The New Observer Media Comment Propaganda watch (monthly roundup)

Propaganda watch (monthly roundup)

Some examples of propaganda from the media this month:

Times radio

These are some examples:

The headline on this piece is “Two US hostages freed from Hamas in Israel”.

The headline on this piece is “If Israel want to win they have to ‘eliminate hardcore terrorists’ | General Tim Cross”.

The headline on this piece is “Vladimir Putin warns Biden: Russia ‘can’t be put down’ and should be ‘respected’”

The first one shows a kind of bias against Palestinians. The 2 hostages were not “freed from” Hamas but by Hamas. The key here is that if we use ‘by’ that implies that Hamas people have subjectivity. However if we use ‘from’ that treats them as objects. (You can free someone e.g. from a well). Had these two hostages been freed by a military operation then it would be correct to say “freed from”, but this is not the case. This reflects how editors at Times Radio have a deep-seated reluctance to grant Palestinians subjectivity. (Indeed much of the coverage of the situation in Israel and the Middle-East by Times Radio is so fascistic it is unwatchable).

The second one is interesting; here the headline completely misrepresents what the speaker actually said. In fact the speaker, who is a retired British military expert with an understanding from Northern Ireland, explained how one can picture the situation in Gaza in concentric circles. At the centre is a small group of active ‘terrorists’; outside of them is a wider circle of people who do not take part in operations but are willing to support them with logistics; and outside them, a larger circle of people who support their ideology and sympathise with them. The expert explained how the current bombing campaign in Gaza risks pushing people from the outer circles inwards. The official narrative has trumped what the expert said and has made it seem like his wise call for caution was in fact a call to go after terrorists.

The third one is also a case of a headline being superimposed on the actual content which is different, though here it is more of a spin than a direct contradiction. In the piece Putin, in a rather characteristic way, lectures the Americans on the need to respect others and not to be arrogant and hubristic. He doesn’t in fact mention Russia specifically. He is talking about what he sees as a fault in US Foreign Policy and the manner in which they conduct it. (Behind this is a geopolitical message about US dominance). But that the Russian President can deliver a lecture to the US is not palatable for the Times editors so the headline reworks it; Putin is seen to be “warning” (a sidelong repeat of the trope of Russian aggression, despite in fact there being no ‘warning’ at all in the remarks) the US about how to treat Russia, which turns his general critique, delivered with some tact, into a plaint about just Russia. Whoever wrote this headline is lying. The idea is to suppress any criticism (especially from Russia) of US Foreign Policy and reimpose the narrative that Russia is always threatening and the problem is Russia’s dissatisfaction. This is entirely normal in Western media. (Ironically enough, the media tactic is evidence of just that kind of hubris which Putin is talking about in his remarks).

Media Studies Discussion. Do you agree? Are the editors putting headlines on the pieces which tell a different message than is in the actual material? If you agree, why might this be happening?