Western Media Frames and Filters: The Worthy and the Unworthy Victims
Killing huge numbers of innocent civilians is called "mass murder", but only when mainstream media choses to call it so. Four years of war in Yemen show no sign of yielding - especially as Saudi-led coalition air attacks continue on a daily basis. In the past week, these attacks have killed at least 45 people including wedding party guests, women and children.
The war in Yemen has created devastation unseen before in the country's long history of turmoil. Thousands have been killed and millions displaced, starved, and disappeared in what the UN has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. It's not just bombs, bullets and arms that threaten Yemen's children, women and men. The Saudi-led war also kills by stealth and as the West's mainstream media turns a blind eye to the facts, or plays a "make them look impartial" game through displaying a certain discourse. Economic strangulation is being used by the Saudi-led coalition as a weapon of war, targeting jobs, infrastructure, food markets and the provision of basic services. Almost two-thirds of the population needs emergency support. The food system is collapsing, pushing the country to the brink of famine. Over 400,000 children are at imminent risk of starvation. This is one scenario that is worth a lot of attention on the international arena but is kept away from the limelight.
Another deadly scenario takes place also in West Asia, or the so-called Middle East; that is the war on Syria. The same game of creating a "chosen narrative" or "setting a blind eye" is played by Western politicians and the media machine alike.
On 7 April 2018, reports emerged from the opposition-held city of Douma east of the Syrian capital Damascus that scores of civilians had been killed and hundreds injured in a chemical attack. Soon Trump accused the Assad government of carrying out the attack, and threatening that soon, or maybe not so soon he will teach the "monster" a lesson.
Since the first time the West accused the Syrian government of conducting a chemical attack in 2013, several reports have been issued by American historian and investigative journalist Gareth Porter, United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter, Veteran prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, American investigative journalist and political writer Seymour Hersh, and MIT's Theodore Postol based upon field research and providing facts that prove it could not have been the Syrian government behind the attack. However, these reports were not among the "chosen" information that is circulated across western media outlets.
On April 7, the US, France and the UK were quick to respond to the alleged attack and as former Middle East correspondent for ABC News Charles Glass described it, "it was a case of execution before trial".
Glass said there has been great inconsistency in Western policies on Syria, pointing out that the US favored the use of chemical weapons by Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, causing the deaths of thousands of Iranian soldiers.
"The British, the French and the Americans have all been involved by proxy; they've all been involved in supplying weapons to the opposition groups in Syria. They've been involved in training them in southeast Turkey and Jordan and in facilitating their passage in and out of Syria. This is indisputable." He noted.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia admitted that it used UK-manufactured cluster bombs in its war on Yemen. Prior to the revelation, Britain denied their cluster munitions were being used by the Saudi-led coalition.
In this context, Professor of American Studies at Tehran University, Dr. Zeinab Qassemi Tari told al-Ahed news that the matter reminds her of Hermana and Chomsky's notion of worthy and unworthy victims: "the media frames and filters one victim as worthy and the other as unworthy and this becomes the basis of sustained propaganda campaigns."
To overtly explain the notion a bit more; Worthy victims are the ones who merit lavish attention and concern, are those whose fate can be attributed to someone else, preferably an official enemy. Unworthy victims, whose fate is ignored or denied, are those for whose suffering or slaughter we are responsible. The criterion holds remarkably closely, past and present.
Dr. Qassemi Tari pointed out that "the atrocity committed against the Yemeni civilian population on a large scale which has created a catastrophic situation does not get a comparable attention to that of Syria."
"To give but one example, based on a UNICEF report every 10 minutes at least one child out of five dies out of deprivation and nearly half of all children are chronically malnourished. Not to mention the siege and the mass starvation of the majority of the Yemeni population."
She notes that when the war in Yemen is covered, the media blames the Houthis (often unjustly referred to as Shia Iran proxy); because such a narrative reduces the complex political situation in Yemen, which began with the reinstating of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to an alleged Shia/Sunni strife.
According to the university professor and political analyst, "the media overlooks the other side of the story which is the Saudi's closure of land, air and sea to cut desperately needed food, and medicine and the backing of the United States and its Arab dictatorships."
She underscores that interestingly, the power of the "western media" (often associated with "objectivity") as opposed to state-run media of the so-called "third world countries" is so strong that, Noam Chomsky, also calls for a US military Intervention in Syria.
There is just a series of double standards in the Western media in particular over Yemen and Syria during our time. The Syria attack reveals the hypocrisy of the West. This West relies on unverified claims to punish Syria while it fuels the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen despite documented abuses.
Several activists and journalists among which is Neil Clark state that Western media refuses to reflect the real situation in the war-stricken country. Yemen is not being mentioned by Sky News or BBC very much and there is a terrible lack of objectivity in reporting by BBC and Sky News, when it comes to the Saudi crimes against the Yemeni people.
Theresa May and Donald Trump are supporters of Saudi Arabia, assisting its genocide of the people of Yemen. The US and Britain equip the Saudis with arms to continue its war against Yemen, and fund and arm terrorist Wahhabi groups in Syria to continue their violence across the country. However, they remain silent on the Israeli daily perpetrations in Occupied Palestine, its siege on the Gaza Strip, the killing of children and women almost on daily basis. They remained silent while Israel launched its war against Lebanon in 2006 when it haphazardly bombed civilians and deployed cluster bombs and white phosphorus. Today also, it is not surprising to see that these Western governments along with mainstream media remain silent over the tragedy in Yemen and Syria, and bring their own version to the spotlight.
Western intervention in the region has only served in destabilizing it, just like Western media has created a mainstream narrative that "victimizes" some and "evilizes" others by selection.