15November2018

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How To Be A Reliable ‘Mainstream’ Journalist

There are certain rules you need to follow as a journalist if you are going to demonstrate to your editors, and the media owners who employ you, that you can be trusted.

For example, if you write about US-Iran relations, you need to ensure that your history book starts in 1979. That was the year Iranian students started a 444-day occupation of the US embassy in Tehran. This was the event that 'led to four decades of mutual hostility', according to BBC News. On no account should you dwell on the CIA-led coup in 1953 that overthrew the democratically-elected Iranian leader, Mohammad Mossadegh. Even better if you just omit any mention of this.

You should definitely not quote Noam Chomsky who said in 2013 that:

'the crucial fact about Iran, which we should begin with, is that for the past 60 years, not a day has passed in which the U.S. has not been torturing Iranians.' (Our emphasis)

As Chomsky notes, the US (with UK support) installed the Shah, a brutal dictator, described by Amnesty International as one of the worst, most extreme torturers in the world, year after year. That ordinary Iranians might harbour some kind of grievance towards Uncle Sam as a result should not be prominent in 'responsible' journalism. Nor should you note, as Chomsky does, that:

'When he [the Shah] was overthrown in 1979, the U.S. almost immediately turned to supporting Saddam Hussein in an assault against Iran, which killed hundreds of thousands of Iranians, used extensive use of chemical weapons. Of course, at the same time, Saddam attacked his Kurdish population with horrible chemical weapons attacks. The U.S. supported all of that.'

As a 'good' journalist, you should refrain from referring to the US as the world's most dangerous rogue state, or by making any Chomskyan comparison between the US and the Mafia:

'We're back to the Mafia principle. In 1979, Iranians carried out an illegitimate act: They overthrew a tyrant that the United States had imposed and supported, and moved on an independent path, not following U.S. orders. That conflicts with the Mafia doctrine, by which the world is pretty much ruled. Credibility must be maintained. The godfather cannot permit independence and successful defiances, in the case of Cuba. So, Iran has to be punished for that.'

As a reliable journalist, there is also no need to dwell on the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 over the Persian Gulf by the US warship Vincennes on July 3, 1988. All 290 people on board the plane were killed, including 66 children. President Ronald Reagan excused the mass killing as 'a proper defensive action'. Vice-President George H.W. Bush said: 'I will never apologize for the United States — I don't care what the facts are. ... I'm not an apologize-for America kind of guy.'

The US has never forgiven Iran for its endless 'defiance' in trying to shirk off Washington's impositions. Harsh and punitive sanctions on Iran, that had been removed under the 2015 nuclear deal, have now been restored by President Donald Trump. Trump has also decided to pull out of the INF, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, with Russia. This is the landmark nuclear arms pact signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

But 'balanced' journalism need not focus on the enhanced threat of nuclear war, or the diplomatic options that the US has ignored or trampled upon. Instead, journalism is to be shaped by the narrative framework that it is the US that is behaving responsibly, and that Iran is the gravest threat to world peace. Thus, BBC News reports that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has:

'warned that the US will exert "relentless" pressure on Iran unless it changes its "revolutionary course".'

BBC News adds:

'Iran's President Hassan Rouhani earlier struck a defiant tone, saying the country will "continue selling oil".

'"We will proudly break the sanctions," he told economic officials.'

Good reporters know that Official Enemies resisting US imperialism must always be described as 'defiant'. But the term is rarely, if ever, applied to the imperial power implementing oppressive measures.

BBC News dutifully reported Pompeo's comments:

'The Iranian regime has a choice: it can either do a 180-degree turn from its outlaw course of action and act like a normal country, or it can see its economy crumble.'

A good reporter knows not to critically appraise, far less ridicule, the idea that the US is an exemplar of 'a normal country', rather than being an outlaw state that outrageously threatens to make another country's economy 'crumble' for refusing to obey US orders.

Read more: How To Be A Reliable ‘Mainstream’ Journalist

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