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ren hoek

Media Criticism Thread

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2019: Formerly titled The US is stumbling backwards into war

This thread started originally as a criticism of how mainstream press sanitizes US interventionism.  But I think a thread where we critique corporate news and legacy press (or, if you like, independent/alternative news sites) for all its problems would be good.  Not in a 'fake news!' sense, but the real bias, distortions, political opportunism, and clique wagon-circling that goes on everyday.  I'm convinced- the news cycle will do even worse in 2020 than it did in 2016.  Let us commiserate in this thread on how bad at their jobs they are.

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Good article about how mainstream press sanitizes militarism, and generally portrays conflict as either benevolent reluctance or simple incompetence on the US's part.  

http://fair.org/home/syria-the-latest-case-of-us-stumbling-into-war/

Syria the Latest Case of US ‘Stumbling’ Into War

ADAM JOHNSON

A recent headline in The Atlantic (6/9/17) earnestly pondered if the US was “Getting Sucked Into More War in Syria.” “Even as Washington potentially stumbles into war…” was how the article’s discussion began.

One of the most common tropes in US media is that the US military always goes to war reluctantly—and, if there are negative consequences, like civilian deaths, it’s simply a matter of bumbling around without much plan or purpose.

This framing serves to flatter two sensibilities: one right and one vaguely left. It satisfies the right-wing nationalist idea that America only goes to war because it’s compelled to by forces outside of its own control; the reluctant warrior, the gentle giant who will only attack when provoked to do so. But it also plays to a nominally liberal, hipster notion that the US military is actually incompetent and boobish, and is generally bad at war-making.

This is expressed most clearly in the idea that the US is “drawn into” war despite its otherwise unwarlike intentions. “Will US Be Drawn Further Into Syrian Civil War?” asked Fox News (4/7/17). “How America Could Stumble Into War With Iran,” disclosed The Atlantic (2/9/17), “What It Would Take to Pull the US Into a War in Asia,” speculated Quartz (4/29/17). “Trump could easily get us sucked into Afghanistan again,” Slate predicted (5/11/17). The US is “stumbling into a wider war” in Syria, the New York Times editorial board (5/2/15) warned. “A Flexing Contest in Syria May Trap the US in an Endless Conflict,” Vice News(6/19/17) added.

“Sliding,” “stumbling,” ”sucked into,” “dragged into,” ”drawn into”: The US is always reluctantly—and without a plan—falling backward into bombing and occupying. The US didn’t enter the conflict in Syria in September 2014 deliberately; it was forced into it by outside actors. The US didn’t arm and fund anti-Assad rebels for four years to the tune of $1 billion a year as part of a broader strategy for the region; it did so as a result of some unknown geopolitical dark matter.

Note that “self-defense” here means shooting down a plane flying over another country because it’s trying to bomb forces that you’re supporting to try to overthrow that country’s government. (Reuters, 6/19/17)

Syria especially evokes the media’s “reluctantly sucked into war” narrative. Four times in the past month, the Trump administration has attacked pro-regime forces in Syria, and in all four instances they’ve claimed “self-defense.” All four times, media accepted this justification without question (e.g., Reuters, 6/19/17), despite not a single instance of “self-defense” attacks occurring under two-and-a-half years of the Obama administration fighting in Syria. (The one time Obama directly attacked Syrian government forces, the US claimed it was an accident.)

Why the sudden uptick in “self-defense”? Could it be because, as with the bombing of ISIS (and nearby civilians), Trump has given a green light to his generals to adopt an itchy trigger finger? Could it be Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who has adecades-long grudge against Iran, want to blow up Iranian drones and kill Iranian troops? No such questions are entertained, much less interrogated. The US’s entirely defensive posture in Syria is presented as fact and serves as the premise for discussion.

When US empire isn’t reluctant, it’s benevolent. “Initially motivated by humanitarian impulse,” Foreign Policy‘s Emile Simpson (6/21/17)  insisted, “the United States and its Western allies achieved regime change in Libya and attempted it in Syria, by backing rebels in each case.”

“At least in recent decades, American presidents who took military action have been driven by the desire to promote freedom and democracy,” the New York Times editorial board (2/7/17) swooned.

“Every American president since at least the 1970s,” Washington Post’s Philip Rucker (5/2/17) declared, “has used his office to champion human rights and democratic values around the world.” Interpreting US policymakers’ motives is permitted, so long as the conclusion is never critical.

In contrast, foreign policy actions by Russia are painted in diabolical and near-omnipotent terms. “Is Putin’s Master Plan Only Beginning?” worried Vanity Fair (12/28/16). “Putin’s Aim Is to Make This the Russian Century,” insists Time magazine (10/1/16).

Russia isn’t “drawn into” Crimea; it has a secret “Crimea takeover plot” (BBC, 3/9/15). Putin doesn’t “stumble into” Syria; he has a “Long-Term Strategy” there (Foreign Affairs, 3/15/16). Military adventurism by other countries is part of a well-planned agenda, while US intervention is at best reluctant, and at worst bumfuzzled—Barney Fife with 8,000 Abrams tanks and 19 aircraft carriers.

Even liberals talk about war in this agency-free manner. Jon Stewart was fond of saying, for example, that the Iraq war was a “mistake”—implying a degree of “aw shucks” mucking up, rather than a years-long plan by ideologues in the government to assert US hegemony in the Middle East.

War, of course, isn’t a “mistake.” Nor, unless your country is invaded, is it carried out against one’s will. The act of marshalling tens of thousands of troops, scores of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and coordinating the mechanisms of soft and covert power by State and CIA officials, are deliberate acts by conscious, very powerful actors.

Media shouldn’t make broad, conspiratorial assumptions as to what the bigger designs are. But neither are they under any obligation to buy into this mythology that US foreign policy is an improvised peace mission carried out by good-hearted bureaucrats, who only engage in war because they’re “sucked into” doing so.

https://twitter.com/adamjohnsonNYC/status/878006629802713089

Edited by ren hoek

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15 hours ago, SaintsInDome2006 said:

 

- Why post an article from June?

 

- This article is in all sincerity, terrible.

Read the pieces. Did the author? I doubt it. Those articles aren't saying the US is getting sucked into war, they're saying Trump is actively screwing up and making war more likely.

Just read any one of them, here's the piece by the Atlantic:

- The people who stumbled are the ones who make excuses for Trump. Reading that thing by Johnson you'd think Trump was this poor bystander who was just standing there. He's driving all this, so stop defending him.

It's actually pretty insightful.  The headline is the most important part of the article in today's 2-second newsbyte culture.  Just the other day people in the Russia thread quoted a fox news article as conveying one thing when the content of the article was much more neutral in tone.  Of course it matters.  It isn't an accident the US war machine is portrayed as a good natured, gentle giant while Putin is a diabolical genius who has usurped the presidency.  The Russian redscare clickbaiting is incredibly irresponsible and destructive.  People are eating it up.  

To say western press has covered war in an honest way is laughable.  It doesn't start with Trump either.  It's actually critical of Trump, because it's saying military occupation and bombings are strategic, cognizant decisions by his administration.  Not just "good guys" making errant but well intentioned mistakes.  

Can I ask who you voted for Saints?  I see you constantly turning everything into a Trump thread even though this has nothing to do with him.  Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump. Like honestly you say trump a lot.  I think you gather I'm an anarchist that didn't vote, although there are part of Trump's policies I consider a welcome departure from the status quo.  What choice did you make during the election season?  

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1 hour ago, The General said:

I would say we meander into armed conflicts on the other side of the globe.

I prefer "saunter"

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I'm sick of war. The only purpose it serves is to thin the herd, and make people in power money. Going into Syria would accomplish nothing, as would fighting North Korea.

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The only benefit I see to war is that war, sufficiently large enough in scale to pose an existential threat, can cause americans to align and recognize what makes our country great.  It can focus us on what american values are worth supporting and which are just nonsense.

But lots of people end up dying in these kinds of wars, and it'd be great if we could figure out a way to get that message across to folks without the need of fear of their lives.

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3 minutes ago, adonis said:

The only benefit I see to war is that war, sufficiently large enough in scale to pose an existential threat, can cause americans to align and recognize what makes our country great.  It can focus us on what american values are worth supporting and which are just nonsense.

But lots of people end up dying in these kinds of wars, and it'd be great if we could figure out a way to get that message across to folks without the need of fear of their lives.

Fair enough, but what constitutes an existential threat to the US today? Personally I feel that the chances are greater that we tear ourselves apart, rather than facing some type of external threat.

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35 minutes ago, Kal El said:

Fair enough, but what constitutes an existential threat to the US today? Personally I feel that the chances are greater that we tear ourselves apart, rather than facing some type of external threat.

I'd say any war that involves nuclear weapons being used from China or Russia...but beyond that, any multi-nation war where there are powerful countries on both sides who are atomic.

Regardless, I don't want to see anything like that happen...the devastation would be unimaginable.  

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2 hours ago, ren hoek said:
7 hours ago, msommer said:

Civil war !

/RiversCo

It's an art form really

Similar to how smearing feces on canvas is art.

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Here former cable host Krystal Ball [I know] lays out a lot of the bias already seen this early in the 2020 campaign.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6Ia02L1qQo

Also talks about her experience at MSNBC and how a certain political campaign threatened to cut off their access.  Ultimately, any commentary on that candidate by Ball had to be cleared by the president of the network first.  

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