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Objectivity in Independent Media
Part 4: The Illusion of Objectivity
by Kim Petersen & B. J. Sabri
March 10, 2005

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* Read Part One
* Read Part Two
* Read Part Three



To investigate Power and Interest News Report (PINR)’s claim of objectivity, one of the present authors studied more of PINR’s subsequent publications. Conclusion: PINR has produced further examples of partial language despite its stern claim to objectivity. In the PINR of 7 October 2004, after noting that, “Jerusalem is basically a U.S. battleship in the Middle East, largely beholden to U.S. interests,” PINR wrote: 


This reality is what allows the United States to overlook its harsh measures when it confronts the terror tactics used by its rebellious Palestinian population, in addition to overlooking its settlements in the disputed territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights.


Sure, Israel is a “U.S. battleship,” but then the objectivity immediately goes down the drain with the phrase, “terror tactics used by its rebellious Palestinian population” and the phrase, “disputed territories of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights.” [italics added]


Again, PINR writer Erich Marquardt’s language is problematic because he uses the terminology of the occupier. Oren Lyons, Elder of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee (People Building a Long House), experienced first-hand the dynamics of occupation and language. He pointed to this relation with a masterful observation: “Empires are built on language. When we speak their languages, we come under their empire.” [“Spirituality, Equality, and Natural Law,” p 5-13, in Leroy Little Bear, Menno Boldt, & J. Anthony Long (Eds.), Pathways to Self-Determinism: Canadian Indians and the Canadian State (University of Toronto Press, 1985), p 7.]


On 7 October, Petersen emailed Marquardt a note where he stated, “If let stand, one cannot but conclude that the sentence … clearly indicates a soft peddling of Zionism.”   


In defense of their position, PINR responded, “Kim, this article was not even about Zionism or the Palestinians. The fact remains that each point in the statement in question is accurate. Regards, Erich Marquardt”


It is evident that Marquardt is either missing the point, or evading cogent discussion. For instance, how is it possible to discuss a topic as a component, but discard that same topic as a system? Figuratively, if the discussion is about an iceberg, why would one point to the tip, and dismiss the entire mass? On specific issues related to Israel, Palestine, the U.S., imperialism, and colonialism, how is possible to rely on selectivity, while pretending the totality is not an issue?


Moreover, since Marquardt’s selectivity preempts or limits any subsequent analytical validity because of narrowly chosen objectives, then, how did he reach the conclusion that “each point in the statement is accurate”? How can he establish accuracy, when elements leading to accuracy are missing? It appears that Marquardt considers his statements self-validating; but ideologically motivated statements clothed with assumed objectivity are not science experiments where two atoms of hydrogen mixed with one atom of oxygen under special conditions can generate water. If it is true that accuracy resides in a statement because the originator of the statement thinks so, then one must believe U.S. President George W. Bush when he states that he invaded Iraq to sow democracy.                


After discussing Marquardt’s response, the present authors decided that Petersen should challenge its core implication. On 11 October 2004, Petersen sent the following rebuttal:


Erich, You brought up the topic of Palestinians in the article and you used the Zionist terminology to label the occupations as “disputed territories.” That statement is pandering to Zionists and is shameful. You also attribute the loaded term “terrorism” of the occupied people, who have a right to resist, and do not use the term to describe the greater terrorism of the state against the occupied. If this is accurate journalism then ... kim


Marquardt replied the same day:


Kim, The fact is that Palestinians and the international community consider the Occupied Territories to be Palestinian, and the Israelis do not necessarily agree, considering their building of settlements on these territories. Therefore, there is a territorial dispute, hence, “disputed territories.” Terrorism is a military tactic and it is used by various Palestinian groups. There is nothing “good” or “bad” about that. It is warfare, and each party involved will use whichever tactic best suits their interests. In the case of the Palestinians, they consider that the best tactic that suits their interests is terror. This is not a “loaded” term. It is a geopolitical reality. Regards, Erich Marquardt


Marquardt’s reply is as puzzling as much as it is deceptive. First, he avoids the terminology in question, and second he refuses to state whether he considered the territory occupied or not. If he considers the territory occupied, then using the terminology of the occupier is a patent bias -- when duality of claims is present, then siding with the facts would indicate, of course, objectivity. But striving for neutrality when the facts are accepted facts is, in itself, a bias. However, siding with an aggressing party against the victims removes a publication from the pantheon of a progressive media.


Aside from that, Marquardt tactically skipped a fundamental aspect of the Palestinian issue, as if it were negligible. He ignored that the reality of Palestine and Israel today is a historical product of complex processes lasting since ever the British placed Palestine under their mandate, and allowed the Zionist Movement to establish a Jewish homeland on its soil. He also ignored that the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 was not a natural product of national development rather it was an arbitrary decision made by imperialist powers to serve their interests in the Middle East. More than that, he ignored the human dimension of that reality where Zionists abetted by European governments not only seized most of Palestine, annexed, but also colonized the remainder, as well as areas of neighboring states. The fact that one decides to view the present reality outside of its historical context is not only politically motivated but also intellectually dishonest.


If Marquardt believes that he is only an analyst of present realities, then there is a serious problem of historical method. He either presents the views of both sides to the conflict as equitably as possible, or abstains from analyzing realities that he cannot or does not want to understand. It could be that Marquardt only caters to readers predisposed for manipulation, yet, when confronted with informed readers, he goes on the counterattack bereft of convincing arguments. It appears that Marquardt is of a mentality that wants to be right at any cost; but in doing so, he only deepens his self-created irrationality.


Petersen, at that point, sent a reply to the previous PINR email:


Erich, You recite the facts correctly and interpret them incorrectly. If the Palestinians and the international community line up together and call it an occupation, and the culpable nation and its benefactor are alone in opposition, then, why do you use the language of the occupier? By your logic, anyone can invade and occupy a country and it becomes a disputed territory.


As for the second part, you did not address my query. Why do you use the term “terrorism” for Palestinians and not for Israelis? Are you denying that Israelis use terrorism? Is not firing missiles into civilian areas resulting in many civilian casualties terrorism? Terrorism is terrorism whichever side commits it. This is not meant to address whether terrorism can be justified or not. kim


Marquardt’s reply came that same day. He wrote:


Kim: “By your logic anyone can invade and occupy a country and it becomes a disputed territory.” -- Exactly correct. This is how territory has been made throughout history -- you invade, occupy, and settle.


Israeli actions can often be considered terrorism. Nevertheless, there is still an international distinction between directly targeting civilians and being unconcerned with collateral damage as a result of an attack on a military target. Whether or not that distinction is fair doesn’t change the fact that the distinction exists. Best Regards, Erich Marquardt


Because this reply is categorical and raises specific issues, the present authors decided to dissect in detail.


Marquardt’s expressed empiricism is only partially valid, and only as far as it concerns a moral judgment that he ostensibly claims to discard when reporting. This refers to his pointing to acts of violence directed by the occupied against the civilian component of the occupier. The distinction that he tried to employ is preposterous because, from an objective viewpoint, that component is fundamental to the occupier and the propelling force for its continuation.


In discarding the reality of the occupation and its multiple aspects, Marquardt shuffled the cards of analysis and dealt only the card where “most of the time what you see is what exists.” To add more obfuscation to reasoning, Marquardt went to the lectern and issued a patronizing caution as in: “as long as you open your eyes and do not let your sight be guided by personal biases.”


Logically, then in the subjective and purportedly fact-based analyses of PINR, the far end of cogency is when a party to a discussion uncritically discharges his responsibility from reaching limited conclusions, but implies that the reason for the debacle in the discussion is attributable to the closing of mind and eyes and to personal bias.     


It is true that invading, occupying, and settling had characterized most world societies throughout history. This was applicable only to a certain extent, and only to certain stages of history. Indeed, after WWI, conditions for accepting colonialism changed. Despite European colonialist rule in most of Asia and Africa, the revolt of colonized peoples had already began against European domination; thus any further invasion, occupation, or settlement by any group of people against another group of people and their lands has been met with armed resistance. The meaning of this is that from that point of history on, Mongolian-type invasions had become anti-historical; British-type or Russian-type occupations had become unacceptable; and French-type settlement as in Algeria could generate armed resistance.


The core of this argument is that: (1) from the viewpoint of natural law, encroachment by anyone at the expense of anyone else will always be naturally unlawful and always resisted by the aggressed party, and (2) the action of resistance would persist despite the unbalance of forces until restoration of lost rights or mutual accommodation.


Is fighting back for recuperation of natural rights, terrorism? The answer is no. Are the actions that an invader or settler takes to quell resistance to its violent territorial acquisition, encroachment, or settlement, terrorism? The answer is yes.


The previous uncompromising answers are the present authors’ objective reply to PINR, and as they apply to the Palestinian issue, to the occupation of Iraq, or any other society under colonialist attack. The authors uphold them with the following analysis, but leave the moral judgment to PINR:


1.  Considering the natural rights of humans to freely exist, and


2.  Considering the violent nature of an external invasion or settlement that caused those rights to cease existing, and


3.  Considering the civilian component of the invasion or settlement that benefits from the aforementioned invasion or settlement, and,  


4.  Considering the civilian component of the occupied, that now is deprived and dispossessed to allow for the civilian component of the invader to settle, live, and prosper, then


5.  The resulting situation would be as follows: while the military component of the occupier would fight to contain and defeat the military component (armed resistance) of the occupied, the civilian component of the same occupier would be effectively occupying the vital space of the occupied. Therefore,


6.  The fact remains, those who lost their natural rights can legitimately target the civilian and military structures of the invaders (but not the civilian noncombatants) regardless of the objections raised by external observers whose inalienable rights are untouched. Conclusively,


7.  If the struggle between humans is over territory to exist on, then territory is the subject of the struggles.


8.  In the Palestinian example, where an external (foreign and invading) group of people violently remove another existing (indigenous) group of people to seize the locus of existence, sustenance, and natural development, then Cartesian-style logic could apply as follows:


9.  A Palestinian could say, “My ancestors were born on this land; I was born on this land; I live on this land; hence, I exist on this land. Therefore, this land sustains my existence. Therefore, if one uproots me from my land by force, that one would alter or terminate my existence, so he can experience his own existence at my expense.”


10. He would then continue, “If I am uprooted, so are my children, but the children of the one who uprooted me, would have no existential problems, will not experience alienations, and will not live a life of desperation and panic as my children have to experience.”   


11. The consequence of this arrangement is paramount: take away someone’s land, and he would exist in a state of deprivation. This is unacceptable. The illegitimately dispossessed person then has the natural right to resist the usurpers and occupiers of his own land, until mutual and just recognition for the right to exist is established.


12. The only time when reasonable analyses such as these cease to exist is when superior military powers force their cessation. In the modern lexicon of politics, these are interventionist imperialism and settler colonialism.


To summarize, the present authors’ position regarding any analysis of real situations is one of common sense: unlike a coin that has two sides, there are various sides to a fact. Objectivity, therefore, is multi-sided; constrain it artificially to one or two limited aspects and you enter in a new field that requires a much more complex approach. Consequently, the so-called terrorism in Palestine is the story of violence caused by one party. If this is the imposed logic, then counter logic always exists. 




One of us spoke with the editor of another progressive medium about PINR and he expressed surprise at the content of PINR since he knew it to be an offshoot of Yellow, a progressive website. The present analysis is not meant as a critique exclusive to PINR. Other well-known progressive sites have the same problem of misleading content and deceptive elaborations. 


For example, a February ZNet article cited as fact the U.S. government and U.S. corporate press claim that 15 of the 19 perpetrators of 9/11 stem from Saudi Arabia, and as fact that bin Laden and al Qaeda are the masterminds of 9/11. So far, the US has never presented unassailable evidence to the public to determine conclusively who were responsible for 9/11. There is no use of the word “alleged” -- in fact, the step from accusation to conviction is patent


The present authors argue that this is hardly a progressive stance. The purpose is not to exculpate or implicate bin Laden or al Qaeda from the terrorist 9/11 attack, but to protect the right to presumption of innocence until “proven” guilty in a court of law. Compounding the ZNet author’s determination of guilt was his treatment of Iranians as a monolith when he tendentiously stated, “The Iranians hate the US …”


The present authors propose that media consumers approach information as open-minded skeptics. This goes for all readers of the independent and progressive media as well as of the corporate media. Readers should treat the present series likewise. Media consumers are encouraged to consider the information presented, to separate facts from assertions, to weigh the logic presented, and to question the motivations of the media personalities involved, and then arrive at their own conclusions.


Accurate study of U.S. corporate media coverage from the Spanish-American war to the Korean War and to the invasion of Iraq reveals the complicity of the media in the violent wars of imperialism against developing countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Oceania. It is, therefore, perplexing that some progressive pundits would continue to regurgitate uncritically corporate press pronouncements.


To conclude, there is a pressing need for a media that is independent of capitalist influences. However, the existence of such an independent media in itself is insufficient and does not guarantee that independent thought would be the natural outcome. Not only must the disseminators of information be discerning but also there is an onus on media consumers to be discerning about information. Today, the Internet provides people with access a chance to read, view, and listen to many independent and progressive views. However, without due vigilance, unimpeded access to independent and progressive information will be for naught.


Kim Petersen is a writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. He can be reached at: B.J. Sabri is an Iraqi-American antiwar activist. Email:

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* Objectivity in Independent Media, Part 2
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* The Hyper-Imperialist Paradigm, Part Two
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* The Hyper-Imperialist Paradigm, Part Four
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