Speech on media propaganda (salon.com)

By Glenn Greenwald:

The 30-minute speech I gave last month at the Symphony Space in New York is now available on video, and is posted below in three YouTube segments (the first segment also contains the 4-minute introduction of my speech). The speech pertains to the evolution of my views on media criticism, the nature of media propaganda and what drives it, and what can be done to combat it. A DVD of the entire event — featuring the three other speeches: from Amy Goodman, Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore — is available at FAIR’s website.

I want to note one example, from today, that vividly illustrates many of the themes I discussed in that speech.  It is found in the following passage from this Reuters article on Obama’s escalation of the covert war in Yemen and his targeting of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki for assassination:

A U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that a U.S. strike last Friday killed Abu Ali al-Harithi, a midlevel al Qaeda operative, which followed last month’s attempted strike against Anwar al-Awlaki, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Whether Awlaki has any operational role in Al Qaeda at all is a matter of intense controversy.  The U.S. Government has repeatedly asserted that he does, but has presented no verifiable evidence to support that accusation.  But what is not in dispute is the notion that Awlaki is “the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”  He unquestionably is not, and never has been, as multiple Yemen experts have repeatedly noted.  The Reuters claim is factually and entirely false.

Whatever one’s views are on Obama’s assassination program, targeting U.S. citizens without due process obviously raises extraordinary and vitally important questions.  As The New York Times’ Scott Shane put it when confirming Awlaki’s inclusion on Obama’s hit list: “The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen. . . . It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said.”  Given that, one would think that media outlets would be interested in covering the weighty issued raised by this assassination program.

Here, though, we have Reuters doing exactly the opposite: they’re ending the debate before it even begins by “reporting” — falsely — that Awlaki “is the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”  If he really were that, who would object to Obama’s efforts to kill him?  Very few people, as it would make him the Osama bin Laden of Yemen.  So instead of raising vital questions about Obama’s extraordinary conduct, Reuters suffocates those questions by disseminating false fear-mongering propaganda on behalf of the U.S. Government (he’s the leader of Al Qaeda!!) to justify what the administration is doing.  Overwhelmingly, that’s what the role and function of the establishment media is.  This isn’t the most significant or notable  example ever: to the contrary, it’s depressingly common, and I note it only because it happened to occur on the very day that I was preparing to post this speech about how the U.S. media subserviently disseminates and amplifies government propaganda, the very antithesis of what they claim to do and were intended to do:

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For the sake of readers, we posted below the Reuters’ article as an example of “media propaganda.”

U.S. intensifying covert war in Yemen: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration has intensified air strikes on suspected militants in Yemen in a bid to keep them from consolidating power as the government in Sanaa teeters, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

A U.S. official confirmed to Reuters that a U.S. strike last Friday killed Abu Ali al-Harithi, a midlevel al Qaeda operative, which followed last month’s attempted strike against Anwar al-Awlaki, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Citing U.S. officials, the Times said a U.S. campaign using armed drones and fighter jets had accelerated in recent weeks as U.S. officials see the strikes as one of the few options to contain al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

With the country in violent conflict, Yemeni troops that had been battling militants linked to al Qaeda in the south have been pulled back to Sanaa, the newspaper said.

Yemen’s authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was wounded on Friday and is being treated in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. He appears to have been wounded by a bombing at a mosque inside his palace, not a rocket attack as first thought, U.S. and Arab officials told Reuters.

[ For complete coverage of politics and policy, go to Yahoo! Politics ]

There were conflicting reports about his condition — ranging from fairly minor, to life-threatening 40 percent burns.

There had been nearly a yearlong pause in U.S. airstrikes after concerns that poor intelligence had resulted in civilian deaths that undercut goals of the secret campaign.

U.S. and Saudi spy services have been receiving more information from electronic eavesdropping and informants about possible locations of militants, the newspaper said, citing officials in Washington. But there were concerns that with the wider conflict in Yemen, factions might feed information to trigger air strikes against rival groups.

The operations were further complicated by al Qaeda operatives’ mingling with other rebel and anti-government militants, the newspaper said, citing a senior Pentagon official.

The U.S. ambassador in Yemen met recently with opposition leaders, partly to make the case for continuing operations in case Saleh’s government falls, the newspaper said.

Opposition leaders have told the ambassador that operations against al Qaeda in Yemen should continue regardless of who wins the power struggle in the capital, the Times said, citing officials in Washington.

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen has been linked to the attempt to blow up a transatlantic jetliner on Christmas Day 2009 and a plot last year to blow up cargo planes with bombs hidden in printer cartridges.

(Additional reporting by Phil Stewart; Writing by Vicki Allen; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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