Even as mainstream media news sources are blasting the phenomenon known as “Fake News,” they themselves are guilty of promoting stories that are slanted, exaggerated and even out-and-out false in an attempt to paint a “holier-than-thou” picture of themselves as truth-tellers.
But as fingers are pointed and online outlets such as Facebook and Google take steps to stop spreading this so-called fake news, websites, networks and newspapers conveniently ignore the instances where they themselves were promulgators of fictitious, distorted or partisan reports.
Below are some modern mainstream media examples of lies that in some cases have even led to people’s deaths.
Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq
President George W. Bush needed an excuse to invade this Middle Eastern country in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, and what better excuse to use than that this nation ruled by despot Saddam Hussein possessed devastating biological and chemical weapons that could kill millions if they were unleashed?
The New York Times and other media outlets unquestioningly promoted the story and even backed up Bush’s statements with flawed accounts from “anonymous” Iraqi scientists. After using Secretary of State Colin Powell to present fake evidence at the United Nations, even in the face of protesting UN weapons inspectors, Bush received international support for an eight-year-long invasion and occupation that remade the country according to American designs and gave the U.S. new sources of oil that were likely the real reason for our invasion.
As for the so-called weapons of mass destruction, nothing significant was ever found, and this ended up being a minor detail of a conflict that left over half a million Iraqi citizens (including children) and 4,497 American troops dead.
The Gulf of Tonkin Incident
On the 2nd and 4th of August of 1964, American destroyers operating in North Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin drew machine gun fire and torpedoes from boats of the North Vietnamese Navy. This caused the American vessels to fire back and allowed the United States to claim hostilities justifying the deployment of conventional troops to the Vietnamese conflict.
There was just one problem: the incident of August 4th was completely falsified, and the incident of August 2nd hadn’t happened the way the U.S. Defense Department said it did. Instead, it was actually the American ships that initiated the aggression by firing first as documents declassified in 2005 showed.
For the press, no vetting of official reports or questioning the official story was necessary; the media simply parroted what the Defense Department said and misled the public into thinking that the Democratic administration of President Johnson was correct in committing large numbers of American troops to what ended up being a 12-year-long war. More than 60,000 U.S. servicemen and women died in the Vietnam War, and more than a million Vietnamese civilians and soldiers lost their lives.
Cover-up of Government Oppression in Bahrain
In 2011, CNN sent a camera crew to the Middle Eastern nation of Bahrain to report on an uprising that was part of the ongoing “Arab Spring” wherein citizens of many Arab nations had begun to overthrow decades-long dictatorships. The camera crew, led by reporter Amber Lyon, interviewed several citizens and activists.
But amidst their reports, a Bahraini paramilitary group took the crew hostage for six hours and used heavily armed men with face masks to interrogate them. Their footage was deleted, and the group was sent back to the United States.
Much of their remaining video was assembled into a one-hour special, but it was never aired on CNN due to political pressure from the Bahrain government. Tony Maddox, the president of CNN International, warned reporter Lyon not to discuss the facts or her intimidation by the Bahraini forces.
Lyon was eventually laid off by the network, which proffered an excuse unrelated to the matter, but ultimately, Lyon was able to tell the truth about what happened, and CNN wound up with egg on its face.
The Fake CIA Operative at Fox News
For 12 years, Wayne Shelby Simmons claimed to have been a former operative for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Fox News hired him on these grounds and gave him free air time over the years to espouse his personal views on defense and national security matters.
Fox News hosts Neil Cavuto, Andrew Napolitano, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly presented Simmons as an authoritative source, despite no one at the network ever fully vetting his credentials.
Finally, in 2016, the jig was up, and Simmons was sentenced to 33 months for fraud committed against the U.S. government. The network was forced to apologize to its viewers, but by that time, the damage had already been done in terms of Simmons’ stirring up support for Islamophobia and the largely hyped-up war on terror following the 9/11 attacks.
Over years and decades, the American government has made much of the dangers of drugs and has promoted a war on them that’s cost the nation billions of dollars and resulted in the incarceration of hundreds of thousands of Americans, many for low-level offenses involving marijuana. Roughly 69 percent of Americans believe marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.
Regardless of this, the mainstream media has happily promoted the government’s point of view and equated cannabis with cocaine, heroin and other extremely harmful drugs. In March of last year, a guest named Dr. David Samadi went on Fox News to drum up fears of cannabis and scare Americans about its effects.
“It actually causes heart attacks,” Samadi said. “We’re seeing in Colorado that we had 13 kids that came to the emergency [room] and ended up in the ICU as a result of overdose from marijuana. Now we have crack babies coming in because pregnant women are smoking this whole marijuana business.”
Partially due to media hype about this natural substance, government police forces have zealously conducted SWAT team raids in which innocent people have died, despite no marijuana or any other dangerous substances being found.
When the mainstream media forgets their integrity and stops believing that they too are part of the problem, people die.