(This article first appeared on the ANTIMEDIA)
(Darius Shahtahmasebi Op-ed)
Most of the time, the president says things we more or less agree with. When he says things along the lines of attacks on civilians must be stopped, of course, we all approve. How can we not?
The only problem is that usually, he is only applying those standards to uncooperative governments and never to himself or his allies.
The war on alternative media is a prime example of this. Obama’s spiel at a recent press conference in Germany is hard to argue with on its face, as he stated that fake news undermines the American political process:
“If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”
I agree. I think everyone agrees. Fake news must be stopped.
During the late nineties, the NATO war machine decided to spread its democratic principles to Yugoslavia. The country’s president at the time, Slobodan Milosevic, was widely branded as a war criminal by the mainstream media. There was some consensus that intervention was necessary to bring an end to his actions.
Years later, that perspective persisted. A 2011 Telegraph article explains that under Milosevic’s rule, “ethnic cleansing became a reality as whole populations were forced from their homes and hundreds of thousands were killed.”
However, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague exonerated him earlier this year. Despite all the media’s claims, the ICTY determined he was not responsible for war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
I’m sure Milosevic did some truly heinous things while in office, but that’s beside the point. The point is that we were lied to, and NATO was able to launch a war based on those promulgated lies.
In 2011, we were told that the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was about to commit a mass genocide against his own people. The mainstream media advanced these claims without question. However, on the off chance we were not getting the full picture, Amnesty International decided to do an investigation of its own. As noted by the Independent:
“NATO leaders, opposition groups and the media have produced a stream of stories since the start of the insurrection on 15 February, claiming the Gaddafi regime has ordered mass rapes, used foreign mercenaries and employed helicopters against civilian protesters.
“An investigation by Amnesty International has failed to find evidence for these human rights violations and in many cases has discredited or cast doubt on them. It also found indications that on several occasions the rebels in Benghazi appeared to have knowingly made false claims or manufactured evidence.” (emphasis added)
The mainstream media also failed to tell us a number of things about Libyan society. Although the country was ruled by Gaddafi, decision-making was conducted at the local level through a very participative democratic system. As explained by Counter Punch:
“Far from control being in the hands of one man, Libya was highly decentralized and divided into several small communities that were essentially “mini-autonomous States” within a State. These autonomous States had control over their districts and could make a range of decisions including how to allocate oil revenue and budgetary funds. Within these mini autonomous States, the three main bodies of Libya’s democracy were Local Committees, Basic People’s Congresses and Executive Revolutionary Councils.”
Under Gaddafi, Libya transformed itself into the most developed country in Africa with the highest standard of living on the continent. Libyans enjoyed state-sponsored health care and a number of other public services. The country was also debt-free.
Once again, the result of the media’s deceitful dissemination of half-truths was a NATO-led war.
Gaddafi was clearly no saint. There are numerous allegations about Gaddafi’s use of torture against political dissidents. But the idea that these allegations exonerate the media for peddling lies that ultimately led to the destruction of Libya’s future as a healthy state is so ludicrously untenable that it begs the question: Why do social media giants like Facebook not consider this disinformation to be worthy of the title “fake news?”
Syria is no different. In fact, the current Syrian conflict exists only because of a concoction of media lies so extensive that this topic alone would require an entire book dedicated to it.
Since the start of the conflict in 2011, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has maintained the majority support of his people. The most recent poll I am aware of (a French poll, believe it or not) gives him an approval rating of over 70 per cent — much higher than Barack Obama’s personal rating. Yet we have been told time and time again by the mainstream media that Assad has no legitimacy and the people of Syria want to overthrow him.
Wrong. The governments of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Israel, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States want to overthrow the current Syrian president over a pipeline that could potentially strengthen Russia and Iran’s position in the Middle East.
The idea that any of those players care about human rights in Syria when every single one of them is responsible for all kinds of human rights abuses, both domestically and abroad, should be questioned by every mainstream media outlet in the world. But it’s not.
Has Assad committed some horrible crimes, including widespread torture and indiscriminate attacks on civilians? Most probably. But so have many of Washington’s allies, and many of the so-called opposition groups in Syria are dominated by violent extremists, including the Free Syrian Army.
The war in Syria was instigated by external powers, but the media continues to push the agenda of the military industrial complex.
Obama is right. Facebook is right. Google and Twitter are right.
Fake news is all around us, and it must be stopped.
But there is no war on fake news. There is only a war on alternative and independent media — media who question the official lines advanced by the corporate media.
There is a reason the Guardian newspaper is begging for donations and other corporate outlets are promoting half-baked theories about Russian propaganda. The media has lost all credibility when it comes to important topics – and we have become the scapegoat.
What we are witnessing is utter desperation from the corporate elites in their attempts to control what we read and what we choose to believe.
In the words of Secretary of State John Kerry:
“It [the internet] makes it much harder to govern, it makes it much harder to organize people, much harder to find the common interest and that is complicated by a rise of sectarianism and religious extremism that is prepared to employ violent means to impose on other people a way of thinking and a way of living that is completely contrary to everything the United States of America has ever stood for. So we need to keep in mind what our goals are and how complicated this world is that we’re operating in.” (emphasis added)
Or maybe, we could simply be taught to think and analyze critically at the school level rather than being told what to believe by corporate giants like Facebook and Google.
This article (When Fake News Gets People Killed, It Must Be Stopped) first appeared on the theAntiMedia.org and was written by Darius Shahtahmasebi. This article is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Darius Shahtahmasebi and theAntiMedia.org.