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Journalist Robert Fisk: We Have Always Lived With Lies

Alexander Reed Kelly
Associate Editor
In December 2010, Alex was arrested for civil disobedience outside the White House alongside Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges, Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, healthcare activist Margaret Flowers and…
Alexander Reed Kelly

miss.killer! / CC-BY-2.0

“We do not live in a ‘post-truth’ world, neither in the Middle East nor in the West — nor in Russia,” writes Robert Fisk, taking a dim view of the relationship between events, public figures, the media and the public in a column at The Independent.

“We live in a world of lies. And we always have lived in a world of lies. Just take a look at the wreckage of the Middle East with its history of people’s popular republics and its hateful dictators.”

Now, I suppose, it is we who have regular elections based on lies. So maybe Trump and the Arab autocrats will get on rather well. Trump already likes Field Marshal/President al-Sissi of Egypt, and he’s already got a golf course in Dubai. That he deals in lies, that he manufactures facts, should make him quite at home in the Middle East. Misogyny, bullying, threats to political opponents, authoritarianism, tyranny, torture, sneers at minorities: it’s part and parcel of the Arab world.

And look at Israel. The new US ambassador-to-be – who might as well be the Israeli ambassador to the US – can’t wait to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. He seems to feel more antagonism towards the Jewish left in America than the Palestinians who claim East Jerusalem as a capital and whose state he has no interest in. Will Trump enrage the Arabs? Or will he get away with a little domestic rearrangement of the Israel embassy on the grounds that the Gulf Arabs, at least, know that Israel’s anti-Shiism – against Syria, Iran and Hezbollah – fits in rather well with the Sunni potentates who’ve been funding Isis and Jabhat al-Nusrah and all the other jolly jihadis?

I suspect that “post-truth” has more to do with social media than mendacious elections. The use of social media in reporting the battle of eastern Aleppo has been extraordinary, weird, dangerous, even murderous, when not a single Western journalist could report the eastern Aleppo war at first hand. Much damage has been done to the very credibility of journalism – and to politicians – by the acceptance of one side of the story only when not a single reporter can confirm with his or her own eyes what they are reporting.

We handed journalism to social media – and the armed men who control the areas from which these reports came know that they can pull the same trick again next time. They will, in Idlib. But this problem in the region is much, much bigger than a Syrian province. It’s now about the malleability of facts across the whole Middle East.

The 250,000 “trapped” Muslims of eastern Aleppo – now that 31,000 have chosen to go to Idlib, many more to western Aleppo – appear to have been somewhat fewer than 90,000. It’s now possible that at least 160,000 of the civilians “trapped” in eastern Aleppo did not actually exist, but no one says so. That vital statistic of 250,000, the very punctuation mark of every report on the besieged enclave, is now forgotten or ignored (wisely, perhaps) by those who quoted it. …

How can we complain about the lies of Trump and the Brexiteers when we journalists are chopping up the facts of the Middle East? Still, I notice in our newspapers and on television, Israel’s wall is a “security fence”, its colonies are “settlements” which are “disputed” rather than illegal.

Can we really shake our heads in disbelief at electoral lies when we have been lying to our readers and viewers for years?

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—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly

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