Pat Buchanan was widely vilified by the neocons
and the politically correct left when he famously described the Congress of
the United States as "Israeli-occupied
territory." Oh, what a conniption the liberals and the Commentary
crowd had! That was during the countdown to the first Gulf War, when almost
no one rose to object – and those who did, like Pat, were smeared for their
trouble. Today, such an observation is hardly considered controversial: it is
simply a known fact.
There is more discussion in the Knesset over the pros and cons of US intervention
in the Middle East on Israel's behalf than there is in on Capitol Hill. There's
a sense in which this sort of uniformity must be a little embarrassing for the
Lobby, in that it underscores their fear that a real debate will suddenly break
out. The regularity with which the American Congress endorses every fresh Israeli
atrocity has a certain deadening metronomic quality about it – and, while we're
on the subject of monotony, the American media, too, plays an identical role
as advocate and staunch defender of the Israeli case, as a matter of course.
The "mainstream" televised and dead-tree-media has historically been
a reliable "reporter" of the merits of the Israeli case. Now, the
wannabe "alternative" online media is following suit, with an alacrity
that is none too surprising.
It is especially unsurprising in the case of the Huffington Post, which founder
Arianna Huffington touts as a "people's media" in which "truth"
is the highest value. As she put
it to the San Francisco Bay Guardian:
"Our highest responsibility is to the truth. The truth is not about
splitting the difference between one side and the other. Sometimes one side
is speaking the truth ... The central mission of journalism is the search for
Taking Ms. Huffington at her word, one can only conclude that, when it comes
to Israel's rape of Gaza, the Huffington Post is siding with the rapist. Their
"news" coverage of the ongoing devastation is heavily slanted toward
the Israelis, with those journalistically unique paragraph-long lead-story headlines
never mentioning Palestinian casualties (a number would suffice). When
a genuinely antiwar voice is allowed on the site, it is prefaced by an apologia,
as our own Jeremy Sapienza reports:
"Huffington Post was so very kind this week to give space
to almost frustratingly moderate Palestinian intellectual Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi.
In his well-reasoned
article, ‘Palestine's Guernica and the Myths of Israeli Victimhood,'
he supplied all the basic facts behind the problems in Palestine. … But what
gives with the long disclaimer marring the top of Barghouthi's article?
"HuffPo runs all kinds of commentary from all over the political spectrum
(or at least its leftish side), but only those who dare speak against the sainted
Israelis seem to require an editorial explanation that resembles an apology.
"Shame on Huffington Post for its disgusting lack of
Shame? Jeremy is a fine lad, and very smart, but perhaps a bit naïve
in believing these people even accept the concept of shame, applied to themselves:
indeed, they oppose it as a matter of high principle. There's a ready explanation
of why, as the Israelis pound Gaza, the formerly antiwar Huffington Post has
become a cheerleader for the IDF: it is due entirely to this.
When Arianna nabbed $25 million from Oak Investment Partners, of Palo Alto,
California, she was acquired by a financial network that also has significant
investments in the Israeli arms industry – an industry, I might add, directly
subsidized and controlled by the Israeli government. For
example, Oak Investment has invested in IET/Intelligent
Electronics, now morphed
into Clickservice Software, an Israeli-based
company that makes sophisticated weapons systems and sells them to clients such
as "an unnamed
Far Eastern country." Oak Investment partner Fred Harman now sits on
the Huffington Post's board.
Case closed. Mystery solved.
Since Arianna is so into "truth," how about a little when it comes
to how she's financing a $25 million media gig that still refuses to pay
bloggers! Not only that, but they were recently forced to apologize to a
Chicago media outlet for brazenly stealing content. Whatever her contributions
to the journalistic profession, let alone the pursuit of "truth,"
Arianna is sure giving tackiness a bad name.
What's so galling is that the Huffington Post poses as an "alternative"
media outlet, the virtual embodiment of the new online populism that gave rise
to the blogosphere. The nerve it takes to pose as an opponent of "corporate
greed," and war, while taking a $25 million "investment" from
an exemplar of both is simply breathtaking – but about par for the course for
Arianna. In her odyssey from the Newt Gingrich right to the Obama-ite left,
the founder of the Huffington Post personifies the utter vacuity of our age,
the emptiness that has nothing at its core but an ideological vacuum waiting
to be filled by the dictates of fashion and commerce.
From her days as the high priestess of the "John
Roger" cult in California – a New Age outfit grouped around a charismatic
and controversial leader "John Roger" – Ms. Huffington has always
been an ideological weathervane, taking on the colors of whatever ideological
craze is in season. As a kind of Greek sibyl interpreting the divine zeitgeist,
her style has lately become even more magisterial, now that she's getting closer
to real power. "I only text three people," she boasted
at a London dinner, "my two teenage children and Barack Obama."
God help us if that woman has the President's ear, if only because we'll have
to endure four long years of relentless name-dropping.
More seriously, though, the Huffington Post's disgraceful performance on the
Gaza issue is really just a reflection of the laughable uniformity of Western
coverage of Middle Eastern issues, and this is especially true when it comes
to Israel and its interests in the region. It's a widely-noted irony that the
nature and extent of the "special relationship" is never discussed
as openly in the US as it is in the Israeli media. How and why this came about
is well-documented by professors John Mearshemier and Stephen Walt, in their
Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy [short version here],
but a new riff on their theme is the extent to which the online media have been
co-opted by the Lobby – in this case, bought outright.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I've gotten a couple of letters noting that, this
very morning, the editors of Antiwar.com have chosen to link to an informative
piece by Yale University professor David Bromwich on the Huffington Post that
contradicts the above. Yet that does little to undermine my main point, which
is that Ms. Huffington's alleged devotion to “truth” – as expressed in her declaration
“the truth is not about splitting the difference between one side and the other”
because “sometimes one side is speaking the truth” – is deemed as somehow not
applicable to the Gaza massacre. In any case, please don't anyone try to tell
me that the presence of a major investor in the rather extensive (and profitable)
Israeli military-industrial complex doesn't have a major effect on the Huffington
Post's editorial decisions. Of course it does, and the Bromwich piece doesn't
change this – it is merely “splitting the difference between one side and the
other,” as Arianna put it to the Bay Guardian – the difference between
truth and lies.
Another point: by running the Bromwich piece – which didn't have the embarrassing
and unnecessary editorial note attached to the Mustafa Barghouthi blog – we
at Antiwar.com are hoping to encourage whatever advocates of editorial sanity
remain on the Huffington Post staff. For the inside scoop on what those poor
wretches have to endure, go here,