US Mass Media ignore Bahrain until Kim Kardashian gives them Two Reasons not To

The real scandal of the Kim Kardashian visit to Bahrain is that it is what it took for Western media to mention the word “Bahrain” on the evening news. I did a search at Lexis Nexis Broadcast Transcripts under “CBS and Bahrain” for the past 3 months and got … 10 hits. Now, this methodology is inexact. I am not singling out CBS but it is useful because it can’t be confused with anything else (ABC could be Australian Broadcasting Company) and it does not have a cable news sister, so we really are looking at evening news and Face the Nation. Even so, I got several non-CBS items among the hits. Conclusion: Bahrain has been almost invisible as an issue in most US television news reporting.

This, despite the close US alliance with the Sunni Bahrain monarchy, which leases to Washington a naval base at Manama that serves as the HQ of the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf (called by Arabs the Arabian Gulf). In turn, this base allows the US to provide security to 1/5 of the world’s petroleum exports, which flow out of this region.

Bahrain has a Shiite majority, which is socially, economically and politically marginalized by the Sunni royal establishment. Shiites (and some Sunnis) have been protesting for over a year and a half, demanding constitutional changes and changes in employment policies, that would give Bahrain Shiites their due. Over a hundred protesters have been killed, protests have been brutally repressed (violating the right of peaceful assembly), prisoners have been tortured, and even physicians who treated wounded protesters have been prosecuted. Bahrain is a nasty little police state with sort of Sunni Jim Crow.

The United States bears responsibility for this situation because of its base there, and the State Department has been quiet as a mouse, for the most part, thought there have been ‘regrets’ and ‘concerns.’ Just this week, they let slip that they worry that the king’s uncompromising stance could break up the country. American television news owed us more coverage of this issue than they have given us, but it falls close to the hypocrisies of Great Power realism and so has been largely avoided.

Worse, CNN may have deep-sixed negative coverage in part because it had a packaging deal with Bahrain. Who here thinks the hiring as CNN CEO of Jeff Zucker, an infotainment mogul who ran NBC into the ground and was responsible for the Jay Leno/ Conan O’Brien fiasco, will improve things?

But did Kim Kardashian show up in Manama? Why that they put on t.v.

ABC news reports on the controversies surrounding the reality-show star’s visit to Manama promoting her milkshake shops.

There is something wrong with our whole information system. Mostly, it is that it is a capitalist media. But also, it is too often too respectful of power.

20 Responses

  1. Suddenly, traveling to the Middle East is the “in” thing to do. It is interesting because, as Armenians, her family had said before that they have a problem if one of them moves to a Muslim country (Turkey). She also tweeted out support for Israel. But that does not stop her from trying on abayyas and visiting. I hope she stays out of Yemen. We don’t want her there.

  2. The United States bears responsibility for this situation because of its base there

    Umwut?

    Apparently, I’ve been using the term “bears responsibility” wrong my whole life.

      • In the real world, we’re not going to close the base unless we find another alternative. It’s not just the U.S. interests, it’s the entire Western World. Are they on board? Are you on board to downgsize your petroleum use in case this becomes a drastic move? That’s the question people need to start asking themselves. We (the modern world) have a whole infrastructure built upon these types of unpalatable relationships. Come back when you have a transitional plan that will ease us out of that relationship. I’m all ears.

      • Sure, but that’s a long way from assigning us responsibility for what they do.

        The last time you wrote about Bahrain, you brought up the idea of relocating the base from Bahrain to a port in a more democratic, liberal Gulf nation. Once again, I’ll ask: any suggestions? Are you talking about Iraq?

  3. Charlotte: Suddenly, traveling to the Middle East is the “in” thing to do.

    Maybe and thankfully for high profile personalities. But over the past fifteen years many Mid East locations that used to be places where young Americans could safely travel to obtain international experience for their career resumes has shrunk. There are more places where Americans are not only unwelcome, but good targets, and parents and travelers now consider the threat of “terrorism” together with their perusals of what used to be carefree exotic historical locales in their calculations, resulting in the slow closing of America’s eyes to the greater world. This is largely a self created delusion resulting from American governmental policies, erroneous political assignment of “terrorism” labels to internal and non-terrorist events and organizations, and American media cheerleading, or better put, fear-leading.

    US news media is now a semi-coordinated disinformation service, at best tangential to facts on the ground. Mythical Clark Kent and Edward R. Murrow are dead. Walter Cronkite, once “America’s most trusted person” was quietly ushered out of the public spotlight he began speaking his mind following public retirement, and now bleakly lags behind Tom Brokaw who never would have made it out of Murrow’s second string. That American new media is bought and paid for to provide newsy entertainment is a given. That Fox clearly intends to be a propaganda machine is similarly clear, as is America’s wide approval for Fox’s belligerence and general disregard, even derision, of facts. Americans no longer steadfastly looks for truth in the face of truth’s frequent ugliness, but prefer having their adrenal glands pumped by media provocateurs. American discourse has been eagerly divided into untouchable cliques by those who enthusiastically seek to command both America’s wallet and its future. It is easy to blame broadcasters, but the fault is lies in the degraded spine of Americans who won’t recognize and can’t muster the courage to walk six feet and turn off the tube, with no age bracket excluded. 1984 arrived and self proclaimed patriots noticed it least.

    ” Journalists were never intended to be the cheerleaders of a society, the conductors of applause, the sycophants. Tragically, that is their assigned role in authoritarian societies, but not here – not yet. ” Chet Huntley

    Chet’s gone and his quote is no longer accurate.

  4. I think it’s a bit naive to blame the U.S. for the political unrest in Bahrain. Anybody who studies political science understands that nation-states (ANY nation state, including Cuba) will forge relationships with leaders of other states for reasons of national self interest. The only time a nation state rejects that relationship is if that country starts doing things that don’t mesh with that nation state’s constitutional principles–and even then it’s up for negotiation.

    • Eh, the left in general views the middle east as US colonies, the bahrain sheikh is the secretary of bahrain – does whatever obama tells him to, and so do his servants. And the people have no agency or responsibility, all under the mercy of america/west who as a superpower is responsible for everything in the world ( someone actually said that to me onetime outright, in fairness to him he also thought it was the same for the soviet union, lol).

      This view extends to outside the middle east and inside america, the state/elite are responsible for criminals doing crime and drugs and the lazy not working and on and on and on… Responsibility is not something the left knows anything about. The world is an abstract computer program ran by concentrated power structures controlling billions of lives like cattle. It’s hilariously stupid, but that’s pretty much it.

      People like Chomsky prove you can be considered an ‘intellectual’ and still be dumber than sarah palin.

  5. “The hypocrisies of Great Power realism” – indeed! Thank you for being succinct in describing our sad lack of Principles in international affairs. And noted that hypocrisy is plural.

  6. Paris Hilton caused a similar uproar when she opened a store in Mecca. This is how Los Angeles engages the Muslim world.
    Sex Goddesses sometimes rub elbows with dictators, but they also help weaken the hold of religious rigidity.

    • Paris Hilton opened a store in Mecca? She would not even be allowed to enter Mecca. Where did you get this information (or misinformation)?

      • For somebody that knows as much as Bill claims to about stuff all over the world, it’s a wonder that he has not heard about Paris Hilton’s appearance in Mecca.

        link to dailymail.co.uk

        How’s that for drive-by impeachment?

        • I have never claimed to know about “stuff all over the world.” And Paris Hilton is not someone whose movements I follow with bated breath. Nevertheless, I am surprised that she was even allowed to enter Mecca.

  7. Interesting that the video report (and I saw this elsewhere as well) call the protesters “hardline Islamists” – wonder where they got THAT from, and how much truth the terminology holds? Were the protesters that? or were they simply the people who’ve been protesting all along?? (I haven’t seen ANY references to “hardline Islamists” elsewhere since the beginning of the protests in 2011, btw. Are there even such groups in Bahrain?)

    • Bahrain has its own Sunni Islamists or Salafists, including a political party with sitting MPs. In this case, 100 of these religious activists were protesting Kim’s so called un-holy presence.

      The news is not referring to the democratic protesters or opposition parties we read about, that are usually made up mostly of the marginalized Shia majoirty and some Sunnis.

      The hardliners reject modernization and believe the state isn’t ‘Islamic’ enough. They have extreme views, but aren’t implicated in any violence. Not clear if they oppose the regime outright or support democratic changes. Despite the rulers being non-religious authoritarians, they’re still a Sunni monarchy and the Shia majority whom they’re prejudiced against are marginalized. Only govt change they’ll likely promote is with Sunni hardliners at the top.

      Regardless, they got tear-gassed.

      Also interesting to note is the number of Asian expats that were swooning over Kim.

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