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Genocide and American liberals

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Recently FAIR ran a report concerning the coverage given the incipient genocide in Yemen by 60 Minutes and the Washington Post.  It seems that both news organizations covered the crisis without ever mentioning the support given by the United States to the Saudis.  We are responsible— no one who actually covers the issue honestly bothers to deny that.  What they do instead is forget to mention it.

The New York Times has done a better job and was recently praised by Mark Weisbrot on the Real News Network for acknowledging US complicity in war crimes while they are happening, something the Times rarely does, albeit in an editorial. But if you read the editorial in question, it is less than overwhelming in its honesty. Congress is praised by the New York Times editors and Trump is condemned, but the legislation was a toothless measure. It is a step forward but it was also a compromise. Nothing was actually done to stop American aid to the Saudis. Our complicity continues. Weisbrot points out that it might eventually lead to more debate and a final end of US complicity, but it hasn’t happened yet.

And in a more recent story the New York Times follows the lead of the Post and 60 Minutes and simply omits US complicity, writing as though the crimes were all the fault of the Others, as we wring our hands wondering if they could be brought to justice.

Meanwhile, Russiagate continues to outrage mainstream American liberals who are shocked, shocked, that an American President might be tied to Putin. Putin, you see, is a thuggish person. We can’t have our foreign policies dictated by such a person… though one wonders if Putin is the one telling Trump to pick fights with Iran, given that Iran and the Russians are aligned together in the Mideast.

The Russiagate storyline is very confusing, until you realize it is being put forward by people who are studiously ignoring actual, out in the open, bipartisan Presidential collusion with one of the worst regimes on the planet as it murders children in Yemen.

Note the outrage directed at Russia in the comments following this Times story. The thrust of the article is that Russian dissidents who despise Putin think Americans are being ridiculous concerning the meddling; but the Times readers will have none of it. How many of these people have been following the story in Yemen? How many question the push to war with Iran or wonder how that is supposed to tie in with Putin as puppet master? I don’t know, but I would bet there is little overlap between those who are outraged about US involvement in Yemen and those obsessed with Russiagate, because one story makes the other seem absurdly trivial.

When you read liberals in comment threads or hear them in real life it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the simplest, most insultingly stupid forms of propaganda actually work. And they work on well educated liberals. The New York Times does from time to time condemn U.S. complicity in Yemen, but in a way that is almost certainly designed to minimize it or make it seem anomalous or tangential, just another bad thing Trump does. During the Obama era they reported concern on the part of some lawyers in the State Department that we could be complicit, but it was never given front page attention or a constant drumbeat of editorial outrage. Obama’s State Department spokesman defended the Saudis, claiming that their bombing of civilians was accidental, unlike what the Russians did in Syria. Lying about Saudi war crimes and our complicity didn’t merit any outrage in the New York Times. There is just enough honesty in the paper so they can say they covered the issue, but not enough to signal to their readers that the issue matters.

Of course the readers shouldn’t need that signal. But obviously they do. A torrent of stories has convinced them that Russiagate is a moral outrage, the great issue of our time. Yemen is a sort of boutique issue, something you might mention once in a while and if so, you blame Trump or simply blame the Saudis. But nobody obsesses about it and nobody asks what form of moral or financial corruption has led us to this point or asked whether the whole political system seems designed to obfuscate our guilt when we participate in mass murder. It deserves the occasional story. Our killing of civilians in our own bombings receives some mention— the New York Times carried a great story on civilian casualties of airstrikes in Iraq a month ago which seemingly had no impact whatsoever.

Then we go back to what really matters, which is Russiagate.

It’s not exactly clear why it matters. What has Putin persuaded Trump to do? Is it a bad thing that we might not arm Syrian rebels? Should we be imposing a no fly zone in Syria and killing Russians and Syrians in the process? Did Putin stand in the way of America exerting its will in the world as God intended? Nobody spells it out. Or rather, it seems to change. Right now the moral outrage is that Trump interfered with US foreign policy before taking office. This is the sort of thing Republican usually say about liberal Democrats when they oppose some Republican war. I despise Trump, but when Flynn met the Russians on behalf of Israel he was acting like most of Congress, except it was the Russian factor that makes it outrageous. If liberals cared that much about the Israeli occupation they wouldn’t need Flynn’s Russian lobbying to be angry. And I seriously doubt we will see Israeli connections investigated. How many FBI guys would we need to do that?

When you consider how much news coverage we have from organizations that pride themselves on their professionalism, a person from Neptune would find it remarkable that so many American liberals are so indifferent to the fact that we are complicit in a crime against humanity. This isn’t a secret. It isn’t something hidden in the ultra classified files of the NSA waiting for some Snowden to leak or for some British spy to uncover. There is just enough coverage so that no one somewhat interested in politics could deny knowledge, and yet it continues because we all know it just doesn’t matter that much. We may eventually stop helping the Saudis murder children, but there won’t be an investigation and something like it will happen again. Maybe the press is the way it is because it reflects the values of its readers

We act this way because we are a superpower and we can squash people like bugs without serious consequence to ourselves if it happens to be convenient; and so this is what we do. The upper ten or twenty percent, the educated consumers of the liberal press, have up to this point benefited from the system in place. I don’t know how much of our GDP requires the murder of people overseas but obviously some powerful people benefit from US imperialism and this corrupts both our politicians and the mainstream press which does just enough reporting so they don’t look like total liars, but without ever digging too deeply into the rot that permeates the whole.

For the educated liberal it is convenient to believe that whatever is really wrong can be identified with the Republican Party, so if we just win elections for the Democrats everything will be fine. Russiagate is utterly irresistible. Some bad foreigner helped the worst imaginable Republican. Liberals get to be liberal and wave the flag.

Stories like what we or our allies do to Gaza or Yemen or other places contradict the narrative and make us uncomfortable, as it involves us all, so we ignore them the way people ignore the sexual abusers if acting against them would threaten their jobs. We should stop doing this. But it is hard to see what will make us stop doing this.

Donald Johnson

Donald Johnson is a regular commenter on this site, as "Donald."

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14 Responses

  1. Boomer on December 12, 2017, 7:54 pm

    re: Genocide and American liberals. Great analysis, good reminder, depressing as hell.

    • Donald on December 12, 2017, 10:43 pm

      Thanks. And yes, it is depressing.

    • eljay on December 13, 2017, 7:55 am

      || Boomer: … Great analysis, good reminder, depressing as hell. ||


  2. JLewisDickerson on December 13, 2017, 12:05 am

    RE: “[A] person from Neptune would find it remarkable that so many American liberals are so indifferent to the fact that we are complicit in a crime against humanity. . . We act this way because we are a superpower and we can squash people like bugs without serious consequence to ourselves if it happens to be convenient; and so this is what we do.” ~ Donald Johnson

    MY GOODNESS, you liberals do go on, and on, and on about any little tempest in a teapot that you can somehow use to make America look bad. What is it with you people?!?! What’s YOUR problem?!?!
    If we don’t help The Mad Crown Prince MBS burnish his warlord creds by wreaking havoc on Yemen, he might not feel up to helping us deliver a crippling blow to the Mad Mullahs of Iran devastating enough to placate Netanyahu for a year or two. But really, it’s all so banal as to hardly be worth mentioning.
    Can you say “Banality of Evil”?
    Sure you can!
    Fortunately, at least, it appears to be a bad night in Alabama for pedophiles.
    Trump will be inconsolable!

    • Mooser on December 13, 2017, 12:18 pm

      “Fortunately, at least, it appears to be a bad night in Alabama for pedophiles”

      And I had to shelve my “Club Ped” joke about the Senate.
      JONES WON!!!!!

  3. Citizen on December 13, 2017, 12:38 am

    yep, really depressing

  4. yourstruly on December 13, 2017, 1:50 am

    “Maybe the press is this way because it reflects the values of its readers.” Some perhaps but unfortunately it’s more likely that the media is successful in its brainwashing of the public. Only those of us who get our information from the Internet &/or alternate media have at least a chance to decide for ourselves what’s real and what’s fake news. Generally speaking, when it’s a matter of what’s going on in the world outside our borders, the truth is the opposite of media-speak, since on such subjects the media only disseminates information that our government wants us to be exposed to.

    • Donald on December 13, 2017, 11:09 am

      I think you are right regarding most people and I thought of striking out that line. At the moment, reading your post, I think I should have. It is probably true of a few that their values are warped. Mostly, though,it is that propaganda works on everybody. Hear the same things over and over again and see some stories emphasized and others downplayed or not covered at all and it is entirely natural to absorb it. It probably happens to all of us about some issue or other.

      • Keith on December 13, 2017, 6:35 pm

        DONALD JOHNSON- “Mostly, though,it is that propaganda works on everybody.”

        Propaganda is primarily effective on those who want to believe. NYT propaganda is directed at middle class liberals, not the lower class right wing. The thing which I find so depressing about Russiagate is the extent to which well educated Democratic Party loyalists have completely suspended their disbelief. From the information presented (including the alternate media), the notion of massive Russian interference is preposterous. Even mentioning $100K spent over 2 years by some “Russians” on social media involving cartoons should be greeted with hoots of derision. Yet it isn’t. And the examples they give of interference, such as RT covering Occupy Wall Street, are such that it is an insult to the intelligence to even discuss them. $100K over 2 years? You would have to spend a lot more than that to run an effective campaign for the Seattle City Council. Have the faithful followers gone mad? Group ideology normally trumps empirical reality, however, when the narrative is this ludicrous there should be more resistance. Much more.

      • Donald on December 14, 2017, 12:01 am

        “Propaganda is primarily effective on those who want to believe.”

        That’s true, which is why I said that thing about the values of readers. I just want to leave open the possibility that some, when faced with facts stated forcefully so they can’t ignore it, will admit what is going on.

        Hypothetically, if you explained to a friend via email with plenty of links what we are doing to Yemen and Gaza and how the press downplays or ignores it, they might start to see how morally twisted the mainstream emphases and storylines are. But if they are emotionally committed to the mainstream storyline, they will find some way to dismiss it and cling to what the msm tells them is important. I have encountered a few people like that both online and in real life. Which is part of why there is a bit of a depressed tone to the post.

      • DaBakr on December 15, 2017, 10:17 pm


        “Maybe the press is this way because it reflects the values of its readers.”

        While this might be a reasonable statement as applied to the masses of news consumers don’t think it doesn’t apply to as many commenters here (and pro israeli websites too). Just one of those things. everybody thinks they’re smart enough. too smart to understand they’re not smart enough and that nobody owns the truth , (well, except annie maybe, she owns the mw debate team)

  5. Ronald Johnson on December 13, 2017, 9:12 am

    Very well done ! I was dismayed at the loss of Al-Jazeera on the cable channels. I wonder what pressures may have been applied to discourage advertisers – and about the seeming lack of Americans’ interest in a medium that did not polarize, left or right.

    But about Russiagate. The First Amendment protection to assure freedom of speech applies, I thought, to all speech, even to speaking anonymously – for all speakers, not limited to US citizens. RT, the foreign agent, has a niche to fill that has been hollowed out by our corporate media, to uncover what is being hidden by a magic coincidence of obfuscation . But anymore, the Constitution is observed in the breach. Selective rights, depending on who has money sufficient to defy the Constitution and afford a protracted battle in the courts. Money also to endow lackey candidates for the Congress and the Administration. As to elections for national public office, I definitely think that Vladimir Putin’s opinion should be sought – to counter Benjamin Netanyahu, who offers opinions – with remarkable insolence.

    • Mooser on December 13, 2017, 12:32 pm

      “But about Russiagate. The First Amendment protection to assure freedom of speech applies, I thought, to all speech, even to speaking anonymously”

      And since money is speech, Russia has earned its right to engage (yeah, that’s the word) the US political process!

      • Keith on December 14, 2017, 4:39 pm

        MOOSER- “And since money is speech, Russia has earned its right to engage….”

        You betcha. $100K over two years. Less than half of what Hillary “earned” from just one of her speeches at Goldman Sachs.

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