Media

6 of the Biggest Media Lies and Distortions of the Week—Matt Lauer's Suck Up to Power Edition

It was a week filled with deception in the corporate media.

It was a week filled with distortions in the corporate media, with plenty of naked attempts to suck up to powerful interests, from Matt Lauer's softball questions to GM CEO Mary Barra, to a fog of obfucscations about who's to blame for the most recent violent events in the Middle East -- Obama or the neocons from the Bush years. Here are six of the worst corporate media lies from the week. 

1. The Joker Known as Ed Klein

The author of the original Obama birther book is back in the game with another book tailor-made for the foreign policy experts who get their news from Fox and the tabs.  Klein’s “Blood Feud: The Obamas versus the Clintons” is chockablock with scandalous yarns about the Obamas’ marital discord sourced to servants in Martha’s Vineyard and HRC on a profanity-laced drunken tirade about Obama sourced to “friends” who partied with her in Westchester. The fact that nothing in Klein’s oeuvre is fact-checkable, let alone deemed fact-check-worthy by his publisher doesn’t even cause a blush over at the Daily Mail, New York Post, Fox, the Daily Caller, The Blaze, or the Christian Post, all of whom are polluting the Internet with Klein’s toxic fumes.

2. The Poll

The media made much of aWall Street Journal NBC poll this week finding that just 41 percent of Americans approve of the job President Obama is doing, while their approval of his foreign policy has dropped to “an all-time low” of 37 percent. Putting this poll in context: as of last year, 68 percent of Americans believe in heaven and 42 percent believe in ghosts. Why should we ever expect that the vast majority of our fellow Americans, believing as they do in supernatural beings, would know good foreign policy if they saw it? Further context: a majority of Americans supported President Bush when he commenced the greatest military folly in our generation: the dismantling of Iraq and the de facto creation of a terrorist haven in that country.  

3. Israel Bombed Syria?

There is always one Middle Eastern nation that can muster jets to drop bombs nobody hears. On MondayIsrael bombed nine Syrian military sites in retaliation for a rocket lobbed over that country’s northern border with Syria. You did not see this on the nightly news. The attack killed an Arab-Israeli teen named  Mohammed Karaka, who had gone to work with his dad, a driver for an Israeli defense contractor. According to Jodi Rudoren of the Times, whose story landed on a Times backpage, “the extent of any damage or casualties [in Syria] was not clear.” Israeli General Ben-Reuven conceded that Syrian rebels were probably behind the attack, but said Israel held President Bashar al-Assad responsible and had fired at his military to “tell them: you have to control your area and stop this terror organization acting against Israel.”

The most interesting part of the story is not that Israel typically sees fit to rain hellfire on multitudes to revenge a single Israeli life, but that the single dead Israeli in this case was an Arab. It is impossible to imagine any other nation in the Middle East bombing a neighbor’s military installations without the act becoming the lead story of the day, let alone the week.

4. Reductio ad absurdum in Iraq

Accepting the imminent dismantling of Iraq depends upon seeing it as hopelessly sectarian nations reduced to their religious divisions. The American media has never been able to acknowledge the fact that these countries were historically multicultural. Talking heads revert to using Sunni-Shia in every sentence they utter to explain a very complicated social construct. Most Iraqis never identified themselves as one for the other. And when Syria is reduced to a fully failed state, Americans will again believe that a once-heterogeneous nation was destined to collapse along religious lines.  Religion, opiate of the masses, is, after bombs and drones, the greatest organizing tool of imperialists in the Middle East.

5. Matt Lauer, Millionaire Troglodyte

On the Today Show this week, dork Matt Lauer asked GM CEO Mary Barra his version of the hardball question, pissing off the feminist Twittersphere. “You’re a mom, I mentioned, two kids, you said in an interview not long ago that your kids said they’re going to hold you accountable for one job, and that is being a mom. Given the pressure at General Motors, can you do both well?” Mary Barra gamely took the question, instead of asking Matt how his wife and kids have managed with him getting picked up in the NBC limo every morning before dawn for the last two decades. “You know, I think I can,” Barra responded. “I have a great team, we’re on the right path, we’re doing the right things, we’re taking accountability and also I have a wonderful family and a supportive husband, and I’m pretty proud of my kids the way they’re supporting me in this.”

It’s not that Lauer cannot imagine a working parent doing both jobs “well” when it comes to work and family. He most certainly can, since he does it. But his producers have no doubt reminded him that the working moms who watch his act between ads for Cialis and Alleve have harder lives. He knows that work-family is supposed to be a real issue, someplace in America. What was ridiculous about the exchange was that he was talking to a fellow millionaire, a CEO who, like him, has fleets of drivers and nannies who make work-life conflicts go away. Neither Lauer nor Barra can know about the real problems of working parents. Their discussion was about as relevant to the lives of real working families as the question of whether to take the helicopter or the Lear out to the Hamptons tonight. But that’s the beauty of morning television.

6. Saudi Arabia

Ever since ISIS overran Iraq, the American media response has centered on whether to blame Obama or W. for the unfolding disaster. This view fails to take into account the fact that the Saudis and the Gulf potentates finance these jihadis. The petro-potentates are the elephant in the room. Of course it’s outrageous for Cheney to blame Obama for failing to reverse the mess he and W and Rumsfeld and Bremer created. But talking heads – right and left – tend to avoid the fact that if W had ever been serious about fighting terrorism, he would have gone after his family friends in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, whose petrodollars have financed regressive, west-hating madrassas for a generation. Saudi Arabia is arguably the greatest exporter of politically extreme religion and jihad in the world. 

Finally, in an article in the Atlantic this week, Steve Clemons went where few have gone before. He points out that Qatar’s “military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra, to the point that a senior Qatari official told me he can identify al-Nusra commanders by the blocks they control in various Syrian cities. And he reports: “ISIS has been a Saudi project.”