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Role of the media

Many believe the societal purpose of the media is to enlighten the public, and to enable the public to assert meaningful control over the political process by providing them with the information needed for the intelligent discharge of political responsibilities. I strongly agree that this should be the role of an effective media.

However, in the influential 1988 book, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky state their belief that evidence shows the actual societal purpose of the media is “to inculcate and defend the economic, social and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state.”

Media and Iraq

For example, consider the U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 2003. It was a major war crime against a state that was not a threat to the U.S. Although we have the freedom of speech, in the run up to the illegal U.S. aggression, the corporate media did not give serious space or time to critics of an attack. In fact, one television program that did provide critics of a war a space, the Donahue program, was canceled. At the time of its cancelation, it was the highest-rated program on MSNBC.

Shamefully, the U.S. corporate media widely supported the overwhelming “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign. In addition, the U.S. media seldom highlighted the suffering of the Iraqi people or the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis resulting from the invasion and its aftermath. Evidently some victims of war crimes are not “worthy” of much coverage, especially when the U.S. or its allies are committing the war crimes.

Moreover, the media didn’t continually call the invasion a violation of international law, nor did it call for President Bush and other officials to be indicted for war crimes. The media also didn’t call for sanctions against the U.S. Through its blatantly biased reporting, the U.S. media demonstrated that it was spreading propaganda instead of serving to enlighten the public about the criminality of U.S. actions.

However, the media in parts of the world reported things differently. For example, Brian Whitaker wrote in The Guardian: “Though this attack was meant to terrify the Baghdad regime into submission, nobody in Washington seems to have anticipated its effect on the rest of the world. To some in the Arab and Muslim countries, Shock and Awe is terrorism by another name; to others, a crime that compares unfavourably with September 11.”

Other ‘unworthy’ victims

Two of many other groups of “unworthy” victims who have suffered horribly are the Palestinians and the Yemenis. Israel has been illegally occupying Palestinian land since the Six-Day War that began when Israel attacked Egypt. Palestinians have been and continue to be denied basic human rights and freedoms.

In addition, Israel has maintained, with the help of Egypt and the U.S., an illegal siege on Gaza for over 15 years. The U.S. media don’t refer to Israeli leaders as war criminals nor do they call for any sanctions on Israel, an apartheid state, despite its horrific atrocities, including the bombing of schools and other civilian buildings. In fact, the U.S. has prevented sanctions from being imposed on Israel, its ally, through its use of its veto in the U.N. Security Council.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s military aggression in Yemen has been going on for over seven years now. The Yemeni people have paid a terrible price as a result of the U.S.-supported intervention. According to UNICEF, over 17 million Yemenis currently need food assistance with a growing portion experiencing emergency levels of hunger. The U.S. media have devoted relatively little attention to this ongoing crisis and its “unworthy” victims of our Saudi Arabian ally.

Ukraine, Russia and the U.S.

Contrast the U.S. corporate media’s non-stop one-sided coverage of Ukraine. Critical voices of the U.S. role in this crisis have been kept out of the mass media and consent on Ukraine was quickly created.

Clearly Russia, an enemy, has committed terrible war crimes against Ukraine. However, all the accusations made against Russia could also have been made about the U.S., Israel or Saudi Arabia, but none were. In addition, the stories of the “worthy” Ukrainian victims of the Russian attack received far more attention than the stories of “unworthy” Arab victims.

Making matters far, far worse, the U.S. corporate media haven’t challenged the U.S. goal of weakening Russia with the continuing devastation of Ukraine being collateral damage. A responsible media would be calling for diplomacy to immediately end the destruction, to save Ukrainian lives and to prevent escalation to a nuclear war.