Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reporting Baghdad

The Bush bid to villainise Iraq and its leader has been ably supported by the media powerhouses.

Iraq has once again become the fulcrum of global politics. The world is polarised between the imperialist in­tentions-supported by the media powerhouses-to control Iraq's vital resources and the concerns of a con­siderate world community comprising of anti-globalisation groups, leftist organisations and the alternative me­dia. The rift in the allies of the 'Em­pire', with France and Germany back­ing out of a military action, and the mounting protests of the public across the world, have resulted in ways wherein the so-called free media is bending backwards to justify an attack on Iraq.
That is exactly what the Gulf war scenario had precipitated-a close watch of the corporate media would teach you innumerable ways to kill a story, how to twist the truth or how not to report an incident. The media is straining itself to hype the wicked ways of Saddam Hussein, while ignor­ing the stark images of malnourished, dying children in Baghdad; it has been assessing Iraq by exaggerating its strike power while not really delving into the impacts of the Gulfwar, which are seen in acute economic disparities, shortages in food and medicine, and the deteriorating school system. The media also has not been giving space to describe the apprehensions of an Iraqi populace haunted by the inevi­tability of a US military invasion. Al­though the UN weapon inspectors have not come up with sufficient evi­dence that Iraq indeed possesses a vast arsenal of mass-destructive weapons, the pro-US media is still searching for such material in a vein, to justify an attack.
Thus, a terrible under-reporting and over-reporting of events have marked the journalistic excesses on Baghdad-a crime equally grievous to that of withholding humanitarian aid to Iraq. These excesses have been car­ried out by the likes of The Washing­ton Post, The New York Times and CNN for the US, and The Financial Times and BBC for the UK. And these are the "agenda-setting media", as put by Noam Chomsky, "because they are the ones with the big resources, they set the framework in which everyone else operates". Their agenda is forever linked to the political economy and their mission is to endorse the causes of corporate globalisation and impe­rialism. Bush's words that "we must make sure that control of the world's oil resources does not fall into his (Saddam) hands, only to finance fur­ther aggression" are the greatest proof of the political character of the
immi­nent war.
Another case in point is the "moral panic" these media powers unleash. Moral panic is a condition whereby an episode, person or group of per­sons; come to be defined as a threat to societal values and interests. Its nature is presented in a stylised and stere­otypical fashion by the mass media, and the moral barricades are manned by editors, politicians, or religious or racial groups. Here a group or a per­son is identified as a 'folk-devil' against whom something must be done. All the efforts of entities like the Time magazine, CNN and BBC are now centered around creating a moral panic over Saddam the 'folk devil'. If you take a look at their websites, there is undue stress on stories highlighting the cruelty and arrogance of Saddam, and the humanitarian gestures of Bush. The BBC website creates that war like ambience with biased analyses, and a war is justified on grounds of "benevolent genocide".
Moral panic is also created through intelligent articulation of words such as "kicked out" and "expelled" to de­note the departure of the UN inspec­tors, and when it comes to Iraqi alle­gations, it is merely reduced to "Saddam says”. A recent study con­ducted by three US local TV news sta­tions on the media coverage of Iraq over a month, reported 97 stories in favour of war, and 12 against war ­mongering. Some of the terms used by these media to represent Saddam Iraq includes "Iraqi threat, "terrorist proxies", "Iraqi defiance", "dictator­ship", "tyrant", "crafty", "Iraqi intran­sigence", "brutal elimination", "deftly manipulated", "evil", “unholy ·alli­ance”, "a decade of defiance", etc. The most powerful method of demonizing Saddam Hussein is by using Hitler analogy. Saddam is equated with Hitler, Iraq with Nazi Germany; and the 1990s with the 1930s – a metaphor that seems intended to silence any de­bate or critical thought. A New York Times editorial depicts Bush as "leader of all countries", while US diplomats "appeal to high moral values and the lessons of history":  This moral panic slowly transforms into mass hysteria and delusion, and this is exactly what the global media wants.
The stage is set for another Citizen Kane.

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