Media bias can be rather annoying. But on occasion, it can also be inadvertently amusing. And so it was that I had a little chuckle at an article in yesterday’s Independent, which described a clash between American and Russian troops in Syria. For this is what the Indy had to say:
A series of videos posted to Twitter on Wednesday appears to show several Russian patrol vehicles harassing US vehicles that had attempted to block their path.
Ho, ho, ho. The Independent’s reporter Griffin Connolly is obviously so wrapped up in the narrative that the Russians are the bad guys that he can’t see the irony in what he wrote – the Russian harassed the Americans, when the latter ‘attempted to block their path’. Can’t you see the problem here, Griffin, old boy? The Americans started this by trying to block the Russians. So, who really was harassing who here?
Obviously, Connolly doesn’t get it. For a little later on, he adds the following:
The drawdown by roughly half of the US peace-keeping forces in the region created a vacuum that Russia and Turkey have sought to fill, observers have said. This week’s harassment of US vehicles by Russian troops is one of a handful of recent escalations by Moscow to try to strong-arm the US out of the Syria — and the Middle East more broadly.
Note not merely the repetition of the term ‘harassment’ as if it were a given fact, but also the casual reference to the allegedly terrible consequences of a US withdrawal from Syria, justified in turn by the citing of ‘observers’, whose identities are not revealed. As for what these ‘recent escalations’ are, and what evidence there is that Russia is trying ‘to strong arm the US out of the Syria [sic]’, we are not told. It is taken for granted that Russia is a malign actor that it is to blame for any clashes with the Americans, and that the American presence in Syria is a good thing whose ending could only bring negative results. As a propaganda piece for US imperialism it does a very good job.
Of course, what it doesn’t tell us is what these American troops are doing in Syria now that ISIS has been largely defeated. (‘We left troops behind only for the oil’, said Donald Trump.) Nor does the article tell us that the American troops are occupying another country’s territory without the consent of that country’s government, unlike the Russians who at least have the pretext of an official invitation. But it does wrap up with this little gem of information:
Earlier this summer, reports emerged that Donald Trump had received a written intelligence briefing containing allegations that Russia was paying bounties to Taliban-linked fighters in Afghanistan to kill American soldiers. The White House denied Mr Trump had ever been briefed on that intelligence report, even though the New York Times reported it was included in his daily written brief of national security intelligence matters in February. The last time he was asked about it by reporters, the president said he had not brought up the alleged bounty programme in his calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For whatever reason, Mr Connolly makes no effort to inform readers of the disputed, and decidedly dubious, nature of the claim about Afghanistan. Likewise, he doesn’t bother to explain why the hell he has included this completely irrelevant material about Afghanistan in a story about Russian and American troops playing bumper cars in Syria. I can only imagine it’s because it meant to discredit a) the Russians, and b) Donald Trump. Whatever this article is, straightforward objective news reporting it ain’t.
The funny thing is that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s connections with The Independent’s owner Evgeny Lebedev is often used as a reason to claim that Boris is somehow in the pocket of the Russian state. Obviously, anyone making such a claim has never bothered reading Lebedev’s newspaper.