The Media and the IAEA Report Cont.

A recent post by Farideh Farhi at Informed Comment: Global Affairs (which includes Juan Cole) touches on a recent post I made about the media's coverage of the latest IAEA report regarding Iran's nuclear program. (An earlier post is here).

Referencing the New York Times coverage of the report, which framed it to sound like it the was a harsh condemnation of Iranian cooperation with the agency, I wrote:

Now the the White House and Israel have, unsurprisingly, dismissed the report. But the Times' take on the report seems very much to ignore realities that are detrimental to the US and its allies. This is of course, nothing new.

Farhi (along with the Asia Times) noticed this as well.

It is always interesting to read the actual text of reports issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding Iran not only because of what they reveal about Iran's program, but also because of the interestingly partial way various news organizations and governments end up interpreting or representing the report to audiences they are sure will not read the reports themselves

... it is also interesting and quite revealing to see how the report itself is reported. In Iran, the statements about non-diversion and consistency with the Agency's findings are trumpeted by government officials as an affirmation of Iran's righteousness. The United States government, on the other hand, has found the report inadequate and in fact has immediately called for a Security Council meeting to discuss a new round of sanctions (a meeting China reportedly initially refused to attend but has now reluctantly agreed to do so after Thanksgiving.

These are expected governmental positions. Perhaps also not too unexpectedly, the American newspapers and news agencies also do seem a bit too willing to tow the U.S. government line. The New York Times, in a piece entitled "Report Raises New Doubts on Iran's Nuclear Program," reports that the Agency "said in a report on Thursday that Iran had made new but incomplete disclosures about its past nuclear activities, missing a critical deadline under an agreement with the agency and virtually assuring a new push by the United States to impose stricter international sanctions." No where in text of this piece, however, there is anything about what these "new doubts" are or where exactly the report has said that a critical deadline has been passed. Also not referred to are the explicit statements about non-diversion of nuclear material and consistency with the Agency's findings.

Again, sadly, this coverage is entirely predictable. In the realm of international affairs, the Times' virtually always advances the agenda of the most hawkish elements of the US empire. This is true of Vietnam, Iraq, and just about every other major war that the US has been involved in. (I say "major war" because smaller operations -- including grotesque massacres that take place with US complicity or approval, and numerous coup attempts -- are typically given no substantive coverage at all. The Times' essentially takes the words of usually unnamed "US officials" as gospel, and dismisses ignores or spins news that is inconsistent with the world view of US war makers.

Matters such as global world opinion or international law, which often hurt the US rationale for war, are ignored. In fact, as I have noted before, deputy foreign editor Ethan Bronner has told Asharq Al-Awsat, an English-language Arabic newspaper based in London, “we stay away from assertions of legality on most international issues, because law is less clear about international affairs than about national affairs."

For more on this, I would suggest Manufacturing Consent by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky. This book -- which I would argue is the most important analysis of the role of the media in the US -- documents systematic bias in the media in grueling detail, by doing case studies. (The first chapter is available at Third World Traveller for free).