There has been an ongoing information war being fought for hearts and minds inside and outside of the Middle East. The war has mostly been tied to Syria. As the US and its allies begin to focus their attention on Hezbollah in Lebanon, the media war now includes the events in Lebanon. This, however, has not stopped the media attempts to depict the fighting in Syria in sectarian terms as a regional war between Shias and Sunnis or to demonize Syria’s allies…
In regards to Syria, the Israeli media, the Saudi media, and Lebanon’s Hariri-owned media — which belongs to Hezbollah’s US/Saudi-supported rivals — have all carried the same August 2013 AFP story or some derivative of it that deceitfully reports the Iran and Hezbollah are now running Syria. The Jerusalem Post, Arutz Sheva, the Daily Star, Ya Libnan, Al-Arabiya, the Saudi Gazette, Hürriyet, Naharnet, France 24, Fox News, and the Dubai-based Gulf News are examples of the type of media that carried this so-called news. Here is an extract of the text which sums up the entire image that the article is trying to engrain into the minds of its readers: «Assad ‘no longer runs Syria. The real rulers of Syria are the Iranian (elite) Revolutionary Guard... with the participation of Hezbollah fighters,’ Jarba said». The entire report is built around a quote by Ahmad Al-Jarba, the leader of the foreign-controlled and funded Syrian National Coalition.
Next the same media outlets finessed the news about the terrorist bombs planted in Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahiyeh. The August 15, 2013 terrorist bombings in the neighbourhood of Al-Rouweiss (Al-Rweiss) were downplayed and, in a manner of speaking, legitimized by the media through their selective use of language. The attack on Al-Rouweiss come about a month after the July 9, 2013 terrorist attack on the neighbourhood of Bir Al-Abed. Both are densely populated neighbourhoods in Dahiyeh. The Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) in the United States took quick notice of the biased media framing. IPA asked the following, on August 16, 2013, through the title of report: «Why Isn’t Beirut Bombing Called ‘Terrorist’? What’s Behind It?»
The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akbar is worth looking at to get a grasp of the biased media reporting that has been used to reframe the events as legitimate. It commented thus on August 17, 2013: «The Western media have double standards when it comes to ‘terrorism.’ Within hours after two bombs were detonated at the Boston Marathon last April, many in the media had christened it a ‘terrorist attack.’ Meanwhile, the August 15 bombing in Rouweiss that killed at least two dozen is a ‘blast’ that occurred in a ‘Hezbollah stronghold.’» As Al-Akhbar observes, the word «Hezbollah stronghold» plays a prominent role in giving the impression that the civilian neighbourhours bombed in Beirut were armed barracks. Al-Akhbar even nicely sums up some of the biased titles used to describe the terrorist attacks:
Wall Street Journal: «Car Bomb Blasts Hezbollah Stronghold in Lebanon»
BBC: «Deadly Lebanon Blast in Beirut Stronghold of Hezbollah»
LA Times: «Massive Explosion in Beirut Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold»
Washington Post: «Bomb Explodes in Hezbollah Stronghold in Beirut, Injuring Dozens»
Reuters: «Over 50 Hurt as Car Bomb Hits Hezbollah Beirut Stronghold»
Associated Press: «Car Bomb Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold in Lebanon»
France24: «Car Bomb Rocks Hezbollah Stronghold in Beirut»
Mixed with the other narratives that the same media outlets are painting, the terrorist attacks are being tacitly portrayed as some type of legitimate retaliation against. Readers are basically led to think that that the terrorist attacks in Dahiyeh were a military act against some type of Hezbollah base.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, responded to the terrorist attack on Al-Rouweiss by categorically saying that the attacks were not the work of Sunni Muslims. He gave a speech saying that there were going to be those groups and individuals that would try to blame the terrorist attacks in Beirut on the Sunnis and said that these groups and individuals should be outright dismissed. In fact, he said that anyone that used this divisional logic was an «Israeli» and a partner in the goal of creating massacres. He made it clear that the individuals who planted the bomb did not represent the Sunni Muslims or the Arabs or the Syrians or the Palestinians. In a message to the US and its allies, he also said clearly stated that Hezbollah was aware that the intelligence services of the US and its allies had infiltrated various terrorist groups and manipulate them as tools.
Despite of Nasrallah’s clear works, his words were totally changed by the same media outlets that were legitimizing the terrorist attacks in Beirut. The Israeli media, the state-run British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Al Jazeera, and Al Arabiya would blatantly fabricate the news and claim that Nasrallah «blamed the Sunnis» or try to manipulate readers into getting the impression that he did. The New York Times would title an August 16, 2003 article on the terrorist attacks as the following: «Hezbollah Makes Vow to Step Up Sunni Fight». It would never even mentioning that Nasrallah went out of his way to say that the people involved in the terrorist attacks were the tools of the US and Israeli government and not really Sunni Muslims. Instead Ben Hubbard would write focus on sectarianism in Lebanon and write: «In short, Hezbollah has more enemies than it used to have».
The BBC on the other hand would write a similar article on August 16 too. It would also use a grossly misleading title. The title would be «Hezbollah blames Sunnis for bomb». After a large number of people caught it, the BBC would change the title to «Beirut bomb: Hezbollah’s Nasrallah blames Sunni radicals».
Aside from their direct or indirect links to these media outlets, even the political actors involved show that the way the news is reported is not circumvent of them. Saad Hariri, the leader of the Future Party and a Saudi client, even responded to Hassan Nasrallah’s speech by saying that he had no write to designate what groups are terrorists. Hariri’s overlords in Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, refused to even condemn the terrorist attacks. This again is tied to the attempts to reframe the terrorist attacks in Beirut as a legitimate military act.
This type of yellow journalism that relies on misleading headlines that essentially say everything that the hollow articles carry and have little or no newsworthy material is not politically neutral. It is a weapon of war. All these articles are agitating for bloodletting in the Middle East, specifically between Shias and Sunnis. This type of journalism either directly or indirectly stokes the fires of sectarianism in Lebanon and the Middle East with the intentions of spreading sectarian animosity. This is why it deliberately ignores and refuses to even acknowledge the main points of Nasrallah’s speech that clearly said pointed the finger at Israel and the US and said that the terrorist attacks had nothing to do with Sunni Muslims.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
Strategic Culture Foundation, August 21, 2013.
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is an interdisciplinary sociologist, award-winning author, and noted geopolitical analyst. He is the author of "The Globalization of NATO".