Push for War Highlights Need for Independent Media

04/12/2017 06:06 pm ET Updated Apr 13, 2017

If the corporations that own the media profit from war, we’re unlikely to see peace.

That’s what Lewis Hill foresaw. It’s what led him to create the independent, listener-sponsored Pacifica Radio.

Almost 70 years later, the corporate media is still busy selling war, at times to an embarrassing degree. This can be seen in the fawning coverage of the recent U.S. attack on Syria, which came in response to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

“I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons,” gushed MSNBC anchor Brian Williams, as his station showed “beautiful pictures” of the U.S. Navy launching a missile attack on a Syrian airfield.

Those beautiful missiles killed 16 people, including four kids, according to the Syrian government. But these deaths were of little interest to a corporate media caught up in the excitement of it all.

Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo was practically giddy when questioning President Trump about his okaying the attack as he ate dessert with China’s president.

Over on CNN, Fareed Zakaria got swept up in the moment and declared, “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night.”

“If that guy could have sex with this cruise missile attack, I think he would do it,” The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill said of Zakaria.

These are just three recent examples of the corporate media doing what it does best: push for, and gush over, war.

“In wartime,” writes The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, “U.S. television instantly converts into state media.”

Print’s Patriotism

It turns out print media isn’t much different, according to a recent report by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a media watchdog group (“Out of 47 Major Editorials on Trump’s Syria Strikes, Only One Opposed”).

fair.org

“No need to debate the morality or utility of the strikes, because the scene played out per usual,” writes FAIR’s Adam Johnson.

Dictator commits an alleged human rights violation, the media calls on those in power to “do something” and the ticking time bomb compels immediate action, lest we look “weak” on the “global stage.” Anything that deviates from this narrative is given token attention at best.

Independent Media

With the corporate media busy cheerleading for war, it’s often left to independent media to ask the tough questions.

“Since [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s forces have gained a decisive upper-hand over the rebels, why would he risk stirring up international outrage at this juncture” by launching a chemical attack, asks Robert Parry, an investigative reporter with Consortiumnews.

Asking such questions doesn’t mean Assad is innocent, “but a serious investigation ascertains the facts and then reaches a conclusion, not the other way around,” writes Parry.

This was the lesson many took away from the Iraq War, although apparently not the corporate media.

Iraq War

In the buildup to the U.S.’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, the media played an important role in generating support for the pending war. A study by FAIR, which examined the nightly newscasts during a crucial two week span, found that out of the 393 guests who discussed Iraq, only three were anti-war voices.

It’s also worth remembering how, despite the absence of an independent investigation, the media reported that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was determined to acquire more.

One of the New York Times reporters who helped hammer home this falsehood was Michael Gordon, who shared a byline with his colleague, Judith Miller. While Miller lost her job, you can still find Gordon’s reports in the Times, including his recent front-page story on Syria.

In Gordon’s story, he declares – once again without the benefit of an independent investigation and based on the statements of “American intelligence officials” – that Assad is responsible for the recent Syrian gas attack, writing, “The evidence was abundant.”

Syria

It’s not just Iraq that appears to have taught the corporate media nothing, but also Syria’s 2013 chemical attack.

That attack nearly led President Obama to launch a direct assault on Assad, only to pull back at the last minute, possibly due in part to questions over whether Assad was in fact responsible.

But the corporate media pushed aside these difficult questions and concluded Assad was guilty, case closed.

It was left to famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh – writing in the London Review of Books because he faced difficulty getting published in the U.S. – to make the case that rebels fighting Assad, which include extremists with ties to Al Qaeda, may have been responsible for Syria’s 2013 chemical attack.

Still Skeptical

Despite the corporate media’s uncritical coverage of Syria, today only a slight majority of the country supports Trump’s strikes on Syria, according to three recent polls.

If only that level of skepticism was reflected in the corporate media.

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