The Passionate Attachment

America's entanglement with Israel

Iran War Debate: Media Failure or Undisclosed Bias?

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Comparing the media handling of the debate over Iran with the lead-up to the war on Iraq, Stephen M. Walt observes in a recent Foreign Policy column that “most mainstream news organizations have let us down again.” In his “Top Ten Media Failures in the 2012 Iran War Scare,” Prof. Walt singles out five journalists for particular criticism:

#1: Mainstreaming the war. As I’ve written before, when prominent media organizations keep publishing alarmist pieces about how war is imminent, likely, inevitable, etc., this may convince the public that it is going to happen sooner or later and it discourages people from looking for better alternatives. Exhibits A and B for this problem are Jeffrey Goldberg’s September 2010 article in The Atlantic Monthly and Ronan Bergman’s February 2012 article in the New York Times Magazine. Both articles reported that top Israeli leaders believed time was running out and suggested that an attack might come soon.

[…]

#8: Letting spinmeisters play fast and loose with facts. Journalists have to let officials and experts express their views, but they shouldn’t let them spout falsehoods without pushing back. Unfortunately, there have been some egregious cases where prominent journalists allowed politicians or government officials to utter howlers without being called on it. When Rick Santorum announced on Meet the Press that “there were no inspectors” in Iran, for example, host David Gregory didn’t challenge this obvious error. (In fact, Iran may be the most heavily inspected country in the history of the IAEA).

Even worse, when Israeli ambassador Michael Oren appeared on MSNBC last week, he offered the following set of dubious claims, without challenge:

“[Iran] has built an underground nuclear facility trying to hide its activities from the world. It has been enriching uranium to a high rate [sic.] that has no explanation other than a military nuclear program – that has been confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency now several times. It is advancing very quickly on an intercontinental ballistic missile system that’s capable of carrying nuclear warheads.”

Unfortunately, MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell apparently didn’t know that Oren’s claims were either false or misleading. 1) Iran’s underground facility was built to make it hard to destroy, not to “hide its activities,” and IAEA inspectors have already been inside it. 2) Iran is not enriching at a “high rate” (i.e., to weapons-grade); it is currently enriching to only 20% (which is not high enough to build a bomb). 3) Lastly, Western intelligence experts do not think Iran is anywhere near to having an ICBM capability.

In another interview on NPR, Oren falsely accused Iran of “killing hundreds, if not thousands of American troops,” a claim that NPR host Robert Siegel did not challenge.

Every one of those Walt identifies as examples of “media failures” — Jeffrey Goldberg, Ronen Bergman, David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell and Robert Siegel — either already has Israeli citizenship or would probably qualify for it under the Law of Return, which accords any Jew the legal right to assisted immigration and settlement in Israel, as well as Israeli citizenship.

Of course, being Jewish doesn’t necessarily mean that one is more susceptible to Israeli falsehoods about the alleged “Iranian threat.” After all, Glenn Greenwald is one of the journalists that Walt singles out for praise in countering the war propaganda. But we still need to ask if this is simply another case of “media failure”? Or are those in the media with an undisclosed bias helping to take America to another disastrous war for Israel?

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Written by Maidhc Ó Cathail

March 16, 2012 at 10:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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