With America's major corporate cable outlets—particularly so-called liberal networks like MSNBC—continuing to uncritically provide generals and lawmakers a massive platform to beat the drums of war as President Donald Trump inches closer to launching a military attack on Syria, critics have concluded that the U.S. media has clearly learned nothing from the crucial role it played in cheerleading for the Bush administration's catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003.
"It's incredible how readily the cable news channels have politicians on pushing for war in Syria with almost no questions asked about how disastrous it might be or the so-called evidence."
—Cenk Uyger, The Young Turks
"The push for escalation on TV is overwhelming," Cenk Uyger, host of The Young Turks, observed in a tweet on Wednesday, reacting to the numerous instances this week of television hosts opining on Trump's "military options" with the likes of Iraq War supporter and retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey while refusing to question the underlying rationale for or legality of unilateral military action.
"It's incredible how readily the cable news channels have politicians on pushing for war in Syria with almost no questions asked about how disastrous it might be or the so-called evidence," Uyger added. "They pretended to learn lessons from Iraq but have actually learned nothing."
As media critic Simon Maloy lamented in a column at Media Matters, the behavior of much of the corporate media "indicates how alarmingly comfortable much of the mainstream press is with the idea that the president can just up and decide to initiate military hostilities whenever, wherever, and for whatever reason—even when there is no actual reason at all."
Almost entirely absent from the prevailing discussion of Syria on America's cable networks in recent days—which one journalist described as "a parade of one war hawk after another"—has been any mention of the alternatives to military action.
Exemplifying this total exclusion of peaceful options was a segment on Wednesday by MSNBC's Ali Velshi, who provided his viewers with a quick rundown of the possible actions the president could take in Syria—from "small strike" to "more damaging strikes" to "strikes on Russian and Iranian bases"—without ever mentioning one major choice: no airstrikes at all.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 11, 2018
Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, argued on Twitter that the corporate media's relentless elevation of pro-war voices since the Assad regime was accused of carrying out a chemical attack on Sunday is "making John Bolton's wildest dreams come true."
As Common Dreams reported, Bolton officially took over as Trump's national security adviser on Monday as the White House weighed whether to strike Syria militarily.
"In his first week on the job, everyone is calling for a new war," Timm noted.
The cognitive dissonance in the media the last two weeks is really something to behold.
Last week: John Bolton is a maniac whose going to dangerously lead Trump to start a new war.
This week: The Trump admin *must* launch a new war in John Bolton’s first few days on the job.
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) April 11, 2018
With outlets like CNN and MSNBC leaving a massive vacuum by refusing to raise even the most basic questions about the Trump administration's push for military action in Syria, Tucker Carlson of Fox News has been one of the few cable hosts to criticize the rationale for war and offer a platform to an anti-war voice.
In an appearance on Carlson's primetime show Tuesday night, The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald argued that it is the "standard tactic" of the corporate media to smear opponents of U.S. wars in an effort to shut down legitimate questions about the rush toward military action.
"This climate arises that you're just supposed to cheer when it comes time to drop bombs on other countries, not ask whether there's evidence to justify it, not ask whether it will do any good, not ask whether it will kill any civilians," Greenwald said. "And if you do ask one of those questions it means you're on the side of America's enemies. It's an incredibly authoritarian tactic that gets used to suppress debate."