‘Dangerous White House propaganda’: Obama team & GOP battle over Iran media spin
Mainstream media outlets in the US had a tough week after being accused of being puppets for the White House who, according to Republicans in Congress, used “propaganda” to push the Iran nuclear deal.
The ongoing blame game between the White House, Republicans, and numerous news organizations stems from a New York Times profile of Obama’s “boy wonder”, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.
It all started Monday during a speech by Senator Ben Sasse in which he criticized how Rhodes “openly brags about how the administration manipulated the media in the run-up to Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran” with news outlets carrying particular narratives without question, which Sasse brands as "dangerous."
Fellow Republicans followed suit, in what appeared to be a planned attack, when the House Oversight Committee called for Rhodes to testify on Capitol Hill.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest slammed the suggestion that Rhodes should testify in a hearing on the Iran nuclear deal, during a press conference on Thursday.
While other media outlets have been targeted by federal legislation for alleged propaganda, NYT journalist David Samuels described Rhodes as “a storyteller who uses a writer’s tools to advance an agenda that is packaged as politics but is often quite personal.”
The profile piece also describes Rhodes as being “the master shaper and retailer of Obama’s foreign-policy narratives,” and that he is “the single most influential voice shaping American foreign policy aside from POTUS himself.”
Just a note on writing & Ben Rhodes. Getting an MFA doesn't make you a "writer." Writing does. Books? Articles? At 38, seems a bit precious.— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) May 12, 2016
In particular, Rhodes detailed how he shaped a narrative around the Iran nuclear deal’s announcement and how the administration “created an echo chamber” of experts who “validated what we [the White House] had given them [journalists] to say.”
Now I know why certain columnists were always late for Washington lunch events. Ben Rhodes took too long to write their columns.— Mark Dubowitz (@mdubowitz) May 7, 2016
If I was handling media for Obama's foreign policy legacy, I would not have let Ben Rhodes talk to David Samuels. A genuine disaster.— Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid) May 6, 2016
“This story of the White House’s media manipulation is horrific and should be a screaming siren to us,” Sasse said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan accused the administration of having “essentially misled the American people,” according to The Hill.
The Republicans know how to control the narrative. They've repeated for decades they're fiscally responsible. As such, people believe them.— Demin (@TehDeminz) February 25, 2016
The irony of the Republicans taking aim at the media for gobbling up the Obama administration’s “spin” was not lost on everyone. Some social media users pointed out that they are guilty of the same charge.
social media has become an ultimate weapon in the propaganda machine for both republicans and democrats— alex (@MartyrLaguna) May 11, 2016
Haven't seen Republicans spin this hard in years to say nothing. GOP are the masters of propaganda and messaging. Ryan/Trump— kengpdx (@kengpdx) May 12, 2016
Meanwhile, for the mainstream media’s part, they appeared to use a two-pronged approach of defense and attack.
The journalist was criticized for not being truthful about his own background and adding his own “self-serving spin,” according to Media Matters.
If Ben Rhodes were as smart as David Samuels says he thinks he is, then he never would have cooperated with that profile.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) May 7, 2016
Writing for Slate in 2009, Samuels detailed his "rational argument" for why Israel should bomb Iran, saying that it "makes sense."
He also participated in a panel at the Hudson Institute in 2015 which criticized the Iran deal, saying that he was "startled by the lack of attention and clarity" in what had been reported.
Samuels was backed up by the New York Times editor though, saying they “stand behind the piece 100 percent.”
While those entrenched in the Washington DC’s media circles and halls of power continue to spar over what is and isn’t propaganda, the general public is already one step ahead.
Stop listening to the American media. It's all propaganda. GMO is BS and the rest of the world… https://t.co/P8dGxu8oGk— Dr. KwaZ (@DrKwaZ) May 6, 2016
how the public is sold on an iran deal and everything else. as edward bernays wrote, it's all propaganda: https://t.co/Q3MMMQe2c1— Geoff Blades (@geoffblades) May 6, 2016
Social media users have called out both the Republicans and Democrats for using propaganda, as well as various news outlets for having their own spin, whether they admit it or not.
@MSNBC If you were actual reporters you would be asking that about the Dems and the Republicans. You are spin machines. Cheap propaganda!— Anna Sanchez (@LiveAstrologer) May 9, 2016