We cannot trust the media's reporting on international affairs

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Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump in 2017 (image by U.S. Embassy Israel via Wikimedia Commons).

The mainstream media's pro-U.S. and Western bias distorts the truth, writes Dr Evan Jones.

OUR HALLOWED ABC had a segment on its hallowed 7.30 program on 15 January titled "Finland working hard against the threat of Russian hackers".

The ABC’s talking head proclaimed:

‘The Mueller Report laid bare the extent of Russian hacking and meddling to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.’

What? The Mueller Report did no such thing. This statement is such a grievous misrepresentation that it rules out simple ignorance. Russiagate, which Australia’s mainstream media (MSM) thrived on, was one huge con.

The 7.30 program continued:

"This week, it's been revealed that Russian hackers have also penetrated the Ukranian [sic] gas company at the centre of the scandal that's led to Donald Trump's impeachment."

Well, not quite. This idea apparently came from a questionable source and it has been faithfully reproduced by the MSM on cue.

Later on, the same vignette claims"Russia has also sought to sow mistrust and uncertainty among its European neighbours."

Grievously wrong again. Russia’s actions have all been defensive, not least against the U.S.-directed coup in Ukraine in February 2014 (snipers providing the killer blow) with its subsequent Russophobe oppression. The U.S.-led NATO push to Russia’s borders has naturally not been welcomed. Why would formally non-aligned Finland join in yet another provocative NATO exercise? Reporter Linton Besser didn’t bother to inquire — too busy sniffing out the latter-day version of Reds under every bed.

In short, regrettable. And it’s par for the course in the ABC’s coverage of international affairs. And people say the ABC has a Left-wing bias? Sure.

However, this ABC travesty is merely an entrée into another article about the biases of the Fairfax/Nine Entertainment press. I wrote an earlier piece on this theme in November, but management has clearly not taken heed.

It’s best to avoid the opinion pages and world coverage in getting to the letters page in between, but sometimes the rubbish grabs even the wary.

Yet even on the letters page, we read:

‘As the year draws to a close I wanted to note that any misgivings readers might have had of the ability of The Sydney Morning Herald to stay “Independent Always” after the takeover by Channel 9 have been well and truly proved wrong … Please keep up the good work in 2020 in order to “keep the bastards honest”!’

That regular reader seems to have overlooked the coverage of world affairs.

Brazen was the piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 17 December 2019, by Vic Alhadeff, head man at the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, 'Whoever replaces Corbyn must immediately treat Labour's festering wound'.

This is in the context of Labour’s defeat in the British General Elections of 12 December 2019. The meme around the Labour Party’s so-called anti-Semitism (minuscule, less than in the Tory Party) has been entirely manufactured. There is no “festering wound” to treat. 

And what’s with this mob called the Jewish Labour Movement, to which Alhadeff defers? Is this a Pythonesque offshoot of the People’s Front of Judea? Is this merely a fifth column for Israel, as is the pernicious Labour Friends of Israel (which Corbyn should have disbanded).

Corbyn has long been a strong defender of the rights of Palestinians, so his status as Party leader was intolerable to the Zionist faithful. Moreover, the establishment British Jewish community, in cooperation with the substantial retinue of sold-out Blairites in Parliament, have instrumentalised anti-Semitism to keep Labour out of office in a country where decades-long austerity measures have generated massive hardship. Charming. But Zionism has long been insidiously entrenched in British politics, not least within Labour circles. Corbyn was naïve to ignore it, indeed to pander to it and he paid dearly for that naivete.

Alhadeff's transparent misrepresentations don’t deserve an outlet in a so-called quality press.

Then there is Iran, Israel’s "existential" bogeyman, simply because Iran refuses to accept Israeli hegemony (with Saudi Arabia in tow) in the Middle East. In imposing brutal sanctions on Iran, the U.S. does Israel’s dirty work, but it has independently long resisted Iran’s desire to insist on its own sovereignty.

Thus does the U.S. assassinate the senior Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, with Israeli assistance — the claimed reasons preposterous.

So what do we get in the Herald? Not one but two articles on 9 January from the dominant Israel lobby machine, the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. AIJAC is a straight-out lobby for a foreign power. How does it get coverage in our papers?

Colin Rubinstein claims that:

'The United States' drone attack that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad Airport on January 3 was militarily and morally justified.'

No it wasn’t. We have to tolerate a Zionist apparatchik lecturing us on morality?

Rubinstein, a comparable warhorse like Alhadeff, for whom equally facts are irrelevant, opines favourably on 'the potential of that bold move to change the regional rules of the game in a positive fashion and increase pressure on Iran to reconsider its destabilising regional policies'.

In terms of the hierarchy of regional destabilisers, Israel is at the top of the list (indeed by the very nature of its creation and maintenance by terrorism), assassinating its enemies at will and supporting jihadis (who Soleimani’s forces were fighting) in the ongoing attempted dismantling of Syria. Iran is down the list.

In the same issue, we have an AIJAC representative Ahron Shapiro, “senior policy analyst” albeit short on analysis, telling us that 'it’s easy to lose sight of the main issue fuelling the tension, that is, the pressing need to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons'. Rubbish, of course. The point of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), agreed in July 2015, was precisely to inhibit the development of nuclear capacity, to which Iran was a party. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal in May 2018, supported by Israel and Saudi Arabia.

But it’s all Iran’s fault.

I analysed in some detail, in March 2019, Fairfax/Nine Entertainment’s abject surrender to the Israel lobby, again involving the execrable mentality of Shapiro. In 2014, I documented comparable cowardice by Fairfax in coverage of the then Gaza massacre — here, here and here.

Fairfax/Nine is not merely cowardly with respect to the Israel lobby, it (with the Murdoch media) is an integral part of that lobby, debasing its journalistic standards and sacrificing its integrity — this in opening its pages to racist propagandists. In short, an ongoing obscenity.

Then comes the disaster of the crash of Ukrainian Airlines flight PS752, killing all 176 people on board. Iran has admitted that a defence battery unintentionally shot it down. A huge tragedy — yet another instance in which a civilian airliner has been a casualty of cold war or military conflict.

What do we get in the Herald? We get three articles reproduced from a Bloomberg journalist. Since when has Bloomberg provided expert, non-partisan commentary on global politics? The journalist is Bobby Ghosh, with a claimed speciality “on foreign affairs, with a special focus on the Middle East and the wider Islamic world”.

Here are the articles — 12 January, 14 January and 20 January.

On the 12th, Ghosh claimed that 'the culture of reflexive conspiracy-theorising that pervades the Islamic Republic can sometimes catch out its own officials'. Conspiracy-theorising? Iran has been under attack almost non-stop since 1979 when the U.S.-installed Shah Pahlavi was deposed, not least during the Iraq-Iran war (1980-88), with Hussein’s Iraq as U.S. proxy. In passing, Ghosh flippantly dismisses the U.S. navy vessel’s shooting down of the Iranian Flight 655 in July 1988.

On the 20th, Ghosh excuses the European Union’s total gutlessness in accusing Iran, rather than the U.S., for the inoperative JCPOA, while simultaneously accusing the EU’s representatives (Germany, France, UK) of cowardice for not being even more sycophantic towards the U.S.

We can be thankful that we weren’t exposed to Ghosh’s rant on 3 January in which he condones gratuitous assassination:

'The military commander’s fiery death was the predictable consequence of Iran’s reckless escalation.'

Whose reckless escalation? Fighting Western-backed jihadis is “reckless escalation”? On the contrary, the reckless escalation is coming from the never-goes-away neocon and Zionist cabal, at the moment in the person of David Wurmser. With the assistance of one Richard Goldberg, “a John Bolton protégé anti-Iran hardliner”, placed in the National Security Council by the Israel lobby and threatening the Europeans if they dare waver from the hardline anti-Iran agenda.

Ghosh is a hack propagandist. This is par for the course in terms of Ghosh’s employer. He avoids any discussion of context — longstanding American and Israeli belligerence and presuming implicitly that Iran’s failing economy is entirely a product of its bankrupt political regime.

At the same time as the first Ghosh article was reproduced, we have a piece by one Aurel Braun, a University of Toronto academic.

Claims Braun:

‘[Iran has] moved relentlessly to create a Shiite arc controlled from Tehran, stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean. There was an aura of invulnerability around Soleimani, who led the Quds Force, representing the tip of the spear of Iranian imperial regional ambitions, domestic repression and world support for terrorism.’

What? Rubbish. Saudi Arabia fits the bill of 'regional ambitions, domestic repression and world support for terrorism', but the Saudis are our worthy allies. This much-published academic has suffered a blood rush to the head.

Braun revels in the fact of 'an unpredictable, narcissistic and vindictive opponent like U.S. President Donald Trump, who chose not to play the game by the old rules', and the prospect (unexamined) that Iran has no answer to the U.S. aggression. Braun, who demonstrates no knowledge of Iran’s internal politics, imagines that the ongoing demonstrations (which are rather primarily directed against economic hardship) will speedily bring down the regime. On the contrary, the assassination of Soleimani is likely to shore up the reactionary forces within Iran.

It turns out that Braun is a pro-Israel activist. Here he is in 2014 defending the Israeli massacre of Gazans, claiming that the Palestinians lie about the numbers killed. The means by which the Israel fan club attempt to defend the indefensible are endless and not worth a second of one’s attention. Save to wonder about the depths of irrationality and inhumanity to which individuals will sink when trapped in the rituals of tribalism.

How can one expect informed opinion on Iran from someone consumed by the righteousness of Israel? Braun’s article was reproduced from The Conversation, which outlet makes a point of political correctness by including a “disclosure statement” by the author. There is no disclosure of Braun’s personal bias on Middle Eastern affairs.

Braun was also installed in 2009 by then Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as Chair of the Montreal-based Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Rights & Democracy) to close down any attention by that body to Israel, in the context of Harper moving Canada’s foreign policy to a gung ho support of the State.

Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (who Braun inextricably labels “extremely cautious”) has carried on a totally unprincipled foreign policy, aided by his neocon sidekick Chrystia Freeland in her successive roles as Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister (Canada’s recent voting record on Israel is covered here).

Canada’s long contribution to repression in Haiti has been a disgrace. On the attempted takedown of Maduro’s Venezuela, not merely has Trudeau offered Canada as a satrap to American ambitions, but it has independently spearheaded the attack.

If Trudeau had shown any inkling of “extreme caution”, he would have moved to re-establish the Canadian embassy in Tehran that Harper had closed in 2012, given the significant Iranian community resident in Canada. But no, he chooses to up the ante on Harper’s Israel-driven contempt for Iran’s right to the defence of its sovereignty. Canada’s contempt for Iran’s sovereignty has been in place long before Harper and Trudeau came along.

Faced with the death of Canadian citizens and of Iranians studying in Canada, Trudeau belatedly offered an oblique criticism of the Trump administration: “those Canadians would be, right now, home with their families [if not for] escalation recently in the region”. In 2018, Trudeau had developed some backbone over Trump’s confrontation on trade issues, but the mettle has not been carried into Canada’s immoral foreign policy.

I bring up Trudeau’s lamentable period in office to highlight that Braun can cynically misrepresent the character of an undeserving compromised Prime Minister, relying on a readership’s ignorance to shore up his own position.

To top it off, the Herald offers an editorial on the affair, 'Iran's tinderbox can burn meddling West', 16 January. There is an oblique criticism of the West, but one has to work hard to discern it. Western leaders are urged to support Iran to 'bring those culpable for it to justice', but there is no urging to bring to justice those responsible for the barbaric murder of Soleimeni, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and entourage, or those responsible for the illegal imposition of long-term and comprehensive sanctions on the Iranian people.

Bizarrely, the editorial quickly launches itself into the MH17 affair:

‘Iran’s decision to accept responsibility for the atrocity stands in contrast to Russia’s ongoing refusal to accept any responsibility for, or co-operate with, the investigation of the equally tragic downing of MH17 over Eastern Ukraine in July 2014, with the loss of 38 Australians among the 298 innocent people killed.’

What? Russia’s ongoing refusal to accept responsibility may be linked to the prospect that Russia was not responsible for that tragedy and outrage. The editorial writers apparently rely only on the propaganda that they reproduce for their long-suffering readers.

Here are a mere handful of sources that question the official Dutch-led narrative on MH17: here (October 2016), here (May 2018), here (September 2018), here (July 2019), and here (January 2020).

As a side dish, the Herald serves up more fake news from the utterly discredited New York Times on the adventures, just when everybody had forgotten about him, of the hapless Venezuelan Juan Guaidó. Guaidó has been replaced by other Opposition leaders in Venezuela’s Assembly and is now yesterday’s man.

Meanwhile, while Maduro’s Venezuela struggles on against the illegal seizure of state assets and brutal economic sanctions, neighbouring Columbia, recently disclosed by the UN as having a brilliant ongoing record of murdering opposition activists, goes completely under the Herald’s radar.

There is one rule for understanding the Herald’s distorted foreign affairs coverage — it’s the age-old “good guys versus bad guys”. Everybody on our side (those considered acceptable by the U.S. and Israel) are the good guys. And that’s it.

But we already know the division, so why do we read and watch the MSM at all? The hope for integrity on the part of our mainstream media continues unabashed, in spite of the overwhelming evidence that nothing is going to change.

Dr Evan Jones is a retired political economist.

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