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United States Corporate Media Watch

Richard and Roberto would like to dedicate this feature to Glen Ford, one of the fiercest critics of U.S. corporate media the country has ever known. May we all find creative and courageous ways to honor his memory by speaking out against Wall Street, white supremacy, and the U.S. war machine.

In this feature, we interview Syrian-born journalist Richard Medhurst about state propaganda, the mainstream media, and U.S. imperialism. This is our fourth interview with Richard. Previous interviews for this feature can be found here: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.

Roberto Sirvent: Earlier this year, The Intercept published a couple articles that I wanted to ask you about. I’m thinking specifically about Jeremy Scahill’s piece, “Netenyahu’s War on Truth: Israel’s Ruthless Propaganda Campaign to Dehumanize Palestinians ” and Adam Johnson and Othman Ali’s “Coverage of Gaza War in the New York Times and Other Major Newspapers Heavily Favored Israel, Analysis Shows ”. One of the most striking set of statistics in the second article showed how the terms, “slaughter,” “massacre,” and “horrific” were employed in different U.S. media outlets. In a time when liberals are so critical and condescending of the far right for believing “fake news”, why are liberals so quick to believe Israeli propaganda? why do they still view The New York Times and Washington Post as “objective”, neutral, and reliable news sources?

Richard Medhurst: Because they are the ones manufacturing Israeli propaganda. Many of the great lies about October 7 were printed by papers like the New York Times, and broadcast incessantly on CNN and MSNBC. The entire liberal establishment is immersed in Israeli propaganda and Zionist beliefs. Joe Biden, a proud Zionist, is the one supplying the bombs that are being dropped on Gaza. It is the Democratic party, including Bernie Sanders and AOC who said nothing during the first weeks and months of this genocide, and instead talked about the Israeli occupation’s “right” to do drop bombs on Palestinians. It is Ilhan Omar, a self-declared “progressive” and Muslim woman, who not only voted to give Israel $3.8b in 2021, but cast one of the deciding votes to get that annual bill passed, along with other “progressives”. She did that barely two months after Israel’s last bombardment of Gaza in May 2021.

When there’s no dissent, and even the most “progressive” voices in liberal circles and establishment are ultimately supporting Israel, then of course you will see their friends and partisan hacks in the media express the same viewpoint

The neoliberal class continue to view the New York Times and Washington Post as “neutral” and “objective” outlets because even the most marginal criticism of Israel is too much for them. For example, if the NYT runs one bad story about Israelis, and 99 bad stories about Palestinians, that means the outlet is balanced to them. They have a pro-Israel bias. This is their definition of fair and objective. In their view, the New York Times and the Washington Post have done nothing wrong by only humanizing Israelis, who don’t even experience a fraction of the pain Palestinians do.

Liberals like to think that racism only exists on the American right, but they are equally as bad, and the ones carrying out a genocide right now.  They are biased against Arabs and Muslims, especially since 9/11. When these outlets lie and dehumanize Arabs, liberals will believe any characterization of Palestinians because they want to, and are conditioned to view Arabs as different; whereas they view Israelis as their white friends and equals in the Middle East.

It’s important to say that this also extends to Europe, as they often reflect what the press say in the US and are just as bad. I was traveling through Germany and Austria, when I noted how the media weren’t covering the genocide in Gaza. It didn’t feature at all on public news screens, the state broadcasters’ websites, or during the news at the top of the hour. Literally nothing.  It was like being in a Twilight Zone episode. This is the biggest news story in the world that we’re talking about. Moreover, Germany is the second largest supplier of weapons to Israel, so it’s not as if they have no connection to these atrocities.

This behavior is beyond journalistic malpractice, it’s straight up state propaganda. And the funniest part was Instagram “fact-checking” what I’ve just told you; something I saw with my own eyes, and which anyone with an internet connection can verify.

Speaking of propaganda, what ideological structures are in place that lead so many people to believe that Israel is the world’s “most moral army?”  How have you seen this discourse played out in U.S. corporate media outlets? What role have Palestinian journalists and resistance movements played in contesting this claim that Israel’s army is a “moral” one?

This is like saying “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East”. It’s a propaganda slogan. The Israeli army was created by combining Zionist paramilitary groups (Haganah, Stern Gang (Lehi), Irgun) that were considered terrorist organizations in the United Kingdom. The Israelis essentially invented modern terrorism. So the IDF is an army that since its inception has been brutal, disproportionately violent, and terrorist in nature. This history is never mentioned in US corporate media outlets, nor in the British press. It’s too inconvenient and also brushed aside in academia.

Politicians and the corporate media are quick to call Hamas “terrorists”, even though they have never attacked the US or UK. But they never call the Israeli army terrorists, even though they tried to assassinate US president Harry Truman and Winston Churchill (during WWII).

There are many structures in the United States and Europe that push this lie that the Israeli army is “moral”. It is done primarily by mainstream media, but also in universities. Both elite schools and other campuses in general do this because it’s more effective to indoctrinate people while in school. Israel is a settler-colony, created by white Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. So when people in the West see other white people who look like them, combined with the racism they harbor toward Arabs, they are more ideologically inclined to side with the Israelis and believe this lie about a “moral army”, even though it is against their self-interest.

The Israelis also spend a lot of time on social media pushing this lie. They want to convince us that “roof-knocking” is a moral practice. That basically if you phone someone five minutes before you completely eviscerate their apartment and their life, that you’re doing them a favor. (And that was in the past. Even back then the casualty figures were horrific, not to mention today’s numbers and latest reports on Israel’s use of AI target selection for indiscriminate killing.) The corporate media will also try to sell viewers on the IDF by bringing on spokespersons with local accents (Australian, English, Scottish, French) so they appear more relatable.

Palestinian and Arab journalists have been instrumental in contesting this claim because they know firsthand the Israelis’ brutality. This is why Israel has murdered so many of them. The Resistance themselves have also shown us how immoral the Israeli occupation forces are: every day, Hamas and Hezbollah attack Israeli military targets, and not civilians. Iran’s strike on Israel on April 13 didn’t kill a single person and was only directed at military installations. Yemen have struck almost 100 Israeli-linked commercial ships, doing their utmost to avoid injuring or killing anyone.

This is what a moral army looks like. The Resistance could easily strike civilian targets in Israel – if there is such a thing, given that every Israeli man and woman must join the army – but instead they are committed to only striking military assets.  The Israelis on the other hand are always attacking civilians, and then putting out false statements claiming they were “military” targets.

You may remember a tweet from Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in late December that reads: “This has been an extraordinarily dangerous year for press around the world. Many killed, many more wounded, hundreds detained, attacked, threatened, injured – simply for doing their jobs. I am profoundly grateful to the press for getting accurate, timely.” He said this as Israel was assassinating Palestinian journalists and their families. Can you help us understand how Israel and the U.S. can still claim (with little to no resistance from the U.S. corporate media) that they are both democracies and fierce advocates of press freedom?

This tweet by Blinken is an insult to the press. Other monsters who murder journalists usually have the decency to shut their mouths instead of pretending to care. Blinken makes these claims inside the United States, knowing outlets like the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN are extremely partisan, pro-Democrat, and wouldn’t dare criticize Biden during an election year.  People who work in corporate media also never push back against these claims because they know they don’t have half the courage that Palestinian journalists do. They’re too jealous and ashamed to even bring them up.  Meanwhile, the American right say nothing because they actually think they’re morally superior to the rest of the world and that obviously the US wouldn’t kill journalists. They’re “free-er” than everyone else.

On the outside, however, these claims that the United States and Israel are fierce advocates of democracy and press freedoms don’t work anymore.  Multiple Latin American countries have recalled their ambassadors to Israel. Bolivia cut ties entirely. We are seeing the largest pro-Palestine protests in history in Europe and America. In Britain specifically, we’ve had enormous protests, including the largest since the Iraq war.

This genocide has destroyed America’s reputation entirely, and Israel’s international image, if it ever had one to begin with – and they were already on thin ice, to put it mildly, long before October 7. We all remember when Israeli forces murdered Shireen Abu Akleh in the West Bank. She was a US citizen and Biden didn’t do a thing. Meanwhile, he’s also continued Donald Trump’s persecution of Julian Assange.

Over 133 journalists have been murdered by Israel since October 7, not just in Palestine, but including Lebanon as well.  Take Isaam Abdallah who was killed in Lebanon on December 7, 2023 when Israeli forces targeted him and a group of journalists. Reuters said nothing and acted like they “weren’t sure” what happened. This is why I advise Arab journalists never to work for Reuters or similar Western outlets. They will exploit them for their knowledge and location, but if they’re killed by US or Israeli forces, they won’t issue a word of condemnation.

Blinken and others act like this is some minor “flaw” that Israel has to work on; the same when Israel kills aid workers and United Nations staff. It’s an “accident”, or they’re not quite sure what happened. But don’t worry, because they’ll be reaching out to their “Israeli partners” to know what happened.

Like asking criminals to investigate themselves.

What patterns have you noticed in terms of how the U.S. corporate media covered (or did not cover) South Africa’s legal case at the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide, as well as the many pro-Palestinian protests held around the world? 

The day that South Africa’s legal case was presented, millions of people tuned in to watch. It was the first time in history we saw Israel’s crimes held up in an international court, as they were being committed, for the whole world to see. I can’t encapsulate how empowering it was. It’s the closest to international justice the Palestinians and Arabs have ever been in recent history.

So naturally the media didn’t broadcast it.

The next day, when it was Israel’s turn to respond, the media broadcast their entire defense. We already know corporate media are pro-Israel, but this is just scandalous bias. I watched the entire thing, and when you hear how robust, clinical, and damning South Africa’s presentation was, it’s no wonder they didn’t broadcast it on TV.  Their legal team exposed the Israelis by reading their own statements back to them; showing how Israeli politicians and cabinet ministers are inciting genocide against Palestinians; they spoke about how Israeli soldiers film and post their own war crimes on social media; and read out scathing figures of Israel’s brutality in Gaza.

As we know, the International Court of Justice issued an emergency preliminary ruling that Israel must halt its genocide in Gaza and allow humanitarian aid in. This ruling fell short in many ways, but it was nevertheless a win for Palestine. The problem, of course, is that Israel and the West completely disregard these rulings. They don’t even try to hide their contempt for international law. Before the ruling was even issued, Netanyahu said that Israel would ignore it.

The media’s coverage of South Africa’s case at the ICJ, is identical to their coverage of the worldwide pro-Palestine protests: they bring on Israelis, Zionists and imperialists to say three things: How dare anyone accuse Israel of genocide? This is anti-Semitic, and this is pro-Hamas.

So typical, and so predictable.

This speaks volumes about the psychology of Israelis and the corporate media. They really think Israelis are the “chosen ones”; that they’re infallible and incapable of wrongdoing. Zionism is Jewish supremacy by another name.  The Israelis have appropriated the Holocaust and turned it into a Zionist talking point. They use it as a shield to hide behind. Of course, many Jews were killed in the Holocaust. But Israel does not speak for all of them. And that doesn’t mean Israel is incapable of genocide.

Israel’s ridiculous accusations, unchallenged by the media, that South Africa are “pro-Hamas”, or in league with Iran are so funny that it’s like listening to a parody of Israel. Israel is a settler-colony in denial of its downfall, and in denial that it’s time go home. Like a child throwing a tantrum and all their toys out the pram.

Those days of silencing legitimate critics of Zionism by screaming “antisemitism” are over. The whole world can see through this act.

In a previous interview, we discussed the role of universities serving imperial aims in the U.S. and U.K.  Since October 7, we have stories of university presidents condemning the statement “from the river to the sea” (and saying it’s a call to genocide), while also releasing statements that conflate anti-Zionism with anti-semitism, which ends up prohibiting many forms of speech in support of Palestinian liberation.  University presidents (and other school administrators) are also notorious for punishing pro-Palestinian student groups in various ways. Why should we not be surprised that presidents of elite universities side with zionism, U.S. empire, and the white capitalist class?

This shouldn’t surprise us because power centers in the West have traditionally been controlled by imperialists and Zionists.  What’s funny is how so many university deans and faculty have rolled over and fallen on their swords in support of their “cause”. This is genuinely hilarious. Universities are meant to be places of learning and debate. The fact that not an inkling of dissent is allowed, shows how authoritarian and fascist university campuses become under the influence of Zionism.

As usual, the Israelis love to play the victim. They try to create a false link between Palestinians and the persecution of Jews in Europe. So they cooked up this lie that student protests at American universities allegedly had anti-Jewish slogans in them. Israelis act like there is some kind of link between Palestinians and Nazism. Ironically, when Jews escaped European persecution, they came to Palestine because it was the safest place on earth.

For Israelis to then turn around, steal the land, and accuse the Palestinians who gave them refuge of being “Nazis” is the most disgusting thing imaginable. There is no anti-Semitism in pro-Palestine movements, and certainly nothing resembling 1930s Nazi Germany on US college campuses. (The irony of all this is that Palestinians and Arabs are Semites. Netanyahu, and every Israeli prime minister before him, are not. But in typical Zionist fashion, the Israelis have not only stolen Levantine land and cuisine, but also the ethnicity).

These outrageous claims are made so that Zionists can poison the well, paint the legitimate student protests as racist, and ban them even though they criticize Zionism and not Jews. If that doesn’t work, the aim is then to smear the university faculty and deans as “anti-Jewish” themselves for allowing any pro-Palestine protests.

We shouldn’t be surprised that people with high positions at Ivy League schools or elite British universities side with Zionism, imperialism and capitalism. Those in academia with career ambitions know any expression of sympathy towards Palestinians, or anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism will destroy their chances of climbing the ladder.

A note on the “River to the Sea” slogan. This is originally an Israeli slogan from Netanyahu’s Likud party. You can find it in their 1977 charter. More importantly, you cannot commit “genocide” against someone who has invaded your country. That’s preposterous. The Israelis are settler-colonizers, like the French in Vietnam and Algeria, and the only way out is the way they came in. Just like they made up stories of “mass-rape”, corporate media have repeated this revolting Israeli lie that pro-Palestine supporters are saying things like “gas the Jews”.  My friend Glenn Greenwald has been asking on Twitter, for months, for just one person to actually provide evidence of this. Just one single photo or recording. No one has been able to thus far.

As the U.S. corporate media gears up for the 2024 general election, we have numerous liberal talking heads portraying Biden as a good, decent human being. It reminds me of a book I saw at a bookstore a while back called, Hugs from Obama: A Photographic Look Back at the Warmth and Wisdom of President Barack Obama . I also remember reading a story (and I might be off on the details) about some waiter at an Aspen ski resort feeling so flattered and impressed that Bill Clinton remembered his name a year after his first visit.  How do these corporate media portrayals of US presidents as warm, charming, and “decent” serve as a violent form of propaganda, especially when trying to manufacture consent for their wars? 

Hitler also owned a dog, but I don’t see anyone trying to portray him as a charming man.

These portrayals of US presidents are propaganda because they are a distraction. When Obama is spying on the planet, or drone-striking weddings and funerals, but people choose instead to focus on the time he wore a tan suit as the “biggest scandal” of his presidency, then they are taking attention away from his criminal actions and protecting him.

You can see how Liberals even defend Trump with this mentality. They will criticize and make fun of him, but they will never speak about his violent, imperialist foreign policy: sanctions that starve people in Syria and Iran; coup attempts in Venezuela; assassination of high-ranking officers in Iran like Soleimani; moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; declaring sovereign Syrian territory (Golan heights) are “israeli” in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. And what do liberals have to say about all this? Absolutely nothing.

Because they are just as evil and agree with this imperialist actions. Joe Biden took over immediately after, and did not change a single thing about Donald Trump’s foreign policy decisions. So they will say that Trump is more crass, but they won’t talk about policy. These then become the defining parameters of debate: you’re either kind and charming or mean to the press. But nothing worse.

This is no different from reading a gossip magazine about celebrities. You end up with a population that is generally uninformed, misinformed and ignorant of its own government’s actions at home and abroad. I can understand if a few outlets did it, but we’re talking about the biggest players in US corporate media. Their entire coverage amounts to glossing over political figures and making them more “relatable” to voters for election and approval ratings.

In some of the most recent news that’s not been covered by the mainstream media, we know about the embassy stormed in Ecuador, as well as numerous more assassinations in Gaza. Could you please provide an update on these events for our readers

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ political leader, had his three sons and grandchildren assassinated in Gaza by an Israeli drone strike while they were on their way to see family during Ramadan. A truly cowardly move. No different from how the mafia and organized crime behave. Are the Israelis also saying that they want the Palestinians to start murdering and assassinating Netantayhu, Gallant and Ben Gvir’s families? This is meant to provoke the Resistance, and force Hamas into accepting a subpar agreement that doesn’t liberate Palestinian hostages.

Regarding the embassy attacks – two in a single week. It’s unreal. Embassies are meant to be inviolable. Every country in the world has agreed to this and signed the Vienna Conventions (1961, and 1963). It is one of the most successful treaties in history and forms a bedrock of international law and relations. Everyone understands that you don’t touch diplomats or diplomatic missions. Israel trampled on all this when it bombed the Iranian embassy, murdering seven Iranians, two Syrians and one Lebanese. A direct attack against Iran. A declaration of war.

When this happened, I not only pointed out how outrageous it was, but that others would feel emboldened to do the same. Days later, the Mexican embassy in Ecuador was stormed by Ecuadorian police who beat diplomats and pointed guns at them, in order to kidnap Jorge Glas, the former vice president of Ecuador who’d been granted political asylum by Mexico.

This is truly scandalous because they not only attacked the inviolability of diplomatic missions, and Mexico’s sovereignty as well, but violated Jorge Glas’ political asylum, a human right enshrined in international law. This is the second time that a political refugee is dragged from an embassy because of Ecuador’s government, the first being Julian Assange. To see the police force of the receiving state (the host country) storming an embassy that it obligated under law to protect is beyond words.

When the Iranian embassy was bombed and the world stood silent, particularly Britain, the United States and France at the UN Security Council. Iran was compelled to respond militarily. The mainstream media called it an “attack”, but it is Israel that attacked Iran’s embassy. Iran simply responded.  The retaliatory strikes on April 13 were a massive success for Iran and for the Axis of Resistance. Those who said Iran would not respond, or who said the strike would be limited, were proven wrong.

Iran helped draw Israeli forces and resources away from Gaza. Residents in Gaza said it was the first night that they could sleep since October 7 without the sound of Israeli drones buzzing overhead. At least 300 missiles and drones were launched from Iran’s soil directly at Israel. They penetrated Israel’s defences and hit crucial military and intelligence bases, including the one that launched the attack on Iran’s consulate in Damascus.

Iran gained extraordinary insight and intelligence about Israel’s anti-missile capabilities, response time, and the location of its silos. At the same time, Iran revealed nothing to the Israelis by not deploying any new drones or missiles, but simply vast quantities of weapons already known to the Israelis. This response, and the capture of an Israeli-linked vessel the same day (MSC Aries) have established deterrence and new rules of engagement: any time Israel strikes Iranian assets or touches an Iranian, there will be a massive response.

Israel’s image of being a “military power” was again destroyed a second time. It was also the busiest day at Ben Gurion airport since October 7, as many Israeli settlers, being the colonizers that they are, fled back to their original countries.

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