Roger L. Simon

Mainstream journalism as its practiced

Mainstream media journalism is more mysterious than blogs – and consequently more opaque. And by feigning objectivity, the mainstream is often more potent at propaganda – or at least tries to be. An interesting example is Wednesday’s Washington Post article Iran Requests Direct Talks on Nuclear Program. It doesn’t take a great deconstructionist to understand that the authors – Karl Vick and Dafna Linzer – are writing with a specific intent: to promote US direct negotiation with Iran. Numerous quotes, anonymous (como siempre) and attributed, are sprinkled throughout the article to create that effect while delicately preserving the illusion of objectivity. Unfortunately, they give the game away by ending the article thusly: “We have not had any relations for so many years, and Iran was always accused of being unwilling to talk,” Masood Mohammadi, 23, said as he left Friday prayers last week. “Now Iran has taken the first step, and I hope the U.S. president replies in kind.”

Now who is Masood Mohammadi and why should he stand in for all Iranian public opinion? No reason is given other than, perhaps, the number 23 – the implication being that he is (or stands for) Iranian youth. Of course that’s not possible for any single person (in a country of 70 million!). The Washington Post writers are fiddling in the nether regions of propaganda here. But no matter. It is not exceptional. This is how journalism is practiced on a daily basis and, to a great extent, taught. Most readers of this blog know to beware of it, but I will go a bit further (following my earlier reference to deconstruction).

The writers of this article, although they may think they are subtly supporting an argument, are also sabotaging those beliefs. Today’s more sophisticated reader is increasingly educated in and put off by this style of writing. Using myself as an example, I do not have a fixed opinion on whether we should negotiate with Iran. I simply do not know enough. But when I read an article like this, I become immediately suspicious. Who is writing this and why, I want to know. What clandestine operative is whispering in what reporter’s ear? Cui bono? My back is up… I am being manipulated. My stance toward negotiating with Iran shifts to the negative.

Do the reporters realize they are doing this? Probably not… but possibly yes (somewhere in their subconscious) . They have a different, deeper intention unknowable even to them. In a time when the liberals are conservative and the conservatives liberal, who are we any longer to say?

UPDATE: Brother Michael has less patience for these clods than I do.