This is the very short version of the presentation I made at the Algiers Book Fair Colloquium on Sunday:
1. The elite (editors, commentators, and leading journalists) of the U.S. news media is part of– indeed, an important pillar of– the country’s continuing political elite and plays a singularly important role in defining and framing the political culture of this elite– including, in defining the limits of “acceptable” political discourse. Believe me, I know about this, based on my long decades of working with and in the MSM.
2. Like the rest of the U.S. political elite, the MSM elite has seen a significant increase over recent decades in the degree of its interpenetration and intermingling with the Israeli political elite.
3. Prior to the Arab Spring, the most common meme in the MSM was that Arabs were somehow “incapable” of democracy. The first glorious weeks of the ‘Arab Spring’ pro-democracy movement therefore came as a huge surprise to commentators in the MSM.
4. Their first reaction was one of delight. Both the natural human delight of people anywhere seeing their fellow-humans rise up en masse against autocracy and corruption– but also a kind of ‘self-interested’ delight based on the ideas that:
- (a) the protesters looked and acted ‘just like us’, and therefore could naturally be expected to be pro-American and bring about the kind of pro-American order that emerged after the ‘color revolutions’ of a few years ago in Ukraine and Georgia;
(b) an initial perception that, because of the absence of any explicitly Islamist slogans and banners, these movements signaled the rise of new– and in the MSM view, more ‘modern’ and ‘realistic’– secular movements in Tunisia and Egypt; and
(c) an initial perception that the protesters were not concerned at all about Israel and Palestine, and that therefore the ‘Arab masses’ had finally ‘gotten over’ their previous, inexplicable obsession with Palestine.
5. Soon enough, however, it became clear to even the most obtuse of the commentators in the MSM that none of these analyses was borne out by the facts of what was happening on the ground in Tunisia and Egypt. The protesters in both countries soon proved themselves to be:
- (a) extremely harsh in their critiques of the degree to which the U.S. had propped up their previous dictators and were complicit in their misdeeds;
(b) composed in good part of smart, influential, and well-organized Islamist movements who had considerable experience of working well alongside their more secular compatriots; and
(c) strongly concerned about the issue of Palestine.
6. At that point, the MSM elite started to express increasing doubts about the Arab Spring. The argument of many thought leaders in the MSM shifted from “Arabs are incapable of democracy” to the possibly even more racist and Islamophobic argument that “Arabs don’t deserve democracy.”
7. But luckily, the MSM don’t monopolize all media in the country any more. There has also been a considerable fragmentation of the media environment over recent decades That has allowed the rise of terrifyingly rightwing, Islamophobic, and hateful new phenomena like Fox News, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etc. But it has also allowed the rise of significant organs and personalities within the progressive wing of the new media; and the progressive movement within the U.S. has shown a welcome and necessary new openness to including the Palestine Question among its concerns rather than continuing to exclude it, which it did for so long, previously.