We all have come to expect very little from the mainstream media, as far as accuracy is concerned, and assumed they’ll be parroting a Washington Consensus bias. Sometimes, however, some reports still surprise me in their level of falsehoods, and in a recent case, short-term memory loss.
On May 14th, 2008, the Associated Press (AP) ran an article titled, "Lebanese Cabinet Reverses Anti-Hezbollah Decisions," reporting the ruling by Lebanese government to reverse measures that were meant to challenge Hezbollah "with decisions to sack the airport security chief for alleged ties to the group and to declare the militants’ private telephone network illegal." The initial decision sparked violence and the seizure of west Beriut by Hezbollah and its supporters. There is much that can be said about the specific topic of the report, but for now I am only interested in an assertion made by the AP in the opening paragraph—a statement sheds light on the way issues in the region are regularly framed.
The AP states, "The U.S.-backed Cabinet on Wednesday reversed measures against the militant Hezbollah movement that set off Lebanon’s worst violence since the 1975-90 civil war" (emphasis added). Taking this statement to be truth, two conclusions could be made: 1) no events since 1990 have yielded such violence, 2) and since it was a civil war, the violence was merely sectarian. However, both of these conclusions are wrong, leaving out a crucial actor in the affairs, Israel.
Beginning with the second false conclusion, there is no denying that Lebanon’s civil war was filled with sectarian violence, but one cannot forget the destruction caused by the 1982 Israeli invasion—resulting in thirty to forty thousand Palestinian and Lebanese deaths, with a hundred thousand seriously wounded, and half a million made homeless. And investigative journalist, Robert Fisk, described the horrific scene on the ground: "[I]t looked as if a tornado had torn through the residential building and apartments, ripping off balconies and roof supports, tearing down massive walls and collapsing whole blocks inwards upon their occupants. Many of the dead were sandwiched inside these ruins. In the streets, where Israeli bulldozers had swept away the rubble with military briskness, the people of Sidon walked in a daze."
The first conclusion’s falsehood also has its roots in Israeli aggression against Lebanon. This time it took the form of Israeli war crimes during the 33 Day War, in summer of 2006. Amnesty International (AI) reported that by the end of the war Israeli attacks resulted in "an estimated 1,183 fatalities, about one third of whom have been children, 4,054 people injured and 970,000 Lebanese people displaced." This number does not include those who died from unexploded munitions that still remain, many which, according to AI, were dropped hours before the ceasefire. In addition to the human toll, AI aslo reported the severe damage done to Lebanon’s infrastructure:
"During more than four weeks of ground and aerial bombardment of Lebanon by the Israeli armed forces, the country’s infrastructure suffered destruction on a catastrophic scale. Israeli forces pounded buildings into the ground, reducing entire neighbourhoods to rubble and turning villages and towns into ghost towns, as their inhabitants fled the bombardments. Main roads, bridges and petrol stations were blown to bits. Entire families were killed in air strikes on their homes or in their vehicles while fleeing the aerial assaults on their villages. Scores lay buried beneath the rubble of their houses for weeks, as the Red Cross and other rescue workers were prevented from accessing the areas by continuing Israeli strikes. The hundreds of thousands of Lebanese who fled the bombardment now face the danger of unexploded munitions as they head home."
Apparently, this does not constitute enough violence for the AP to take into account in its reporting. Violence only comes from Muslim sects, of course. Instead, they selectively suffer from historical amnesia in order to paint a picture better suited for complementing the US government’s foreign policy and that of their client state, Israel. As long anyone in the Middle East outside of the United States’ sphere of influence is depicted as uncivilized and undemocratic, the US and US-funded and backed Israeli government can terrorize populations with impunity in the name of "securing democracy" in the region and fighting terrorism. All of which, in the end, serve the American elite’s imperial interests.
And until there is popular control over the political and economic institutions of America, these interests will always be pursued and echoed by the media. In the meantime, let us try keep the imperial beast on a short chain through popular pressure and resistance. This includes its mouthpiece—the corporate media.
John J. Cronan Jr. lives in New York City, where he is restaurant worker and and organizer. He organizes with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), as well as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) Food and Allied Workers Union I.U. 460/640. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .