Monday, April 21, 2003

Lies, More Lies, and CNN's Lies

Exclusive commentary to Naomi Ragen's mail list
by Marc J. Rauch

Apr 17, 2003

As I opined in a recent essay, the first lesson that has hopefully been learned from the Iraq War is that the treacherous and cowardly acts perpetrated by Saddam Hussein and his goons are the same nefarious tactics that Israel has had to contend with for the past hundred years in order to defend themselves and build a homeland.

The second lesson that should be learned from the war is the extent to which lies have been told to protect the Arab governments and regimes.

Over the years, the world has heard from an incredible coterie of fraudulent Arab leaders and spokespersons who seem to grossly distort every fact and event related to the history of their people; not to defend themselves and their homelands against an aggressor that doesn't exist, but to defend their unjustified aggression against the Jewish State, as well as the atrocities that they commit each and every day against their own Muslim brothers and sisters.

On the leader side of the liar-ledger there was Haj Amin al-Husseini, Gamel Abdel Nasser, Hafez al-Assad, and there still is Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein (although whether Hussein is a is or was is still in question). Al-Husseini, by the way, was the notorious Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and disciple of Josef Goebbels.

For charlatan spokespersons, we've had to endure Saeb Erakat, Hasan Abded Rahman, Hanan Ashwari, and Diana Buttu (all representing the Palestinian Arab position). Twelve years ago, on behalf of the preposterous Iraqi position that took us into the Gulf War, the free world came to know and loathe Tariq Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq (who is also now a questionable is or was).

Previously, these people were able to hide behind the cloak of time and distance in order to make their distortions sound plausible.* Communications technology was such that no immediate comparison between live reality and political commentary could be made. In many instances days and weeks would go by before any news of an event was reported to the public. And those reports would often be subject to the time and space limitations of the particular media that was disseminating the information. Arab propagandists relied upon abridged and time-dulled testimony, or information stemming from subsequent unrelated events, to color, diffuse, and obfuscate the facts and truth. When confronted with substantive contrary evidence, he or she often excused their prevarications from criticism by arguing that there are no objective facts, only subjective points of view.

However, as any sane person knows, there are indeed objective facts and truths. And over the last couple of weeks, thanks to the inadvertent efforts of one man, the historic pattern of Islamic propaganda tap dancing was exposed for the sham that it has always been. That man is Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, Iraq's Minister of Information.

Al-Sahhaf (or as the media like to call him, Baghdad Bob) is as skilled a liar as any of the above mentioned people. One might even say that Baghdad Bob is the epitome of all Arab propagandists, the would-be poster boy for Liars Anonymous. What set Baghdad Bob apart from the other liars are his comical visage and the use of live split-screen television. With humorous, almost humane eyes, ample rounded nose, and a beret jauntily perched upon his head, Baghdad Bob instantly brought back memories of live television's other great comedic liar, Jon Lovitz' hilarious Pathological Liar from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE.

On a daily basis, Baghdad Bob point-blankly insisted to the world that Saddam Hussein and his regime were peaceful, God-fearing people. He railed against the atrocities that he claimed America, Britain, and its Zionist-handlers were committing against Islamic peoples. Bob fervently assured the global audience that Iraq would be victorious, cut the heads of the American invaders, and kick the soldiers in their asses as they ran away.

During the opening hours of the war, who could forget the humorous sight of Baghdad Bob and his cronies trying to conduct a serious press conference while ignoring the sounds of American bombing and the shaking of the studio's cloth backdrop from the resultant explosions? This was something straight from a Johnny Carson Tonight Show skit.

Then there was the bit with Baghdad Bob rejecting the notion that Saddam International Airport had been captured, while on the other side of the screen we saw footage of American troops walking through the airport's shopping concourse. The piece de resistance (excuse my French-no really, excuse my use of anything French) was his dogged denial that American tanks were parked along the Tigris River in downtown Baghdad. As a viewer, I felt certain that in any moment a U.S. soldier would walk up behind Bob, tap him on the shoulder, Bob would turn the opposite way, peer off into the distance, and then turn back to the camera and say, "Where? I don't see any American tanks. The only thing missing from Baghdad Bob's diatribes to truly make them classic comic masterpieces was a tag line to equal Lovitz' "Yeah, that's the ticket."

Humor aside, what these episodes with Baghdad Bob prove is that even in the face of undeniable, incontrovertible evidence, these people will lie at any cost, rather than to admit a truth that is unfavorable to their position.

Fortunately for Yasser Arafat, last year when he was screaming on live television about a massacre occurring in Jenin, that CNN didn't do a live split-screen feed to show what was really happening. But there may be a reason why CNN didn't supply a live split-screen feed that would have exposed Arafat's lies, and the reason is much deeper than just the obvious. This brings up my final point in the lessons to be learned from the Iraq War. It is also the most disturbing revelation of all.

While we may not have yet discovered the so-called smoking gun in Saddam Hussein's arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction, we do now have the smoking gun in the Arab's arsenal of Weapons of Mass Disinformation. And that smoking gun is CNN, the cable television network headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. On Friday, April 11, in a letter to the New York Times, CNN's senior news executive Eason Jordan confessed that for the past dozen years they have been hiding the truth about what has been happening in the Middle East, and that they were pressured into reporting stories that were favorable to the Iraqi regime. Jordan cited several situations in which the Iraqi government threatened, tortured, and murdered members of the press. And Jordan admitted that in order to retain their press office in Iraq that he and CNN had to cover up information about these situations and more.

For years, like many others, I watched in horror as CNN broadcast stories that defended the vicious acts being committed by the Arab governments, their leaders, and many of their people against Jews, Christians, and even other Muslims. Story after story portrayed the perpetrators as the victims. Time and again, the deaths of Jewish women and children were overshadowed by the heart-wrenching stories of the perpetrators' families-not the victims' families mind you, the perpetrators' families.

When questioned about this bias, CNN reporters and executives would deny it existed. And with all the vigor of a Baghdad Bob they would insist that they were merely presenting both sides of the story. When reminded that there was no way to balance the story of the bombing of a Jewish family religious dinner with the posthumous celebration of the bomber's family, CNN resorted to the same kind of perverted moral-equivalency rationale used by Islam's worst dictators when defending their atrocities: there's no objective facts, only subjective points of view. In other words, CNN claimed the bomber's family was suffering, too.

There is no moral-equivalency between the two. It's an insane, irrational position. For a while, I figured it was just a remnant of Ted Turner's legacy as CNN's founder. After all, Turner's mouth has often made him appear as insane and irrational as any dictator, and he even has the moustache to go with it. However, the situation is far worse than simply being influenced by a possibly demented founder, it involves having sick, self-absorbed news executives and reporters who think that their jobs are more important than the truth and people's lives.

Eason Jordan says he covered up the truth to protect lives, but whose lives was he referring to: only the people that worked for him. At any point, Jordan and CNN could have pulled their people and from the Middle East, and then told the truth. In doing so, perhaps they could have helped saved the lives of people that didn't work for him, you know, ordinary people. But then, that would require integrity, and sadly corporate integrity can be as much of an oxymoron as Yasser Arafat winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

There's a significant connection to CNN's confession and the events in Israel. Saddam Hussein paid millions of dollars to the families of the Palestinian Arab bombers that killed or maimed innocent Jews. Hussein also supported Arafat and the other Palestinian Arab terrorist groups. Portraying those connections solely as evil, and portraying the suicide bombings solely as being evil would have been damaging to Saddam Hussein's reputation. Hussein and his thugs had access to CNN; they had the ability to watch and hear everything that was said about them.

Moreover, like all the other similarities that exist between the despotic Arab regimes, Yasser Arafat and the PLO employ the exact same fear tactics. They kill and torture anyone they can get their hands on that disseminates a dissenting opinion. It's impossible to think that CNN hasn't received additional threats from Arafat, and that CNN isn't also caving into this pressure to protect their precious network, by covering up more truths.

I believe that CNN's actions have been as damaging to democracy and the free world as any of the vilest propaganda ever spread by Josef Goebbels, Josef Stalin, the Grand Mufti, Yasser Arafat, or Saddam Hussein. For twelve years CNN hid the truth, covered-up facts, and fabricated ridiculous moral-equivalency scenarios. Millions of people around the world have been influenced by these lies and deceptions. We have almost an entire generation of people who have heard that it's justified to blow up school buses; that there's honor to be gained in doing so. Is there any wonder why there are thousands of students willing to create civil disobedience to protest the war? They don't know Saddam Hussein was a maniac-by his own admission, Eason Jordan refused to tell this to the world. They don't know that Yasser Arafat is a murderer; thanks to CNN they think he's the George Washington of the Palestinian Arabs. They watch CNN; they get to see CNN propaganda on their televisions at school. If there's a positive spin that could be put on Jordan's revelation I guess it's that we should be grateful that CNN wasn't more successful in brainwashing our children.

The television network that calls itself the most THE MOST TRUSTED NAME IN NEWS is a fraud. It's been nothing more than a public relations outlet for dictatorial Islamic regimes. Eason Jordan titled his letter to the Times, "The News We Keep To Ourselves." I submit that we would be better off not getting any news, than only getting news that cover-ups the truth and spreads lies. I wish Eason Jordan and his news staff well in their next career, far, far away from any media outlet.

*Ironically, some of the men even hid behind the cloak of women's clothing in order to deceive their adversaries.


Marc J. Rauch was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1952, and lived in the metropolitan area until "emigrating" to the West Coast in the early 80s. He is a multi-award winning TV/film writer, producer, and director, and has been a broadcasting and marketing executive since the 1975. Marc lectures on various subjects concerning broadcasting, new media, and the Middle East at conferences and seminars throughout the U.S. and Europe. In 1994, he authored a book on advertising and has had several business and industry articles published in a variety of related magazines. His political commentaries are regularly published in several print and online publications.
Naomi Ragen
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