Mainstream media on Syria/Turkey/Russia: Clueless congeries of cackling correspondents
Before our very eyes the world is heaving in a cataclysm of change with Ankara, Washington, Damascus and Moscow front and center. But don’t wake the media.
During the all to frequent course of my various contributions, submissions and iterations of “media analyses” – our Western and American mainstream media (MSM) in particular – the refrain seems to always revolve around how those news guardians, entrusted with delivering the latest critical update and informing their wards, failed completely yet again to grasp the complexity of a particular issue or omitted altogether critical elements and facts that are absolutely necessary for the comprehension of the particular case reported.
It’s not uncommon for some observers to swear there’s some conspiracy to keep the truth from the audience. I know. I’m often leading the chant! After all, these glaring omissions and what amounts to breathtaking intellectual incuriosity cannot merely be accidental. They have to be deliberate in serving up this tepid gruel and obvious propaganda. What’s more, just when I think the media has set new standards for journalistic nadirs, plumbed new depths, new lows . . . I’m mistakenly surprised as how they outdo each other through each successive issue of non-coverage. Let me explain.
Let’s review the history of the congeries of MSM news aggregators and presenters and how they handled the Syria-Turkey-Russia matter.
The most glaring example of journalistic nonchalance. NO MAPS! Was there a memo, a directive that forbade maps, territorial graphics and references to geography when attempting to explain or describe a critical operation or event? There had to be. Oh, there are the flashy graphics packages with pithy titles that emphasized the ubiquitous refrain of radical Islam or generic references to terror.
But no maps! Kassab, Latakia and Jablah were critical flashpoints of decisive military action and being able to visualize their propinquity and proximity to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey was critical in understanding what actually happened. To comprehend the devastating and profound defeats that ISIS suffered in the Aleppo-Palmyra area, Sinjar and Ramadi along with devastating bombing attacks on their capital of Raqqa all require A MAP! But as far as the MSM were concerned references to terrorists or ISIS or rebels (whoever they were) were as specific as they got. Why?
My guess is a combination of ignorance and disinterest with a dash of intellectual torpor and journalistic desuetude, a most deadly combination. I have no cartography fetish per se, just a sincere and honest desire to understand what is happening in a part of the world that seems to be exploding. Call me old-fashioned. And as you recall, we saw this during the Libyan adventure when Darna (transliterated as Derna or Darnah), Tobruk and a little place called Benghazi were al Qaeda strongholds in Cyrenaica. Try explicating what that means, the geostrategic criticality of this troika without a map. A map, a map! My kingdom for a map (With apologies to Richard III).
Talking Turkey during Thanksgiving
I recently mentioned this and feared that I’d be taken as making a cheap joke or pun – an inappropriate paronomasia, if you will worthy of the ‘punitentiary’ – when I suggested that the chances of a discussion of Turkey the country during Thanksgiving being confused were substantial, I meant every word of it. An example is in order.
As you undoubtedly recall, “Je suis Charlie,” the shibboleth that commemorated and memorialized the horror of the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre, was ubiquitous in every media permutation available. Do you have any idea the number of people, some in the vaunted world of MSM news, who asked me what “Jesus” had to do with it? Yes, “Je suis” is somewhat similar to “Jesus,” but this was made after countless pronunciations were heard. Ostensibly. Let that sink in. Let that marinate. So, to reiterate, the sheer synchronistic timing of the issues planted the seed for multiplicities of confusion to take root. I wish I were kidding.
Supporting ISIS?! I’m shocked! Shocked! And while the world media in collective unison referenced repeatedly accusations of President Erdogan’s complicity on various levels in the active support and protection of ISIS along with his son Bilal and daughter Sumeyye, the MSM never so much as uttered a reference that such claims were even being made. Not as substantiation or validation of such, but just a passing, cursory reference to fill in the blanks and gaps to flesh out the story so that the news consumer would better understand what was happening. Not a peep! Not a whisper (You can’t whisper what you don’t know). And I haven’t even mentioned similar stories as to Generals Petraeus and Allen and their respective alleged roles in the history of ISIS. And did I mention NATO? Nothing. How can anyone understand what the stories are when they were never told what the stories are? Again, I reiterate and asseverate, just mention what pockets and channels and constituencies of the world are saying.
Rebels, freedom fighters and opposition forces. The MSM have an affection for the term “rebel” and, in their ostensible roles and duties as news repeaters versus reporters, they never seem to question what that term even denotes. Whose rebel? Rebellion against what and whom? Keep in mind that today’s war lexicon has introduced to news presenters and consumers alike a host of terms that have supplemented and in many cases replaced appellations of yore: insurgents, counter-insurgents, opposition forces, rebels, militias, inter alia. N.B. There’s no qualification as to the legitimacy or legality of the particular cause advanced by the aforementioned. And I haven’t even approached or addressed the multiplicity of religions, sects, tribes and geographical dominations lending to the considerable complexity of an already Byzantine superstructure of critical players.
It’s nothing new for the news
We saw it Libya when the beloved rebels and freedom fighters were actually al-Qaeda. When it comes to the FSA, the Free Syrian Army, they’ve been called freedom fighters, rebels (again) defectors and opposition forces to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. If you were to ask any MSM reporter, anchor or presenter by what authority are international forces calling for his removal and the euphemistic “regime change” they couldn’t tell you. He’s the proverbial “bad guy” who’s generically despotic and . . . a bad guy. Were he to sport the colorful Sgt. Pepper regalia of the man of a thousand spellings, Muammar Gaddafi, he’d enjoy the additional appellation of “crazy” as well. Why? Because they’re told to say that think it and report it. No questions asked. The meme is set, the trope is cemented, scripts are circulated and off they go spouting and barking and bleating à la mynah bird without so much as a clue, a question or the occasional bout of skepticism.
Rushin’ to blame the Russians
And let’s now enter the world of Russia and President Putin. It seems evident to even the most casual observer that MSM repeaters are simply unable to grasp the fact that the Cold War worldview along with its antediluvian argot and mothballed reporting instruction manuals are over and that what they’re doing all too often unfortunately is to repeat and regurgitate a trope that harkens back to an epoch most probably weren’t even living during. And to confound the matter even more is the added twist that Mr. Putin has vowed to ablate and militarily amputate the dread horrors of ISIS. Remember ISIS? The bad guys? But that seems to have escaped many of the Ted Baxter bumper sticker, echo chamber, cookie cutter media. The enemy of my enemy . . . may still remain an enemy unless someone updates the memo.
Mr. Putin has received at times what seems to be universal acclaim and approbation for vowing to destroy ISIS and appears to be well on his way to such. Instead of asking what took the West and NATO and even President Obama so long, no, they repeat through an orchestrated echolalia the same rote ripostes with what still appears to be nary a clue as to the underpinnings and undergirding of the factual and issue matrix. NATO and the West have appeared at time to be prosecuting their own ‘Sitzkrieg’, referencing to the 1939 Phony war. Is it fair to ask what is the international commitment to ridding the world once and for all of ISIS?
Just don’t ask the MSM. They’re busy.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.