Propaganda in Action: The release of the British sailors

The systematic propaganda consumed especially in North America on the so-called Iranian hostage crisis (the sequel, not the one in 1980) was discussed in detail here.

However, with the release of the British prisoners, we have been hit with a whole new wave of hypocritical propaganda designed to shift our opinion and gloss over history.

Virtually all news agencies have covered the “ordeal” experienced by the British sailors and marines.

In the US: 

CBS news spoke of “harsh interrogation” in “stone cells” and repeated the claim that they  were “operating under a U.N. mandate in Iraqi waters” as a fact (source).

The New York Times, that putative bastion of leftism, ran a story with the headline “Britons Say They Feared for Lives in Iran Captivity”. In this article, the NY Times recounts the “most frightening” story of the “ordeal” as occurring on the second night when all of the sailors and marines were placed in a room blindfolded and one of the sailors vomited in such a manner that one of his colleagues felt that his throat had been slit (source).

The Kansas City Star carried an article in which they describe that the British sailors and marines were “isolated in cold stone cells and tricked into fearing execution.” (source).

In Canada:

The National Post ran with a story headline reading “British sailors describe ‘ordeal’ in Iran” and describing “constant psychological pressure” and moreover, The Post wrote that the British Sailors and Marines were kept in isolation which is actually demonstrably false and not in keeping with even the Briton’s account of events (source).

CTV ran with the story describing that the Britons were “threatened” (source).

And lastly, in the UK: 

The Guardian ran a story with the headline “Freed Britons Say ‘Confessions’ Coerced”, as if that was somehow a surprise or unexpected (source).

But here’s what we didn’t read:

#1) There was STILL no discussion about the fact that the US probably caused the capture as retaliation for ambushing and kidnapping Mohammed Jafari, the head of the Iranian National Security Council and Minojahar Frouzanda, the head of the intelligence division of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as well as the kidnapping of Iranian embassy official Jalal Sharafi.

#2) Even more importantly, the British Captain of the expedition, Chris Air, admitted to Sky News 5 days before the hostage crisis even began that they were spying and gathering intelligence on Iran just as the Iranians had alleged (source). 

Now, to be fair, Sky News was the only news agency to get the interview with Capt. Air because they were on patrol with her and her crew and Sky News decided to hold the story in moratorium until the sailors returned for safety reasons.

But after this was revealed, you’d expect virtually every news agency around the world to carry this not exactly insignificant fact.

Who reported this fact?

Well, since the story broke in the UK, the UK press obviously couldn’t ignore it.  The Telegraph published one article detailing the fact that the British were in fact spying on the Iranians (source).  The Mirror also ran with a similarly worded story (source).

News also appears to have made its way down to the Australian public broadcaster ABC, which ran a very short story with the headline “British sailors were ‘gathering intelligence’ on Iran” (source).  However,  even for that story, on the sidebar, were 5 links to special interest stories similar to those discussed in the last installation of Propaganda in Action.

Lastly, CNN, as always taking the cake, burries the discovery that the British sailors and marines were gathering intelligence by folding it in with a yellow journalism piece entitled “UK sailors reunited with families” (source).

But the real kicker of the CNN story is the sidebar which includes:

A link to “What Britain said” without a corresponding “What Iran said”;

A story on how “Tensions will remain”;

Videos entitled “Friends and family welcome home service members”, “Blair denies making a deal for the Britons’ release” (despite the fact that it’s patently obvious that Jalal Sharafi’s release was in exchange for the Iranian prisoner release), and “British detainees arrive back in London”;

But, best of all, is CNN’s “Gallery: How the crisis unfolded” section on their sidebar which doesn’t even hint at how the crisis unfolded.

-It ignores the US involvement.

-It ignores the release of Sharafi (must have just been a coincidence).

-It ignores the US ambush Mohammed Jafari and Minojahar Frouzanda.

-It ignores that the greatest violator of the Geneva Conventions in this whole incident was the US and the UK as discussed at length here.

But, best of all, what EVERY news agency from the UK to Canada to Australia to the US ignored, was that how the Iranians treated their British captives can best be characterized as five-star luxury hotel treatment compared to how the US treats their captives.

Amnesty International has recently released a report (available here) on the new US “Camp 6” section of Guantanamo Bay which an even worse violator of basic human rights than the often-criticized so-called “super-maximum” prisons in the US.

Detailed in this report is how these prisoners are detained in rooms without windows, in total sensory deprivation for 22 hours per day; allowed outside only at night so they never see daylight; and are kept completely isolated from any human contact for extended periods of time.

So, to recap:

-The Iranians used ‘stressful situations’ to intimidate their captives.

-The US uses actual torture to break their captives.  Now the US is known for outsourcing their torture to other countries with the true experts in torture techniques, but one technique the US doesn’t even bother outsourcing is “water boarding”.

For those of you who are interested in comparing “stressful situations” à la Iran to “water boarding” à la USA, here’s what “water boarding” looks like.

Still feel like we have a “free media”?

—————————–

This is the fourth installment in the Propaganda in Action series.

The third installment (discussing the Iranian hostage crisis before its resolution) is here.

The second installment is here.

The first installment is here.

8 Responses to “Propaganda in Action: The release of the British sailors”


  1. 1 janfromthebruce 7 April, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    great sourcing and reporting the event. Thanks Paul

  2. 2 jtoddring 7 April, 2007 at 11:26 pm

    Excellent work Paul. Call it like it is. Euphemistic, wishy-washy reporting and commentary smacks of intellectual timidity or laziness, as well as moral cowardice. Glad to hear someone speak plainly and intelligently, with spine.

  3. 3 jtoddring 8 April, 2007 at 12:06 am

    Another thought. The people I admire most in terms of writers are those who have a marked intelligence, and more importantly, a deep sense of compassion, combined with a willingness to frankly speak the truth, even when it is unpopular to do so. Chomsky, and even more so, Thoreau come to mind above all others. Very good to read writing of a similar spirit Paul.

  4. 4 paulitics 8 April, 2007 at 8:11 am

    I too admire Chomsky and Thoreau, but I don’t think I can be grouped in with them. Thanks for the compliment nonetheless.

  5. 5 CookTrain 8 April, 2007 at 8:33 am

    This seems like a pretty fair appraisal, we’re spun up to the eyeballs with it… But I must take issue at one point.

    “Now, to be fair, Sky News was the only news agency to get the interview with Capt. Air because they were on patrol with her and her crew and Sky News decided to hold the story in moratorium until the sailors returned for safety reasons.”

    Capt. Chris Air is a man ;)

  6. 6 clash 10 April, 2007 at 6:35 am

    Great work!! For sure, Brits were spying on them!!

  7. 7 theboinq 12 April, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    This is excellent. I’m bookmarking it!

  8. 8 Red Jenny 13 April, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Agreed. Excellent. Everyone should read your analysis.

    Or a funnier version


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