Friday, August 04, 2006


More on Media Manipulation

Regular readers here know I have often spoke about the problems inherent in any attempt to summarize reality in easy packages. Just yesterday, I criticized a University of Chicago Political Science Professor. In that case, I objected to attributing (individual) human motivations to a Nation State collective, for ascribing motive and plan in the absence of information, and discerning cause and effect between media criticism and the ongoing actions of Israel.

On reflection, I note this train of thought through many of my posts critical of the mainstream media (MSM), including You Don't Support Us, and False Picture of Defeat. I even touch on what I think is a related problem, that of our Intelligence Analysts falling into Patterns of Analysis. This reflects on the phenomenon, that when the data points you study are all improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other bombings, all you’ll see is violence, everywhere you look. Because you don’t see the lack of violence, i.e. the white space between the data points.

I so often slam the MSM for their distortions about Iraq (and now, Lebanon), not because I dismiss their view of reality in favor of an alternate reality more to my liking. Rather, I object to willful distortion of fact, or willful ignorance about additional ways to validate our impressions. I hate false assumptions, intellectual laziness, and taking for granted pints of view that are based on nothing more than prejudices, politics, and even personal likes and dislikes.

I can accept that people don’t feel comfortable about the military. I can appreciate that the organized violence that war – and other measures to protect national security – make some people nervous, or expose them to facts that they would prefer to ignore. I can even, grudgingly, acknowledge the value of a knee-jerk mental assumption that “jaw jaw jaw beats war war war.” Trivial and juvenile, yes, but of value. A good default position for a civilized society, to be sure.

But what I cannot abide, I refuse to condone or encourage, is the kind of intellectual dishonesty that lies behind treating each little data point as some kind of “vote” towards a collective, subjective impression of what the truth is. This goes way beyond the “fog of war,” in any classic sense.

How often are we asked to agree with a proposition, merely because a majority of some subject group thinks such a proposition is true?

On such a basis all atheists should be compelled to believe God exists, because so many of their fellow citizens believe He does!

Today I see a post from Iraq The Model, courtesy of The Corner, who speaks angrily about the distortions of the Arab media, but I think his criticism applies just as forcefully to Western MSM as a whole.

Whether one believes that the MSM is a willful, consenting partner in enemy propaganda efforts, is in some ways a different argument entirely than whether in fact media reporting serves propaganda purposes.

Here’s how Mohammed introduces his essay:

Although we have greater issues to be concerned about here in Baghdad I feel I must talk about the Arab media and its deception campaign and that's because wars in both Lebanon and Iraq are largely the same.
In both cases the media functions not only as a means to deliver news but had long turned into an effective weapon that is not the least interested in objectivity or factuality. The Arab media shamelessly sided with terrorism (or resistance from their perspective) and this propaganda machine funded by the evil powers in our region continues poisoning the minds of their Arab audience to feed the totally needless hatred towards the world.

I'm frankly tired of all this, tired of showing defeats as victories and tired of all the lies about power, heroism and legends…lie, lie, lie and then lie again and add some flavor to the report with some poetry or irrelevant words of wisdom and turn that report into a commemoration of a fading era of countless defeats.
I wish the world could see what we are watching here and know the truth about this war, if what you outside the middle east are watching is news, know that here we are getting lies, deception, propaganda and slogans in the outfit of news and analysis, all for the purpose of keeping the region and especially Arabs in the seemingly forever lasting dream that is directed to keep them on the same side with terrorists and , sooner rather than later, collapsing regimes.

Actually, Mohammed, we’re getting pretty much what you’re getting from Arab media.

Mohammed derides the ugly scenes of Hezbollah press minders (Green Helmet Guy et al), parading around the corpses of children, as “an attempt to sell the dead childhood to serve an evil cause.”

He compares to the over-exploited and perhaps manipulated Qana (interestingly the scene of similar media manipulation in 1996), to terror attacks in Baghdad in 2004 and 2005, “in 2004 in Hay al-Amil and 2005 in New Baghdad.” He asks, why not UN Security Council emergency sessions then, why no shedding of tears in the media, why “no demonstrations in the so called Arab street?”
Mohammed answers:

I tell why, it's because the murderer was Arab and Muslim and holding him responsible would've blown away the ideology of "resistance"…and to me the criminal in Qana is the same and I wish the people here open their eyes and identify the real criminal, it is Nesrallah and Saddam and al-Qaeda who used and keep using civilians as human shields.

Mohammed is even more direct in offering a solution for the Arab world:

We need another ' June 67' more than anytime in the past because like that defeat put an end for the days when pan-Arabism was in the top we are now in need for another defeat that wakes the region up and open its eyes to see the danger of terrorism and extremism and remove it from the top and put it where it belongs to.
Again I hope to see no half-solutions because we have had enough. I do not want to see the terrorists and their allies open their mouth when the war ends to brag about how "courageous and devoted" they were in defending the faith and the nation.
Meanwhile, let Europe argue for another decade to agree on a definition for terror…I thank God it isn't Europe handling this war, the cowardice and reluctance of Europe disgusts me as much as the Arab media does.

Opponents of our efforts in Iraq chant, “US Home Now,” and claim that the Iraqi people resist our “occupation.” Many Europeans, even majorities, share that view. Critics of the war, as always, point to the negative public opinion, of sentiment in Europe, as evidence that we need to come back into agreement with our one-time partners for peace.

Iraq The Model suggests a very different point of view: Thank God America and President Bush are handling this war. Thank God the Iraqis are not dependent on the cowardice and reluctance of Europe.

In the end, Mohammed’s view is highly subjective. His view, after all, is a lonely data point in a sea of the white space of who knows what the Truth is.

I can accept that too, if the MSM could make just a tiny amount of room for the data points of ITM, and others like them.

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