14 November 2003
I’ve often referred to the strategy that is the core of the ‘new’ imperialist agenda, the so-called ‘double standard’ articulated by Robert Cooper, now Blair’s pro-consul in Afghanistan. And although cloaked in ‘post-modernist’ phraseology, effectively, it’s a rollback to an earlier, imperialist epoch, a time when the Western world went unchallenged, aside from the occasional ‘native’ uprising or squabble between competing empires over the loot.
I first came across Cooper’s ‘double standard’ thesis in the Observer newspaper, where its unabashed appeal to ‘civilised’ people passed by without a whimper of opposition from the ‘liberals’ that speaks reams not only about our times, but is illustrative of the comfortable symbiosis that exists between the intelligentsia and their corporate paymasters.
Always ready and willing to create an ‘out’ for their masters, their main claim to fame consists of the ability to be able to speak out of two sides of their faces simultaneously. Not an inconsiderable feat if you consider that the years at journalism school supposedly trained them in the art of being ‘objective’ about events.
They then enter the world of journalism, theoretically without a single opinion in their heads, apparently possessed of the amazing ability to dump their culture and their pre-conceived notions about the world and then interpret events for us as if living in a vacuum. For the western journalist, right and wrong are mutable concepts that change from day to day, depending on the prevailing ‘orthodoxy’.
Take for example, yesterday’s (13/11/03) editorial in the Independent. Headlined “America should start the search for a way out of Iraq”, it’s basic premise is that when it invaded and occupied the country back in March, it had “unrealistic expectations”. And what did these ‘unrealistic expectations’ consist of? The editorial doesn’t tell us. Instead, it concerns itself with the “deteriorating…security situation”. No mention of the reasons for invading, these have been airbrushed out. Entire chunks of history are conveniently omitted and we fast forward to the reality of Iraqi “resistance – for that is what it is – …spreading and becoming more deadly.”
Of course, there’s no connection made between the invasion itself and the resistance. Instead the mess is put down to “unrealistic expectations” as if had they had more realistic expectations they would have prepared more effectively to put the down the resistance. This is not an editorial that looks at principle, it’s an editorial that basically questions imperial strategies as not working.
The Independent, ever reluctant to call a spade a spade, then goes on to say the following:
“Regrettably, the suspicion must be that Mr Bremer’s summons to Washington was less about the future of Iraq than it was about the future of Mr Bush.”
And in a total mockery of the Independent’s supposedly ‘anti-war’ stance, the editorial ends with this piece of classic double-speak:
“With the prospects for peace and democracy in Iraq looking more remote than ever, the risk is a deliberate confusion in the White House between what is best for Iraq and what is best for Mr Bush’s re-election – and a betrayal of the very ideals for which the US President, and our Prime Minister, have said they were fighting.”
So the issue of principle, nay morality, the very issue this ‘liberal’ newspaper is always shoving down our throats, miraculously disappears. Instead, the Bush imperium is “confused” and in the process it could be that they have “betrayed” the “ideals” that led them to invade in the first place. What ideals have they “betrayed” exactly? If, according to the Independent, it was wrong to invade last March, then it follows that everything else they do, aside from getting the hell out of the country, must also be wrong.
But that’s not how the ‘liberal’ mind works. The invasion, which broke every law in the book and rolled back half a century of building a less dangerous and more secure and stable world, was, according to the Independent, based upon some set of ‘ideals’, though what these ‘ideals’ are is not explained. But we’ll assume that the Independent’s argument is based on the ‘ideal’ that the emperium was motivated by the evil nature of the Saddam regime:
- A regime whose coup d’etat the US supported.
- A regime that the CIA supplied with the names of all the Iraqi Communist Party members, so they could be eliminated.
- A regime that the US, Britain and Germany armed with chemical and biological weapons in its war against Iran.
- A regime that the US gave a de facto green light to invade Kuwait.
These are the ‘ideals’ that the Independent says the US and the UK is now betraying? This is how the ‘double standard’ works when applied to journalism. Yesterday’s ‘ideals’ are today’s ‘confusion’ and no doubt, tomorrow’s disaster that the Independent is the first in line to denigrate.
The ‘Double Standard’, Palestinian Style
But perhaps an even more outrageous application of the double standard approach of the media is in how it deals with the Israeli/Palestinian tragedy. What for example, would the coverage be like were the actions of Israel those of an ‘Arab’ country? Would we see the same supposedly ‘even-handed’ approach that the western media bends over backwards to give Israel?
The Independent has given much coverage of the ‘Marsh Arabs’ and the treatment meted out to them by the Saddam regime. But where is the commensurate coverage of how Palestinians are being treated in the occupied territories? Where’s the media coverage of the following actions by the Israelis?
“The Wall is higher than the Berlin Wall, will take millions of American tax dollars to build, and cuts the West Bank in two: confiscating some of the richest Palestinian farmland and many wells for Israeli use.”
“PENGON, a Palestinian environmental organization, has released studies showing that Israel’s latest project of dispossession has already uprooted tens of thousands of Palestinian fruit and olive trees and has destroyed or isolated from Palestinian farmers tens of thousands of dunams of farmland, de facto confiscating the Palestinian people’s most fertile land and most important water wells.
“Entire farming communities are losing all of their agricultural land. An estimated 10% – 40% of the West Bank will be confiscated by and for Israel by the path of this Wall. Over 31 groundwater wells will be in the confiscated areas of the Wall’s first phase. A number of villages are to lose their only sources of water. Land confiscation, destruction, and severe restriction of movement will translate into the loss of over 6,500 jobs.
“Over 100 buildings have been destroyed to make way for the Wall, mainly shops, an important source of income for families and communities At least 17 Palestinian communities will be trapped between the wall and the Green Line (the border between Israel and the Occupied Territories). Some communities will be surrounded on all sides by the Wall. If completed as planned, some 95,000 Palestinians will be isolated. A number of small villages have been scheduled for demolition because of their proximity to the Wall.”
Palestinian Justice Newsletter, 13/11/03
Water, as with the Marsh Arabs, is a fundamental resource. Removing a community’s access to water is tantamount to genocide, something that the media has accused Saddam Hussein of many times. Instead, coverage focuses on ‘terrorism’ and ‘suicide bombers’. Clearly, the Palestinians fall under the category of being ‘non-people’, for whom the ‘normal’ rules of journalism. let alone simple humanity simply don’t apply. It’s not only the reportage we’re talking about here, it’s the context within which it takes place.
Is it that the media are afraid of being accused of anti-semitism if they covered the actions of Israel in the same way they covered those of Saddam Hussein? And if so, what of the media’s ‘fearless’ adherence to reporting the truth regardless of the consequences? Or could be it be that the media uses Cooper’s ‘double standard’ in its coverage of Israel’s genocidal actions? Is it that even the mere suggestion that Israel’s actions are directly comparable to those of Saddam Hussein are completely out of bounds, and if so, why? Why is evil different in one context than it is in another? Could it be that Israelis are finally ‘like us’ and Palestinians aren’t? That Palestinians belong to Cooper’s world of the “jungle” and hence don’t deserve to be covered by the same ‘rules’ the rest of ‘us’ are.
Implicit in the western media’s coverage of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land (what’s left of it) is the evil racist ideology that is at the core of Cooper’s double standard. It reveals that whatever Europeans do (and what is the dominant culture of Israel other than a European transplant?) is okay. Unpleasant maybe, ‘unfortunate’ even but justifiable. If only the Palestinians would stop defending their homeland and behave ‘like us’ then we could deal with them like ‘civilised’ people.