Objectivity in Independent
Independent or progressive versus corporate or monopoly media, is there any difference? Without any doubt, no honest observer of both media can deny that the progressive media is a revolution in an ocean of controlled information, a solid reference for informed research, and a source of critical analyses. Despite the present writers’ vote of confidence for the progressive media, the fact remains that sometimes the distinction between balanced and objective reporting versus structured, opinionated reporting is unclear. When this blurred distinction occurs, the designation of “progressive” becomes irrelevant, as from that point on the intent to spread disinformation sets in despite protestations to the contrary.
Viewed from the corporate media perspective, disinformation is now the weapon of choice for imperialist circles and think tanks. Not only is this weapon effective at penetrating the minds of millions, it also sets in motion debilitating effects at myriad levels of discussion in the post-9/11 world -- thereby, reducing genuine attempts at understanding the facts to a narration of unsubstantiated views, specifically designed to perpetuate a status quo of ignorance.
One can notice this phenomenon by reading corporate media reports surrounding the prelude to the premeditated aggression and subsequent imperialist occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Although the level of disinformation prior to the wars launched by U.S. President George W. Bush was blatantly manifest, no strong countercurrents emerged to halt its flow or potency. Take the war on Iraq as an example: weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) did not exist, the Niger yellow cake contract was a crude fraud, the aluminum tubes were wholly unsuitable for use in a nuclear weapons program, and the purported mobile biochemical labs that Powell vociferously brayed about, were only for the launching of weather balloons.
Yet, despite all the valid and readily available information that the progressive media published widely, the U.S. corporate media did not reverse its premeditated course in supporting Bush’s invasions. On the contrary, it intensified the level of disinformation confining past debacles to the memory hole and extending old boundaries for greater ideological control in the ongoing wars of imperialism.
This state of affairs is not an exclusive trait of American corporate media. It is has become almost universal pervading the media in Canada, Britain, Italy, Russia, China, Japan, the Middle East, and elsewhere. A lucid example of this comes from the junior British partner in the invasion of Iraq. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s assertion that Iraq could launch WMD at the United Kingdom within 45 minutes did not meet serious refutation by independent scientists and analysts, despite its technical absurdity. A beleaguered Iraq never had such a sophisticated capability, not even before the initial phase of the Persian Gulf Slaughter in 1991 that had destroyed Iraq’s modest military infrastructure and potential capabilities.
Not only that, but before the aggression to occupy Iraq in 2003, the British corporate media (supposedly freer than its American counterpart) did not bother to dwell extensively on the fact that her majesty’s M-16 intelligence agency dossier was plagiarized from an Iraqi student’s doctoral dissertation to build Blair’s deceitful case for war. As a result, this important information floated, seldom seriously disputed or used to derail the war machine. Surprisingly, none of the postwar revelations that contradicted the government’s case (and logically should have toppled the government of Blair) generated sufficient indignation to cause political upheaval or course reversal. The system, abetted by the Hutton inquiry’s whitewash of government disinformation, accepted the government’s justification that there had been an “error in judgment.”
The disinformation surrounding the official casus belli (alleged Iraq’s illegal possession of WMD in contravention of U.N. resolutions) to invade Iraq was so blatantly criminal, that it helped spur participants at the summer 2004 Halifax International Symposium on Media and Disinformation to unanimously approve a declaration stating disinformation to be a crime against humanity.
Consequently, since disseminating disinformation appears to be an immutable practice within the corporate media, and given the timeworn maxim that “truth is the first casualty of war,” one wonders then as to the situation inside the progressive or independent media.
To investigate this situation and to dispense with misleading generalizations, the present authors teamed up to present a critical view on the matter by studying just one case: the case of PINR (Power and Interest News Report) using the correspondence between one of the authors and PINR’s Erich Marquardt as an illustration.
For present purposes, it essential to recall the racist mindset engendered by 9/11, the ground for which was laid in the early 1990s when a plethora of U.S. publications built the case for confrontation between the U.S. and the Muslim and Arab Worlds. The central point of that confrontation took its rational from a fabricated cultural and structural incompatibility between what American ideologues of empire call, “Judeo-Christian American civilization” and the mainly Arab and Islamic civilizations; hence, the predicted inevitable physical clash between them. Two Zionists thinkers spearheaded the construction of the anti-Arab and anti-Islamic hostility paradigm: Samuel Huntington and Walter Laquer. While Laquer devoted his mental energies to identify Islam with fascism, Huntington propounded what has become a classic ideological manifesto of U.S. Zionism: “The Clash of Civilizations.”
Under Bush’s reign, the U.S. seized upon the “civilizational clash” as a means to redefine the essence and boundaries of a reinvigorated American Empire supported by an unopposed military hyperpower -- a milestone in world history. This imperialistically motivated selection generated a steady stream of debate on the nature, actions, and purpose of the American Empire, and created an unusual camp of so-called progressive intellectuals who, while appearing to embrace a rationalist critique of imperialism, are heavily opinionated, and effectively behave as apologists and proselytizers of imperialist policies.
Because the U.S. government and corporate media categorically attributed 9/11 to Arab-Islamic fundamentalists, the U.S. mobilized its resources and war machine to buttress its contention regardless of evidence. Consequent to this position, the discussions on the collective culpability of the Islamic civilization, Islamic nations, and the Arab nations moved along preordained ideological fault lines, and kept advancing forward by cultural and political forces that have a lot to gain from truncated or faulty analyses and conclusions that facts or logic does not substantiate.
As a result, most of the arguments on 9/11, the Arabs, and the invasion of Iraq lost their intended objectivity and became sterile as much as dogmatic. The outcome: the point was reached where the acceptance, rejection, skepticism, or deferral of verdict on the culpability for 9/11 was subject to myriad objective and subjective conditions.
But the issue of culpability is not such a fundamental issue; either way, imperialism has its own agenda. The fundamental issue is the political abuse of 9/11. Therefore, since the dogma of the culpability of Islamic and Arab nations, vis-à-vis 9/11 is irrelevant to imperialism and serves only as a pretext for it, one must recall certain significant historical precedents whereby the intentional and methodical application of dogmas brought about horrific human calamities.
Thousands of European Jewish converts, whose ancestors never inhabited Palestine, paid with their lives for the Christian dogma that the ancient Hebrews ordered the crucifixion of Jesus. In the age of western exploration and early colonialism, countless humans -- shackled by slavery and exploitation -- paid with their lives for the western dogma that considered them inferior and deserving of European domination. During the colonization of the Americas, settlers with the blessing of the Papal Bulls (which held the non-Christian natives to be less-than-human savages) exterminated millions of indigenous peoples in bloody genocidal wars. During WWII, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the internment of Japanese-Americans (but not German-Americans) based on the prejudice that these non-White people constituted a fifth column on U.S. soil. During WWII, racist Nazi ideology systematized the killing of countless Jews, communists, Romany, and other targeted groups.
The macabre Jurassic mentality of Bush has so far led to the slaughter of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, while more are still dying in Afghanistan and in Iraq, because U.S. Zionist and imperialist quarters propounded a new dogma called “Islamic terrorism.” The imperialist aggression unleashed by the U.S. and the West is not exclusive to the Muslim World — Haitians, Columbians, Venezuelans, and people elsewhere in Latin America are languishing under the jackboot of U.S. imperialism.
Similar to the co-optation of formerly left-oriented political parties by right-wing counterparts, is the shift in ideological allegiance of formerly liberal writers. Therefore, despite the positioning of media on the political-ideological spectrum, media consumers must regard information with a requisite skepticism. This, of course, applies to information emanating from progressive or independent media camp.
Within the progressive or independent media camp are some views that the present authors definitely consider unrepresentative of progressive thought. In fact, a close examination of some of these writings reveals ways of thinking and conclusions contrary to progressivism: (1) critical analytical validity is lacking, (2) tends to be biased and superficial in content and elaboration, and (3), unsurprisingly, it produces conclusions conforming to biased ideological tenets.
Consequently, discussing 9/11 in a rational manner requires the employment of incisive analytical tools to uncover political and ideological manipulation in the political discourse. Emphatically, when manipulation corrupts reporting, it is irrelevant whether progressive or corporate media originated it.
Therefore, the present authors believe that for progressive media to be a vehicle for radical change, it must possess essential qualifications including the struggle against the ideological agenda of imperialism, colonialism, racism, civilizational supremacy, wars (except for legitimate self-defense under the U.N. charter), and support for social progressivism. Nothing short of this agenda is progressive. This is especially true at a time when the media of corporate globalization and imperialism is actively committed to the project of a solitary hyper-empire, clash of civilizations, and a regressive social agenda.
The subject of this article is a media that vacillates and filtrates within whimsical parameters of information and debate, and that proposes to end critical discussions based on opinions mingled with philosophical fallacies. This case deals with the verifiable compliance of some outlets of the alternative press in serving as a mouthpiece of an imperialist corporate government that spawned, within the space of just one Bush presidential term, the eradication of tens-of-thousands of human lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Marquardt is a senior PINR analyst who seemingly tends toward balanced analysis, in that, extreme analyses could be confrontational thus challenging their purported objectivity. His writing reveals knowledge of current politics that spans many geographic locations. Yet, he offers an archetype of a progressive-rooted writer who (1) seems unable to decide where to go with his analyses, (2) requires competent analytical tools to deal with complex matters, and (3) lacks comprehensive preparation to be an unbiased analyst.
Yet, with all manipulation that he incorporates in his writings, and all his dead-end conclusions, Marquardt offers his analysis as the sum of impeccable political-philosophical reflection of the reality as he sees it. But the problems that Marquardt raises do not end with his writings; they extend to his correspondence where, instead of elucidating on topics that he discussed without respect to the reality that he supposedly embraces, he slides into specious counter-arguments that force the present authors to address his replies in a wider context.
Some background is in order. PINR is a web publication that grew out of YellowTimes.org. Marquardt was formerly the editor and publisher of YellowTimes.org, which states that it
was created … with the goal of opening another window onto the world … pointed in such a way as to offer our readers a perspective that cannot be offered by those media organizations whose primary role is to defend the status quo. The dominant view in any culture will always be skewed to reinforce the values, and traditions, of that particular culture. This dominant viewpoint also reinforces the myths, distortions, and illogical constructions necessary to shield the status quo against inevitable forces for change. The power of the press has historically been enlisted to support and excuse rulers whose monetary or military might makes them “right” in all matters of public discourse.
Relevant to the present writers’ position regarding Marquardt’s political analyses is the slogan that adorns the PINR website: “The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an analysis-based publication that seeks to, as objectively as possible, provide insight into various conflicts, regions and points of interest around the globe. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader” is just a slogan. And a slogan will always remain just that -- a slogan.
Straining claims to objectivity is PINR’s trumpeting of Marquardt’s work as having been used by the U.S. Army’s Counter-Terrorism training division. Based on some of his writings, Marquardt provides a questionable “insight into various conflicts, regions and points of interest around the globe.” Furthermore, his transparent ideological bias leads him to incorporate fallacies and insinuations in his writings that preempt rational as well as moral judgments by the informed reader.
Part two deals with how Marquardt views the world: “what you see is what exists.”
Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: email@example.com. B. J. Sabri is an Iraqi-American antiwar activist. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen
* The Never
* The Progressive Paradox: Defining Viability
* The Shame
* The Wrong Direction
* The Pornography of War
* The Fairy
Tale of Liberation
Other Articles by B. J. Sabri
Failure of Occupation, Pt 7