Beware of Media Narratives on Both Left and Right

by | Nov 1, 2023 | Opinion

How do they get away with it?

Even with the thousands of alternative media sources available today – Internet, podcasts, social media – the legacy media picks a narrative and repeats it so often that the average citizen may well accept it as true.

Now, if the subject matter is something inane like the importance of a Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce romance, we can all play along and, well, no harm, no foul. But when the purpose is character assassination of a candidate for president, it is dangerous to be unaware of the falsity of what the mainstream media is selling.

I know I sound like a broken record, but every week something more egregious presents itself. For the last two weeks, it has been the false narrative that Donald Trump praised the terrorist organization Hezbollah for being “very smart.” On every news show every hour for at least a week, one of the guests or anchors would tell you this as if it disqualified Trump to be president.

So, once again, I have to ask, “What did Trump really say?”

It’s not hard to find out. Video exists of the Oct. 11 speech in West Palm Beach, Fla., and yes, Trump did say that Hezbollah is “very smart” but not as a compliment. Rather, he was saying that it was foolish for Israel, President Biden, or anyone else to underestimate this brutal foe.

Two nights ago, I read all of Biden’s security people… national defense people, and they said ‘Gee I hope Hezbollah doesn’t attack from the north because that’s the most vulnerable spot.’ I said wait a minute. Hezbollah’s very smart. They’re all very smart. The press doesn’t like it when I say it though. …

But Hezbollah, they’re very smart, and they have a national defense minister or somebody saying I hope Hezbollah doesn’t attack us from the north, so the following morning they attack. They might not have been doing it, but if you listen to this jerk, you would attack from the north because he said that’s our weak spot. Whoever heard of officials saying on television that they hope our enemy doesn’t attack in a certain area?

In his speech, Trump paused to recall how the press had attacked him previously when he said that President Xi of China “is a very smart man.” As Trump said, “They killed me the next day,” and that’s what happened after Trump’s Florida speech as well.

From that day forward, the press passed along the Hezbollah anecdote in a truncated form that had no context and no legitimacy as news but only as propaganda. All they told their readers or viewers was this: “Trump said Hezbollah is ‘very smart.’” In other words, Trump is dangerous and disreputable and a terror sympathizer who shouldn’t be commander in chief.

It’s bad enough when it’s said in an echo chamber like MSNBC that is afraid to invite conservatives on their shows, because of course their entire audience hates Trump and will never vote for him anyway. But what about Fox News? Why is it that you virtually never heard anyone on so-called conservative Fox push back against the narrative and explain that Trump said Hezbollah is “very smart” only in the limited context of the terrorist organization responding with missiles from the north when Israel said it was worried about missiles coming from the north.

I think the gist of what Trump said boils down to this: “If you think your enemy is stupid, if you insist on underestimating your enemy, then you have no one to blame but yourself when the enemy does what you dared them not to do.” That goes for Hitler in World War II, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. They ain’t stupid, but that doesn’t mean they are moral. Acknowledging your enemies’ strategic strengths does not mean you are praising their moral character, any more than you are praising Satan when you admit that he outsmarted Adam and Eve.

Speaking of Fox News, there has been a noticeable shift away from Donald Trump in its news coverage in recent months. No surprise when one of their board members, former House speaker Paul Ryan, is a vehement and outspoken Never Trumper. Most recently it looks like the network has been trying to promote the presidential candidacy of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has been one of Trump’s most vocal critics on the campaign trail.

Haley has also been attacking fellow candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, and Sean Hannity seized on her words to try to ambush Ramaswamy in an interview following the savage Hamas attack on Israel. This resulted in one of the strangest moments in television history when Hannity suggested that Ramaswamy was not qualified to be president because of his lack of political experience.

“I think people that never held public office like you,” Hannity said to Ramaswamy, “maybe they’re not qualified to be president.”

Anyone with a scintilla of awareness will find Hannity’s lack of self-awareness astonishing. For years, Hannity was a cheerleader for Trump, who based his entire candidacy in 2016 on the fact that he wasn’t a politician. Yet here was Hannity unabashedly siding with the swamp creatures against the outsider who says he wants to shift the political paradigm away from business-as-usual.

Ramaswamy, the only America First candidate running in the GOP primary besides Trump, may have provoked Hannity by giving an interview to former top-rated Fox News host Tucker Carlson a few days earlier. That interview on X (formerly Twitter) followed quickly after the Hamas attack on Israel, and Carlson introduced Ramaswamy by showing a clip of Haley saying that the attack on Israel was also “an attack on America” and suggesting that Israel should “finish” not just Hamas but also Iran, a nation of 86 million people which may or may not have a nuclear weapon.

That gave Ramaswamy an opening to criticize Haley as someone who was “in a position to get wealthier from war, what with a military contracting business and otherwise.”

Although this topic holds no apparent interest for Sean Hannity, it is a matter of fact that the candidate’s husband Michael Haley is a partner in Allied Defense LLC, a South Carolina company tied to military contractors. Daily Beast did an investigative piece that looked at Nikki Haley’s financial disclosures and found that Allied Defense and the Haleys “could benefit financially from state and federal policy, including from the export of military equipment to Taiwan.”

Yet when Hannity interviewed Ramaswamy on Oct. 12, he started with a clip of Haley remarking that Ramaswamy says “everybody is bought and paid for with no evidence whatsoever.” Perhaps that’s too strong, but “no evidence whatsoever” is a questionable description for a candidate with financial connections to Boeing, where she previously served on the board; receives support from the SFA Fund, a Super PAC promoting Haley’s aggressive stance against Communist China; and whose husband’s company stands to benefit if Taiwan is attacked.

Hannity was uninterested in any of that. Instead he attacked Ramaswamy for daring to question Haley in his Oct. 9 interview with Carlson. “What you’re doing here is saying about Nikki Haley, you’re saying that her concern for Israel is driven by financial and a corrupting influence,” Hannity said. “Your quote, ‘There are frankly financial and corrupting influences that lead them to speak the way they do.’”

If viewers were able to hear Ramaswamy’s answers – Hannity kept talking over him – they would have learned that the quote about “financial and corrupting influences” was a reference to why politicians single out some conflicts like the Ukraine war and the Israeli conflict and ignore other wars that are just as barbaric, deadly, and heart-breaking.

Here’s what Ramaswamy told Tucker Carlson:

Look at what’s happening with Azerbaijan and Armenia. You don’t really hear much about that now. Why?… What’s happening is an atrocity. I mean, you have people who are Armenians, mostly Christian, six-figure numbers – 100,000, 120,000 – being driven back to their country from a region that has long been a place they have called home, a lot of atrocities that aren’t even yet coming to light in Western media. But Azerbaijan has a lobby, a powerful lobby, in Washington, D.C., and I think a big part of what’s wrong in the United States today … is you have a system that is bought and paid for. … It is wrong what happened in Israel … but the selective nature of ignoring certain other conflicts or even more importantly ignoring the interests of the U.S. right here at home, is what irritates the heck out of me, out of the politicians in both parties, and it is shameful. and I think that there are frankly financial and corrupting influences that lead them exactly to speak the way they do.”

So there is the actual context of Ramaswamy’s complaint about “financial and corrupting influences,” and as you can see it has nothing to do with moral outrage over the attack on Israel.

According to Hannity, however, Haley could do no wrong, and Ramaswamy could do no right, especially when it came to his warnings against allowing the defense industry to call the shots on our national security posture.

“You’re saying that if somebody works for a defense contractor, that that is a financial corrupting position when national security and defense is critical to the cause of freedom and has been throughout human history?”

Hold on, Hannity! Did you really just criticize a Republican candidate for president because he is warning against allowing those who will benefit from war to make decisions about war? Perhaps you have forgotten the earlier warning of President Dwight Eisenhower, who in his farewell address to the nation in 1961, said: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.”

Maybe Hannity isn’t as smart as he thinks he is. I’ll take the two presidents he implicitly criticized – Trump and Eisenhower – over his bullying histrionics any day of the week. And I’ll continue sounding the alarm whenever news outlets – whether on the left or right – promote an agenda rather than doing their job of informing the public without fear or favor.

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.

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