Sunday, February 18, 2018

On the neoliberal press

The Guardian has become quite scarily neoliberal. It's nothing much more than a mouthpiece for Israeli-US policy in the Middle East. Which wouldn't be such a bad thing if US policy wasn't so disastrous in that area.

Here's one example from the article I've linked to:

"Its former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, permanently upped the ante in 2005 when he allegedly called for Israel to be “wiped off the map”. His exact words are disputed, but the sentiment behind them has not been convincingly repudiatedby Tehran. Many Israelis remain convinced that Iran poses an existential threat."

This just isn't true but it's illustrative of how propaganda works. Ahmadinejad actually wasn't rabble rousing so much as waxing philosophical. He said that when contemplating Israel, one should remember that every nation is transient. In times to come, Israel would have disappeared, removed from the map like the Roman Empire. This is rather different from "calling for" its extirpation. Yes, of course, he delighted in Israel's eventual destruction, but he wasn't suggesting anyone do it. And of course Ahmedinajad didn't "up the ante". The US-Israeli security establishment and its mouthpieces in the press did so, by misrepresenting him. Not that Ahmedinajad did not have plenty of antisemitic things to say when he wanted to whip up a crowd. He did.

Ahmedinajad's words are not "disputed". They were actually very clearly and accurately reported (I believe they were actually recorded, which is how they became broadcast in the US). There's no dispute at all at what he said. Of course, he did say it in Farsi, which means there are issues of interpretation. And it's not true that Iran has not "convincingly repudiated" his words. They are faced with a problem. They cannot "repudiate" what he actually said because it's simply a philosophical musing of no real great import. And they cannot "repudiate" what Tisdall says he said because he didn't say it.

They have in fact tried both. They have made it clear that the whole "wipe Israel off the map" bullshit is a mistranslation. And they've said that they don't call for it in any case. Of course they'd like Israel not to be there. They'd like it gone. Just as Americans quite often call for regime change in Iran. But they do not call for anyone to make it so.

However, the point is, Tisdall can repeat this as fact. It is entrenched in the discourse about Iran. Many Israelis -- and many Westerners -- do believe Iran poses an existential threat to Israel. Close analysis of what Iran actually does in the Middle East will show that it doesn't really pose any threat of any kind to Israel. But most people don't have the time or capability for "close analysis". They can only give things passing notice and rely on "thought leaders" to tell them what the story is. Sadly, those "thought leaders" are all too often hacks such as Tisdall.

Well, what does it matter what some guy on the Guardian says? The problem here is that individual voices may not seem loud but they reinforce each other. Each voice echoes the others and builds a consensus. So the truth is now that Ahmedinajad might just as well have called for the destruction of Israel, because not only can Tisdall repeat that as though it were true but policy is built on that "truth". And worst of all, US leaders, either dilettante neoliberals such as Obama or lazy corpulent far right hacks such as Trump, begin from the consensus. In the case of Obama, I imagine he did know perfectly well what the truth was, but it's not the job of a neoliberal to challenge a consensus that supports his goals. This is something liberals might reflect on when they think about "progressive" leaders: someone who reflects back to you things you say is not necessarily challenging the status quo, particularly if what you say is no longer, or has never been, controversial.