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A study into how Western and Middle Eastern Media manipulated public perspective during the Iraq War.

Essay Topic: ,

This investigation was inspired by an introduction to the theorist Noam Chomsky and his contributions into the theory behind propaganda. What initially grabbed my attention was how his theories focused on public perspective in particular. After being exposed to parts of Robert Greenwalds’ documentary ‘Outfoxed’ I was shocked to learn how powerful and influential the Fox media network has become in engineering the public opinion of America in order to validate the Iraq Invasion.

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As a result I acquired a full length copy of the ‘Outfoxed’ documentary and after learning some of the techniques that Fox News used I questioned how Fox were able to get away with such outlandish comments and obviously false claims. It made me think that perhaps here in the UK the public may have been subjugated to similar techniques and to ask whether they have any similar effects upon the British public. It also impelled me to investigate whether the Middle East experienced any side effects of British and American (Western) propaganda.

My dissertation plans to investigate whether Western Media has a greater control than that of the Middle East over the distribution of knowledge. By investigating what information is considered newsworthy, we will see the public directed through a certain thought process and there will be evidence to suggest that media networks’ attempts to promote certain political opinions have been successful through the implementation of Chomsky and Herman’s ‘Propaganda Model’ and its filters. This dissertation also plans to investigate whether or not the media outlets (Both private and state owned) in the Middle East are less governed or restricted when it comes to worthy content when reporting issues and topics that concern the Iraq war, in comparison to the western media moguls such as Sky News, CNN etc.

The main objective of the investigation will be to discover whether or not the techniques sourced by Chomsky and Herman in their Propaganda model have successfully infiltrated through both Western and Middle Eastern media networks. In addition to this, I aim to provide an insight into which media system [West or Middle East] is most successful at manipulating the public in order to preserve a degree of power. Through research and analysis this investigation will aim to verify which techniques are implemented by the media to maintain a level of control over the public.

Whilst coordinating the research for the Literature Review it became apparent that the BBC were seldom mentioned in the run up and aftermath of the Iraq War in terms of their involvement with propaganda and covering up the truth. The value of this investigation aims to demonstrate that the BBC, among other media networks, is in reality abusing a trust with the global public by embracing the methods and techniques of Chomsky’s Propaganda Model. Sky News is a global network also owned by Rupert Murdoch. Will Murdoch exercise and apply the techniques of Fox News to Sky, or does he allow for Sky News to remain independent and therefore more objective in its reporting of the Iraq War?


Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman assembled the propaganda model and its five filters; Monopolisation of the media, the role of advertising, the incorporation of expert testimony, how and why flak catchers are employed by the ruling elites and the utilisation of dichotomisation. These filters established by Chomsky and Herman will allow me to establishes the basis for a comparison of case studies and witness if and how these filters are expended.


The media are run and owned by powerful private corporations aiming to sell their products to the masses. As a result the media becomes corrupt; information considered important is elected and tailored so that the public believe they are being relayed information that is truthful, factual and genuine.

ROLE OF ADVERTISING: This is the main source of income and profit for the media; Private corporations conducting business with other private corporations. They come together and determine what material goods we need, what campaigns we should support, ultimately they decide what is good for us and what is bad.

EXPERT TESTIMONY: This filter implies that expert testimony given derives from the specialised class or those who work for the specialised class. Their opinion has already been formed to correspond with the question at hand. These experts appear to be in a position of neutrality; however they are employed by the private corporations. Therefore how can the outcome remain unbiased?

FLAK CATCHERS: Flak is a term used when individuals, whom Chomsky speaks of, question those in power; it’s the individual versus the whole apparatus. In other words the so-called ‘Big Guy’ will use his power and other resources to find information that will silence the individual.

DICHOTOMISATION: This particular filter allows for the media to create an Anti-Terror threat. By establishing an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ complex the media are able to whip up society, for example to get the public to agree with any foreign adventures. Dichotomisation within the media is a powerful tool and one which can turn out considerable levels of subordination of the masses. The ‘potential enemy’ or greater evil can be portrayed in a manner deemed appropriate by the private corporations.

The propaganda model focuses on the inequality of wealth and power and with these filters they fix the premises of discourse and interpretation.[4] In Chomsky’s book ‘Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda,’ he draws attention to what he terms ‘Spectator democracy;’ reminisant of Walter Lippmann’s concept of ‘the manufacturing of consent’ where the bewildered herd are persuaded into agreement with what that they once deemed inconsequential. The idea behind ‘the manufacturing of consent’ functions on the basis that “the common interest elude public opinion entirely” (Media Control, p.15) and managed by a “specialised class of responsible men” (Media Control, p.15) who decide how society is organised.

Our choices and opinions are already formed and decided for us, we are led to believe however that we have been given the choice. To maintain power the specialised class must create “necessary illusions,” (Media Control, p.20). In the section headed ‘Engineering Opinion’ Chomsky ignores the notion of how the public in general are pacifist by nature especially when it comes to Foreign Adventures, so in order to encourage interest and support “you have to whip them up” (Media Control, p.30) The most common technique used to marginalise and distract the public is to exploit fear. By frightening the public, those in power can restrict public organisation and terminate any articulation of sentiment opposed to whatever those in power deem necessary. To persuade the public, ‘necessary illusions’ are required. Instead of the public focusing on economic or educational crisis within one’s own society Government creates a sense of fear. Actions are justified because it is for the greater good; “aggressors cannot be rewarded and aggression must be reversed with the quick resort to violence.” (Media Control, p.56) Arguably it is hard to legitimise violence when abstracted from historical circumstances.[5] Focus on moral responsibility of individuals to pursue questions that the elite media are responsible for sets major frameworks. Here those at the top of the media industry, for example Rupert Murdoch, decide what is newsworthy and how it is filtered out to newspapers, radio and TV to local media outlets. Those in power find it “necessary to completely falsify history.” (Chomsky, p.35) By using propaganda the specialised class is able to “restore sanity, […] a recognition that whatever we do is noble and right” (Chomsky, p.35) thus making it easier to silence the herd rather than listen to it.

1.1 ‘Outfoxed!’

‘Outfoxed’ is a documentary that looks at how right wing, Conservative media empires are exposing Chomsky’s fears of ever-enlarging corporations that control the public and create profit for Rupert Murdoch and his corporative allies. It is Greenwalds’ response to Chomsky and Herman’s filter ‘flak catchers.’ For a country that is run by private enterprise “media is the nervous system of a democracy […] if it is not functioning well, the democracy cannot function.” (00:01:24) What Fox News Channel (FNC) has managed to create is fear. Everything at the FNC is dictated, monitored and constrained to the beliefs of right wing- Bush Administration- Republicans and the techniques exercised by news broadcasters and journalists manage to eliminate any real element of Journalism or Truth. As a consequence the American Public were exceedingly manipulated and generated into a state of fear through motivated and exploitive techniques. These techniques and themes are by no means objective and as a result those members of society exposed to FNC lose any sense of perspective; becoming the ‘bewildered herd’ Chomsky fears we shall all become. FNC are notoriously famous for their controlling techniques; is ‘Murdoch’s war on Journalism’[6] becoming a global characteristic. But are those in the media who reject Murdoch’s war still able to remain objective or do they succumb to the powerful elites who would cease to profit if objectivity was allowed.

The techniques highlighted in ‘Outfoxed’ help detect instances of opinion control and social influences from other media networks. Techniques include Hosts or Journalists of a network speaking over their guests, preventing an alternative opinion, most damaging to the public. This technique could be classified as flak catchers and/or dichotomy. Journalists and Anchors represent the ‘big guy’ imposing and abusing their power over guest speakers creating an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ persona. Clips and sound bites originally used for hard news are later filtered across to other news segments to influence viewers into thinking what is being reported is hard news when in fact it is entertainment; a form of advertising. In order to include opinion without having to prove it as fact or provide expert testimony, journalists would exercise the phrase “Some people say” (00:18:00) mainly to convey a political opinion. Pre-approved consultants [expert testimony] represent a biased and unbalanced coverage at Fox News Channel; 87% of guests who appeared on the news who legitimised the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were representatives from the Republican Party.[7] Society was denied alternative perspectives. Another technique used to ‘stir the masses’ was the use of motives, icons and themes that appeared on the media networks and used to motivate and organise Chomsky’s ‘bewildered herd’ by converting everything against the Iraq war to an act of terrorism itself instilling fear in viewers who become scared to voice or seek alternative opinion or information and so accept the popular allowing for unquestioned support of Government policies. It is clear that Rupert Murdoch has adopted Chomsky and Herman’s filters of propaganda and has applied them to Fox News Channel to impose Republican and Bush Administration’s policies onto the public as being the right choice.

1.2 Rich Media/Poor Democracy

According to the ‘integration’ model[8] of broadcasting the media “could be treated as a natural monopoly and in the belief that this sort of structure could uphold the ‘public interest’.” (Negrine, p.233) Negrine states that the socio-political nature of a media network will vary across national boundaries and as a result becomes associated with a particular political party or government to project particular interests and values onto the ‘bewildered herd’. ‘The Media/Democracy Paradox[9]’ establishes that the powerful elites “have established Global Empires and generated massive riches providing news and entertainment to the peoples of the world […] independent from Government control.” (Rich Media, Poor Democracy, p.1) However McChesney discovers that “the wealthier and more powerful the corporate media giants have become, the poorer the prospects for participatory democracy.” (Rich Media, Poor Democracy, p.4) Now according to Chomsky, the blame does not lie solely upon the media giants; it is the public’s responsibility to question the intentions and structure of news claiming its apparent democratic disposition. Machesney also implies that News is now nothing more than entertainment as forms of distraction. While we know that the Fox News Channel is guilty of such endeavours it will be interesting to see if any other media network are guilty of using such techniques in order to maintain and persuade the ‘bewildered herd’.

1.3 Al-Jazeera News

Al-Jazeera is the result of Qatar’s democraticisation process and “apart from being the first 24-hour Arab satellite news network, Al-Jazeera has turned the tables on state controlled Arab media.” (Changing Realities, p.2) Controversial issues, levelling criticism at “both religious and political officials and challenged official pro governmental Arab versions of event [,]” (Changing Realities, p.2) Al-Jazeera’s motto “The opinion and the other opinion” certainly draws the attention of society to the reality of misinformation supplied by state controlled TV whilst remaining “in touch with the ‘Arab Street’ and play a role in shaping Arab public opinion.” (Changing Realities, p.2) Al-Jazeera has become a focus point of both the Western and Arab criticism as well as Al-Jazeera’s credible reporting and reporters have been banned from countries, including Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and anti Al-Jazeera campaigns have been launched to combat the networks’ freedom of expression on their reporting of news.

Before Al-Jazeera, media in the Middle East was mainly state controlled. If we look at Iraq as an example we can see clearly how the media can be manipulated and presented as “an omnipotent propaganda machine […] entrusted with the task of nurturing hatred[10]” (Bengio, p.109) The media was used as a watchdog and contributed “significantly to its survival and longevity […] and depicted the entire information machine” (Bengio, p.110) Owing to heavy restrictions in place, Iraqi media “would by no means be permitted to serve as a platform for airing opposing views or criticism of the Ba’th” (Benigo, p.110) regime. Saddam Husayn restricted the media by “modelling them on the worst totalitarian examples of Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union.” (Bengio, p.110) This type of model makes it relatively easy to manipulate the media with political agendas generating a highly effective propaganda machine. This makes it easy for a government to engineer public opinion with ease by introducing the complexity of creating an enemy. If state control limits and restricts the masses sources of information then the public have no choice but to ‘believe’ what they are being told; “the picture which the public received of the ‘other’ was one-dimensional and black and white […] the subjection of the media to the totalitarian Ba’th regime ensured total adherence to this line.” (Bengio, p.112- p.113)

Where Al-Jazeera differs is they have a choice on what they report – to a certain extent. They have the same opportunity to report on Middle Eastern events as state media. Al-Jazeera, however, have the capability to report events from an alternative perspective, giving the public masses an alternative opinion and the power to choose for themselves. With state-owned media Democracy and free expression are almost nonexistent and up until the Iraq War “the political system in Iraq, and with it the media and the intellectuals, remained as far removed from democratization and the peace process as ever.” (Bengio, p.118) Free expression and democracy has lead to the production of Al-Jazeera, but it is these elements which restricts the news network to certain countries as more often than not Al-Jazeera struggle to adhere to specific Arab regimes and their political messages. To try and understand what restrictions both Western and Middle Eastern media networks had to face during the Iraq war journalist Jon Snow looks at how the media was organised and supervised.

1.4 ‘The truth about the war.’

‘The Truth about the War’ is a documentary, which explores how heavily managed the media was during the Iraq War. What John Snow reveals is that after the Coalitions’ “shock and awe”[11] techniques to capture Baghdad, the world saw “two versions of this war being reported, and which one you saw depended on where you lived.” (Snow, 00:03:32) Al-Jazeera would report on the “brutal reality of civilian death” (Snow, 00:03:27) while viewers in “Britain and America saw a different war.” (Snow, 00:05:56) A BBC Documentary special on Al-Jazeera[12] looks at the TV station’s coverage of the war in Iraq and the difficulties they face. What we learn from this documentary was that Al-Jazeera reporters were not embedded with the coalition armies and therefore were able to gain footage, knowledge and reports that were not restricted or released by the British and American Military. As such they had a greater freedom when reporting but clearly suffer with Chomsky’s western “Flak” catchers. (Al-Jazeera Special 00:24:13) As a result “Its position as an Arabic channel caused [it] to be both ostracised by coalition and intimidated by Baghdad,” (Al-Jazeera Special, (00:01:01)) because the majority of the Al-Jazeera report’s highlighted errors made by coalition forces and presented it to a global audience. In the West, “Al-Jazeera has become associated with pictures of dead coalition troops and video-postcards from someone who might be Osama Bin Laden,” these images advertise the Middle East’s efforts to create an enemy out of the west generating an indication of dichotomy, “A perception for some is that the network is implicated in the subject matter of its reports. ” (Al-Jazeera Special, 00:00:40) these associations are implemented in an attempt to silence[13] Al-Jazeera and the truth about “the real war.” (Al-Jazeera Special, 00:27:00) Al-Jazeera’s response was that “Al-Jazeera are not creating, just reporting!” (Al-Jazeera Special, 00:24:20)



I plan to investigate what techniques the media use to influence and construct public opinion. This dissertation will take a more qualitative approach to the investigation. This is because qualitative research in the words of Rudestam “uses sampling which is idiographic, focusing on the individual or case study in order to understand the full complexity of the individual’s experience. From this perspective, there is no attempt to claim an ability to generalise to a specific population, but instead, the findings are relevant from the perspective of the user of the findings.” (Rudestam, p.92)

I intend to research the media’s reports from before, during and after the Iraq War (2003) in order to distinguish and understand what effects this had upon Western Society and Middle Eastern Society. In the literature review many examples of media controlling techniques came from Fox News Channel in America and Al-Jazeera from the Middle East. Therefore it would not be practical to use reports from these two networks as their techniques have been examined in detail and we already know the effects they projected onto society. What I would like to find out is whether other news media networks are guilty of adopting a similar propaganda style and techniques and if so, what implications does this present to society.

I plan to analyse a series of case studies (published articles) then compare them to find the similarities and differences between the West and the Middle East. Articles from each network will be taken from the each of the years 2002 (Pre Iraq war), 2003 (During Iraq war), and 2004 (Post Iraq war).

One definite network to be examined will be the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as they were one the main competitors with Al- Jazeera, for supplying the British public with information during and after the war. Whilst organising the Literature Review it became apparent that the BBC were seldom mentioned in the run up and aftermath of the Iraq War in terms of their involvement with propaganda and covering up the truth. What I aim to demonstrate is that the BBC are in reality abusing a trust with the British or even Global Public by adopting methods from Chomsky’s Propaganda Model and a system of techniques similar to those of Fox News. Another network to be observed will be that of Sky News, a global network owned by Rupert Murdoch. Will Murdoch exercise and apply the techniques Fox News are guilty of using to Sky, or does he allow for Sky News to remain independent and therefore more objective in its reporting of the Iraq War?

One media network I have decided to look at is a newspaper called Arab News. Arab News is privately owned and a Saudi Arabian based publication but reaches a global Arab audience via the internet. I interviewed a journalist, Yusra Ahmad, who has previously worked for state-owned media in Egypt and Kuwait; pre and post revolutions. While her expertise is not specifically related to the Iraq War in particular, she may be able to offer information on the restrictions placed upon the media in the past. I will then hopefully be able to compare any methods or techniques used by state-owned TV during times of war or civil unrest, and then apply it to how the private media operates during similar times such as the Iraq war.

So the networks I intend to research and investigate are the BBC News (UK), Sky News (UK), CNN (US) and Arab News (Saudi Arabia). Each Report has been taken from the networks online archives. The Interview questions are based around the material from the Literature Review composed in a manner which will allow me to investigate Government/State-owned media in the Middle East. The questions will cover the advantages of state control of the media as well as the disadvantages, If Governments have full reign of the media or do they conform to regulators as Western Media do. As the interviewee has prior commitments a face-to-face interview was not feasible. Instead she was happier to conduct the interview via email. I have bracketed ‘Middle East’ in the questions as the questions were answered in regards to Egypt or Kuwait but it still gives the opportunity to allow for examples from alternative countries if the interviewee has the appropriate knowledge to do so.

Ideally this type of investigation would require an in depth analysis of all the media from the West and then compare it to all the Media from the Middle East. However it would take a great deal of man power to research all publications and broadcasts from before, during and after the Iraq war. One major limitation of investing Middle Eastern Media is that State controlled media, and many of the privately owned networks are presented in Arabic. This Language barrier may prove a hindrance in this investigation. Coalition occupation is still in progress, therefore in determining a date for case studies cornering the end of the war I decided to analyse articles published one the one year anniversary of when the war started.



CASE STUDY-1 ‘U.S. Moves towards Iraq War Footing.’ (BBC) (20/12/02)

The first piece of information we are presented with is an image of an army tank with the caption “all the way to Baghdad” advertising the realisation that war is in fact inevitable. The image does not represent the possibility or war; it more or less confirms it. Justifications behind the manoeuvring of large deployments of US troops was to convey the message of how the West “longs for peace [,]” the BBC conveys to the British public that these measures are necessary to ensure that ‘peace.’ The BBC here are highlighting government policies and encouraging the public to support them.

Actions of the US are deemed non- peaceful and to support this, the BBC provides its public with a statement from Iraq that encourages them to question why is it that “even before [the UN] were able to read and analyse [Iraq’s’] declaration they said it had gaps in it.” How can anyone know was has been submitted without reading or analysing the material first?

In this report the BBC attempts to remain unbiased, the public are provided with an up-to-date summary progress of war. The BBC fails however to provide an equal amount of perspective from Iraq’s point of view. If the BBC are only providing the public with limited sources than the ability to make an informed decision becomes difficult.

CASE STUDY-2 ‘Massive Seaborne Invasion.’(SKY)(22/12/02)

Sky’s audience are immediately informed of Coalition plans to conduct “a massive seaborne invasion” and that America has already “launched its biggest desert manoeuvres.” It is Sky’s personal opinion that America as a country of action and that Britain is one of planning. This technique is reflective of Murdoch’s network Fox News where America is always presented in a positive manner and that action is favoured over thinking; act now, think later. This relates to Chomsky’s filter of dichotomisation as America is presented as one thing, while Britain is presented as something else.

As “the source said that a major invasion of Iraq from the gulf would be the first stage in any ground war [,]” the audience are lead to believe that this testimony comes from an expert on war strategies. “The Source” is again reminiscent of Fox’s ‘Some people say.’ It could be assumed that the source Sky speaks of is the same source who released the MoD statement but the lack of clarification makes it difficult for readers to comprehend and so left to presume that the source is expert testimony.[14] Like the BBC, Sky News is providing a limited knowledge for the public restricting their ability to make an informed decision.

Again expert testimony from the Prime Minister Tony Blair that Britain is taking “all the necessary preparations” for the “possible war with Baghdad [,]” is Sky’s way of telling its audience that the word ‘possible’ is irrelevant, why else would sky waste time on reporting in detail of all the precautions being taken, such as the deployment of troops, and that both America and Britain are in actual fact ready for war. It becomes clear that Sky is manipulation its audiences to support the invasion into Iraq via a simple play on the word ‘possible.’

What is interesting is that Sky never once discusses the supposed WMDs Saddam is hiding. The closest Sky gets to this topic is the US State of Defence’s call for more weapons inspectors. However the call for inspectors is not confined to simply Iraq but directed towards the whole of the Middle East suggesting that all Arab Countries pose a threat against the West. Clearly Sky has adopted Chomsky filter of Dichotomisation, clearly indicating the Middle East is a threat to Western society, and a possible enemy for the West. This generalisation is also evident in Blair’s previous statement concerning the “war with Baghdad.” The war is against the totalitarian regime Saddam enforces on his people and the possibility of WMDs, but here the war is against ‘Baghdad.’ This manipulates audiences into believing that the Middle East is a potential threat, not just Saddam.

Sky inform audiences of recent weapons inspections of an old nuclear facility, chosen, I believe, because of the association between its name ‘Al- Qa’qaa’ to the terrorist group ‘Al-Qaeda’ who have been linked to Iraq on many occasions.[15] With links between Saddam and Al-Qaeda it is not surprising that the Middle East becomes synonymous with terrorism for a western audience instilling fear into society. This article does not provide audiences with hard fact or reason as to why the West must go to war, instead what the audience receives is how advanced plans are to invade Iraq which ultimately contradicts Tony Blair’s’ statement of the “possible war.”

CASE STUDY-3Brutish and Loud.’ (Arab News) (22/12/02)

Arab News depicts America as speaking with “only one diplomatic voice these days, and it is brutish and loud.” Characteristics usually associated with the playground bully are now bestowed unto America, promoted as being a biased country towards Iraq and the Middle East. Arab News, like the BBC and Sky News, has adopted Chomsky’s filter of Dichotomy. By illustrating America as the enemy it creates a clear wedge between the Middle East and the West. The Arab audiences receive an unmistakable derogatory depiction of the West as a bully suggesting that Arab audiences and members of the public should not succumb to the demands and wants of America and Britain; that they are the enemy.

Arab News presents its audience with a hypothetical situation where they are asked whether they believe America would prove to be helpful, then encouraged to follow suit that “one thinks not.” Arab News persuades its audience to conform to the dictated belief that “US justification […] is the more specious.” The message is clear; Iraq will be betrayed because the US themselves are guilty of “betraying their basic contempt for the [UN] organisation.”

The hypothetical situation is very similar to how the West pushed the possibility that Saddam was hiding WMDs. Both Medias seem to focus on possibilities rather than definite outcomes. Both Western and Middle Eastern media’s seem to project the notion that these possibilities are highly likely, conjuring an image of something to fear. This message is directed to the mass public of the Middle East that any Arab country may be “just as quickly [discarded] like a Kleenex when [their] purpose has been served.” The Arab audience are stirred into support by this statement; to be submissive of this message would be an act of desertion against Middle Eastern culture and society.

Arab News intimates to its audience that America is a country of “slavishness” and incapable of recognising the right choice for “one [should] wonder about the sanity of US foreign policy-makers [that] seems to be reaching a level of blinkered unsubtly where […] sound causes are drowned out by [America’s] brutish roar.” America’s methods of Democracy are illustrated to the public as “[kicking] down doors rather than stoop and turn the handle.” Public opinion here is clearly being engineered to thinking Bush is a Bully, not the saviour he makes out to be.

This article is filled with copious amounts of propaganda, and if had been directed solely to the Iraqi civilians then perhaps it could be viewed as a severely corrupt way to boost civilian morale. It is directed to all Arabs in the Middle East leaving no doubt that Arab News attempts to influence the public directly in belief that the West are an enemy to fear.


‘Iraq welcomes ‘American Intelligence’ to weapons hunt.’(CNN)(23/12/02)

CNN here uses Iraqi perspective and official Iraqi statements to inform a western/American audience that the argument over suspected Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) indeed has two sides. The BBC and Sky News both fail in offering audiences an adequate amount of alternative perspective. Their reports remain highly one-sided. By trying to remain as objective as possible without offending or questioning American patriotism, CNN are able to inform a western public that “Iraq has already disproved” claims of WMDs and yet Bush is still insisting that Iraq is lying. This information calls the public to question US intelligence and recognize areas of doubt; CNN can provide the data and all the public ‘can see for itself’ the facts allowing them to contrast an individual opinion.

CNN identify that Iraq believes “the United States and Britain are the only players in this macabre game against Iraq,” and this is reminiscent of the how western media’s attempted to impose power over their Middle Eastern competitors[16] once the war began. CNN purposefully construct statements to show how the Bush Administration “has accused Iraq” and nearly all of these accusations are “speculated” rather than confirmed where as Sky News present America and Britain as doing the right thing. CNN are clearly attempting not to impose a particular or common belief onto the public unlike Sky or Arab News.

CNN have given a fairer and equal coverage to Iraq and have allowed their voices and opinions to be heard. However once focus is turned to America’s opinion we find that “the united States has accused Iraq of failing to account for material that can be used to grow such biological agents such as anthrax,” and then the programme proceeds to list a number of deadly biological weapons leading the audience to believe that Saddam is a leader who personifies ‘the axis of evil.[17]’

Fox News Channel has been found guilty of sourcing a high majority of expert testimony from the Republican Party in the lead up to the Iraq war and throughout. If one looks closely at CNN’s guest speakers and spokespersons we find three opinions are sourced from the Democrat party while only the one Republican spokesperson. While CCN do offer a more objective report of the war the fact that their expert testimony is limited to a particular political party.

4.1 ANALYSIS: MARCH, 2003.

CASE STUDY-5 ‘Analysis: U.S ‘Shock and Awe’ Tactics.’ (BBC) (21/03/03)

Schifferes states that the aim of such tactics was “to break the morale of the Iraqi Military.” And yet later are informed that in order for the ‘Shock and Awe’ tactic to succeed it is “civilian morale” that must be broken. All that is being analysed is the theory; we hear of “sophisticated weapons”, of how US military are humanely and safely negotiating terms of surrender with Saddam’s soldiers. In reality Iraqi civilians are being killed and suffering from the bombing, only one sentence at the start of the article addresses the definitive act of the air raids in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities; this has been “long-awaited” suggesting that what western society has expected and wanted has finally happened. Schifferes goes on to ‘analyse’ how this is a “psychological campaign aimed at ensuring quick victory.” Here audiences are directed to believe that in order to achieve quick victory this ‘Shock and Awe’ tactic is a necessity; the most intelligent and therefore logical choice. Western audiences are told that Iraqi civilians will only be psychologically harmed as opposed to physically harmed via air raids, bombs and explosions.

The BBC in this article glamorizes the art of war. The detail and focus on the technological advances in weaponry is devised by Schifferes as the “Smart War” and talks of the “sophisticated weapons” that will “maximise their effects while limiting collateral damage,” with the aid of “global positioning satellites.” No theory is discussed in relation to the specific psychological effects of such a “Campaign,” is this to stop the public questioning the reality and destruction behind these tacticsIt is a reasonable assumption considering the word count given to describing the success of previous ‘Shock and Awe’ tactics and yet no analysis is given to the psychological effects of previous casualties of such campaigns.

CASE STUDY-6 ‘Operation And …Or?’(SKY) (24/03/03)

Sky focuses its attentions to the US Military’s employment of the ‘Shock and Awe’ tactic as did the BBC. What is initially seen as criticism towards the military actually turns out to be criticism aimed at the lack of activity. The public are reminded that they have been waiting eagerly for action that never came and how “it looked as though the Iraqis had the upper hand.” Just by the generality “Iraqis” presents this war as Coalition versus Iraq, not Coalition versus Saddam’s totalitarian Government, Soldiers, or the Ba’ath regime. Again, Sky are guilty of creating sense of dichotomy only this time instead of using America and Britain, it is now the West versus the Middle East. This act of dichotomy creates a wedge between a western public and a Middle Eastern public with only allows for fear to grow.

Presented with an Image of a US Tank with the caption “Ground Troops push on” advertising a sense of determination and courage illustrates how patriotic troops are conveying to audiences they too should be patriotic. As the BBC presented the masses with the notion this was to be a ‘Smart War,[18]’ in terms of the weapons to be used, Sky reverses this notion by offering its audience particular background knowledge on the ‘Patriot;’ a weapon that while effective in previous wars is not up to standards to deal with Saddam’s forces. Elites such as Murdoch support the war and have a lot to gain from it[19] and obviously do not wish to address the question ‘why are we at war?’ So instead Sky construct a report looking at how weapons may not be up to standards transmitting to the public that if the West are to be victorious then troops should have the necessary weapons to ensure rapid victory.

Sky encourages their audience to “think of the following” – they begin to engineer the public though process. The article focuses on “the fact much of the equipment used by Americans has been pre-positioned in the Gulf region ever since the 1991 Gulf War.” Only the final and brief paragraph that addressed the actual ‘Shock and Awe’ Campaign, Sky’s response was “words do fail:” no details as to the success of the campaign, no information what so ever is given. Reminiscent of Arab News’s ‘one thinks not[,]’ Sky proceeds to engineer opinion again stating “one has to think that almost regardless of the intended effect on elements of the regime there […] was actually an exercise for other countries: this is what an angry United States can do it could be you next.” This message I believe is directed to an audience that oppose the war, the US is presented as a fearful agent of power and that cooperation is best.

CASE STUDY-7 ‘Iraqis Puts on Brave Face as War Starts.’ (Arab News) (21/03/03)

This article looks at victims of the ‘Shock and Awe’ Campaign. We are given a place, a time, a subject and their age creating a firm image in the audiences mind setting the scene so they are able to establish an emotional connection to the articles content, creating the opportunity to gain the perspective of the Iraqi public. This report certainly focuses more on the reality of war; the “wailing sirens,” the “bombardment” of the air raids, the “scared” 10 year old boy Sameh Mohammed who fears the “attacks” certainly presents a more coherent image of the war. The Reality Arab News points to is how civilians of Iraq have suffered under Saddam’s rule and now fear suffering at the hands of those who claim to be helping.

Nakhoul informs a Middle Eastern audience that while despite the requirements of Religion, “Washington had warned a strike could come any time from 4:00 am in Baghdad.” This does not present the Western agents in a favourable light. Arab News incorporates a quotation from an Iraqi taxi driver, Abu, 50, as a representative of the Iraqi public, successfully capturing a common public response to the ‘Shock and Awe’ campaign; people began to shout “Allahu Akbar” meaning ‘God is Greatest.’ It is important to note that Religion plays an important role in the Middle East and often used to keep the public in line.[20]

Their second reaction was to pray “for the safety of our country and our people and [curse] the filthy Bush.” A clear propaganda message; in order to be like Abu Arab News readers must have faith, pray for the safety of country and countrymen and not succumb to the bully like methods of ‘the filthy Bush.”Abu tells his fellow citizens that “Nobody accepts that his country is attacked” a personal opinion, and one that should be at the foreground of the public mind.

Arab News is guilty of Propaganda, clear messages are repeated, “They do not frighten us,” “they won’t be able to scare us;” while this could boosting public morale as a response to the ‘shock and awe’ campaign Arab News source multiple Iraqi civilians with quotes such as “every day will be worse than the other. It will be a long war because America wants to achieve its goal.”


‘Shock and Awe’ Campaign underway in Iraq’ (CNN) (22/03/03)

CNN also reported on the ‘Shock and Awe’ Campaign, but unlike the BBC and Sky, CNN are careful not to elude the truths of war. Immediately the audience are informed of the necessary information; where, what time, what happened and as a result a clearer picture is instilled into the Western audience’s perspectives. No divergence to theory behind tactics or attention focused around the standard of equipment.

CNN manage to provide an up-to-date summary of what has led to the implementation of a ‘campaign […] intended to instil “shock and awe” among Iraq’s leaders.’ The only input of personal opinion seems to come from CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer who “reported that in 30 years of experience, he had never seen anything on the scale of Friday’s attacks on the Iraq capital.” This if anything only helps to paint a more informative picture of ‘the real war.’[21]

Information is clear, concise and relevant. One section that coincides with the other western networks is the false enlightenment that Saddam and his supporters ‘were finished.’ According to Arab News Saddam ‘will fight to the last drop of blood and will not surrender [.][22]’ While it does reflect similar interests Sky and the BBC, CNN are careful to inform audiences that this particular information has been “speculated” not confirmed.

One term used to refer to the war is ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom[23]’ but again CNN are careful to alert this term “comes as a Coalition effort [of] force [.]” Yet the article concludes with an “effort to keep the peace in Iraq” which leaves audiences more understanding and considerate to the efforts being undertaken by the west to guarantee this peace.

4.2 ANALYSIS: MARCH, 2004.

Case Study-9‘Worldwide protest marks Iraq War’(BBC) (21/03/04)

According to the BBC the protests that were held worldwide were to “mark the first anniversary of the start of the Iraq conflict.” By terming it the Iraq ‘conflict’ it manipulates an image of mere disagreement rather than aggressive combat. The BBC also draws attention to current security violations in Britain[24]which stresses to a Western audience the lack of organisation of the government[25] especially when the country is fighting the war against terrorism.

Images of ‘peace’ signs are reported by the BBC to highlight the global public’s want for an end to the Iraq war. The image of ‘peace’ is reminiscent of previous articles of the BBC; Case study 1 examines the reasons for war was to indeed guarantee global peace. BBC evidently emphasize to a Western audience that ‘peace’ has not yet been accomplished.

The Australian and Italian Prime Ministers are both portrayed as culprits of the Iraq war[26] and that they have been too easily influenced by the superpower nation of America. Iraq saw no protests to mark the anniversary of the start of the war because ‘Correspondents say the majority of Iraqis {…] resent the occupation of their country.’ ‘Correspondents’ appears vague and fictional because of its lack of credibility; a technique frequently implemented by Fox News Channel to construct and engineer public opinion. This time the BBC has influenced the public to be opposed to the Iraq conflict, a very different approach to its covering of events pre-2003.

Bush’s statement exposes the reasons why occupation cannot be surrendered as ‘any sign of weakness or retreat simply validates terrorist violence and invites more violence for all nations.’ This statement allows the public to envision themselves as the determination of force Bush expels to ensure victory over Iraq are indeed the characteristics of a Bully.

Case Study 10 ‘Bush: We Must Destroy Terror!’ (SKY) (19/03/04)

Sky picks up exactly where the BBC ends: the same quotation from Bush and his campaign to fight the war against terror in which he says, “Any sign of weakness or retreat simply validates terrorist violence and invites more violence for all nations.” This certainly strikes an element of fear in the audience. Sky relays to its audience the message that if efforts in Iraq are to be abandoned than violence shall follow, if an individual disagrees with this message they would be considered to condone violence, terrorism and ultimately unpatriotic.

Sky affirms Bush’s call for all “civilised nations” to fight together against this threat. This re-establishes the dichotomy between the West and Middle East, proving that by creating an ‘us’ and ‘them’ complex, terror is still at large. In this particular use of dichotomisation the Middle East is cast as the outsider from the civilised world promoting the notion that occupation in Iraq is vital.

Sky acknowledges and adopts Bush’s manipulation of the terms “killers” and now instead of terrorists, Sky refers to them also as “killers.” “Killers” implies a more vicious and unruly enemy, an enemy that now poses a greater threat. Sky does not provide a response from Iraqi spokespersons denying the opportunity for them offer an opinion. Instead Sky deflects its audiences’ attention to the current terror attacks in Spain[28] which confirms the terror is still an on-going battle and those responsible are “killers [who] will be tracked down and found […] they will face their justice.”

Case Study 11 ‘Peace Activists hold huge Rallies.’ (Arab News) (21/03/04)

Arab News refers to the peace protests calls for a “demand [to] end occupation in Iraq” promoting the belief that the whole of the Western world agree that occupation in Iraq should cease and war was the wrong decision. This endorses the opinion that has been relayed to the Middle East since 2002; that the US and Britain went to war without public consent. This illustrates to an Arab audience that Western Publics have no faith or confidence in their own Governments and so neither should Iraq or any other Arab country. On reflection, ‘Arab News’ is only verifying what they have promoted all along, that Western interference is defective to the Arab culture and that it is they (the Coalition) who are the enemy.

Arab News is careful not to offend the Western Public; after all it is not they with who are angry. However, Western Media have not often reciprocated this respect, the Middle East public have been generalised as terrorists and as a result innocent civilians have had to suffer. This creation of doubt towards the Western Governments is confirmed by accounts where the West overlooked the desires and needs of its own societies to pursue personal agendas. By referring to how the Western publics perceive the actions of their leaders again confirms previous opinions of Arab News that the West had no just cause or relevant support to go to war with Iraq, slogans sported by British protestors demand an “Anti-Bush, Anti-Blair, Anti-war everywhere” approach to Government and Military actions, and “no more lies” is the least the public deserve.

Arab News pays closer detail to the amount of protests, the countries and cities in which they took place and how many protesters were said to have attended. Be providing the facts and figures behind these anti war protests allows for Iraq and the Middle East to witness the genuine support from the West, affirming that the resentment is towards those who hold power, the ruling elites.

Case study 12

Clarke: Rice should have done job before 9/11.’ (CNN) (25/03/04)

Over a year has passed since America launched its attacks on Iraq and the focal point of CNN’s report aims to address ‘a blame game.’ Everybody seems to be pointing the finger, but the finger is not pointing at those responsible for the Iraq War; for Occupation is still ongoing, therefore the finger is pointing the audience to the subject of the possible prevention of the 9/11 attacks leading to the Iraq War could have been. According to CNN’s expert testimonies[29] the events of 9/11 could have possibly been prevented, just like Bush and Blair believed Saddam could possibly have WMDs and that war was a ‘possibility.’[30]

The American public are told that the mistakes made by the Bush Administration would not have happened under the governance of the Clinton Administration. CNN are thus presenting Bush and his Administration as incompetent.

Reading the article was almost like watching a debate. CNN are ‘flip-flopping[31]’ between Clarke’s opinions to the White Houses’ opinion and by flipping ‘180 degrees from everything else’ it becomes confusing for the audience. The ‘facts’ are all jumbled to make it more the article more exciting. However it is apparent that CNN are siding with Clarke as they are guilty of advertising his success to public.

“several [other] media interviews this week and […] a public hearing before the commission investigating the September 11 attacks[,]” and the apparent “maelstrom after this week’s release of his book, ‘Against All Enemies,’ […] he accuses Bush, Rice and other administration officials of not paying enough attention to Al – Qaeda’s threats before 9/11 and then diverting attention and resources from the war on terror in Iraq.” CNN is informing its audience of a book, written by an expert that will provide them with the evidence that they (the public) have been deceived.


The relationship between state-owned media and private media in the Middle East is one which encompasses high levels of detriment towards the public. If private media “brings to light many of the issues the governments in the Middle East try very hard to keep under wraps[,]” then private media’s, such as Al-Jazeera, discovered that “many who voiced concerns regarding the destiny of their country etc were taken off air, arrested, detained and basically shut down.”[32] Those who object to this act of silencing have no choice but to comply with the policies dictated to them or otherwise leave their jobs[33] because state-owned media “[has] such a stronghold of information.” Media in the Middle East is “simply an extension of the government and if it [isn’t] it was put in its place by the government.”

In terms of constructing the ‘necessary illusions’[34] to control the masses, it becomes apparent that state owned media do not have to manipulate the news content to achieve the desired outcome, instead they simply “fabricate much of their stories in order to provide support for their government.” By fabricating stories the public are left with no other choice than to presume what is being relayed to them is true. State-owned media maintain control by instilling fear into the publics’ perspective as “fear mongering is very big in the Middle East.” The main technique to implanting fear in the public is achievable through religion because “Religion plays a huge role within [Middle Eastern] society [,]”[35] and it is widely believed that in the Middle East “you can’t fight the fear of God.” Case study 3 highlights how this technique is used by the media to unite the public into support against the West.

For countries where state-owned media was once dominant it is apparent that new media find it hard to function effectively. Once governed by totalitarian governments “the people [in the Middle East], for the first time in their lives are learning how to debate, […] they were never allowed opposing opinions [and] they are still working on understanding the essence of democracy.” These uncertainties within the public allow for state owned media to again “spin their angles of “Western Zionist agents” trying to infiltrate [the Middle East].”

Censorship in the Middle East is still unconfined, even for private media. Many networks are unable to print or broadcast anything “remotely political, sexual, religious or otherwise controversial.” Private media however are able to get away with a lot more [as] they are usually owned [or] backed by big families.”[36] This act of monopolisation provides evidence to the high levels of corruption within Middle Eastern media. The terror attacks of 9/11 and the Iraq War have unfortunately “[provided] more leverage” for state-owned media as it manufactures the perspective that the western authorities are attempting to manipulate the Middle Eastern public, if the public “were left to freely voice their opinions, demand change, they would be providing the West with the control they so eagerly desire over the Middle East.” By promoting the west as an enemy, via Chomsky’s filter of dichotomy, it creates the threat that in Middle Eastern culture ‘anyone demanding change […] would be labelled a “western agent” fulfilling a “western agenda.”’

The interview revealed that “an important faction of the media […] in the Middle East is Social Media.” By removing a “reliance on governments” ordinary members of the public can become their own journalist or reporter,[37] “it [becomes] a free for all.”


Based on the analysis of the case studies and interview I am inclined to believe that it is Middle Eastern Media who have the greater control over the distribution of knowledge. This conclusion is based on the evidence that state-owned media in the Middle East is highly fabricated and even those networks that are private still must adhere to highly restrictive government policies which in turn limits opinion and perspective for their public. While western media must also adhere to rules and regulations, audiences are presented with unlimited opportunities to seek alternative opinions. The BBC appear to remain objective but it is clear that they helped manufacture public consent for the Iraq war as they fail to provide adequate information from an assortment of diverse perspectives, therefore limiting public perspective. Sky and Arab News however both seem to endorse government and political opinion compelling audiences to the medias desired opinion. CNN is the only network that appears to remain impartial, rarely presenting information in a prejudice or limited manner.

Analysis of the case studies and the interview disproved the belief that Middle Eastern Media are less restricted than their western counterparts. It is difficult for Middle Eastern media to provide alternative perspective as anchors and journalists fear for their lives as past examples have shown that Middle Eastern governments will go to any lengths to silence the opinions that contradict their policies and ability to control the masses.

The Middle East does not have to make an effort to manipulate public opinion or create the necessary illusions to do so as they rarely questioned. Western media however must work harder to manufacture public consent, meaning that manipulation must be accomplished through the implementation of Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda filters through the media. The main filters used by Western media to manufacture consent for the Iraq War include Dichotomy, Expert Testimony and Advertising. Dichotomisation was the main technique used by western media to create an element of fear within society. By establishing the impression that there is an ‘us’ and ‘them’ western society witnessed clear fractioning between religion and race. Arab News also primarily used dichotomisation in order to create an enemy of the West, an enemy which threatened Middle Eastern Culture. Western media are more favourable to using Chomsky’s ‘expert testimony’ filter in order to manufacture support from the public. Expert testimonies allows for the assumption of legitimate knowledge when in fact experts are pre selected in order for testimony to ensure the success of the desired outcome. Sky and CNN both are guilty of providing pre selected testimony, however CNN do provide alternative opinions and perspectives within the reports for their audiences. Sky on the other hand exhibits a strong alliance to the policies and perspectives of the right-winged Republican Party and the Bush Administration. It proves that media moguls, like Rupert Murdoch, impose personal opinion into the news causing society to follow a specific perspective.

This investigation attempted to clarify the BBC’s role through-out the Iraq war. The BBC are careful not to commit themselves to a particular perspective however, the BBC are lacking in alternative perspective or expert testimony, they do not provide the service required by the public to present all sides of the story. The BBC are guilty of incorporating the necessary illusions into their reports, in case study 1 it is clear that BBC pushes Blair’s notion that this war will guarantee ‘peace’ in the world deflects attention away from the reality and destruction of the war. BBC condones this by neglecting their duty to provide alternative opinion.

Analysis also provided the evidence that suggests Religion is an exceedingly effective way to generate fear for ‘you can’t fight the fear of God.’ Middle Eastern media exploit the public’s faith thus inhibiting the opportunity for the public to question the media and governments motives and limiting the possibility of alternative opinion. Religion itself is not a filter for Chomsky’s propaganda model, but it becomes evident society can be controlled, manipulated and maintained by the ruling elites by merging religion with policy it condones a governments actions as just and beneficial to society.

It is clearly evident that there was in fact “two different versions of this war”[38] but what is learnt from these two different perspectives?


Anthony, Ben. ‘Al-Jazeera Special’ Documentary, (19.06.04)(Napier University Library)
Briggs, Adam et al. ‘The Media: An Introduction.’ 2nd edn, Edinburgh, Pearson Education Limited, (2002)
Chomsky, Noam. ‘Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda.’, 2nd edn,New York, Seven Stories Press, (2002).
Chomsky, N and Herman, E. ‘Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media.’ London, Vintage Books, (1994).
Egorova, Y, and Parfitt, T. ‘Jews Muslims and Mass Media.’ Bengio, Ofra. ‘In the Eyes of the Beholder: Israel, Jews, and Zionism in the Iraqi Media.’ London and New York, Routledge Curzon (2005).
Greenwald, Robert. ‘Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.’ Documentary, (2004). http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6737097743434902428#
Kitty, Alexandra. ‘Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.’ ‘Base on the documentary Film Sensation.’ Disinformation Company Ltd, New York, 2005.

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A study into how Western and Middle Eastern Media manipulated public perspective during the Iraq War.. (2019, Apr 02). Retrieved September 22, 2019, from https://phdessay.com/a-study-into-how-western-and-middle-eastern-media-manipulated-public-perspective-during-the-iraq-war/.