Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Israel plans Iran bombing, BBC ponders 'the task'

War propaganda doesn't just involve selective reportage and omission.  It includes journalists' fascinated appreciation of warfare, particularly warfare planned and executed by 'us' - the collective Western 'ours' that always includes Israel.

It's also a narrative that encourages 'problem appreciating' wherein we, as readers/viewers, 'share' in the technical and logistical difficulties of mounting an invasion, a bombing campaign and other forms of 'liberal intervention'.

Thus, does the BBC's Jonathan Marcus assess, dissect and speculate on how Israel might strike Iran.

Marcus's introductory words provide all the 'essential' context for the lengthy war-glaring detail to follow:
"For all the myriad challenges facing Israel over the past decade it is the potential threat from a nuclear-armed Iran that has preoccupied the country's military planners. 
It is this that in large part has guided the development of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) over recent years."
Amongst all those keynote terms - the "myriad challenges", the "potential threat", the "preoccup[ation]" that has "guided the [IAF's] development" - there's nothing about the IAF's main 'developmental' role in maintaining a sixty-odd year illegal occupation or any mention of the daily bombing/punishing of Gaza as an experimental holding camp; there's nothing, either, about Israel's vast arms economy and all the military research underpinning that development.

Rather, the sole focus is on the 'awkward obstacles' to Israel's war:  
An Israeli attempt to severely damage Iran's nuclear programme would have to cope with a variety of problems, including range, the multiplicity of targets, and the nature of those targets. Many of these problems are daunting in themselves, but when put together, they only compound the difficulties facing Israeli military planners.
Forget here the certainty of mass civilian deaths or the illegality of such actions against Iran.  That's all, correspondents like Marcus will likely insist, for 'political discussion'.

Instead, Marcus postures as the neutral journalist technocrat. While not openly endorsing such actions, we're invited to internalise the logistical 'problems' for Israel; to wonder, with him, with the planners, about the actual 'assignment', the 'favourable options', the best-case scenario for how Israel 'might pull this one off'.

The message is conveyed through weapon-speak and consultation of 'academic experts', lending a veneer of 'objectivity'. But the subtext is consistent: Iran is a 'menacing problem' and Israel is on a 'legitimate mission to sort the problem out'.

Complementing the bias, a set of accompanying graphics comparing Israeli and Iranian military capacities suggests that while the former has a "task", the latter poses a "threat".

In response, Media Lens Co-Editor David Cromwell asked Marcus this question, receiving the following reply from BBC Editor Tarik Kafala:
Dear Jonathan Marcus,

I hope you’re well and don’t mind responding to an email about your article, ‘How Israel might strike against Iran’, please:

Your illustrated table of military hardware gives a heading of ‘task’ for Israeli aircraft; but for Iranian defence systems, you provide the heading of ‘threat’.

Why the asymmetry? Why don’t Israeli aircraft provide any ‘threat’?
Best wishes
David Cromwell

Dear Mr Cromwell,

This is a fair point. The word "threat" is not quite right.

The articles aim to ask the question - should Israel decide on a military strike, how would it do it and can it do it? I think the word "task" is right, but I will change threat for "efficacy".
We will be following up with a piece on what the aftermath of such a strike might look like. That will consider the wisdom or otherwise of such a strike.

Regards and thanks,
Tarik Kafala
A concession of sorts from the BBC. But no seeming admission of the article's overall distortion. No suggestion either that Marcus or others might produce a similar in-depth piece on any Iranian "task" or 'mission difficulties' in bombing Israel.

Kafala's assurance that they "will consider the wisdom or otherwise of such a strike" is further sanitised BBC-speak. Why not "the illegality or otherwise" or "the catastrophic effect or otherwise" of such a strike? Even in its 'acceptance' of Marcus's 'error', the wording is carefully calibrated to suggest that Israel's intentions are either benign or benignly mistaken.

The most efficient war propaganda is not that which overtly supports or proselytises. It's that which normalises the abnormal, which 'matter-of-facts' state violence, with 'our' aims and 'problems' around the execution of that violence non-reflexively absorbed and accepted by the viewer as somehow natural.

The BBC's service to power here is even more remarkable - and, thus, intensified - given the confirmed Western intelligence consensus that Iran poses no actual nuclear weapons threat.

Testifying, this month, before the US Senate's Armed Services Committee, America’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, made the amazing admission that:
"Despite the hype surrounding Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology, the country's leaders are not likely to develop weapons unless attacked... In addition the Iranians are unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict."
While the BBC and other serving media have emphasised International Atomic Energy Agency suggestions that Iran may still be enriching uranium, there's been no commensurate cover of the recently-appointed, Washington-favoured, IAEA head Yukiya Amano who has described himself in a Wikileaks-released diplomatic cable as "solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program."

As quoted by Media Lens, US approval of Amano's election is clearly evident in the leaked document:
 "This meeting [with US diplomats], Amano's first bilateral review since his election, illustrates the very high degree of convergence between his priorities and our own agenda at the IAEA." 
All of which makes 'low-lying' assessments like Marcus's vital to the West's war-promoting agenda. Stripped of all the bluster and confronting all the facts, the war parties are left with the inconvenient' truth that the 'mad mullahs' pose no actual, obvious threat, immediate or existential, to the West or Israel.

Yet, the public perception of threat, suspicion and fear remain. Through seductive weapon-gazing and loaded narrative, Britain's state media has, again, shown just how attendant it is to the dominant political mission of vilifying and attacking Iran.

The BBC's own crucial task here, its mission, is not one of conveying accurate information and context to the public. It's about normalising the case for Western-Israeli violence, all part of the process of getting us to think the unthinkable case for war.

Déjà vu?



I'd like to dedicate this piece, humbly, to the memory of Alan Pacetta.

A consistent advocate for Palestine and other oppressed peoples, Alan was a vibrant observer of propaganda and media bias, commenting, unearthing sources and providing powerful images, all in the true human spirit of radical dissent. His fine pictures and videos from the West Bank, Faslane and other protest sites, many brilliantly edited and scored, showed his instinctive talent for imparting a message and capturing a mood. Thankfully, his legacy of work remains with us, as do my pleasing personal memories of this engaging young man.

Love and solidarity to Margaret, John and all his family.


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