Thursday, May 19, 2011

American media fraud in the Middle East

Too often, you consumers of mainstream media are victims of a fraud. You think you can trust the articles you read - why wouldn't you? You think you can sift through the ideological bias and just get the facts. But you don't know the ingredients that go into the product you buy. It is important to understand how knowledge about current events in the Middle East is produced before relying on it. Even when there are no apparent ideological biases, such as those one often sees when it comes to reporting about Israel, there are fundamental problems at the epistemological and methodological level. These create distortions, falsehoods and justify the narrative of those with power.

The American media always want to fit events in the region into an American narrative. The recent assassination of Osama bin Laden was greeted with a collective shrug of the shoulder in the Middle East, where he had always been irrelevant, but for Americans and hence for the American media it was a historic and defining moment which changed everything. Too often contact with the West has defined events in the Middle East, but the so-called Arab Spring with its revolutions and upheavals evokes anxiety among white Americans. They are unsettled with the autogenetic liberation of brown people.

The American media has been obsessed with Israel. And all too often, it just comes down to "what does this mean for Israel's security?" The aspirations of hundreds of millions of freedom-seeking Arabs are subordinated to the security concerns of five million Jews who colonised Palestine.

A student of the Arab world once commented that any self-appointed terrorism expert must first pass the Um Kulthum test - meaning, has he heard of Um Kulthum, the iconic Egyptian diva of Arab nationalism whose music and lyrics still resonate throughout the Middle East? If they hadn't heard of her, then they obviously were not familiar with Arab culture. In Iraq an equivalent might be the Hawasim test. Saddam called the 1991 war on Iraq "Um al-Maarik", or the mother of all battles. And he called the 2003 war on Iraq "Um al-Hawasim", or the mother of all decisive moments. Soon, the looting that followed the invasion was called Hawasim by Iraqis, and the word became a common phrase, applied to cheap markets, to stolen goods, to cheap products. If you drive your car recklessly like you don't care about it, another driver might shout at you, "what, is it hawasim?" If you don't make an effort to familiarise yourself with these cultural phenomena, then just go back home.
Nir Rosen in AlJazeera. More Here

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