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Friday, June 08, 2012


Spinning the news from Afghanistan

18 civilians were killed by a "NATO" (i.e., U.S.) airstrike in Afghanistan yesterday. AP and the Washington Post provides a classic case in point for how such news is treated by the U.S. media, and by the U.S. government as well.

The first story that appeared was this one. A curious story, because the page title (that appears on top of the browser) as well as the URL refers to the 18 people killed, but the headline and the bulk of the story is about Leon Panetta and Pakistan. Not until the 21st paragraph (!) do we finally get to the news about the murder of the civilians.

Tellingly, although the article informs us that Afghan President Karzai is already rushing back to Kabul from China because of the attacks, the author is then able to report with a straight face that the NATO spokesman says they "had no reports so far of civilian deaths from the airstrike."

Now cut to the next day. The front page of the Washington Post website features as its #1 "World" story the latest alleged massacre in Syria, which has nothing directly to do with the United States (other than the fact that the overthrow of the Syrian government is now the #1 short-term priority of U.S. foreign policy), but the murder of 18 Afghan civilians including the all-important "women and children" by a U.S./NATO airstrike is nowhere to be seen. If you do manage to find the article, you'll find that the headline isn't "NATO airstrike kills 18 civilians in Afghanistan," which is the actual story, but rather "Gen. John Allen apologizes for civilians killed in airstrike in Afghanistan," which is the message the U.S. government wants the American public to go away with. Oops, a mistake happened, but we're sorry. Really sorry. (even though yesterday we were denying we even knew about it).

As an aside, note the issue of credibility. A major story in the last 24 hours has been the alleged massacre in Syria, a story which is sourced to the famous "Syrian Observatory for Human Rights," which is one guy in an apartment in London, a source who has proved unreliable on more than one occasion. Not only is there no evidence yet for who might have committed this massacre, there isn't even any evidence yet that there was a massacre. Yet this "story" immediately jumped to the top of the news, the leads on TV and the front pages of every website and newspaper.

The news from Afghanistan, by contrast, is credibly sourced, with bodies having already been seen, and, as noted, the Afghan President already cutting short a foreign trip to rush back home. Yet despite this credible sourcing, the denial by the NATO spokesperson that they knew anything about it, a denial from a source which has proven to be utterly non-credible on multiple occasions, was enough to bury the story, and now the "apology" has become the only story, and a minor one at that.

And so the partnership between corporate media and the U.S. government continues to function as a well-oiled machine.

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