bestow upon Israel the right to invoke support from other members if it is hit by another suicide bombing.


Media Lament


In another article Frank Rich ignores his own backyard and catechizes Mr. Bush’s administration on its Iraq policy and timidity in facing the media heavyweights.


Mr. Rich begins:


In his now legendary interview last month with Brit Hume of Fox News, George W. Bush explained that he doesn't get his news from the news media -- not even Fox. “The best way to get the news is from objective sources,” the president said, laying down his utopian curriculum for Journalism 101. “And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.” (3)


This only captures a smidgeon of Mr. Bush’s admission. In fact, Mr. Bush only skims the headlines. “I rarely read the stories,” he confesses. Instead he relies on briefings “by people who have probably read the news themselves.” (4)


Historian Russell Buhite, in contemplating President Franklin Roosevelt’s performance at the Yalta Conference, conceded that it is impossible time-wise for a president to become fully informed of all matters requiring his attention. However, he added:


It is not sufficient to simply have experts along for consultation; in a rough situation the president himself must know the answers. To quote former Secretary of State Dean Rusk, “The principal negotiator must be much more than a mouthpiece for the sheets of paper put in front of him by a staff.” (5)


This has scary implications for Americans people considering their leader’s professed dislike of reading and his admitted reliance on staff for information.


Even Mr. Bush’s wife has a different take on the importance of reading. Ms. Bush avers, “The surest way to succeed in school and in life is to become a good reader. You have to read as much and as many books as you can.” (6)


One would deduce from this statement that Ms. Bush is a well-read source. But is she objective? Mr. Rich questions the sources from which Mr. Bush receives his information.


National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Chief of Staff Andrew Card are identified as the main sources for Mr. Bush. Then in what is unlikely to be construed as commensurate with the New York Times masthead, “All the news that fit to print,” Mr. Rich offers the following blurb from an episode of Oprah that panders more to titillation:


“No camera crews have ever been granted this much access to this national security adviser,” Oprah told her audience as she greeted her guest. A major scoop was not far behind. Is there anything you can tell us about the president that would surprise us? Oprah asked. Yes, Ms. Rice said, Mr. Bush is a very fast eater. “If you’re not careful,” she continued, “he’ll be on dessert and you’re still eating the salad.” (7)


Mr. Rich lamented the administration’s ducking of TV news programs like ABC’s Nightline and PBS’s Frontline to chat with Oprah Winfrey.


However, even these programs are problematic.


One guest, opposed to abortion, on Ted Koppel’s Nightline left an impression of misogyny with his unchallenged shocker that “‘we’ (implicitly men) shouldn’t ‘stand by with our hands in our pockets and watch, say, our wives kill our unborn children.’” (8)


Mr. Koppel also apparently slept through the WTO protests in Seattle. (9)


Wiley Hall III confessed to how easy it is for viewers to be fooled by the unbalanced tilt to conservative, elitist views presented on Nightline. (10)


This must seemingly come as a surprise to Mr. Koppel who once opined of the media: “We now communicate with everyone and say absolutely nothing.” (11)


The story doesn’t alter markedly for PBS and its Frontline. There is a litany of FAIR reports on biased PBS broadcasting. (12) Among these is Tom’s Journal, a platform for the demagoguery of Mr. Friedman on PBS’s News Hour.


Even Ms. Winfrey is not above propagandizing the Persian Gulf Slaughter. (13)


In the run-up to the 2000 presidential election, Ms. Winfrey allowed Americans a glimpse at the personal side of Mr. Bush including his recollection of how he used to be the “black sheep of the family.” To which he added, “Now that I’m running for president, of course, I'm not the black sheep of the family.” No, now that his compassionate conservatism has been revealed for the sham it was, he was rather, more clearly, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.


In the same interview Mr. Bush made another interesting comment. When asked if he cared what people thought of him, he quipped: “I care what 51 percent of the people think about me.” Well, we know today that Mr. Bush lost the popular vote with 47.9 percent to Al Gore’s 48.4 percent. (14)


Now the corporate media is in a state of dudgeon that the government it has served so unquestioningly deceives it with false form letters from the troops in Iraq, and shuts off access to the administration higher-ups as well as the fighting men and women themselves.


“Some troops even go so far as to say they’ve been ordered not to talk to V.I.P.’s because leaders are afraid of what they might say,” remarked Stars and Stripes’ Jon Anderson in an interview with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. (15)


The censorship goes so far as to preclude visual reality of what war is about. Images of dead Americans or their Stars and Stripes-draped caskets are banned.


This is all further media fodder that conforms beautifully to the propaganda model of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky: filtering out unwanted stories or marginalizing news stories that don’t fit the agenda of corporate America.


Kim Petersen lives in Nova Scotia and is a regular contributor to Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimpetersen@gyxi.dk


Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen

* Japan’s Dark Side

* Biometric Boondoggle: Canada Wastes Big Bucks to Bring “Civil Libertarian” Alan Dershowitz to Stump for National ID Cards

* Recalcitrance and Exasperation

* CBC and the Dearth of Political Issues

* Stretching Credulity

* Dispelling the Orwellian Spin: The Real Foreign Terrorists

* Salmon Propaganda

* The Broken Iron Rice Bowl

* China, Neoliberalism, and the WTO

* An Act of Cowardice that Must Surely be Unrivalled in History: Challenging the   Assumption of Valour

* The Buck Stops Here or Does It?

* US and Them

* Superpower in Suspended Animation

* Scarcely a Peep in Mainland China

* Verifying the Evidence

* Pulp Fiction at the New York Times: Fawning at the Feet of Mammon

* Hoodwinked?

* Canadian Predation in Africa





(1) Reporters without Borders, “Second World Press Freedom Ranking,” 2003: http://www.rsf.fr/article.php3?id_article=8247


(2) Thomas L. Friedman, “Expanding Club NATO,” New York Times, 26 October 2003: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/26/opinion/26FRIE.html?th


(3) Frank Rich, “Why Are We Back in Vietnam?” New York Times, 26 October 2003: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/26/arts/26RICH.html?th


(4) Carl Limbacher and NewsMax.com staff, “Why Bush Doesn't Read the Papers,” NewsMax.com, 23 September 2003: http://www.newsmax.com/archives/ic/2003/9/23/173118.shtml


(5) Russell D. Buhite, Decisions at Yalta: An Appraisal of Summit Diplomacy, (Scholarly Resources, 1986), p 133.


(6) Laura Bush, “Mrs. Bush Encourages Children to Practice Reading,” Education News, 4 September 2003: http://www.georgewbush.com/Education/Read.aspx?ID=2024


(7) Rich, ibid.


(8) Extra! Update, “Koppel’s ‘Tough Question’: Should Doctors Be Killed?” FAIR, February 1993: http://www.fair.org/extra/9402/koppel-abortion.html


(9) Action Alert, “WTO: The Whole World Is Watching-- Except Ted Koppel” 3 December 1999: http://www.fair.org/activism/wto-nightline.html


(10) Wiley Hall III, “Hot Air,” Urban Rhythms, March 20-26 2002: http://www.citypaper.com/2002-03-20/urban.html


(11) Clayland Waite, “Koppel, Ted: U.S. Broadcast Journalist,” The Museum of Broascast Communications:  www.museum.tv/archives/etv/K/htmlK/ koppelted/koppelted.htm


(12) FAIR’s Resources, “The Public Broadcasting System, FAIR, http://www.fair.org/media-outlets/pbs.html


(13) Fedwa Wazwaz, “Oprah Used Her Program to Propagandize for War,” St Paul Pioneer Press, 4 November 2002. Available at Common Dreams website: http://www.commondreams.org/views02/1104-04.htm


(14) UPI, Bush Gets Personal With Oprah,” NewsMax.com, 20 September 2000: www.newsmax.com/articles/?a=2000/9/19/164652


(15) Rich, ibid.




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