Late last week, CNN's The Situation Room, starring Wolf Blitzer, reported on what Blitzer described as "an ominous new warning coming in from the Pentagon: Iran's missiles are getting more accurate, apparently getting more deadly as well." He then called on CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence ("What are you learning, Chris?"), and a truly brilliant line was unveiled:
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Iran's missiles are getting more accurate, but they may not have to be because they are also getting more deadly. By that I mean they're developing a new payload system that spreads out the destruction over a wider area than a solid warhead. . . .
The Pentagon report says Iran is developing short-range missiles that can identify ships at sea and maneuver towards them in mid-flight. And Iran already has a missile that could reach the U.S. if it could put it on a ship and move it to within 600 miles of the American coastline.
I'd like to repeat that: "Iran already has a missile that could reach the U.S."!!!! ("if it could it put on a ship and move it to within 600 miles of the American coastline"). As As'ad AbuKhalil observed about these frightening Iranian missiles: "They can also reach the moon if they can put it on a rocket and get closer to the moon." Indeed, I'm excited to announce that I'm writing today from within walking distance to the peak of Mount Everest! (if someone transports me and my laptop by jet and then helicopter to within 500 yards or so of the top of that mountain).
Lawrence also touted what he called "a new report from the Pentagon" (which must not be questioned, only uncritically described with his TV-reporter's gravely worried face plastered on) that "confirms" that "Iran may be technically capable of flight-testing an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015." Far from being "new," that's a Pentagon claim Fox News was hyping more than two years ago ("Iranian Missile May Be Able to Hit U.S. by 2015"). Note how, to a CNN Pentagon reporter, the mere assertion by the Pentagon of a claim amounts to "confirmation" of its truth (LAWRENCE: "Iran's recent missile test showed off their capabilities. And a new report from the Pentagon confirms it. Iran's ballistic missiles are more accurate, more versatile and more deadly than ever. The report finds that 'Iran may be technically capable of flight-testing an intercontinental ballistic missile by 2015'-- the type of missile that could hit the U.S. if it works").
There's a perennial debate about whether the propagandistic tripe produced by establishment media outlets is shaped more by evil or by stupidity. Personally, I think it's both: a healthy dose of each is needed. The system design is malicious, while those who serve as its public face are generally vacant. In the case of CNN, one can think of it as the Time-Warner/Wolf-Blitzer dichotomy.
A couple of years ago, I was on MSNBC debating The Iranian Threat with Arianna Huffington (it was after she had just returned from Israel and she was strangely spouting the pure neocon line about Iran; the video is below). Virtually the entire time I was speaking, scary video imagery was being shown of Iran testing a mid-range missile at sea, and near the end of the debate, The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart popped in to demand that I try to reconcile what he obviously believed was the glaring contradiction between (a) my claim that Iran was not the aggressor in the region and (b) Iran's testing of a missile.
That the U.S., Israel and their allies routinely test long-range inter-continental ballistic missiles and (in the case of the U.S.) have done so for decades while building a huge stockpile of them never enters the mind of Capehart and his establishment media colleagues. He genuinely believes that Iran's testing of a mid-range missile definitively proves their malicious aggression, but the same cannot be said of those on his side who engage in far more extensive military development. That's the unspoken, vapid precept driving most American media discourse; indeed, enthusiastically embracing this form of jingoistic reasoning is more or less a prime requirement for the job.
There was a time, when I first began writing about political issues six years ago or so, that I thought that the American media learned some sort of lesson from their humiliating behavior in the run-up to the Iraq War and would behave differently -- more skeptically and adversarially -- when it comes time for the next big war. My mistake, of course, was in assuming that what they did in pushing the Iraq War was some sort of deviation from or violation of what they are designed to do rather than the supreme expression of their core purpose.
UPDATE: Late last year, when Iranian leaders boasted of their ability to project naval power, the Pentagon sought to mock those claims and it was CNN.com which eagerly cooperated with the mockery:
The report added:
So back in November, when the Pentagon wanted to spew derision at the boasting of Iranian leaders, CNN.com dutifully quoted experts ridiculing the notion that Iran could get near the U.S. with its Navy. Now that the Pentagon wants to warn of the Grave Iranian threat, CNN hypes the very threats it was mocking just last year. Where the Pentagon goes, CNN follows, like an impossibly loyal dog.