Whenever the Ukrainian civil war heats up, the manipulation of our media becomes as painfully obvious as a missing nose.
Yesterday, I heard a ninny-noodle "journalist" on NPR talk about the separatists and their (presumed) use of a Buk surface-to-air missile system to bring down MH17. Only the Russians could have given them this system, the reporter said. Moreover, these weapons were so complex, so difficult to use, that the separatists could not have shot down that jet unless they had Russian handlers standing nearby, guiding them every step of the way.
This is nonsense. I'll give two reasons.
First: A lot of the separatist fighters used to be in the Ukrainian military, which has its own surface-to-air missiles. As some of you will recall, an errant Ukrainian missile brought down a Russian civilian airliner in October of 2001. It is ridiculous to presuppose that today's fighters could not send up a missile without help from a Russian babysitter.
Second: To prove that the separatists had gotten hold of a Russian surface-to-air missile system, this same journalist pointed to a series of tweets sent by separatist leaders -- tweets which mysteriously disappeared shortly after the disaster. As you may recall, this humble blog has, in a previous post, linked to those very same tweets. What the NPR reporter neglected to tell her audience was that these messages clearly state that the Buk missiles came from Ukrainian stores
Not from Russia.
In other words, that NPR reporter was lying and she knew
she was lying. The evidence she cited conflicted with the "Evil Putin" narrative that she hoped to convey.
The RT double standard.
Many people have used the resignation of London-based Russia Today correspondent Sarah Firth
as proof that RT lacks all credibility.
Firth, who joined the channel in 2009, told BuzzFeed that she decided to resign from the Kremlin-funded news channel because she felt it was “disrespectfully” attempting to pin the blame for Thursday’s Malaysia Airlines disaster on the Ukrainian government.
“When this story broke I ran back into the newsroom and saw how we were covering it already and I just knew I had to go,” she said.
“It was the total disregard to the facts. We threw up eyewitness accounts from someone on the ground openly accusing the Ukrainian government [of involvement in the disaster], and a correspondent in the studio pulled up a plane crash before that the Ukrainian government had been involved in and said it was ‘worth mentioning’.
“It’s not worth mentioning. It’s Russia Today all over, it’s flirting with that border of overtly lying...
But it is
worth mentioning. That's why I have mentioned the 2001 incident on a couple of occasions.
As noted above, the 2001 downing disproves NPR's recent claim that a Ukrainian could not possibly have sent up a surface-to-air missile without a Russian standing nearby. Moreover, there is the uncomfortable but undeniable fact that the Ukrainian government lied its head off about the incident for quite some time. A government capable of lying then
may also be lying now
So Firth seems to have quit because RT mentioned something which was, in fact, quite relevant. In other words, she
was the one who wanted to hide the truth.
Compare our media's treatment of Firth to a couple of other recent incidents -- specifically, to the coverage of Gaza.
is an NBC reporter who reported on the death of four Palestinian boys. Israeli shells killed them shortly after they had played soccer with Mohyeldin. His coverage received widespread praise
Despite this praise -- or, more likely, because of it -- NBC removed him from the scene.
According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault (both Mohyeldin and Engel speak Arabic).
"Security concerns"? Nonsense. In all likelihood, Mohyeldin was pulled because he had criticized the State Department
William Booth of the Washington Post
covered the same tragedy, ending its story on a note likely to insure his continued employment:
They [the IDF] promised that the incident would be investigated but blamed Hamas for its "cynical exploitation of a population held hostage."
In other words, the Palestinians did it to themselves.
In response to Booth's coverage, Jonathan Cook
But I suspect something else is at work here, something revealing about the business of journalism.
Most of the time, we write not for ourselves or our readers but for our editors – in short to keep our jobs. Here Booth was called on to stop being the careerist and connect with his humanity. That, rare though it is in journalism, was what the moment required: to see, really see the desperate, terrified little boys in front of him. Instead, all he could think about was technique and what his editors might want.
Then we have the case of Diana Magnay
CNN has removed correspondent Diana Magnay from covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after she tweeted that Israelis who were cheering the bombing of Gaza, and who had allegedly threatened her, were “scum.”
“After being threatened and harassed before and during a liveshot, Diana reacted angrily on Twitter,” a CNN spokeswoman said in a statement to The Huffington Post.
“She deeply regrets the language used, which was aimed directly at those who had been targeting our crew," the spokeswoman continued. "She certainly meant no offense to anyone beyond that group, and she and CNN apologize for any offense that may have been taken.”
The spokeswoman said Magnay has been assigned to Moscow.
Magnay appeared on CNN Thursday from a hill overlooking the Israel-Gaza border. While she reported, Israelis could be heard near her cheering as missiles were fired at Gaza.
After the liveshot, Magnay tweeted: “Israelis on hill above Sderot cheer as bombs land on #gaza; threaten to ‘destroy our car if I say a word wrong’. Scum.”
As I see it, Magnay wrote nothing requiring an apology -- and removing her was pure censorship.
If Sarah Firth wants to experience true
media manipulation, she should work for one of of our more Orwellian American news organizations -- and she should try to tell the truth about Israel's oppression of the Palestinians.
To put Firth's resignation into perspective, consider this: Thousands of protesters converged on the BBC
to demand an end to biased coverage of the Gaza disaster.
As the protesters shouted “BBC, shame on you,” Hugh Lanning, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), handed in a letter to the BBC’s Director General, Tony Hall. The letter calls on the BBC to reflect the reality of Gaza’s occupation and siege in its reporting. The open letter had been signed by 45,000 people in under a week. Signatories include scholar Noam Chomsky, filmmaker John Pilger, film director Ken Loach, musician Brian Eno, journalist Owen Jones and comedian and filmmaker Jeremy Hardy.
Protesters held up placards bearing statements from the letter, including: “We would like to remind the BBC that Gaza has no army, air force or navy” and “The BBC’s reporting of Israel’s assaults on Gaza is entirely devoid of context or background.”
As BBC employees watched from the top of their building, some recording the protest on mobile phones and tweeting out the footage, Lanning told the protestors: “There are lies, there are damned lies, and then there’s the BBC. Come on BBC, tell the truth — it’s the occupation, stupid.”
Please understand that I am not
a blinkered fan of Russia Today. You will notice that I do not link to them in my blogroll. But in all fairness, I must ask: Has there ever been a mass protest against RT's coverage of anything?
Firth accuses RT of "flirting with that border of overtly lying." Maybe so. But American news organizations merrily skip across that border every damned day.
I urge you to read Robert Parry's coverage
of the skewed reporting we've received concerning both the attack on Gaza and the Ukrainian disaster. Parry used to work for AP and Newsweek; he left the latter after his editors shot down an accurate story about Iran-Contra.
Parry's semi-forced resignation was not considered a damning indictment of America's media. And yet we are supposed to consider Sarah Firth's resignation a damning indictment of Russia's media.