By Martin Jay, an award-winning British journalist based in Beirut
For months, the Western media have been reporting on the human rights apocalypse, which Erdogan’s country if undergoing. It was a rare case when Turkey’s image in the Western media — from thousands of teachers, judges and civil servants being rounded up on charges linked to an attempted coup in the summer of 2016, right through to the worrying number of journalists locked up in jails, which is constantly compared to North Korea by many rights groups– it was a rare case when an image of a Eurasian country in Western media was actually close to reality. In the same way, much of the media’s criticism of Donald Trump’s “unpredictability” in foreign policy makes sense (even though it does not make the expected disaster of Hillary Clinton’s presumed victory in 2016 any better).
For the Western media, both Erdogan and Trump are bad guys, and one could accept this criticism from the journalistic mainstream, if the mainstream had not been grossly inconsistent in its criticism of the two leaders. This inconsistency could be called “selective amnesia,” as the media is simply omitting several important facts, which are on its own readers’ memory.
In general, journalists of The Washington Post or The Guardian show no sympathy for the recent “non-Western” victims of Trump’s unpredictability.
For example, there are no tears shed for at least 14 Syrian citizens who were killed by Trump’s recent improvised Tomahawk strike against Syria’s Shayrat airbase in Idlib province.
With Erdogan, there is another pertinent question which the Western media tends to avoid – wasn’t it the West (the US and the EU in the first place) that enabled Erdogan to gain unlimited power in his country? When Erdogan started his intervention in Syria by aiding the armed rebellion against the Syrian president Bashar Assad in 2011-2012, the Western mainstream media was squarely behind Erdogan.
But was Erdogan a democrat, when that same media called him an example of a possible symbiosis between Islam and democracy? What about apologizing for this “mistake” of the Western media – just for one of many in the last shameful 30 years of Western media’s support for “regime changes” from Moscow to Damascus?
And it was not just the media that was ready for a “war of solidarity” in the interest of NATO’s member Turkey. NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in 2015 that NATO was ready to send troops to Turkey to defend its “southern flank” against the potential Russo-Syrian invader.
Instead of the Russo-Syrian invader, although, Turkey in 2016 was gripped by a political crisis that included a bloody coup attempt with distinct US roots. Cracking down on opposition, embattled Erdogan did things which made the Syrian government look like a congregation of freedom-loving pluralists. The embarrassment was so great that even the EU could not help noticing it, suddenly transforming Erdogan’s image from an anti-Putin “good Moslem democrat” to a “Putin-like evil Islamist sultan.”
Sorry, but such metamorphosis happen only in news rooms in Brussels and Washington D.C. Even chameleons like Erdogan do not change overnight.
Just like you needed Fareed Zakaria’s twisted imagination to picture Donald Trump becoming “the true president of the United States” only after killing by Tomahawks a few people at the Syrian airbase on the 78th day of his presidency. Obviously, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria did not view this strike as an example of Trump’s unpredictability (which it was). Instead, under Zakaria’s magic wand this “bloody initiation rite” with a strike against the Shayrat airbase becomes a sort of pleasant surprise.
So, with all the jibes against Trump and Erdogan being right, the responsibility of the US media for the tragic developments in the Middle east is even greater, and it is for everyone to see. The problem is that there is also the responsibility of the audience behind it. Alas, the Americans love to bomb.
Russians need to understand that they are dealing with a child who could easily start a war in Syria with them, just to cater to his own inflated ego and deflated esteem. But equally Trump’s people should note that the Russians are not joking with their warning – that any further cruise missile strikes could have "extremely serious" consequences.
Could a similar tactic be used with some irresponsible Western journalists? After all, just about every large conflict in the last 25 years included media hysteria as a necessary part of “warming up” the Western public for something new – and bloody. It was the media effect that Trump was after when he ordered a strike against Syria. And, interestingly, it worked. We may be scratching our heads about hitting Assad when the real target in Syria is supposed to be Daesh, but the strike against Shayrat generated media coverage, and Trump’s popularity went up.
In this situation, one should not underestimate the responsibility which war mongering journalists and politicians should share. The age of ambiguity seems to be definitely over.
Western journalists are unambiguously involved in the technology of “regime change.” In this situation, they deserve to be treated for what they are – as parts of an inhuman technological process, and not as free artists, as it could be the case in the times of Watergate and anti-war reports on Vietnam.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.