Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Media and Middle East: Wow, These People Are Repressive Dictators! Who Knew?

By Barry Rubin

For those of us who have been trying to talk about Middle East dictators for a long time--I wrote my book on the subject, Modern Dictators, more than a quarter-century ago--it is amusing to see how people are lining up to be "horrified" by those evil repressive regimes.

Some of these people have built their whole careers on saying that the only problem in the Middle East is the Arab-Israeli conflict, then adding this was Israel's fault. Indeed, many of them extolled these dictators, especially the anti-American ones.

Reminds me also of how Yasir Arafat was regularly whitewashed in the media--with little about his extremism, lies, corruption, and direct involvement in terrorism--until he was dead and thus bashing him had no political implications about the Palestinian movement's nature, behavior, and goals. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein also enjoyed a pretty good press until overthrown by the United States.

If there was time,  I could dig up dozens of examples of mass media howlers (send me any you find) but since a friend of mine has done a case study on Libya in this regard, I'll publish it here with some small additions.

The New York Times has an article entitled "Libya’s Butcher" that tells us:

"Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya vowed on Tuesday that he would “fight on to the last drop of my blood” and die a “martyr.” We have no doubt that what he really meant is that he will butcher and martyr his own people in his desperation to hold on to power. He must be condemned and punished by the international community."

"Colonel Qaddafi, who took power in a 1969 coup, has a long, ruthless and erratic history. Among his many crimes: He was responsible for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. In 2003, after years of international sanctions, he announced that he had given up terrorism and his pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons."

But how has the Times dealt with this horrible monster in the past?  Well, Qadhafi was given space for his views.

Or here where Saif Qaddafi, son of the dictator, was allowed to justify the release of a murderer.

Or here with a puff piece celebrating the eco-friendliness of Saif

The Times had no problem promoting this guy in different ways over the years. It's current portrayal of him as a butcher should have been confirmed by its shunning of him in the past.

Or in other words, it is now saying: I'm shocked! Shocked! To see that dictatorship is going on!

But now the Times is busy working to make the next generation of would-be dictators and extremists look good, notably regarding the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its charismatic spiritual guide, Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Not one word about the Brotherhood's collaboration with the Nazis, support for terrorism, and hysterical antisemitism has appeared in most of the American mass media.

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