The New Observer Uncategorized Avoiding asking the difficult questions…

Avoiding asking the difficult questions…

I’ve noticed this as a pattern in the “free media”. They frequently interview various experts on questions of the day. These experts are sometimes independent retired military or diplomatic actors. Or, they may be from various think tanks. But they avoid the obvious question, the elephant in the room.

In his book, Manufacturing Consent, Chomsky discusses the role that these think-tanks play in manufacturing elite narratives:

The relation between power and sourcing extends beyond official and corporate provision of day-to-day news to shaping the supply of “experts.” The dominance of official sources is weakened by the existence of highly respectable unofficial sources that give dissident views with great authority. This problem is alleviated by “co-opting the experts” — i.e., putting them on the payroll as consultants, funding their research, and organizing think tanks that will hire them directly and help disseminate their messages. In this way bias may be structured, and the supply of experts may be skewed in the direction desired by the government and “the market.” As Henry Kissinger has pointed out, in this “age of the expert,” the “constituency” of the expert is “those who have a vested interest in commonly held opinions; elaborating and defining its consensus at a high level has, after all, made him an expert.” [1]

Chomsky goes on to discuss how in the US a whole raft of think tanks was created to provided these “independent” experts.

The point I am making in this post is how media anchors avoid asking their invited expert any awkward questions. This is one example. This is a Times Radio interview with a retired British army Major General. I quite like Major General Rupert Jones. He was more restrained than many former army generals. In this interview (towards the end) Major General Rupert Jones is asked to give his assessment of the state of the war. He is asked about an Institute for the Study of War report which apparently says that Ukraine is still in a strong position, because they have the backing of Western nations. Rupert Jones gives a refreshingly frank answer; the ISW is engaged in deliberately giving an optimistic and upbeat assessment. And this is “right” to do. That is, Major General Rupert Jones acknowledges that the ISW, a corporate funded think tank, has a role to play in amplifying Western war propaganda. (The ISW seems to be funded by a collection of US/global corporations [2]). However; Major General Rupert Jones then goes on to say that he essentially accepts the recent ISW report that argues that Ukraine is still in a strong position. Major General Rupert Jones says his glass is “half-full”, that is he is reasonably optimistic for Ukraine’s success. He mentions the military support from the West and specifically mentions the US as the biggest backer of Ukraine. At this point the journalist could have asked him:

But – can we be sure that Congress will ever give or even just loan the USD 61 billion which is held up in Congress?

Even if they do; what happens next year?

What happens if Trump wins the next US Presidential election? Will the US continue to support Ukraine?

Even if the West sends more weapons to Ukraine do they have the manpower to wield them? There seems to be a lot of evidence that they are already having serious manpower problems.

Even if all of the above problems can be resolved, can anyone (for example you) explain how Ukraine can win when their backers openly state, time and time again, that they will not give Ukraine sufficient arms to seriously “escalate” the conflict? Can you, as a retired Major General, explain how you can win a war without “provoking” your enemy?

These are some questions which I would have thought would come to the mind of any serious person trying to objectively follow this situation. Not one of them is asked.

The most blatant example of this kind of avoiding asking the awkward question is when politicians are being interviewed and talk about “Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression”. I have never seen a Western journalist pause and ask; “wasn’t pushing NATO into Ukraine, (despite this not even being a huge demand of the Ukrainian people), not a provocation of some kind? Would we accept a Chinese military alliance with Venezuela and billions of Yuan of weapons being gifted to Venezuela?”. They don’t even have to believe it; just ask. If the “free media” was actually interested in “free debate” they certainly would. Talking of this point; I somewhat randomly came across this clip * of an interview with Noam Chomsky with Russian liberal outlet Rain TV [3]. In the first few minutes Chomsky gives a coherent summary of the issue with NATO provocation and gives the example of a China-Mexico alliance. The fact that Chomsky says he supports Ukraine defending itself actually adds strength to his argument about how Russia was provoked.

But, as Chomsky shows in his book, mentioned above, the media is a kind of dependent appendage of the corporate-military system. They have been ‘owned’.

* Separate point – TV Rain : Russian “independent” media (ed. insert ROFL emoticon here)

See this follow-up post.


  1. Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent (p. 106). Random House. Kindle Edition.
  3. – (It is, by the way, incredibly hard to find mention of this EU funding of Rain TV in Western media. Possibly because it contradicts the line about “independent” Russian media).