The Same Garden Path

By Ryan McGreal
Published May 24, 2006

In the past, I've written about the role the North American media played in supporting the Bush Administration's propaganda campaign to get the American public behind the invasion of Iraq (see, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and, um, here).

I kvetched over how credulous the media were; how willing they were to accept any report, however spurious, that seemed to confirm the government's party line; how reluctant they were to question or even investigate those claims.

Once the lame apologies started rolling down, I predicted sadly that those very apologists would learn nothing from the experience, and would be just as credulous and abject a chorus of cheerleaders the next time the government decided to launch an illegal, unnecessary invasion for its own imperial purposes.

Here we are, a little over three years after the US media sold the Iraq war to the American public, and the same media are now busy selling the Iran war to the American public. To the extent that the Canadian government is now run by a party that's sympathetic to the Republican Party, our media are relishing the opportunity to get in on the performance.

Last week, the National Post, Canada's print version of FOX News, published an article with hazy sourcing, accompanied by an op-ed by neoconservative columnist Amir Taheri, that claimed the Iranian Parliament voted to force people of different religions to wear identifying marks on their clothing. The usual people jumped all over it, calling the Iranian government modern day Nazis and pressing the argument that their aims are nefarious and we can't trust them.

The story is complete hogwash, of course, invented from whole cloth. A a bare minimum of conventional journalism would have uncovered this crucial detail, but the editors of the Post are on a mission, and mere facts wouldn't dare to get in the way of the intense propaganda campaign to dehumanize Iran so it will be easier for us to decapitate its leadership and smash its citizens.

Maurice Motamed, the only Jewish member of the Iranian Parliament, and someone we can presume would be sensitive to such matters, responded, "This report is a complete fabrication and is totally false. It is a lie, and the people who invented it wanted to make political gain."

Indeed, The Post didn't even issue an apology once the facts emerged later the same day. As Tom Porteous reports:

The Post did not issue a correction or an apology for its story. It merely reported the Iranian denials and used this new report as a pretext to repeat the original allegations and to report the reactions to them -- complete with a graphic of a yellow star of the kind Jews were required to wear in Nazi Germany.

A similar tactic was used in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war, in which the only quotes claiming Iraq didn't possess WMD came from the Iraqi government itself, thus discrediting them in the eyes of readers.

Going back to the first Gulf War, reports of Iraqi soldiers bayoneting babies in Iraqi hospitals turned out to be a complete fabrication by PR firm Hill & Knowlton, which went so far as to use the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States to play a child witness to the atrocities.

How many more times to the mainstream media have to let themselves be led by the nose down the same garden path before we wake up and realize we're being manipulated?

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted May 24, 2006 at 15:07:43

Ryan, I followed the National Post debacle with some interest. The shock waves from that report were far and wide. The reality is that, erroneous facts aside, a worrying impression about Iran has still been left in people's minds (there's no smoke without fire, and all that).

What is more amazing is how easily we, the public, accept this. It's as if our expectations of the media are on a par with our expectations of government. They fail to do their jobs, and we fail to bother to complain, or expect any different. It's no wonder you get nutjobs like that New York Post bloke just making s**t up. What the public wants is a good story and if we don't have one - we'll create one. This is all very well and good when it's harmless fun. You can chase Britney around and make up whatever you like, I don't much care, but when you take this approach with delicate matters that constitute real news, it's a dangerous approach.

But like I say - IT'S OUR FAULT! As long as the public - us - stand around and allow it to happen, so that we can continue to feel blameless and be entertained, it is all our fault. Sniping at the institutions is all fine and dandy but they are only giving us what we crave.



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