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Truth and Lies in Media Reports on Iran

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It wasn’t too long ago, and one might still remember the propaganda campaign the U.S. government and media engaged in prior to the invasion of Iraq, in which misinformation bolstering administration claims was propagated while the facts, presenting a serious challenge to the official position, were systematically self-censored from the public record by The New York Times and other mainstream newspapers and media outlets. [1] Not much has changed. As I have written elsewhere, the latest major propaganda effort has been targeting Iran. [2]


Here’s just one recent notable example. U.S. News & World Report reports an “exclusive” based on a U.S. Army report, saying that “American troops, acting as advisers for Iraqi border guards, were recently surrounded and attacked by a larger unit of Iranian soldiers, well within the border of Iraq.”[3]


But U.S. News makes the mistake of including a PDF of the Army report with the report on its website, so readers can actually see for themselves what the report says. Interestingly, there is quite a large discrepancy between what it says and what U.S News says it says. The brief report never suggests the American troops were “surrounded”, but merely states that their patrol was “approached by a platoon-size element of Iranian soldiers.”


Furthermore, the report by no means puts the incident “well within the border of Iraq”. In fact, it merely notes that the incident occurred “near the Iran-Iraq border”. Attached to the report is a Q&A. One of the questions is, “Was it on the Iraqi or Iranian side of the border?” The answer is, “The exact location is part of the ongoing investigation into this incident.”[4]


So the fact is that the report refers to an incident which occurred near the border and it’s not known which side of the border it occurred on. But U.S. News magically turns this confrontation into a “showdown” in which U.S. forces were “surrounded” “well within the border of Iraq”. Lies often make for wonderful propaganda (a lesson from Iraq nobody should have failed to learn). The truth, on the other hand, all too often just doesn’t make for much of an “exclusive”. And so it is that the media willfully participate in a propaganda campaign designed to garner support for U.S. foreign policy. It’s not a conspiracy. Lies just sell more papers.


The moral is that consumers of media, particularly the U.S. media, need to be aware of the institutionalized system of propaganda that exists and learn to recognize the difference between news and misinformation, which begins with a healthy skepticism, particularly when the topic is U.S. foreign policy. But one striking example is presented here. Others are not hard to find.




[1] I’ve written numerous articles on the subject. See, for example:

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Jeremy R. Hammond is the owner, editor, and principle writer for Foreign Policy Journal, a website dedicated to providing news, critical analysis, and commentary on U.S. foreign policy, particularly with regard to the "war on terrorism" and events (more...)
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