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News Porn, Cruise Missiles And Cleavage

By Dave Fryett

22 March, 2011

As ever, the reporting on the air campaign against Libya has been nothing short of disgraceful. It simply could not be worse. The broadcast media have been executing their mission–gin up support for the assault–by surrendering themselves and their airwaves to the same old specious meditations which have been invoked to justify many of the West's recent acquisitions in the Middle East.

Above the throb of war drums and the shrieks of cheerleaders, not a single word of protest is heard. No one asks whether the US-European forces have any right to get involved in Libyan affairs. No sooner had they reclassified the conflict in Libya from revolution to civil war than, over and over again, they inveigh that Gaddafi is “killing his own people.” Are not his opponents doing the same? Isn't that by definition what civil war is? Why no denunciation of them? Nobody demands whether it would be more palatable if he were killing somebody else.

There is no consideration that this is an imperial war of aggression whose aim is securing Libya’s oil and preventing this second Arab Revolt from spreading. Instead we are diverted that the US was reluctant to become involved, and was suffering from “Iraq and Afghanistan Syndrome,” and “intervention fatigue.” As absurd as these obviations are, they find universal acceptance on both right- and left-wing media broadcasts.

Perhaps the worst coverage of this latest "liberation" in the Middle East was hosted by MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer. She was clad in a low-cut shirt which revealed a much more generous than normal, but not quite immodest, swath of her pectus. The decolletage was in every shot of the beautiful young anchor, every one.

She interviewed a series of politicians, soldiers, and other media figures and each supported the attack on Libya, and always on humanitarian grounds. She asked media wonk Jonathan Alter “How can we counter the propaganda coming from the Gaddafi regime.” Astonishingly, an earnest discussion of how to do just that ensued, no pretense to journalistic neutrality attempted. The word “propaganda” was heard literally dozens of times during her hours as host with this the worst example: “Speaking of propaganda,” Brewer blustered, “a Libyan official is about to hold a press conference.” One might think it only prudent to wait and see what the official might say before denouncing him, but such circumspection eluded Ms Brewer at every turn.

But the best was yet to come: Brewer interviewed former ambassador to Morocco, Marc Ginsberg. Unhampered by fact or scruple, and employing a dodge that had proven useful in the recent past, the former Clinton appointee plaintively informed his host that Gaddafi still had weapons of mass destruction. Brewer nodded in silent agreement to this stupefying assertion. As if disappointed by the lethargic response, Ginsburg then brayed that “There are a million Egyptian workers in Libya which Gaddafi could take hostage.” Again Brewer made no reply, leaving these odious lies to linger in the air like flatulence.

My favorite bit of chicanery involves Nic Robertson and his taxi driver. CNN’s correspondent in Libya spun a yarn so entertaining that his “contacts” in the Pentagon must have been quite pleased. He claimed that some of Gaddafi’s “thugs” had stopped the taxi in which he rode and seized the driver. They were angry that the driver was transporting journalists and suspected him of collaboration with the rebels. Robertson insisted that his driver was not in cahoots with the opposition and was guilty of nothing. Robertson then received assurances that the man would not be harmed and would be released soon. He then added that six days later he heard that the poor driver was still being held. Robertson didn’t say how he came by this information. Apparently he didn’t consider it necessary.

This report met with not a drop of skepticism from CNN’s host, yet it demands a little scrutiny. Just how well does Robertson know this taxi driver that he can state with journalistic confidence that the man in question was not working for the rebels? Certainly the opposition would want to get press coverage of Gaddafi’s excesses, which is precisely what Robertson was en route to investigate, it is quite possible the driver was acting on behalf of the revolution. Robertson could not possibly know that the driver wasn’t a spy, but he could know that he was. The story was in line with the propaganda war waged by Robertson's employers and its dissemination might just be as simple as that, but it is well documented that Western intelligence services have thoroughly infiltrated the media (Operation Mockingbird, Carl Bernstein's "The CIA and the Media," Harrison Salisbury's "Gentlemen Killers of the CIA," William Colby's testimony to the Church Commission, and much, much more). I will not here allege that Robertson (or the driver) is a spy as I do not know it to be the case, and I have more regard for the truth than do he or CNN, but this incident does lend itself to suspicion. In any case, what Robertson clearly is not is a journalist.

The Sunday morning chat shows offered more of the same. They prepared us for the possibility that Gaddafi might remain in power at the end of this war, and that Libya might be split into two states. This is a clear indication that the point of this war is to retain control over Libya’s oil and halt the spread of revolution. For at least the last eight years, Gaddafi has allowed international capital a free hand in Libya’s markets. They have no problem with him short of his inability to suppress the democratic aspirations of his populace. If in the end the real revolutionaries are defeated and Gaddafi is once more secure, the mission will be accomplished. If the Libyan dictator needs to be sacrificed, then that will be done.

I fear for the revolutionaries of Libya, as their new allies are more dangerous than their enemies. The cure will almost certainly be worse than the disease.




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