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What can you tell visiting Arab world journalists about America and the media?
By Ray Hanania
I’ve been meeting with journalists who work in the Arab World, trying to explain to them why this country is so hypocritical and misleading when it comes to things like Freedom, and how Democracy is a misnomer. They’re shocked because they have spent their lives as oppressed people believing that America was the great hope of the World, and confused because so many American policies contradict the principles that Americans claim Democracy represents.
It is confusing because America is not as free as people living in oppression think. It’s all relative, of course. And the facts are not so clear, starting with the purveyor of “facts,” the mainstream American or Western News Media.
The mainstream media is biased. They’re one-sided. And worse, they have limited knowledge of other countries and culture so their reporting in incomplete, which contributes to the inaccuracies and falsehoods pushed by the bias and partisan political agenda that every major media has but pretends doesn’t exist.
The bias is not consistent. In other words, the mainstream media is objective and fair on many issues, giving a false sense of morality and ethical conduct for the entire industry. But the media industry is corrupt. It’s not controlled. But it is influenced. And that influence is managed by those who are at the helms of the media conglomerate. They decide when to be ethical and when to be unprincipled. And usually, when it comes to the Middle East, Arabs, Muslims and especially the issue of the Palestinians, the mainstream media’s spigot of “unprincipled” is left open and rarely closed.
It’s a shocker for visiting journalists. They recognize the bias in the United States, and how bias breeds racism that is very sophisticated and not as open as it was in the 1950s. Americans are educated and the one thing they are most educated on is how to disguise their racism and their bigotry. They are very talented at taking hatred and dressing it up as fear, or justified protectionism against things like “terrorism” and criticism in general from regions like the Middle East.
They always leave shocked because they don’t want to believe it. But they must believe it. It’s true. America is plagued by people who hate and that hatred is processed as discourse in the mainstream media. It’s all relative. The purveyors of hatred are very successful and wealthy. Hate generates money in America.
It’s different int he Middle East, and that’s what causes confusion. Hate is something manipulated by the dictators who, by the way, were almost all installed into their power and dynasties with the help of either the Western Allies or the United States Government.
America has a policy on dictators that is very clear and precise and consistent. If the dictator is anti-America and doesn’t embrace the American political agenda, then the dictator is a terrorist leader, like Venezuela’s “President” Hugo Chavez, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.
But, if the dictator is one that embraces American foreign policy, principle and ethics go out the window. And they are our allies and friends. Jordan’s King Hussein. Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Husni Mubarak, Iran’s Shah Reza Pahlavi, and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu who has a split personality by choice: a Democratic leader to his people, Jews, and a dictator and tyrant to all non-Jews who wish to live in Israel or Palestine.
Yes, hate, dictatorship and tyranny can be managed and processed and even volumed-up and volumed-down. That’s how the friendly dictators co-exist with what would seemingly be incompatible American Democratic principles.
In Syria and the old Iraq and in today’s Afghanistan, dissidents are arrested, brutalized and even murdered. Just because one is or isn’t an ally of the United States doesn’t matter. It happens. The governments will arrest you and kill you if they are pushed enough with your “free speech.”
In the United States, the violence is rare, but the bullying and the intimidation is as aggressive. If you are a dissident who challenges mainstream views, you are excluded and ostracized. You are libeled and criticized and called all kinds of names. The point is that Democracy doesn’t need to use violence to murder you. That would be a violation of Democracy and Freedom. But, they can do everything else, including destroying your life, disparaging you so much that you can’t find a job or that you are fired from your job. You are excluded from media coverage, except when that coverage promotes your exclusion. They cover you as a terrorist, but not as an activist or dissident or someone who champions principle. Principle doesn’t matter in America once you are categorized as being a “threat” by the media and mainstream government.
In some cases, if you weather the oppression, they will arrest you and jail you, but they will charge you with being a terrorist or contributing to terrorism, by virtue of your views and media coverage which has whipped up the public rage against you and your movement and your cause.
If you criticize sacred cows, like Israel, you become a pariah, demonized and labeled with special words that have been given special specific meanings like “anti-Semitic.” Even government adopts laws that punish you for your views and what you think. The State of Illinois prohibits anyone from working for the public government in any capacity if they support the “boycott of Israel.” You are required to sign a contract in which you agree to not boycott Israel. The term “boycott” is interpreted in many ways, all intended to undermine anyone who slips through the large cracks in American Democracy and American free speech. If you boycott some Israeli products, such as the settlements, you could be fired. Because the media and the critics do not nuance words. They don’t distinguish between things like mainstream Israel and extremist Israel. If you criticize the extremist Israelis, you will be punished in America.
That’s the real world of America. It is ugly, unprincipled, biased, racist and far from free. They just don’t kill you like the dictators and tyrants — well, most of the time, they don’t.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning political columnist and author. He covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at TheArabDailyNews.com, TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com ArabNews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
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