By Finian Cunningham
The major Western mainstream media outlets have been running a “shock and awe” propaganda offensive against the Syrian government of President Bashar Al Assad for nearly 16 months. The misinformation has been unrelenting, monolithic, unverified, one-sided and, frankly, increasingly preposterous.
With the suppression of mounting facts that Western governments are waging a covert war of aggression in Syria, the Western public is right to treat the conventional media sources with skepticism and outright contempt. Such media are seen as “politicized” and “unreliable”, serving a naked imperialist agenda for Western regime change. In a word, they are damaged goods.
This is where a segment of the so-called alternative media can play a valuable propaganda function for Western powers. Because such media are supposed to be independent, critical, non-corporate, the public tends to consider their reports as objective and unbiased. One such “alternative” news service is “Democracy Now” hosted by Amy Goodman. Goodman is seen as something of a campaigning critical journalist shedding the light of truth on the depredations of the US government, corporations and the Pentagon. But a closer look at what Goodman’s “Democracy Now” is reporting on Syria shows that the purported critical broadcaster has become a purveyor of Western government propaganda. While the mainstream media’s propaganda function is obvious to the informed public, Goodman’s “Democracy Now” plays a more subtle role. Camouflaged with the trappings of critical, independent journalism, “Democracy Now” serves to sow powerful seeds of misinformation in a way that the “compromised” mainstream media cannot.
This misinformation from “Democracy Now” is valuable to the ruling elite because to many of its readers it is not seen as misinformation.
Rather, the “news” on “Democracy Now” is viewed as reliable and representing the views of the anti-war, anti-imperialist constituency. In this way, Goodman is a valuable asset to Washington and Wall Street because her broadcasts can serve to disorient and undermine a constituency that is normally opposed to Western warmongering and imperialism. Many of the subscribers to “Democracy Now” may see through the misinformation. Many, though, may not, and therefore will become embedded with the imperialist agenda. The fact that Democracy Now ratings appear to be holding up would indicate that a lot of its followers are oblivious to the insidious effect of such misinformation. As such, Democracy Now is more valuable to the powers-that-be than, say, the New York Times or the Financial Times. “Democracy Now” ensures that the agenda of the powerful becomes infiltrated in a constituency that would otherwise be opposed to that agenda.
First, let’s recap on the mainstream propaganda offensive against Syria.
Since mid-March 2011, when violence was initially reported in that country, the Western mainstream television, radio and press studiously ignored the evidence of covert foreign-backed subversion and terrorism. Instead these outlets have sought to portray the protests as part of the pro-democracy Arab Spring popular movements that were seen in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain. The mainstream media have run saturation coverage to demonise the government in Damascus as a “brutal, authoritarian regime” that is cracking down mercilessly on its civilian population demanding democratic reforms. The narrative is monolithic in the major media outlets on both sides of the Atlantic. Whether the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, or the Financial Times, Guardian, Independent, Le Monde, BBC, ITN, the Irish national broadcaster RTE or the Middle East’s much-vaunted Al Jazeera – the “story” on Syria is uncannily uniform. A noble, civilian mass-based movement is being savagely crushed by a tin-eared dictator, so the story goes.
Every possible smear campaign against the Assad government has been indulged in and indeed fabricated. From the alleged killing of innocent civilians by the national armed forces, to the perpetration of massacres by pro-government militias, to self-inflicted car bombs in urban centres by Assad secret services, to the feckless shopping habits of the president’s wife. Russia Today, Press TV, Der Spiegel, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Vatican News Service (Agenzia Fides), to name a few, have been honorable exceptions in mainstream media journalism for conveying a more accurate picture of what is really happening inside Syria – showing that “protesters” are far from peaceful civilians, and much of the violence is actually stemming from Western, Turkish and Arab-backed mercenaries that have infiltrated the country. As the facts of US and NATO-backed violence in Syria become more transparent and harder to conceal owing to the sheer volume of covert involvement, the Western public has rightly become more skeptical about what the mainstream media outlets are telling them. Indeed, the blatant misinformation and lies that are being sold as journalism is increasingly seen as contemptible.
Really? The majority of the country engaged in a popular revolution for freedom, democracy and dignity? That sounds more like the fanciful imagination of someone safely based in Washington DC. By contrast, sources in Syria have confirmed that people are terrified by Western-armed gangs running amok in their communities, kidnapping, murdering, evicting families from their homes and burning down business premises. According to the leaked Arab League Observer Mission Report, which had initially been commissioned by the Arab League at Washington’s request:
In the interview between Goodman and her guest (whom sources describe as belonging to a family formerly aligned with the Syrian government), Bashar Al Assad was portrayed as an unhinged leader who is in denial over massacres – massacres, as we have noted, that have most likely been carried out by Western-backed death squads as confirmed by numerous reports.
Recall that the Libyan leader was lynched on a roadside by a NATO-directed mob, and sodomised with a knife before being shot dead. It may also be recalled that “Democracy Now” gave prominent broadcasts supporting NATO’s intervention in Libya and justifying the criminal subversion of that country. Going by the latest coverage on Syria, Democracy Now is acting once again under a “progressive” cloak as a propaganda tool for US-led imperialist intervention. Given the misplaced respect among many of the public seeking independent, alternative, accurate news and analysis, this insidious role of Democracy Now is reprehensible. May it be suggested, in the name of media transparency, that the programme be aptly renamed “Imperialism Now”.