Western media as cheerleaders for war

Western media as cheerleaders for war

Ukraine war: Lessons from the textbook of journalistic error

Western journalists are all but unanimous that negotiating with Russia would equal forgiving its aggression. Nothing short of a crushing victory for Ukraine is conscionable. The risk of escalation is rarely mentioned.

Serge Halimi & Pierre Rimbert

July 3, 2023

This is from Le Monde Diplomatique a few months ago. It’s one of the most succinct and comprehensive analyses we’ve come across of the deep malaise called Western mainstream media and their coverage/promotion of NATO wars. And a scathing critique of the larger part of the so-called Left.

Jan Oberg, editor


Eulogies, hugs, gushing questions: the Western press’s veneration of this president in khaki fatigues suggests media in thrall to political leaders. But that impression is misleading. Since Donald Trump’s election in 2016, and particularly since Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, ‘journalism’ in the United States and also in Europe has increasingly behaved like an autonomous political force with its own ideological agenda. Unlike traditional political parties, the media are simultaneously bringing to life and feeding rival tendencies that form two branches of the market for news: one on the hard right (Fox News, The Sun, CNews etc), the other liberal (the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the Guardian, Le Monde etc). With these two audiences, both of which demand their own partisan reading of events, ‘journalism’ is careful not to alienate the faithful by ever making them doubt the bewitching story it serves up. Media in combat mode have polarised the US around fictitious issues (‘Trump is the Kremlin’s puppet’, ‘Joe Biden’s election victory was rigged’). Since the invasion of Ukraine, they have involved the West in a war against Russia by suppressing any public debate on the risks of military escalation.

There isn’t much you can do about bad journalism except change the channel, write a comment to a faceless person that may or may not get addressed, or toss the newspaper in the trashJeff Gerth

This undertaking has been aided by instincts inherited from the cold war: (much-replayed) archive footage of American schoolchildren learning how to protect themselves from a Soviet nuclear attack; a long-standing obsession with communist subversion in the US; and recurrent paranoia about the ‘enemy within’. It was conceivable, though, that the demise of the Soviet Union and the election of a president who enjoyed strong support in the West, and was almost servile towards it — Boris Yeltsin — would call for more cordial relations between the two former protagonists in a confrontation that had become futile. The Russian people longed for this just as much as their leaders: in the early 1990s, when former Soviet citizens were asked about their favourite international partner, 74% of them picked the US (1).

To ensure US hegemony

This enthusiasm was not mutual. US politicians and media treated Russia as a defeated country, whose role was to not only bend to the rules of then-triumphant neoliberal capitalism, but also to remain strategically weak so that no hostile power could ever again threaten US hegemony. In 1992, only a few weeks after the end of the Soviet Union, the leaked draft Defense Planning Guidance (DPG), better known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine, a Pentagon document that the press published immediately, already had Russia in its sights. It stated that Washington would henceforth need to ‘refocus on precluding the emergence of any future global competitor’. The power of American ‘conviction’ would be all the more compelling because the Pentagon promised to back it up with a military capable of ‘preclud[ing] hostile competitors from challenging our critical interests’ (2). However, ‘the master of the Kremlin’ was then Boris Yeltsin, not Vladimir Putin.

Continue reading on Le Monde Diplomatique >

One Response to "Western media as cheerleaders for war"

  1. F Jahanpour   July 3, 2023 at 1:39 pm

    Future historians may judge the expansion of NATO to Russia’s borders leading to the war in Ukraine as a failure for the West. Many US and Western politicians hope to have won Ukraine, or at least a large part of it, at great cost, but they have lost a much bigger, more powerful and richer country in the process. They have pushed Russia to the arms of China and the two have now formed a strategic relationship against the West, in the same way that Trump’s illegal violation of the Iran nuclear deal pushed Iran to the arms of Russia and China. So far, most of the Global South has remained neutral in this context, but already some of the staunchest former US allies or clients in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, have distanced themselves from the West and moved closer to Russia and China. The same seems to be the case with much of Africa, and India is also hedging her bets. In hindsight, it may seem to have been a losing bargain.


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