Propaganda Thinly Masked as Evidence

In the aftermath of the journalistic failures that helped facilitate the unmitigated disaster which was the Iraq War, one would think that the same publications responsible for publishing gross innuendo and propaganda as objective fact would have learnt their lesson for the future. An article released by AP and published in the Washington Post (among other mainstream outlets) today provides a stark and frankly disgusting reminder that most of our tireless media watchdogs have learnt no such lesson and are fully intending to take whatever information they can to promote the fear-mongering hype over Iran which may lead to another, far more disastrous conflict. An AP exclusive story released today shows a drawing of what is purported to be an “explosive containment chamber” present at an Iranian military site. The existence of such a chamber would ostensibly provide evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons and could thus potentially constitute a smoking gun to those seeking to make the case that they are. However to make this extremely consequential case (which the media has in depressingly typical fashion rushed to trumpet), the sole evidence that Iran does possess such equipment constitutes this extremely crude drawing created by an unknown source, and several completely anonymous quotes supposedly verifying its authenticity. Behind the fear-inducing headlines and the cynical manipulation of the public, the actual shoddiness of the journalism must be witnessed to be believed:

“The computer-generated drawing was provided to The Associated Press by an official of a country tracking Iran’s nuclear program who said it proves the structure exists, despite Tehran’s refusal to acknowledge it. That official said the image is based on information from a person who had seen the chamber at the Parchin military site, adding that going into detail would endanger the life of that informant. The official comes from an IAEA member country that is severely critical of Iran’s assertions that its nuclear activities are peaceful and asserts they are a springboard for making atomic arms.”

“A former senior IAEA official said he believes the drawing is accurate. Olli Heinonen, until last year the U.N. nuclear agency’s deputy director general in charge of the Iran file, said it was “very similar” to a photo he recently saw that he believes to be the pressure chamber the IAEA suspects is at Parchin… he had but declined to go into the origins of the photo to protect his source.”

Beneath the layers of incendiary hype, what you have here is basically nothing. Taking the assumption that this is a democracy and not a totalitarian country and that there are thus minimum standards for evidence and journalistic integrity, it should be noted that the serious accusations being made here are based completely on anonymous sources, many of whom are acknowledged to be openly hostile and belligerent towards Iran. A few simple questions come to mind; such as, who made this drawing? On what basis is their information verifiable? How can their credibility be judged when they are completely anonymous? Who is their (again, completely anonymous) “source” who gave them this information? Who is the former IAEA official who has given their opinion the drawing is authentic, and on what basis has their opinion been formed?

This is not nitpicking, these are all absolutely basic and necessary questions that any news outlet should immediately ask before publishing information that may have massive consequences not only for their own credibility but for the lives of millions of people. If the drawing had been made by Benjamin Netanyahu, which for all one knows based on the dearth of available information it might have been, that would impact its perceived value and its effectiveness as a tool for furthering the cause of beginning a war with Iran. Stacking anonymous source upon anonymous source and ultimately pulling out a crude sketch of something claimed to be a threat to civilization is not anything resembling journalism, its crude propaganda. This type of sensationalist, utterly hollow drivel had no place being in the pages of the Washington Post or any of the other major publications where it ran today; but remarkably it was there.

Those with an avowed agenda to campaign for war against Iran have uncritically and enthusiastically used this story to help further their cause, regardless of how embarrassing the “evidence” itself is. This type of thing does real harm to those who are legitimately interested in knowing and acting upon the truth and making decisions based on fact, rather than anonymously authored cartoons leaked by equally anonymous “officials” of an anonymous state. Those who tirelessly campaigned for the war in Iraq which killed hundreds of thousands and created millions of refugees are using the same crude tactics they did to engineer that catastrophe. Colin Powell famously showed sketches of Saddam Hussein’s supposed mobile bio-weapons factories, providing pseudo-evidence in lieu of actual evidence but achieving his goal of terrorizing and cowing the populace and the international community into going along with the neoconservative agenda. We all know now that those mobile weapons factories never existed, and yet the very same individuals who manipulated the world using such tactics are attempting to do the same today with Iran. It perhaps can be expected from neoconservative ideologues whose commitment is not to the objective truth but rather to their own narrow interests that this “story” would have gotten attention, but it is incumbent upon those with an interest in seeing a peaceful resolution to this conflict that such blatant propaganda not be allowed to poison the public discourse.

4 Responses to Propaganda Thinly Masked as Evidence

  1. Chuck Wentworth says:

    Great piece. And so true. I mentioned part of the fear mongering effort aimed at Iran in my post here: http://roundersandrogues.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/why-do-people-hate-america/. I can’t help but feel like we’re living in some kind of warped reality where our leaders and the media that obsequiously “propagandizes” their message, refuses to learn from the past. It’s surreal.

  2. mazmhussain says:

    Sorry it took so long to respond, have been out of the country. Great piece as well. I agree, the narrative is made by the government and sold by the media. There is nothing adversarial regarding their relationship anymore, the media simply exists to reinforce the government message rather than to critique it. I’m speaking in broad strokes of course, but it rings true.

    • Chuck Wentworth says:

      It definitely rings true. Unfortunately so. The problem with the media, as I see it, begins with corporate ownership. That’s an obvious point I realize, but the idea that private money can own major media outlets, is completely contradictory to the concept of a “free press”. The same concept is of course true regarding the political sphere. It’s now naive to believe the US is a democracy, when anyone paying the slightest bit of attention can recognize how entrenched corporate America is in our political system. I think that’s why Occupy is such a significant movement. That’s another topic all together, but it will be interesting to see what kind of serious dialogue such a movement can create, in terms of developing an honest and unique political revolution/voice that I feel this country desperately needs.

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