Archive for the ‘Uprisings’ Category

Pro-democratic Uprisings in the NYT Propaganda System

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) shakes hand with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in Washington on May 9, 2012.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hand with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa in Washington on May 9, 2012

Usually when it comes to matters of the American Empire the New York Times cannot help but rely on the U.S. government as a source of information. In their classic work on propaganda, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, writers Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman show that sourcing is one of the primary filters in propaganda systems—along with ownership, advertising, ideology and flak. Chomsky and Herman call this use of “official sources” a “symbiotic relationship.” There is a world of information out there, but what determines what is “all the news that’s fit to print” is that which conforms to those five filters. Having a central source works for the media outlet, since they can’t be everywhere all the time, and it works for the government too, since having outlets to spread their propaganda helps dominate the narrative and reach a broader audience.

But in Kareem Fahim’s and David Kirkpatricks latest article, “Saudi Arabia Seeks Union of Monarchies in Region,” which appears on page 5 of today’s New York Times, there is not one mention of Uncle Sam. No comment from a White House official, or lackey (though there is a comment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which is known for its strong ties to the U.S. government).

And that’s not really surprising, considering the subject matter of the article. Beyond the Cold War that the Saudi kingdom is having with Iran, Fahim and Kirkpatrick tell readers that,

Saudi Arabia pushed ahead Monday with efforts to forge a single federation with its five Persian Gulf neighbors as the conservative monarchy seeks to build a new bulwark against the waves of change sweeping the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia isn’t wanting it to limit it to just the monarchial governments of Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman. According to the article:

Saudi Arabia has already made moves to try to stretch the Gulf Cooperation Council far beyond its original regional mission to try to turn it into an alliance of monarchies that might band together against the democratic trend. Its diplomats have made overtures to include the kingdoms of Morocco and Jordan.

And that gets to the heart of the problem for the Times, and why they chose to be silent on the U.S. It does the Empire no service to point out that a hand-full of U.S.-backed dictatorships are banding “together against the democratic trend,” especially since droning on and on about democracy and human rights is a central feature in the Empire’s repertoire. Just last month the U.S. government blocked Cuba fom the Summit of the America’s on the grounds of the islands democratic deficit (despite Honduras’ attendance).

One has to be careful when reading the Times. Because, even while reporting on attempts by monarchies to create an axis of tyranny, it is not so much what they do say, but what they don’t say. Once you’ve become accustomed to how propaganda works it’s astonishing to witness it.

For example, it’s not fitting to point out that the monarchies are important regional allies to the U.S. government, or to inquire as to whether the Empire backs this move. Since the “paper of record” is an important component of the Western establishment, and looking into the role of the U.S. to undermine pro-democracy movements would be uncouth, it doesn’t happen. For those familiar with the work of NYTimes eXaminer this is not new.

There is another angle to this story that also demonstrates the propaganda value of the mass media, which is not only missing from Fahim’s and Kirkpatricks article, but from the entire New York Times establishment (and beyond). Namely, the recent revelation through FOIA requests that the White House and Democrats conspired with local and state law officials across the country to put down the Occupy protests. As far as I can tell there is not one mention of these documents in the Times, which is why the story is published at Counterpunch—an independent leftist media source.

Apparently it’s not just that the NYT is silent on the role of the U.S. in anti-democracy activities in the Middle East, but here at home too.