By Mowahid Hussain Shah
President Trump has been railing consistently against what he has characterized fundamentally as “dishonest media” in the US. The question arises: does he have a point?
A visitor to Britain who takes a cursory glance at the UK print media and BBC-TV discovers a stark difference in how the Mideast is portrayed, particularly its core conflict – the Israeli-Palestinian tussle for the same piece of real estate. In Britain, it is relatively balanced, giving ample display to Palestinian perspectives. And those who do so rarely face severe repercussions to their personal and political lives. Not so in America.
Here, it is largely one-sided, with the mainstream media firmly embedded in the Israeli camp, save for some occasional contrarian voices, and most of them consigned to the fringe, like the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. One of its two co-founders, Richard Curtiss died in 2013. Despite his stellar record in the US foreign service, and his own unblemished reputation, his passing largely went unnoticed, with no major paper printing more than a perfunctory obituary. In 2016, the other co-founder, Ambassador Andrew Killgore, passed away, without a contemporaneous obituary in US newspapers. The basic fault of these two distinguished Washington luminaries? They were dauntless voices for fair play for the Palestinians, whom they both felt had been shafted.
The JFK White House was notable for its sleaze and preying on young girls within the premises of the White House, but because of JFK’s close friendship with Ben Bradlee, then with Newsweek and the Washington Post, these shenanigans never made it into print.
On the other hand, Nixon was mercilessly hammered by the Washington Poston Watergate and eventually was hounded out from the White House. Why? One of Nixon’s unstated sins was that he believed in being even-handed on the Mideast.
Witness, too, the fate of President Carter. Despite running a corruption-free White House and known for his personal rectitude, his Presidency was dogged by negative coverage and stained with the media-inflicted label of a loser and failure. Why? Because he had openly advocated an independent homeland for the Palestinians and had invested political capital in striving to bring equity in the Middle East. Carter’s remarkable post-White House humanitarian work is a stinging rebuke to his malicious detractors, of whom there are many in the media.
Much of America’s global decline can be attributed to fallout from its Iraq misadventures. Jill Abramson, former Washington bureau chief and executive editor of the New York Times, supported (later regretting) the unprovoked attack on Iraq. So did Tom Friedman, a leading New York Times columnist, who pontificates about global affairs. David Brooks, also a columnist for theNew York Times, made himself obnoxious by endorsing the attack on Iraq. Not well known is the fact that his own son joined Israeli armed forces in 2014.
So Trump, for all his multifarious flaws, does have a point. A good one. Before singling out Trump for Islamophobia, let not the electronic media and Hollywood escape scrutiny for incessantly fanning the flames of bigotry and xenophobia. The media is indeed part of the problem.