Western media, partial and unreliable: Tariq Ali

In a lecture at the Mount Royal Centre on Thursday, political activist and critically acclaimed author Tariq Ali highlighted important criticisms of western media pertaining to coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan. Speaking to a full house, Ali began his exploration of western media by criticizing its lack of depth, especially regarding war coverage.

In a lecture at the Mount Royal Centre on Thursday, political activist and critically acclaimed author Tariq Ali highlighted important criticisms of western media pertaining to coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Speaking to a full house, Ali began his exploration of western media by criticizing its lack of depth, especially regarding war coverage.
“You don’t get a complete, everyday account of what is truly happening in the country, it’s all filtered. The best example would be all the mainstream papers buying Bush’s line of ‘weapons of mass destruction’,” he said, and added that Western media became a laughing stock “when the US came up with the link between Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, the entire Arab world roared with laughter because anyone with a tiny bit of knowledge knew that Saddam and Al-Qaeda loathed each other, absolutely hated each other.”
Pointing a finger at western media, Ali stated that “Journalists in the West didn’t even investigate this claim; they just took it at face value out of fear of being deemed unpatriotic.
You weren’t just misled, you made no effort to investigate whether this was true or not.”
Ali’s views on the NATO mission in Afghanistan were equally critical.
Referring to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his ministers as “cronies,” he raised the issue of a lack of coverage by Western media to recent anti-American riots.
“All you hear about in North American is your troops being killed, other issues are barely reported. Any reports of success in Afghanistan are simply not true, absolute nonsense.
“And good journalists should be out there reporting what is going on in that country and why they are turning against the foreign occupation. They’ve done absolutely nothing in terms of health, education and housing. In times of war, how a war is reported is increasingly vital in the formation of public opinion.”
As an example of how war coverage in Iraq and Afghanistan should be reported, Ali cited a case from the Vietnam War involving a journalist reporting directly from the jungle about the atrocities he was seeing.
He discussed how that level of reporting is missing in Western media.
“Such intense levels of reporting on television have virtually disappeared, certainly in the western media, you just don’t get it here, and the contrast is very pronounced. There is little independence between the government and media, no direct challenges.”
Ali compared Western media outlets to Al Jazeera, who, he claims, has virtually no censorship.
Characterizing them as an alternative media outlet.
“Al Jazeera,” he argued, “is probably the most radical reporting television network in the world. They write, they speak and they film what they want. There would be real anger if more people paid attention to Al Jazeera, and the truth was reported from Iraq in western media.”
Ali stated that the only attempt at censorship he was told about by Al Jazeera officials was when the U.S. bombed Al Jazeera headquarters in Afghanistan and Iraq in order to prevent them from reporting the truth on the ground.
According to Ali, Al Jazeera said the U.S. has never confirmed that this was the case, referring to these incidents instead as accidents.
He compared Al Jazeera to western media outlets, and told the crowd how the standards and credibility of mainstream media such as the BBC have gone downhill.
“Journalists have been fired for challenging mainstream ideas. Again, when the weapons of mass destruction claim came out, a journalist at the BBC who challenged this claim was fired.”
Moreover, when the BBC contrasts the beliefs of the government, Ali claims that they are pressured heavily by parliament to adjust their reporting. “Western governments are clouding the truth in the media in order to further their own goals and interests.”
Ali continued by divulging that in poor, under-developed nations where literacy rates are very low, populations rely on broadcast media for their information.
Radio is the medium usually preferred in these countries.
“These nations have essentially skipped right over print media, and are now obtaining their news from television and radio.”
Because so many people acquire their information from media, Ali underlined the importance of accurate and unbiased reporting. Referring to Western mainstream media as partial and unreliable, Ali made a strong case for more balanced reporting.
When asked what future journalists could do to try to improve the criticisms, he replied: “The advice I would give to people getting into journalism would be to do what you want to do. Think straight and challenge, the only problem is that if you accept my advice, you might not have a job for too long. It’s a deep structural problem, but hang in there.”
Tariq Ali attended both Punjab University and Exeter College in Oxford, studying politics, economics and philosophy.
He has authored more than a dozen books and films, and is a regular contributor to several newspapers and publications including The Guardian and the London Review of Books. He is renowned for his controversial views against American and Israeli policy.

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