Friday brought another report of the civil war in Syria by Kelly McEvers of NPR’s Morning Edition.
The opening summary tells us that rebels “captured a third major border crossing between Syria and Turkey. The rebels are trying to restore services to a recently liberated town.” Let’s hold on right there. “Liberated town”? According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, the first definition of “liberate,” is to set at liberty: free.; specifically : to free (as a country) from domination by a foreign power.” (The phrase “domination by a foreign power” is more than a touch ironic, given the role of the U.S., Turkey, Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council in bankrolling and supplying the rebels. ) One need not even probe into the connotations of “liberate” which by its very denotation tells us that liberation is the work of the “good guys.” Right there in a subtle, or not so subtle, way, National Pentagon Radio is taking sides. And it is not too far into the reportage before journalist ace Kelly McEvers repeats the formulation: “Inside the building, we sit down with Abu Azzam, one of the rebel commanders who helped liberate the border crossing (with Turkey, Jw) and the town beyond.”
So what kind of “liberation” has come to this town of about 20,000 people called Tal Abyad? As we get deeper into the story, the “liberation” becomes ever stranger. McEvers reports: “Once inside the town, the only civilians we see are a handful of people in a pickup truck, and they’re on their way out. The bakeries have reopened, but apparently just to make bread for the fighters. One of two functioning stores clearly caters to the rebels, too. Otherwise, the town is almost completely empty….Our guide, Abu Yazen, shows us the blackened, pockmarked government buildings that were taken by the rebels. We ask Abu Yazen why the town is so empty. He says it’s because 80 percent of the people in town actually sided with the government, not with the rebels (emphasis, jw)….What happens when those 80 percent of the people come back and they want their houses back? What’s going to happen to them?”….The guide Yazen replies and McEvers offers the translation, “Those who have blood on their hands will be tried, he says. The others will come back and help us build a new country.” Hardly a reassuring invitation to those who have fled from the “liberation” of their town.
McEvers hastily concludes her piece: “Someone rushes in to tell us they’ve spotted a column of trucks with mounted machine guns that belong to the regime’s army. (Soundbite of truck motor) We have to hurry out of town before we know the end of the story.” The operative term this time is “regime.” The routine usage on NPR is that official enemies have “regimes,” so both Iran and Syria routinely have regimes but Israel, for example, has a “government.” Here we must look at the connotation of the word; and as Wikipedia informs us under “modern usage,”: “While the word regime originates as a synomym for any form of government, modern usage often gives the term a negative connotation…” (There was a time when the antiwar movement referred to the “Bush regime,” but that usage has gone missing with the ascension of Obama, the candidate of the “progressive” Democrats.)
This sort of vocabulary is not trivial as George Orwell long ago pointed out. It is usage which, repeated endlessly, reinforces the idea of who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Such propaganda molds opinions and is preparation for war and conflict.
This report by McEvers is just one droplet in the torrent of NPR’s shilling for the Pentagon and State Department. We have all heard many other instances of the same thing. If you have examples of such biased reports or discussions from NPR, please send them to me at John.Endwar@gmail.com . Besides Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Neal Conan’s Talk of the Nation, which reaches millions, appears to offer plenty of low hanging fruit. I am interested not only in bias based on word choice, but also outright falsification and coverage of only one side of an issue, often using two guests who in fact agree on basics which go unquestioned, a very effective form of propaganda. China bashing, Russia bashing, Iran bashing and Muslim bashing are especially worth being on the lookout for.
Let us see whether we can move NPR to change its ways.
(This piece was originally published on CounterPunch.com)