By Ted Belman
I rarely link to an article in Counterpunch for obvious reasons, but I found Worthy and Unworthy Victims, Turkey’s Bombing of Iraq by ANTHONY DiMAGGIO interesting.
- [..] U.S. support for the Turkish campaign has been justified under the rubric of fighting terrorism, as Turkish officials claimed the December 23rd bombing targeted only Kurdish secessionist rebels, and resulted in no civilian deaths.
Turkey’s war on the Kurds provides an ideal test of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s “propaganda model.” Mass media coverage, they argue, is characterized by a dichotomy between “worthy” and “unworthy” victims of state violence. Those who are “abused in [communist or other] enemy states” receive substantial attention in the news, as their oppressors are subject to the “high moral and self-righteous tone” of reporters, columnists, and editors. Herman and Chomsky analyze news coverage in the New York Times, CBS, Newsweek, and Time of religious leaders killed in Soviet-dominated countries such as Poland, contrasting it with coverage received by religious figures killed in U.S. allied capitalist states in Latin America.
- The propaganda model continues to be relevant today when reviewing the “newsworthiness” of Kurds killed by enemies and allies of the U.S. Under the expectations of the propaganda model, civilian deaths caused by the U.S. and its allies receive little to no media attention, while coverage of the violence of “enemy” states or groups is extensively highlighted. This work examines U.S. media coverage of three types of victims: Iraqi Kurds killed by the Turkish government, Iraqi Kurds killed by the government of Saddam Hussein, and Turkish Kurds killed by the Turkish government. A propaganda model would predict that coverage of Kurdish civilian deaths will be prominent in regards to the violence of the enemy government of Saddam Hussein, while the violence of the Turkish military against Kurds will be downplayed, ignored, or framed as a relatively minor problem (when compared to the killings of Hussein).
In reviewing recent events in the Middle East, one sees that mass media coverage deemphasizes Turkey’s attacks on Kurds (both in Iraq and Turkey), instead heavily emphasizing the deaths of Turkish soldiers and civilians at the hands of Kurdish rebels. Extensive attention was devoted to the conflict between Kurdish guerilla groups (framed as aggressors) and the Turkish government (framed as the victim) throughout the October to December period. [..]
Kurdish nationalists have been demonized by American and Turkish leaders for targeting civilians and government forces. Estimates suggest that over 37,000 people have been killed since the onset of the PKK’s independence effort in southeast Turkey in 1984. As the founder of the PKK, Kurdish nationalist figure Abdullah Ocalan received much of the negative attention. Ocalan and other PKK members have been attacked for targeting not only Turkish civilians and government, but also Kurdish civilians who are seen as allied with the Turkish state. However, if tens of thousands have been killed in the conflict due to Kurdish terrorist violence, the government of Turkey can hardly be divorced from those deaths, as has been acknowledged by human rights groups. The Turkish government has a long record of engaging in terrorist violence against Kurdish civilians, and has engaged in such violence with only minor objections, and even the active support of, Western leaders. The vast majority of weapons supplied to the Turkish military during the peak of its repression of the Kurds were provided by the U.S., under the Clinton administration. [..]
The same goes for the different treatment of Arab aggression (good guys) against Israel and Israeli (bad guys) defensive actions. Would Counterpunch ever bother to critically apply the propaganda model to the violence between Arabs and Jews? I think not. It probably thinks US thinks of Israel as the good guys. In which case the model doesn’t apply.
Never give a sucker an even break.