Alarmism and Disinformation Reign at MSNBC
"It's not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true."
- Henry Kissinger
MSNBC News Nation anchor Thomas Roberts has brought Orwellian Newspeak to the midday cable news-watching masses.
On Wednesday afternoon, NBC's Stephanie Gosk, reporting from Tel Aviv, addressed Israeli claims that the Iranian government was behind recent explosions and alleged assassination attempts in Tbilisi, Bangkok, and New Delhi. Roberts introduced Gosk by asking, "What are Israel's accusations and the proof to back it up?" After describing Israel's insistence that there is a "clear link between all three of these incidents" which allegedly point to Iran, Gosk said, "It almost doesn't matter what proof they have or don't have, it's really a matter of perception right now and Israeli officials are accusing Iran and its government of orchestrating these attacks."
In response, Roberts declared, "Perception is reality," then promptly ended the segment.
Watch it here:
MSNBC has spent the past few days unceasingly fear-mongering about Iran, uncritically parroting Israeli allegations and deliberately omitting vital information about the Iranian nuclear program. As such, it has eagerly joined the ranks of other major media outlets in pushing propaganda and baseless fear-mongering, willfully conflating a strictly monitored and safeguarded nuclear energy program with a clandestine atomic weapons program.
Still, MSNBC's reporting has been nothing short of stunningly terrible and embarrassing.
The cable news network repeated itself ad nauseum throughout the day yesterday, beginning with Dennis Blair on Morning Joe, and continuing with Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, Thomas Roberts, Martin Bashir, and Brian Williams, all shilling for Benjamin Netanyahu by regurgitating his allegations verbatim and without any skepticism, and enlisting both Tel Aviv-based Gosk and NBC News Tehran bureau chief Ali Arouzi to constantly make the same claims over and over again.
On his own morning program, The Daily Rundown, Chuck Todd said, "There appears to be a covert war already going on between Iran and Israel. We know that Iran thinks that somehow Israel is behind the deaths of their nuclear scientists and now Israel's got all this evidence about what Iran's doing." Stephanie Gosk was brought on to talk about the "tough words" from Netanyahu and to let the viewing audience know how afraid the Israeli people are future (allegedly Iranian) attacks on "softer, more unprotected targets. Places like synagogues and Jewish centers around the world. And that's really the fear. They are incredibly vulnerable."
Later, on News Nation, Arouzi said, "In terms of the nuclear advances, yes, Iran has made huge claims today that it's installed 3,000 brand spanking new centrifuges at its site in Natanz. Iran claims this new generation of centrifuges are far more advanced than the previous ones. They've also claimed to have built their own nuclear fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor which is a major nuclear step forward, as well. All of this is sure to unsettle the West."
In fact, considering all of Iran's centrifuge's are under strict IAEA safeguards and subject to round the clock surveillance and monitoring, in addition to the consistency with which the IAEA confirms - often four times a year for nearly a decade - that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities," the installation of new technology should not be alarming to anyone.
Furthermore, with regard to the fuel rods manufactured from 20% enriched uranium that Arouzi claims "is sure to unsettle the West," uranium in this form is virtually impossible to weaponize and should therefore be far less of a worry that Arouzi seems to believe based on his own ignorance and commitment to hysteria. In fact, the production of these rods itself greatly reduces Iran's existing stockpile of 20% enriched uranium thereby making Iran even less of the proliferation risk it is constantly accused of being.
In early January, Peter Crail of the Arms Control Association told reporters, "The (fuel rod) development itself doesn't put them any closer to producing weapons."
Paul Brannan, an analyst with the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), has explained "that the Tehran Research Reactor for which Iran claimed Wednesday to have produced its own nuclear fuel rods is used not for any weapons purpose, but for nuclear medicine, to treat Iranian cancer patients."
Just today, in a letter to The New York Times, Clinton Bastin, former director of numerous United States Atomic Energy Commission programs for production of nuclear materials and nuclear components for weapons, writes:
Iran's production of fuel for a research reactor from 20 percent enriched uranium is not insignificant. Instead, this action, combined with Iran's use of low-enriched uranium for production of fuel for its power reactor, and the intent to continue both, eliminate any hypothetical threat of a nuclear weapon from Iran's fully safeguarded nuclear programs.Clearly, "the West" has nothing to be unsettled about.
The United States and its allies should support these actions and end dangerous threats and sanctions against Iran’s important nuclear programs.
Arouzi also noted that Iran "vowed revenge" in response to last month's murder of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahamdi Roshan, but conveniently forgot to point out that a week ago NBC's own Richard Engel and Robert Windrem revealed that, according to unnamed American officials, "Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group [the MEK] that is financed, trained and armed by Israel's secret service." Another recent report, written by Mark Perry, published by Foreign Policy and based on a series of CIA memos, exposed "how Israeli Mossad officers recruited operatives belonging to the terrorist group Jundallah by passing themselves off as American agents."
Jundallah, an Iranian separatist group, has carried out numerous lethal terrorist attacks on both civilians and military personnel in Iran, allegedly has financial ties to the United States, and is designated as a "foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, along with the MEK.
On Today, Andrea Mitchell went so far as to claim that "Israel has denied any involvement" in the murders of Iranian scientists. Mitchell is wrong. Israel has, as it usually does, refused to officially confirm or deny its role in the killings. While Israeli President Shimon Peres, when asked by CNN about Israeli involvement or responsibility in the murder of Ahmadi-Roshan, tried to dismiss the allegations by chuckling and delivering the thoroughly unconvincing answer, "Not to the best of my knowledge," other officials were even more sanguine. An Israeli government official stated, "It's not our policy to comment on this sort of speculation," while Israeli military spokesman Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai pleaded ignorance as to who was responsible but wrote on his Facebook page that he was "definitely not shedding a tear" for the murdered Iranian scientist. Meanwhile, IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz warned Iran that there would be more "things which take place in an unnatural manner" in the coming year.
Martin Bashir, another MSNBC host, introduced a segment on his own show this way:
There's disturbing news out of the Middle East today with Iran announcing it has used domestically-made nuclear fuel in a reactor for the first time and unveiled more efficient centrifuges. Although Tehran rejects responsibility for the attacks in India, Georgia and Thailand, this is proving to be a worrying week in the Middle East.Bashir then brought back Stephanie Gosk to repeat the same nonsense she had been reporting all day long. At Bashir's prodding, Gosk said that Israelis are in a state of "increased anxiety" and that the "general assumption" in Israel is that "Iran has been pursing nuclear technology and specifically a nuclear weapon for some time." She repeated that there is "growing anxiety and growing tension" along with "an increased, heightened state of alert" in Israel. Bashir worried, "This is truly a dangerous situation we have!" Neither Bashir nor Gosk ever questioned the Israeli claim that Iran is to blame for the recent attacks and used language clearly accepting the allegations as fact. Perception is reality.
Michael Leiter, speaking with Andrea Mitchell, suggested that fears that Iran might carry out attacks within the United States were well-founded and cited the ridiculous Saudi plot as evidence of Iranian aggression. Mitchell, for her part, fed the fear-mongering by mentioning that Iran had targeted U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, despite there being no actual evidence to back up such a claim.
Mitchell also brought on perennial warmonger and ostensible Likud mouthpiece Jeffrey Goldberg to promote the ridiculous idea that the Iranian leadership is a bunch of wackos and nutjobs. He said, "The behavior [of Iran] is not rational. They launched a terror attack in India. India wants to buy their oil. Now, Indians are saying to themselves, 'why are we dealing with these people?' The Indian authorities believe Iran was behind the attack and, obviously, they're offended by that."
In fact, Goldberg is wrong. Indian investigators don't believe Iran is responsible, but see the fingerprints of the "Indian Mujahidin" in the operation. As usual, though, perception and propaganda trumps reality and research.
On Hardball Wednesday evening, Chris Matthews lead off his own alarmist Iran segment by declaring that "Iran is ratcheting up the level of international tension with a series of recent developments." After stating that President Ahmadinejad "unveil[ed] the country's first domestically produced fuel rods," Matthews noted the Iranian intention of cutting off oil exports to six European countries and, of course, announced that "there is a suspicion Iran was involved in Monday's attacks on Israeli diplomats in India and the former Soviet republic of Georgia and a botched attack just yesterday in Bangkok."
Matthews then brought on Ali Arouzi, asking him to "calibrate" Iran's "nuclear advance." The Tehran bureau chief proceeded to tell the Hardball audience that Iran has "played up" their nuclear progress and have claimed "they've mastered the nuclear fuel cycle...have achieved 20% uranium enrichment, which is a very difficult thing to do" and have "manufactured their own centrifuges that are very sophisticated." He added that Iran will "forge ahead with this program."
In response, Matthews bizarrely pondered, "Are they just daring Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minster of Israel, and Ehud Barak, his defense minister, to attack them? It looks like they're just putting their chin out and saying, 'go ahead, punch me.'" Arouzi answered that "there is nothing like a war to solidify support for a nation," in reference to a "faction in Iran" that is supposedly "inviting an attack" in order to "galvanize support for the regime." He added, however, that there are those who say Iran is only looking after its own self-interest and "are not interested in a nuclear bomb." Still, Arouzi was quick to point out that, in his estimation, Iran is "pushing the envelope pretty far" and is engaged in a "war of words with Israel" that is "escalating beyond anything I've seen in the last seven years that I've been in Iran."
Saying that, if Iran its attacked it is within its rights to respond is not the escalation of a w"war of words." It's a rational response to decades of threats against it. It is not Iran that is threateneing to attack Israel, it's the other way around. MSNBC never takes the time to point that out, of course.
Also, nothing Iran is doing is illegal or for the purpose of goading Israel into committing more war crimes. Iran has an active nuclear program and enrichment facilities that are under constant safeguard, round-the-clock monitoring, and routine inspection. That Iran might exist and have its own interests that are independent of Israel never seems to cross the minds of media pundits.
Matthews then played a clip of New York Senator and AIPAC flack Kristen Gillibrand (who Matthews described as "pretty sound") declaring before the Armed Services Committee, "The problem is, is that Iran is determined to create not only an existential threat to Israel, but to the United States."
Such stupidity merits no response.
Analyst Robin Wright then joined Matthews in the studio to discuss the supposed Iranian threat. While Wright made sure to explain that Iran poses no such "existential threat" to the United States and suggested that Obama will not attack Iran this year with an election on the horizon, she did worry that "little incidents" like the recent attacks in Georgia, India, and Thailand could "spiral out of control and become the cause for something much bigger."
This sent Matthews into a frenzy. He said that Israel "does face an existential threat" and opined that "you hit Tel Aviv with a nuclear weapon, you don't even want to talk about it, about the damage it would do to humanity over there." Matthews, in full moronic blowhard mode, continued:
And yet, this guy, they're bombing, killing people, engaging in terrorist assassinations around the world, bragging about their nuclear advance...Imagine how this is playing in Tel Aviv, on television over there. They're watching this guy, this crazy guy, this zealot talking nuclear!This shameful tirade, devoid of fact and replete with ridiculous fear-mongering and lies, compelled Wright to explain to Matthews that "most of what the Iranians are doing [is] actually legal under the terms of the Nonproliferation Treaty. They claim it is all part of a nuclear peaceful energy program." That claim, incidentally, is backed up by years of intrusive inspections, round the clock surveillance, and strict IAEA safeguards.
Matthews was incredulous and insistent that Iran was developing nuclear weapons with the intention of committing genocide. "To the middle-of-the-road Israeli watching this, you're saying 'Bibi, get your trigger finger ready'," he said. When Wright warned about the consequences of such an attack ("You think Iraq and Afghanistan were tough, you try Iran.") and how it would change the "political dynamics" of the region, Matthews worried that it would "incit[e] everybody against Israel." When Wright responded, "Not at all," Matthews shifted gears and said, "The Arabs are with Israel, aren't they, on this?" Wright punted on this stupid question and said that the fear is increased proliferation in the Middle East. Matthews then went on a surreal and totally ignorant tirade that can only be believed by watching or reading it:
Apologies for the advertisement that automatically plays before the clip
Matthews: I wonder, down the road, about most of us who care about Israel's future that you have to wonder what happens when all countries go nuclear. What happens when Egypt, the new Islamist government coming in, they want a nuclear weapon. What happens when the new government in Libya decides they want one. The previous government Gaddafi was headed that direction. A new government in Syria, which is Islamist, starts going that direction.
Wright: You are jumping way ahead of where anyone is. The fact is most of these countries are so desperate economically not only could they not afford a nuclear program, they can't even create jobs to keep their people happy.
Matthews: They can't buy with oil?
Wright: Egypt doesn't have oil.
Matthews: A lot of former Soviet engineers are floating around out there. Thank you, Robin. You made me feel better.Essentially, everything Matthews says is stupid. His weird obsession and fear-mongering about Ahmadinejad is clear (even if he doesn't know how to pronounce the word "zealot") and his misunderstanding about anything having to do with a nuclear program painfully apparent. The zealot here is obviously Matthews himself, who can't help but spew alarmist nonsense about "Islamists" and "existential threats" that don't exist.
MSNBC and NBC's evening programming was more of the same, with Brian Williams introducing a Nightly News segment by saying, "Ahmadinejad made a big show at a Tehran nuclear site showing off his country's new hardware, claiming other advances at a second nuclear facility, further proof that Iran wants to join the club of nuclear nations, despite global treasure and tough sanctions intended to stop it."
Williams had Andrea Mitchell on to state that "Israel is on alert against Iranian terrorism," while he warned that "the next attack could hit home" in Israel itself. Gosk was back to reiterate the lie that Israel has been subject to "repeated threats from Iranian leaders" and that the three recent attacks were "just a taste of what the world can expect unless Iran is stopped. That was the message from Netanyahu." Gosk declared that there is now a "covert war between the two countries, triggered by Iran's nuclear ambitions."
Ambitions enshrined into law by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel hasn't signed, of course. Gosk left that out by accident, I'm sure.
Incidentally, speaking today in Congress, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stated clearly that there is "no credible or specific" evidence of any Iranian terror plot targeting the U.S. But why should that, or the dearth of evidence deter our news media from making unsupported allegations that instantly become fact?
Earlier this month, Counterpunch's Alexander Cockburn described a recent visit a colleague took to the ABC News studio to see a friend who works there:
When I went to his room, he showed me all the graphics he was making in anticipation of the Israeli attack on Iran; not just maps, but flight patterns, trajectories and 3-D models of U.S. aircraft carrier fleets.The media, which should certainly have learned its lesson from the Iraq catastrophe, is doubling-down now on Iran. Were the worst to happen, they will again have the blood of millions on their hands.
But what was most disturbing--was that ABC, and presumably other networks, have been rehearsing these scenarios for over two weeks, with newscasters and retired generals in front of maps talking about missiles and delivery systems, and at their newsdesks-–the screens are emblazoned with "This Is a Drill" to assure they don't go out on air (like War of the Worlds).
Then reports of counter-attacks by Hezbollah in Lebanon with rockets on Israeli cities--it was mind-numbing. Very disturbing--when pre-visualization becomes real.
February 17, 2012 - Tonight on CurrentTV's "The Young Turks," host Cenk Uygur skewered CNN's Erin Burnett, who seems to have taken it upon herself to become the media chief cheerleader for an attack on Iran. Here's the clip:
The incomparable Glenn Greenwald has also been on the case lately with a series of articles this week (including one today on Ms. Burnett herself) exposing the mindless warmongering championed by the mainstream media.
February 19, 2012 - The Bangkok Post reports today that Syedsulaiman Husaini, the Shi'a leader of Thailand, has accused the MEK of being behind the Thailand bomb plot. He said that "the bomb incident was unlikely to be the work of the Iranian government as speculated because Bangkok and Teheran have good bilateral relations."
Naturally, this is not evidence of anything, but should be noted in the context on the flurry of speculation that we have seen from our own press.
March 2, 2012 - As usual, investigative journalist Gareth Porter has destroyed the propaganda narrative pushed so relentlessly by the Western media with regards to Iranian governmental responsibility for the bomb plot in India. The entire report is required reading. He concludes,
We may never be able to establish with certainty what happened in Delhi, Bangkok and Tbilisi earlier this month, but the evidence that has come to light thus far doesn't support the widely accepted notion that Iran and Hezbollah were behind it. That evidence is consistent, however, with a clever Israeli "false flag" car bombing operation that would not injure the passenger but would serve its broader strategic interests: dividing India from Iran and pushing US public opinion further towards support for war against Iran.