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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Radicalized Media

There's a politically strategic reason why you're hearing the word radicalized a lot in the news lately. When entities that orchestrate wars need public support for their agendas, they use the media; and through interviews and press releases, they release carefully chosen words--buzzwords--that are meant to frame their issues. The example we've seen lately comes from the evolving version of the San
Bernardino incident you're getting from the mainstream press, where the word radicalized is being essentially crammed down our throats in each report.

This is an opinion piece, of course, so I'm just sharing mine. Whatever it means to be radicalized, I think we should be more concerned about how easily and quickly the media became radicalized after the San Bernardino incident than whether the couple did before that. For example, the now-popular version of the San Bernardino story involves key allegations that are consistently not being supported by evidence or other important details, and the press just goes with it. Many statements by "officials" that the press uses and relies on for the meat of its reports about the incident are from anonymous sources.

Over the last couple of weeks, the articles and aired stories have been increasingly built on something of a house of cards: conclusory statements, quotes from anonymous officials, assumptions that rely on other assumptions, etc. The effect has been to influence Americans to support the military action that the Obama administration intends.

Whenever it starts to look like the press and politicians are on the same team and trying to sell us a story, that's a good time for us to be on guard. There's obviously a massive effort currently underway to convince us that an entity called ISIS has a powerful coalition of hundreds of thousands (or millions) of people all over the world who are inherently evil and need to be killed. That's an oversimplification that works well with a majority, but it's not as simple as that in reality.

Americans are being played once again. It looks a lot now like the way it looked in the lead-up to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. The press isn't asking tough questions: it's selling the same story as its sources are selling. When the media asks a prosecuting agency like the FBI for its version of events, and then marches that story forward as if the FBI's version is axiomatic, there's a problem with objectivity. Neutral reporting should even apply to cases such as the one I saw tonight on PBS, when Gwen Ifill said that the San Bernardino couple became "radicalized." That's not neutral. That's the FBI's version and language, and it's language that the Obama administration is now using to gain support for its military agenda.

Nor is the media clarifying what it was specifically about the San Bernardino couple that constituted radicalization. If we assume they committed the mass killing, then of course that act was radical. But when the label gets applied to them because of  beliefs they held, the meaning is blurred too much and becomes more of a matter of opinion than a legitimate axiom.

Many reasonable people throughout the U.S. and the world would agree that it's not radical to sympathize with organizations fighting Israel's oppression against its neighbors. Thus, if the media lumps that sympathy into its mix of descriptions of what it means to be radicalized, then it's just being a mouthpiece for those political forces who support the terrorism committed by Israel.

The current unity of the press and government is reminiscent of when we saw news anchors start wearing American flag pins after 9/11. It took a while, but eventually they stopped wearing them after much criticism and recognition that it wasn't a properly objective display of journalistic neutrality. Even without the pins this time, the media's pro-military rhetoric is heating up. Maybe it's time to talk about how the media has become radicalized. Maybe we should ask whether some journalists became self-radicalized or whether they were radicalized by outside sources. Radicalization is a matter of opinion. 

Based on the influence of AIPAC in American politics, I'm convinced that a big part of the current administration's agenda, much like the goal for invading Iraq, is likely to weaken Israel's enemies. Another goal is to make it unpopular to say that. In particular, note that some of the rhetoric appearing in the recent news related to the San Bernardino couple refers negatively to them as being "fixated on Israel." The reason for using that rhetoric is to demonize the critics of pro-Israel policy generally. In other words, the argument goes, "if these bad people in San Bernardino were fixated on Israel, then others who criticize Israel are also bad people."

Anyhow, to digress, since the radicalized media hasn't asked, here are some questions to consider:
  1. Did any surviving witness at the scene of the shooting clearly see the face of either Syed Farook or his wife during the shooting?
  2. What was the name of the Facebook profile that Farook's wife purportedly created?
  3. Can we see the wall or photos of the page dialogues? (even cached?)
  4. How can anyone possibly know that Farook's wife (rather than someone else using a computer with an IP address connected with her home, etc.) was the one at the keyboard inputting the keys to create the profile and inputting any content purportedly related to ISIS?
  5. Why hasn't any mainstream news entity ever addressed these questions?
  6. Who are the thus-far anonymous government officials and Facebook officials that keep getting cited in CNN articles about Farook's wife's purported Facebook account?
  7. Did Farook's father really say his son was an ISIS supporter? 
  8. Should radicalized people be allowed to live in the U.S.?
  9. What does it mean to be radicalized?
  10. Should any radicalized people in the U.S. be allowed to buy guns?
  11. Are there any radicalized people who are supporters of Israel?
  12. I know this is a stretch, but just to be objective: is it possible that someone else did the shooting and that the couple was set up in an elaborate and sophisticated plot? 
Finally, it's important to point out that all of the important evidence related to the San Bernardino crime is in the sole custody of government law enforcement agencies, and those agencies don't have a history of being honest (think Chicago for a more recent example and check out this article about the Sacramento Sheriff's Department cover-up for another). Typically, the government only tells the press what supports the government's version of a story. We often don't get the truth unless a court intervenes.