The Middle East: Reporting an Enigma
By Alan Caruba
When President Obama delivers a speech on why he is going to send more thousands of U.S. troops and spend more billions on the eight-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, it would be a good idea to better understand why so much of what is reported from the Middle East suffers a great disconnect from the truth.
In 1998, Joris Luyendijk , a Dutch student who had studied Arabic at Cairo University for a year, was offered a job as a Middle East correspondent for a Dutch news agency despite having no experience as a reporter. What followed was his real education about the Middle East and the way it is presented to the West by the news media.
His book about that experience, “People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East” was initially published in the Netherlands in 2006 and has since then it has been translated and published in Hungary, Italy, Denmark and Germany. In October an English edition was published by Soft Scull Press, an imprint of Counterpoint, a Berkeley, California publisher.
Having begun my career as a journalist, I was interested to learn what Luyendijk had taken from his years hopping around the Middle East before and after 9/11 and during the two Iraq wars waged by the U.S. to resolve a problem called Saddam Hussein.
For anyone digesting the news from his morning newspaper or watching it on television, suspecting that it might be biased or wrong, this book that focuses on reporting from the Middle East is a revelation because Luyendijk strives mightily to expose the way the news is manipulated by all the parties involved.
Covering his experiences from 1998 to 2003, the author is refreshingly candid, admitting that, despite his student year in Cairo, he had little or no real understanding of Egypt or the rest of the Middle East.
There is, however, one thing that anyone can understand. The Middle East is composed of dictatorships and the sole purpose of each one is to survive. To do that, their people must be constantly indoctrinated and fearful. That is made possible by rendering them, individually and as a group, powerless. There simply is no such thing as justice or the opportunity to express an opinion in opposition to the leader.
Significantly, those living in the Middle East cannot make an informed judgment of what is occurring around them because they operate two points of view that are very real to them. First is a widely accepted sense of victimhood, and, second, they believe that Israel, ultimately, is manipulating the entire world!
Conversely, Americans who have no contact with the Middle East beyond the headlines and snapshots of bloodshed and warfare are comparably unable to make informed judgments about a people who differ among themselves in many ways.
The Middle East is very different from the West and Luyendijk believes that few in the West are even vaguely aware that those who live there live in a parallel universe; one that functions by the rules of ruthless dictatorships, by tribes, and by a religion that is hostile to all others.
Democracy is not likely to take root in the Middle East and this can be traced to the prevailing religion of the region, Islam. The only reason democracy occurred in Turkey is because the founder of the modern state, Ataturk, isolated Islam from the conduct of governance and that has been backed up by an army that has, thus far, ensured the separation.
The only other democracy in the Middle East is, of course, Israel. Lebanon’s effort has been steadily undermined by Hezbollah, Islamists who are an instrument of Iran.
The news coverage by Western reporters tends not to reflect the fact that Western powers have long supported the gaggle of monarchs and despots in the Middle East, at least until they saw fit to replace them. For this and for its interventions, the people of the Middle East quite naturally see the West as part of the oppression under which they live.
“EVERYONE IS AGAINST US. It’s banged into ordinary Arabs through the media and their education from a very young age, so don’t expect them to be pro-western.”
For a Western journalist, that means having to operate in societies where their reports are closely monitored and where access to events repeatedly reveal how staged they are, whether it’s a mass rally or whether it is those they interview who know that one wrong word can get them imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. The journalists, too, are at risk.
The “truth” in such a place is an impossibility. The “truth” does not exist for those who live in the Middle East and is carefully filtered by the Western news agencies that cover it for people who live thousands of miles away. The task is to report on an enigma.
Citing a group trip to Saddam’s Baghdad arranged by the Cairo Foreign Press Association, Luyendijk says, “It was complete madness. The secret-service minders practically sat on our laps. They’d regularly leave us waiting in lobbies for hours on end without any explanation, and then shove us into taxies for an excursion.”
Though a novice journalist in 1998, Luyendijk quickly “abandoned the idea that you would know what was going on in the world if you followed the news generated by the twenty dictatorships of the region “or reported by the correspondents for Western news agencies.
”There were virtually no reliable and verifiable figures or statistics against which I could I could (report) in a broader perspective.” Information is power and it was controlled by the dictators. The foreign press was and is a pawn in the game.
“When something big happens, the (Western) public wants to know things that the correspondent can’t find out.” The result is a lot of nebulous speculation or regurgitation of previous news.
While those in the West are accustomed to fairly rapid progress, the Middle East defies this because the currents that determine events are rooted in events that may have occurred a hundred or a thousand years earlier.
The hatreds, the lack of trust, the resentments, the rivalry for power, the need to survive, all jostle together in an impenetrable jumble in which one young, Dutch reporter found common human elements, “people like us”, but people whose protests subject them to arrest and execution.
Alan Caruba writes a daily post at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com. An author, business and science writer, he is the founder of The National Anxiety Center.
Planet Wide Anxiety Bubbling To The Surface.
By J. D. Longstreet
The human brain has this tiny little part called the amygdale. It’s in that tiny part of the brain where fear is generated and the fight or flee order is given to the rest of the human body. It is where fear is born. As silly as it may seem, it is the reason we humans have survived on this planet so far and, if we are to survive much longer, we are going to have to begin listening to it again.
If you are honest with yourself, you will have to admit that for sometime now that amygdale of yours has been elbowing you to get your attention. It is saying, “Hey, something is wrong! Something is about to happen, prepare, prepare.” OK, so it is a chemical thing and the amygdale doesn’t speak. Well, if it did, I’d bet it would say something like that, though.
If you have been paying close attention to the news lately, and I don’t mean election news, I mean the news that, for the most part never even made the “A” section of your newspaper, you have noticed that certain world leaders have been hinting strongly about a coming event, or events, that is/are imminent and will cause great distress on the people of the planet. Even the US VP-Elect has hinted at it when he mentioned something bad happening within six months of Obama’s inaugurating. Other world leaders have alluded to it as well.
Remember Biden’s cryptic warning a few weeks ago, at the Sheraton in Seattle, Washington: ““I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate, And he’s (Obama) gonna need help. And the kind of help he’s gonna need is, he’s gonna need you – not financially to help him – we’re gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.”
Well, whether Obama’s reaction to WHATEVER IT IS is right, or not, remains to be seen. But that is not what is troubling me at the moment. No. I am more concerned with what the “THING”, the “event”, the “occurrence”, that is going to happen is!
Seems to me the first worry should be the chances of a terrorist nuclear attack on the continental United States. As a matter of fact, we don’t even know if one has already been attempted or not. Such is the power of the Homeland Security agency. A spokesman for Al Qaida has said their goal is: “to kill 4 million Americans—2 million of them children—and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands.” He went on to explain that this is what justice requires to balance the scales for casualties supposedly inflicted on Muslims by the United States and Israel.
It would take over thirtenn hundred terrorist attacks equal to the attack on 9-11 to reach that figure. Or, the terrorists could do it with just one nuclear attack. See?
There is an excellent article on this very thing titled: “How Likely is a Nuclear Terrorist Attack on the United States?” at:
But, this concern would only affect the people of the United States. The anxiety we are speaking of is felt around the world. There must be something else.
May I tell you what I think it is? I think our friends in the Green Movement have succeeded in scaring the wits out of people with their ever-present chant that the world is ending… right now! It isn’t, of course. It isn’t even getting warmer. In fact, it is getting cooler. Yet, millions upon millions of people, the world over, have bought into the propaganda and as a result, they fear for their lives, and the lives of their children and grandchildren, from a threat of something that doesn’t even exist. Talk about a Bogy Man!
I think this explains how a man as inexperienced and as devoid of substance as Barack Obama won an election to be the next President of the United States. We have a populace so used to accepting the spin of the world’s Mainstream Media that they readily bought into the spin on Obama. They have been conditioned to do that, you see.
My generation is not as easily fooled. My mother used to say: “J.D., you won’t believe ox horns will hook until you’ve been gored!” She was right. I still don’t. So what is my generation afraid of? We’re afraid of what is going to happen if the younger generation continues blindly following the leadership of those nefarious characters who have molded them and conditioned them to accept the results of sloppy science as fact, and accepting that they must live out their days with the Damocles Sword of their self-imposed destruction of the world hanging over their heads. Remember the fairy tale of the King Who Had No Clothes? The Green Movement has no clothes, but as in the fairy tale, everyone is afraid to speak up and question where the facts are. I suspect you will find them in the closet alongside the King’s clothes.
If this were a movie this is the point in the story where the protagonist would grab his sidekick by the shoulders and shake him violently for a second or two and proclaim: “Get hold of yourself man! Start thinking!” But it is difficult to do the entire world that way.
Now, I have just scratched the surface of the underlying cause(s) of the thread of fear running through the psyche of the human race these days. There is more, much more.
Another thing comes to mind. The new President-Elect apparently is set to offer a divided city of Jerusalem on the alter of Middle East peace and, to sweeten the deal, we are hearing rumours that there is also a possibility that he will be willing to offer up Israel’s nuclear arsenal, as well. Our friends at The Liberty Sphere have an article you should read on this very thing at:
And there’s another excellent piece by Caroline Glick at www.CarolineGlick.com . The article is entitled: “The Perils Ahead.” You’ll find it at:
Yes, these are perilous times. I have no solace to offer. It is well to note, I suppose, that Nature has a way of warning us, even when we are not listening, that trouble is brewing. These days, a little paranoia, I think, is a good thing!
J. D. Longstreet