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Did Saudi Pressure Cause New York Times to Change Its ‘Negative’ Headline?

21st Century Wire says…

Was this a case of political manipulation? Living in the west, one becomes used to media self-censorship when covering geopolitical and current events.

It’s generally accepted that all mainstream media outlets will stay within the party line’s narrow parameters, so as not to make Washington, London or Europe ‘look bad’ internationally. This was certainly the case before and during most major US-NATO military or covert interventions, like Yugoslavia, Iraq, Syria, the Ukraine and of course, who can forget their most egregious recent military adventure in Libya.

Are US media outlets changing headlines or stories under pressure from foreign governments?

IMAGE: Saudi air strike in Yemen.

Media Critique: New York Times coverage

Yesterday, the New York Times released a front page story in their early morning US domestic print edition, whose headline read:

“Saudi Defiance on Yemen Reflects Limits of U.S. Strategy”

The sub-header went on to describe how Saudi Arabia’s “insistence on using airstrikes threatens larger goals”, which could easily be translated as ‘US foreign policy goals’. No surprise there. But then we looked for this same article online, only to find that the headline has been changed to:

“Saudi Resolve on Yemen Reflects Limits of U.S. Strategy”

Some may say that changing a single word in a headline doesn’t amount to very much, but then consider the weight of this word appearing at such a crucial juncture in America’s premier news source, or ‘paper of record’, and how it changes the entire tone of the article – and gives a 180º spin in terms of public relations. This is an important discussion which should be had by the mainstream media itself, and not just by small indy blogs like this one.

The question is not why did the New Times editors make this strategic change (that’s fairly obvious). The bigger question is: was pressure applied on the NY Times editors, and if so, who applied pressure to the editors to make such a significant change on a lead story?

Assuming that the change was made in that order, from ‘Defiance’ to ‘Resolve’, from negative to positive, was this done because of a PR effect on Saudi Arabia, Washington’s best special ($$$) ‘friend’?

Is this a case of US media engaging in willful war propaganda? One can understand when an editor needs to tone down an inflammatory headline, but if we are indeed truly witnessing a PR power-play by either the Saudi Arabian Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir (via the US State Department?), or by Washington directly, then this is a fairly big problem in terms of press freedom in the US. If indeed, someone is attempting to downplay what is obviously an undeclared, illegal war of aggression against Yemen by a brutal monarchy exerting overwhelming force – the NY Times editors should have to answer who, what, when, why and how this came to be. If the Saudi monarchy is throwing its weight around in order to protect its collapsing image as a “progressive” state in the Middle East, then the nation really needs to know.

Although the US broadcast media pundits and political talking heads are going out of their way to portray Saudi Arabia as acting independently and on its own volition as part of some glorious “Coalition” (yes, they are definitely learning how to do wars of aggression – without saying they are), the fact is the US military and intelligence services are giving full-spectrum support to Riyadh in Yemen. Washington and Riyadh are in lock-step, and one could even go so far as to say that Saudi Arabia has become a wing of the US military overseas now. The US is supplying all of Saudi’s arms, jets, equipment, ammunition, satellite targeting data, logistical support, and even helping to rescue its ejected pilots.

You can tell that the Saudis are new to this ’empire’ thing by their abysmal PR management surrounding the destruction of their neighbor Yemen. It’s been one snafu after another. Less than 48 hours ago, the US and western media crowed proudly that, “Saudi Arabia has halted airstrikes in Yemen”, and then less than 24 hours later we’re told that, “Saudi Arabia has resumed airstrikes”. Was that some sort of international joke? Is this the new normal?

The Saudis are learning quickly, however. Already they appear to have taken a page out of the ‘Israeli manual for international ceasefire negotiations’, declaring that:

“The decision to calm matters now rests with them [the Yemenis],” Saudi ambassador Jubeir told reporters at the Saudi Embassy yesterday.

If harkens back to last summer’s brutal siege of Gaza in Israel-occupied Palestine, where, after weeks of shelling defenseless civilian areas by Israel’s IDF, and killing thousands in the process, Israeli leaders continued to declare that any ceasefire was ‘up to the Palestinians’, and not them – making Israel unaccountable (in their own eyes, anyway).

You could also say that the Saudis have taken a page out of ‘Kiev’s manual of ceasefire negotiations’ too. After leveling whole civilian neighborhoods with indiscriminate shelling designed to cleanse eastern Ukraine of its Russian-speaking populations, the US-backed fascist junta government in Kiev continued to blame all hostilities on the Donbass Rebels, again, making the aggressor totally unaccountable (in their own eyes, anyway).

Is Saudi Arabia being shifty, or is this just another case where the US government-media complex is lying to its public? War is a serious endeavor, and Saudi Arabia – with the full backing of Washington’s war brain-trust – seems to think it’s just an expensive game.

Yes, the Saudis claim that the previous bombing run which has already killed at least 1,000 civilians and displaced some 150,000 people crassly titled Operation Decisive Storm, has since given way to its sequel – a second phase, another cynically titled bombing run, ‘Operation Restoring Hope’. The Saudis claim that they have finished Phase I (death and destruction) and are now moving into Phase II – more death, destruction, deploying and providing continued air support to Saudi’s real boots on the ground in Yemen, namely, al Qaeda and ISIS brigades, with the hopes of ethnically and politically cleansing ‘unfriendly’ areas.

Playing word games in war is not a good idea, and risks triggering some very negative sentiments later down the road. Notice the careful language used by the NY Times, calling it “a campaign” which is entering “a new phase”. It’s somewhat shocking to see Western journalists employ the very same sanitized language that’s normally reserved for describe US-led bombing of foreign nations – to describe Saudi’s devastating and unprovoked attack which has rained terror down on, among other things, civilian areas in Yemen:

“Senior Saudi officials made clear on Wednesday that they had not formally declared an end to bombing. Rather, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, said the campaign was shifting to a new phase…”

How routine sounding.

“The ambassador did not mention the intensifying international pressure, including from the Obama administration, to stop airstrikes… (…) But American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats privately acknowledged that this was clearly a factor in the Saudi calculation.”

Saudi calculation”? It almost makes it sound as if the Kingdom is being considerate while carpet bombing its neighbor.

Incredible media spin is being deployed here. Saudi Ambassador al-Jubier can’t help but be shifty in his explanation, because he’s attempting to put lipstick on a pig. Some might even say that he is lying through his teeth about a disaster of his own country’s making. The Saudi bombing of Yemen is in clear violation of International Law and constitutes a serious war crime by any reasonable observer’s measure.

It’s both interesting as it is disappointing to see how a powerful media outlet like the NY Times seems to playing soft-ball with Saudi Arabia on this story instead of taking the Saudi government to task for what many believe is an international war crime.

Indeed, the Saudis are learning real quick what this ’empire thing’ is all about.

No bother, because as the Saudis and their American managers will probably tell you: “It’s not our fault, and any ceasefire is up to them, not us.”

Welcome to the new international terrordrome.

READ MORE YEMEN NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Yemen Files



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