Civil and Human Rights

The Media and the Boogeyman Syndrome

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

It is always a useful exercise to view the full, unedited text of an event, and then compare it with the edited version projected by various news agencies.

That lesson rebounded with considerable force when I saw and heard the intentionally misleading accounts of the speech of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Assuming that the English translation of Ahmadinejad’s speech was correct (as I must for I neither speak nor read Farsi), the Iranian president said that there were a number of Americans who believed that the U.S. government itself might have been responsible for 9/11.

Ahmadinejad didn’t say that this was his view—he said a number of Americans held this view.

Whether you or I believe it or not, is it true that a number of Americans believe this?

The answer is, and must be, yes.

But the media, addicted to the theme of Mad Mahmoud, played it as if this was his opinion, the latest example of a “nutcase” foreigner spouting nonsense at the United Nations.

Why? Because the sensational sells.

So, media businesses hype the news, and slant the news, to boost sales. It ain’t personal—it’s good business.

So, what’s the problem? Why should any of us care?

Because, in a nutshell, this is the raw material of which wars are made.

Many years ago, former general and outgoing president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, warned the nation about the “military industrial complex.” It was true, but it didn’t go far enough.

For there is a military industrial media complex—an integral part of the whole.

The Iraq War could never have occurred without the active connivance and collusion of the corporate media. In essence, they sold the war, by peddling lies and fear put out by the Bush administration.

Antiwar voices were either absent or muted.

Given what we’ve just seen about how effortlessly the media can mislead, in a few months, it’s not unthinkable that they can sell a war with Iran, with the Mad Mahmoud scenario the opening gambit.

Remember, Saddam Hussein never believed that the U.S., his erstwhile ally and weapons supplier, would actually invade his country, until tanks were rolling toward Baghdad.

The media, by creating a boogeyman, made all the difference., September 24, 2010