One of my main messages when I have been writing about the Middle East has been that media isn’t necessarily telling the truth. That doesn’t mean that everything in the mainstream is a pure lie either, but I think experience has told most of us that we still need critical thinking. We need to read and listen critically. An article in a newspaper has gone through en editorial treatment, but that’s not always enough.
There are stories that appear periodically that make me a little uneasy. Journalists like to criticize “the others” for not being subjected to the editorial assessment. They claim that good journalism has to be filtered. Journalists turned authors tend to be a target, such as Hege Storhaug. She published a book last year about what she sees as the dangers of a massive muslim immigration. She was criticized for drawing conclusions that were not supported by her sources, and for being a racist. I believe her critics are missing the point because her project, as far as I understand it, is to criticize the oppressive religion Islam, and not race. In another recent case an author has been accused of lying to Arne Treholt and his attorney. Treholt was convicted in the 1980’s for spying for the Soviet Union, but the case is still controversial because of doubts about the evidence. The author wrote a book about the evidence that was supposed to help the defense, but new information suggest he lied.
It’s not so clear in the first case, but journalists sometimes have a point when they say that these incidents couldn’t have happened if the author had had an editor. Then there are also cases where journalists are less than honest. Mainstream media should have suffered last summer. There should have been some trust issues, but we seem to trust them more than ever. The story broke that plagiarism was widespread in Norwegian newspapers, and even the editor of the journalist union paper admitted to stealing earlier in his career, but it didn’t have any consequences. There were several articles that had been copied from US papers, I believe from the New Yorker. The Norwegian journalists also “loaned” from each other.
The coverage of the refugee crisis has revealed that journalists are unwilling to ask the refugees critical questions. When the biggest newspaper interviewed an 18 year old man they failed to ask the most obvious questions. This man said he was 18 year old and had served for 2 years in the Syrian army. He was from Afghanistan, but had moved to Syria a few years ago. I have never heard about child soldiers, or foreign soldiers, in Assad’s army. It would be interesting to know if this was common, and if it isn’t, there is something wrong about this story. Journalists expect us to trust them and they certainly don’t want us to turn towards alternative news outlets. It’s probably on that basis they feel they can criticize the others. Maybe they haven’t realized that trust has to be built and that it is easier to tear it down. There is a reason many people are skeptical to mainstream media, big pharma and politicians.
I remember when chemical weapons were being used in Syria. Norwegian media was quick to show videos that supposedly proved that the Syrian regime was behind, but after several organizations had investigated the truth turned out to be more complicated than what we had been told. That makes me wonder, do we know the whole story about Syria? Some years ago many people took it for granted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, even nuclear weapons. It didn’t matter that the UN weapons inspectors didn’t find anything. A Norwegian paper reported about a year ago that Assad had started using chemical weapons again. That could be, but the problem now is that you can never really be certain that the journalist has done what he/she can do to check and verify information. They frequently print an article with permition from another outlet, which brings us back to the trust level and critical reading.
The US presidential nomination showed us once again the battle for truth last week. After a couple of states with mostly white voters, the candidates are now going to fight for support among African Americans. Someone claimed that Bernie Sanders hadn’t done anything for the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, and when a photo of him saying otherwise surfaced, the biggest newspapers said it had to be a manipulated photo. The photographer later confirmed it was Bernie Sanders. The blogger Bleak Beauty showed some of the photos: Bernie Sanders leads 1962 sit-down and More Bernie Sanders vivil rights photos found.
It is always important to read with critical eyes and listen with equally critical ears. Some may feel that the alternative media is everything mainstream isn’t , but the same principles has to apply. There may be many well-intentioned editors and journalists in the alternative media, but they are not always critical. There are also many with a different agenda than to convey the truth. That is why we need to analyze everything.
This is the Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett who has worked in Syria and Gaza. The interview is interesting because it tells a different story than anything you hear in mainstream media, but we should also take into account the possibility that she as an activist is very close to the story. Dedication and commitment shouldn’t disqualify someone from telling the story, though. Have we even considered the possibility that we don’t know the whole story? We didn’t know everything in Iraq, did we? We often find an alternative to be useful, also in media. It may be especially relevant when mainstream news goes on the back burner.
When it comes to critical journalism I find it strange that Norwegian media is not concerned with the Norwegian participation in Libya and Syria (both alone and by supporting USA and/or NATO), or the fact that the refugee crisis started in 2011, when the current Secretary General of NATO was the Prime Minister of Norway. I believe those two events are the main reasons the situation became critical. We are responsible for what happened in Syria. The present government is being criticized by everyone, including the previous coalition that had something as unusual as majority for 8 years (most governments here have less than 50 % of the seats in Parliament). Why wasn’t the Stoltenberg government responsible?
The video above is from a programme that seems to be affiliated with David Icke. That is one of the names I would be careful about because there is a lot of very alternative ideas coming from him, but this interview is an interesting counterbalance. I am not of the opinion that one should silence someone because they have controversial partners. The important thing is the message and how they present it. There are many that would like to keep Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders far away from power because they don’t like them. It wouldn’t surprise me if some people talked about sabotaging them. That happened to the Progressive Party in Norway in the 1980’s and 90’s. The other parties talked openly about ignoring democracy for a while just to keep this anti-immigration party out of power. That didn’t seem like a good idea to me, and it turned out that Labour later adopted the same ideas on immigration.
Eva Bartlett’s blog: In Gaza