July 25, 2017
By Ben Norton
FAIR

A new Vox video (7/17/17) is the latest addition to a media onslaught that propagates numerous misleading talking points to demonize Iran—just as the US government, under Donald Trump’s vehemently anti-Iran administration, is ratcheting up aggression against that country.

The 10-minute film, titled “The Middle East’s Cold War, Explained,” is a textbook example of how US government propaganda pervades corporate media. With the help of a former senior government official and CIA analyst, the Vox video articulates a commonplace pro-US, anti-Iran narrative that portrays the violent conflicts in the Middle East as sectarian proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In order to do so, the film grossly downplays US involvement in the region, treating Saudi Arabia as though it acts independently of the US. It also fails to ever mention Israel, totally removing one of the most important players in the Middle East from its “Cold War” narrative.

Vox multimedia producer Sam Ellis likewise constructs a false equivalence for Iran, depicting it as a kind of Shia Saudi Arabia that is just as guilty of spreading sectarianism. The video correspondingly exaggerates Iran’s international influence, which is assumed to be dastardly and malign.

“The Middle East’s Cold War, Explained” made a huge splash. It garnered nearly half a million views in one day, and was trending as one of YouTube‘s most-watched videos. It serves as an illustrative case study of how corporate media not only grossly simplify the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, they also effectively act as a mouthpiece for the US government.

Echoing the CIA

The crux of the video is an interview with a former top US government official, CIA analyst and think tank apparatchik who has spent years crafting US policy in the Middle East. Vox presents his deeply politicized views as unchallenged facts.

Kenneth Pollack, the only person featured in Vox‘s video, is identified simply as a “former Persian Gulf military analyst, CIA.” After several years as an Iran/Iraq military analyst at the CIA, Pollack went on to direct Persian Gulf affairs and Near East and South Asian affairs for the Clinton administration’s National Security Council. Pollack’s bio at the Brookings Institution notes “he was the principal working-level official for US policy toward Iraq, Iran, Yemen and the Gulf Cooperation Council States at the White House.”

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