Catapulting the Propaganda with the Washington Post

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by Chris Floyd 

The ever persipacious Angry Arab, As'ad AbuKhalil, plucks out the hidden (or not-so-hidden) propaganda in a passing phrase in an otherwise unremarkable Washington Post story about Syria. Let the good doctor tell it in his own words:

[From the WP]: "Horror at the bloodshed accompanying the U.S. effort to bring democracy to Iraq has accomplished what human rights activists, analysts and others say Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had been unable to do by himself: silence public demands for democratic reforms here." (Notice the casual language of the Washington Post. Notice how they insert propaganda lines into articles. "US effort to bring democracy in Iraq"? Are you kidding me? Does the writer of the article really believe that this was what it was about?)

Here we see the falsity of the supposed "objectivity" fetish of the mainstream media laid bare. The fetish is entirely focused on the word "objectivity," never on its practice. There is nothing remotely objective about using "the U.S. effort to bring democracy to Iraq" as a standard descriptor of the war and occupation. It is not an any way a neutral reflection of reality. It simply parrots a Bush Administration propaganda point without question, without nuance.

You can see what the reporter, Ellen Knickmeyer, is trying to do here, I suppose. The article deals with the collapse of reform movements in Syria because "advocates of democracy are equated now with supporters of America, even 'traitors,' said Maan Abdul Salam, 36, a Damascus publisher who has coordinated conferences on women's rights and similar topics...'The people are not believing these thoughts anymore. When the U.S. came to Iraq, it came in the name of democracy and freedom. But all we see are bodies, bodies, bodies.'"

So Knickmeyer wants to set up an ironic contrast: the Americans say they're in Iraq to bring democracy to the Middle East, but the bloody quagmire they've created is having the opposite effect, which is a demonstrable, undeniable reality.  She could have done this easily, while remaining well within the dogma of the "objectivity" word cult, simply by attributing the war motive of "bringing democracy" to the Bush Administration, rather than embracing it as an unquestioned fact.

But to do that would mean breaking with the iron-clad conventional wisdom of Beltway journalism: the war in Iraq is yet another noble cause gone FUBAR because it "wasn't done right." (This is also the prevailing wisdom of much of the Democratic Party as well.). You can see the gang gathering around the water cooler with David Broder, shaking their heads and clucking, "Dang, we'll never get democracy in Iraq now, not after the way Bush and Rumsfeld have screwed this thing up." They might even spend long sleepless hours in the dead of night, fretting that "if only Jerry Bremer hadn't done X, if only we'd gone in with a half a million troops, if only those bad apples hadn't gone sour at Abu Ghraib...." finally trailing off, with a heavy sigh, into troubled dreams.

There is scarcely an acknowledgement anywhere in the Media Establishment that the Iraq War was an evil and misbegotten enterprise from the very beginning: conceived in greed and arrogance, sold by deceit, a criminal action by every legal and moral reckoning. As Hamlet said: "It cannot and it will not come to good." And it has not. Wars of aggression are evil things -- the "supreme international crime," as the Nuremberg Tribunal recognized -- and they will breed nothing but evil. When Bush sat before the television cameras to announce the invasion of Iraq that night in March 2003, he might as well have pulled out the shredded corpse of a child and began gnawing on the red, corrupted flesh, for he was at that moment consigning thousands upon thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of innocent people to death.

Now, none of us expect the Washington Post to ever indulge in such tasteless apprehensions of the actual reality of our time, or to ever describe George W. Bush and his handlers and minions as what they really are: murderers. But would it really be so difficult merely to refrain from adopting the murderers' propaganda directly into "news" stories? Would it really be so difficult to practice a little -- what's that word again? -- objectivity?

Reckon so.

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