By | Rachel Brooks
December 2, 2020
The accessibility of the west has made it a matrix of media and content. From Hollywood to major news networking, the western world, particularly the United States, has typically characterized the post-World War 2 information vista. Riding the wavelength of this intent, malicious outlets have used the west as a proxy to legitimize their agendas. Likewise, separatist politics within the United States have also emerged in the media industry, injecting the same tactical strategies into the production of broadcasts as foreign propaganda utilizes.
Islamism in media
Through the English edition of Al Jazeera, AJ+, the Qatari media outlet serves as an example of injecting the politicization of Islam into media narratives. This is sometimes subtlety and sometimes outright.
Islamism in media has taken advantage of the volatility of American politics, especially with regards to the last four years of the Trump administration, which saw explosive scrutiny of American governance by both sides of the bipartisan fulcrum. At the time of this report, Trump contested the election results in civil lawsuit cases across several swing states. The civil hearing for allegations of voter fraud was heard in the court of Michigan on December 1.
Benjamin Baird, Islamism in Politics Director at the Middle East Forum, noted that political Islamic propagandists have taken advantage of the explosive politics surrounding the U.S. Presidential 2020 election to serve their interests, in the same way that Russia showed interest in the election cycle of 2016.
“Just as Russian trolls were accused in 2016 of attempting to diminish Americans’ confidence in their political institutions, Qatar also seeks to undermine American democracy,” said Baird.
It accomplishes this through rabidly anti-American, anti-white, anti-Western, and anti-Jewish coverage. Al Jazeera and similar outlets portray the U.S. as a settler-colonial society ruled over by white elitists. They attack America’s very system of governance, referring to the Senate and the Electoral College as a system designed to keep the entrenched, white privileged society superior to working-class people of color.”
Baird also made a note of the volatile outcome, if Donald Trump was successful in his civic complaints:
“Therefore, should Trump succeed in even partially overturning election results (a result which I don’t consider realistic), Qatar’s propaganda machine will describe this as a coup carried out by ruling white supremacists working through an unequal power structure.”
Side-stepping information quality controls
Outlets that politicize religious dogma have clever ways of sidestepping the uniform protocols of quality control that were enacted during and after World War 2’s mass war propaganda machines. Baird noted that Al Jazeera often dodges the inquiry of media investigators by arguing that their outlet does not take editorial direction from the Qatari government. While this may be the de facto status of the Al Jazeera editorial, the Qatari government has found ways around the contingencies of information legitimacy and quality control by promoting journalists who are individually radicalized.
“Al Jazeera’s journalists claim that they do not receive any editorial guidance from Qatar, and so their employer is therefore no different than outlets such as BBC or PBS,” said Baird.
“I do not doubt that this is true. Qatar ensures that its political objectives are met through its media empire by simply hiring far-left journalists and establishing a progressive mandate. There is no need to provide editorial oversight when it’s editors and reporters are inherently biased. Editorial control is exercised through the hiring process.”
In modern journalism, the discretion and outlet of the individual journalist have been called into question with equal status to networking.
Irina Tsukerman, a New York-based national security analyst, was likewise skeptical.
“From the case of Mohammed Fahmy, we know that Al Jazeera implemented Qatar’s foreign policy directives and forced them upon individual reporters and anchors. Many of the anchors working for AJ come with a Muslim Brotherhood background, but even if they started out thinking that AL Jazeera would be a fairly open platform, over time it has become quite obvious that anyone who does not tow the party line will be dismissed. Middle Eastern reporters in particular may end up in a tough spot. They may end up getting arrested on trumped-up charges until they agree to work for the conglomerate or get stuck in the country without an exit visa. Therefore, there are incentives to spout the talking points from the authorities even if journalists do not believe in them,” said Tsukerman.
“Over time, Al Jazeera reporters, despite seemingly lucrative jobs, have become in a sense indentured servants for the Al Thani family. Al Jazeera is run like an information warfare arm for an organized crime group; and in such circumstances, there can be no freedom to dissent. Anything that does not fit within the agenda is treason. Maybe when AJ started out, it was modeled like BBC and seemed fairly progressive, but as it became increasingly popular in the Middle East, the powers that be increasingly grew power-drunk and started using the channel as their personal plaything to reflect their goals and issues with other countries. Qatar is increasingly seeking to gain complete totalitarian control of the information sphere; it will use any means to keep the narratives it finds advantageous spinning, even if some are contradictory or downright damaging to Qatar’s own reputation as a supposedly liberal modernizing Gulf State, ideal for doing business.”
The Islamist agenda within these outlets is hidden behind the progressive agenda of the western media itself. The western media pushes ideals that are fundamentally opposed to the ideals of purist Islam. Yet, the political agenda behind Islamic-agenda narratives has allowed these narratives in the western outlet of Al Jazeera, because they disguise the true intent behind the outlet’s overarching narrative control.
Clifford Smith, the Washington Project Director at Middle East Forum, noted the stark contrasts between western leftist and Islamic media agendas. He used current news items, such as the events of the jihadist presence in Kashmir, and how the two media systems have responded to it.
“Qatari-backed media such as Al-Jazeera and Middle East Eye consistently promote lines that promote Qatar’s agenda and the strategic interests of Western Islamists. That’s distinct from the pure Islamist line, insofar as Western Islamist organizations sometimes promote things like LGBTQ rights or abortion rights that hardcore Islamists don’t promote. But the western Islamists’ frequent partnership with the left often requires this kind of tactical support,” said Smith, in regards to Qatari media vs. western media agendas.
“That aside, Qatari-backed outlets promote the explicit Islamist agenda in foreign affairs, such as the Gulf rift, Kashmir, Israel/Palestinian conflict, etc. And this influences decisions on issues like this insofar as these lines are often repeated in more mainstream outlets, sometimes linking directly to these sources as if they are even remotely fair-minded, which they rarely-if-ever are.”
Then, with regards to the example of the jihadist presence in Kashmir:
“I believe this dynamic has a greater effect on issues where politicians and bureaucrats, and the wider public in America, are less familiar with the issue. I’ve discussed how a former Al Jazeera journalist who now reports for Middle East Eye was an early voice in 2019 painting any Indian effort at pushing against Jihadists as being “settler-colonialism” and “oppression.” This is after the Pulwama attack but before the revocation of article 370,” said Smith, referring to an article he published on the Middle East Forum on October 29.
“While few Western journalists are as bombastic in their condemnation, there are many, even working for very mainstream outlets, that completely ignore any Jihadist presence in Kashmir and focus solely on overreach by the Indian Government. This is very much like Essa’s piece and a hundred others like it from MEE, Al-Jazeera, and other Qatari-backed outlets that came out before Western media was focused on the issue. This is just an example of why I believe Qatari-backed outlets are fairly effective at promoting these views to Western opinion leaders and decision-makers,” said Smith.
The case of Veritas vs. CNN
The U.S. has a mass number of examples of political polarization through the media. An example of a case where networks and their individual journalists have been called to microscopic review is best served through the recent Project Veritas exposure piece on CNN’s Editorial board.
Project Veritas is a “far-right” media investigative network led by James O’Keefe. Cable News Network, or CNN, is a major broadcaster of prime time news that has a far-leftist political ideology. CNN has been scrutinized heavily in recent American history for its colorful displays of partisan politics.
Project Veritas sought to expose these partisan politics and other illicit behavior by the editorial team of CNN through recording over a month’s worth of CNN editorial members’ phone calls. The scandal of the CNN exposure investigation trended on Twitter on December 1. It was likened to the Watergate Tapes of the Richard Nixon administration. The hashtag “CNN Tapes” and “Expose CNN” trended on Twitter. The Twitter platform caters primarily to left-wing user content, and so, during the cycle of the “CNN Tapes” narrative, the validity of the investigation was questioned as much or to a greater degree than the alleged findings. Users alleged that Project Veritas “doctors footage” and that, due to the nature of the leak coming from Veritas, the leak itself must be false. James O’Keefe came under equal scrutiny as CNN as an individual journalist.
James O’Keefe live-streamed his direct call with CNN Editorial leaders in which he confronted the news network outright regarding their political biases. He revealed that his project has been live streaming and recording discussions with CNN, and CNN’s communications. During this livestream, O’Keefe recorded the voice of Jeff Zucker the media President at CNN during his 9 am editorial call with CNN, stating that, due to the compromise of the phone line and channels, the network would need to change its numbers.
“Is this James Zucker?” asks O’Keefe.
“Yes,” said Zucker.
“Jeff Zucker, this is James O’Keefe. We’ve been listening in on and recording your phone calls for basically two months now. Just wanted to ask you some questions if you have a minute. Do you still believe that you are the most “trusted name in news”? Because I have to say, from what I’ve been hearing on these phone calls, I don’t know about that. I mean we’ve got a lot of recordings that indicate that you’re not really that independent of a journalist,” said O’Keefe.
“Thank you for your comments. I think in light of that, what we’ll do is, we’ll set up a new system and we’ll be back with you. We’ll do the rest of the call a little bit later,” said Zucker.
Zucker then made to hang up the call with the rest of his team, while perhaps unaware that O’Keefe was still on the line.
The Veritas piece was to expose CNN for being politically controlled. O’Keefe alleged that CNN does not cover certain news items at the direction of the political party of their preference. He stated that the Veritas project would release the recordings that it had in its possession on the evening of December 1, which had not transpired at the time of this report. O’Keefe stated that the information he bases his claims on came from a “brave insider” who leaked information directly from CNN.
When O’Keefe dropped into the CNN phone line, the alternative media in the United States took advantage of the revelation that recordings had been made. The Daily Wire, a right-wing outlet, shared the story of the livestream itself. The Daily Wire stated that O’Keefe alleges recording the minutes of CNN’s daily calls for roughly two months. The Daily Wire reports that O’Keefe has previously “stung” recorded CNN’s internal communications, including via videos, to hold the far left-leaning network and mainstream media accountable.
“CNN, too, over time has come to reflect sympathies for Islamist organizations and groups. One needs only to think of their coverage of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Saudi Arabia, following the death of the Washington Post columnist and Muslim Brotherhood-sympathizer Jamal Khashoggi. In the Middle East, CNN is increasingly known as “the American Al Jazeera” due to the apparent mixture of reporting and political activism in the way the information is presented. The binding of the hard left political agendas and alliance with Islamist organizations and talking points is turning the station into yet another mouthpiece for foreign and domestic information warfare zones,”added Tsukerman.
Media attacks on American governance
The agenda of far left-leaning partisan reportage has influenced the coverage of Qatari-owned Al Jazeera, with special respect to AJ+. Baird noted that the Qatari-outlet used the undermining narratives of extreme left narratives as a way to push the prevalent anti-Americanism agenda in its newscasts. Baird noted that the AJ+President Tony Karon revealed his intentions for covering the United States Presidential Election of 2020 beforehand. The 2020 Presidential Election was still being contested in the American judicial system at the time of this report. On December 1, Michigan held a voter fraud hearing in its state supreme court, citing incumbent President Donald Trump.
Baird quoted the comments of Tony Karon concerning the U.S. 2020 election.
“A political system whose institutions don’t ensure government with the consent of the governed – the very basis of democracy – is unable to contain the increasingly fraught struggle between the majority of citizens and those in power.’” said Karon.
‘American history shows that it is the epic struggles over decades and even centuries of those excluded from the power that has forced the rulers to gradually cede the right to vote – first to white men who owned no property, then to white women, then to Black people.,” said Karon.
“Karon’s basic retelling of U.S. history is wrong here. Black men were given the right to vote before women,” said Baird. Baird refers to the African American suffrage rights, contained in the 15th amendment in 1870. Women’s suffrage was included in the 19th amendment in 1920. See more on African American suffrage at History.com.
‘But U.S. democracy remains incomplete: The Founders installed constitutional brakes to limit democracy – the Electoral College, which allows the loser of the election to be the winner, and a Senate in which each vote in Wyoming is worth the equivalent of 68 votes in California because of its two-senators-per-state structure-function to ensure white minority rule’,” said Karon.
“Karon and AJ+ attack America’s very system of governance? This belies an elementary misunderstanding of the difference between a democracy and a republic. “Karon goes on by attacking the GOP and accusing it of suppressing the minority vote. He adds, ‘But the President has taken it up a notch by gaslighting the election itself, mobilizing armed loyalist thugs and state- and local-level operatives around a narrative that any defeat he suffers can only be a result of cheating” said Baird, directly
“This is the type of coverage to expect from Al Jazeera. Such radical anti-Americanism, published to support Qatar’s agenda, escapes scrutiny from many Americans because it is altogether indistinguishable from many U.S. publications which now parrot the same extremist views.”
Media vs. facts vs. social personalities
The facts of media credibility validation are itself only one part of the equation in the western vs. Islamic political propaganda. While media outlets are held to high scrutiny for their editorial credibility, either side works tirelessly to discredit the other. The major social media outlets promote this continual watering-down of press integrity via the presence of social presence. At which juncture, the validity of fact-gathering and editorial integrity within media institutions by itself is not enough. Even media outlets that have a highly sophisticated internal fact-gathering and fact-checking system are not impervious to this issue. Facts have lost their intrinsic value when weighed against social personalities. Social media personalities that generate a narrative enough times, even a false one, receive the most validation. This is because the public opinion rallies behind the personality and not the value of the information presented.
This is the unique scenario in which media entities with their internal agendas, social personalities with their personal agendas, and facts as unique variables are forced into a triangular conflict. Social personalities engage each other directly to vie for control over the narrative in their spheres. Twitter is a common battleground of this. Twitter, as an entity, serves as a proxy of this information warfare itself, by using fact check balloons and controls to draw into question the credibility of a poster’s statements. The conflict is constant because the presence of viewership is more attuned to these modern communication platforms than they are the standard legacy outlets.
Social personality and character assassination
Social personality via platforms such as Twitter also comes with the added weight of hybrid character assassination. Rather than one party allege or harass another, as in times passed, when a flagrant op-ed printed in the “letters to the editor” segment of a print journal, the stakes of character assassination are more extreme. Often, in the social medium, these character assassinations are coupled with juvenile and absurd attacks on the opposing personality. This is exemplified through the circulation of hashtags and memes associated with news items of political interest.
Character assassination is the act of brutal attacks against a person’s character, whether founded or unfounded, in an attempt to diminish their influence. An example of this was the allegations of rape against the Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh just before he was sworn into office. Although the evidence of such an event was difficult to produce or verify, with many conflicting statements from the accuser herself, the damage to Kavanaugh’s character was successful. This campaign likewise undermined the image of the Supreme Court through the ideation that the court had appointed “a rapist” even though this was not proven to be factual throughout that narrative. Eventually, Globe and Mail Canada reported that the accuser admitted that “she made up”the allegations.
It is not only political figures who fall to the whims of character assassins. Another example is the case of the celebrities Johnny Depp and his former wife Amber Heard. Heard accused Depp of domestic violence, running a flaming op-ed in the Washington Post regarding Depp. The Sun UK was likewise found to publish this narrative, despite conflicting facts. Later, the Daily Mail UK acquired hard evidence, a therapy session recording of Depp and Heard’s voices, in which Heard verbally admits to physically assaulting Depp on more than one occasion. Further recordings revealed that Depp had been assaulted repeatedly, including a recording of the night in which Heard threw a spirits bottle at Depp and severed the end of one of his fingers.
Despite the evidence on the tapes, as well as multiple witness statements, Depp’s lawsuit against the Sun for libel and defamation of character was unsuccessful. The narrative had done its damage to the point where the judge ruled that the statement that Johnny Depp was “a wife beater” was true. The judge had found it true because the narrative had found it to be true, and not because the facts had revealed its truth. Depp has since been released from film roles and suffered severe financial loss, all while the facts point to Depp as being a victim of domestic violence himself.
When the press and the courts are entangled and in control of one another, because the narrative is insulated by the political correctness of the hour, then no public figure is safe from such feats of character assassination. Enemies of the western world now see a shifting in the former standards of western journalism, and they seek to exploit the diluted and weaponizable narrative for their agendas. These agendas verge beyond the realm of movie stars and even higher than the seat of judges in the U.S. Supreme Court. If executed correctly, they can mobilize physical violence.
An example of this is during the coverage of the Karabakh war, the Armenian community of France came for the character and the life of a French television broadcast reporter. The reporter received death threats, including the insinuation of intended beheading, for covering the Karabakh war from the Azerbaijani frontline. Her network had covered the conflict likewise from the Armenian line to balance the narrative. She, however, as the face on the screen in the event of Azerbaijani side broadcast made her the target of the character assassination. The network succumbed to the pressures and pulled the segment. It may not have ever reached the public had Reporters Without Borders not condemned the attacks.
The case of the murder of Samuel Paty
Samuel Paty was murdered after showing controversial Islamic cartoons by Charlie Hebdo in his classroom, in a free speech class. Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine known for making light of religious affiliations, to the point of offending its readers on multiple occasions.
Paty was murdered by Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzoro, a Muslim Russian refugee of Chechen origin. The 18-year-old severed Paty’s head with a cleaver. He was shot and killed by police only moments later. In addition to Anzoro, four more students face charges over his death, citing Euronews. The other students aided and abetted Anzoro’s crime by identifying Paty outside of their school to the killer. The fourth arrested teenager is the daughter of Brahim Chnina. Chnina is the parent accused of launching a social media campaign so violent that it inspired the teenager’s murder. Chnina has been imprisoned for “slanderous denunciation.” China’s demonization of Paty, in this case, led to his daughter and her peers working to grotesquely murder him. This is a prime example of how social media channels, media narratives, and social personality lend their hand in character assassination. Paty died by the pen as well as the sword’s might.
His character, after his death, was assassinated by the extreme western media as well as by the Islamic media. His death sparked massive media controversy. Coverage of Paty’s death sparked a narrative that France was a suppressionist state.
First, is the issue of the cartoons and heresy in general. Radical Islamist groups had made a serious fuss regarding the Hebdo cartoons before because they violated and degraded their Prophet. Al Jazeera has supported this narrative through the printing of op-eds that disregarded the right the French educational system had to reprint the cartoons. Al Jazeera published a piece by Asma Barlas in its op-ed section that stated that the cartoons were about “reaffirming domination.”
It is worthy of note that, in modern Islam, human depictions are allowed, but in previous purist Islam no human characters were permitted to be included in Islamic art. The previous restrictions on the depiction of characters of the Islamic faith have since not been practiced by modern Muslims.
It is also worthy of note that, in the Orthodox Islamic religion, The Prophet Mohammed is revered with respect, but he is not considered a deity. Therefore, it is not necessarily blasphemous to depict the Prophet in general. In the days leading up to Paty’s death, the demonization of Hebdo by far-left media outlets and Al Jazeera exacerbated the political environment around the cartoons.
After Paty was killed, outlets such as CNN used the opportunity of the extremist killing to pin the blame on President Emmanuel Macron, claiming that his crackdown on radical Islam in CNN. CNN spun the narrative by publishing the words of the extremist who said he had “executed one of Macron’s dogs of hell” for demeaning the Prophet. CNN stated that police “gunned down” the extremist, and emphasized that he was “a teenager unknown to intelligence services.” The narrative was carefully worded in such a way that confronted the emotions of the Islamic community amid the controversy and shifted the narrative to place the catalyst of conflict on Macron, painting French secularism as the enemy. Macron’s character was looped into a complex attempt at character assassination using Samuel Paty’s death as the crux of escalating conflict between French secularists and Islamic extremism in France.
Cancel culture is the practice of affixing a hashtag to the name of a social media personality along with the word “Cancel” and then proceeding to use this hashtag to circulate malicious narrative about the person. This can be over trivial things and has often been weaponized against celebrities by the following of a rival. The capacity, however, to call on the public to “cancel” and bully and harass individuals for trivial things is a weapon of the narrative itself. Social media personalities who are pedestaled by the press for staying in the lane of left-leaning politics are trapped in that narrative essentially. Should they deviate but a little, the “cancel culture” will silence them through the mob mentality that is, in effect, the equivalent of a virtual Fool’s Day mob historically seen in the Old French quarter of New Orleans.
The threat of being virtually mobbed by their followers silences any individual with a celebrity or media presence from deviating from the narrative. Even when they choose to speak out against the contrived narrative, regardless of the consequences, the cancel culture narrative dilutes the message excessively.
Publication of premature investigations
Another common trend among western media that makes it ripe for exploitation, premature investigations circle these social platforms at a dime a dozen rate. On December 1, the Twitter platform circulated scathing comments regarding the Attorney General William Barr. A.G. Barr had reportedly stated that the Department of Justice had “found no evidence” of electoral fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election. The Associated Press was the cited source for this statement. However, the Associated Press was cited incorrectly by the social media narrative.
Those who circled the fanfare narrative mocking the entire investigation of election fraud failed to realize the specific language of A.G.Barr’s statement.
“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could affect a different outcome of the election,” stated Barr. He also noted that the Department of Justice has launched an ongoing investigation of these issues. This is after Trump attorney Rudy Guliani noted to the press that the Department of Justice had not investigated the allegations of electoral fraud to any great length. The Department of Justice had not investigated the election results to any great length at the time of Guliani’s statement because the cases of voting irregularities were civil lawsuits. For this reason, the social media personality narrative of Barr’s statement was misconstrued to determine the outcome of a DOJ investigation. At the time of this report, the investigation was still ongoing.
Premature investigations will call an investigation before it is concluded. They will likewise publish the results of investigations too early. This can be seen, to a degree, in the CNNTapes scenario above, where the Veritas project published to social media that they had acquired the tapes. The project was eager to catch CNN’s editorial team off guard and get its statements on the live record and succeeded in doing this, capturing the comment “we should change the numbers,” by Jeff Zucker on livestream. However valuable this statement was to the record, to prove Veritas’ allegations of exposing CNN’s internal platform, publishing it directly to social media had a unique danger in it. The social media narrative to discredit it began before the alleged damning evidence was released.
Self-defeating behavior of western media
Without a definitie intervention, the western media, and communications from the west are self-defeating, tearing down all protocols and protections that could isolate the western world from harmful foreign agendas. The western world is faced with a pviotal dilemma. The west must find a way to reform its social communications and refine the definition of media’s role in the society in a way that simultaneously does not infringe upon civil liberty. If the west does not, the consequences, the threats both foreign and domestic, will escalate to a degree that leads to violence.