The Saudi War on Yemen Supported by U.S. – ‘Worst Humanitarian Crisis in 50 Years’ – was Not Newsworthy to MSNBC in 2017

Russiagate Stories = Higher Ratings = Higher Profits

Busily fueling the Grand Kremlin Conspiracy to Subvert Our Peace-Loving Democracy, MSNBC spent 2017 virtually ignoring the worst humanitarian crisis in 50 Years, in Yemen.

As a major media institution with a large audience, MSNBC helps to define the scope of respectable political discourse in the United States, which apparently does not include the nation of Yemen, which has been under attack by Saudi Arabian warplanes since March of 2015, using bullets, bombs, missiles, warplanes and their fuel provided by the United States. Here’s a brief snapshot of the situation in that country:

  • 11 million children – almost every child in the country – is in need of humanitarian assistance
  • half those children don’t have access to clean drinking water or sanitation
  • the worst cholera epidemic the world has ever seen
  • a terrible new epidemic of diptheria that’s spreading like a wildfire
  • 8 million people are on the brink of famine
  • 10,000 people have been killed since the war began
  • 3 million have been displaced

As we approach the one-year mark of the Donald J. Trump presidency, research by media analysts on the nature of news coverage over the course of 2017 is beginning to appear. Unsurprisingly, given the network’s success and growing audience, some of the earliest research has been focused on MSNBC.

For example, while MSNBC found its Russia coverage to be ratings gold in 2017, the results of a media analysis just published shows that if the network’s viewers rely upon MSNBC for news of what is currently the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world” (according to the UN) – Yemen – they may be completely unaware of the ongoing, man-made disaster in that nation, or they’ve found that news elsewhere.

U.S. ally Saudi Arabia began bombing its neighbor to the south in March of 2015, with the blessings of the Obama Administration, inflicting a horrific toll on civilians in the poorest nation in the region. The continuing destruction of Yemen and murder of its people would not be possible without the provision of a wide array of American weapons, warplanes and even the fuel for those jets, provided mid-air to keep them aloft, but such news was unheard of on MSNBC.

According to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a non-profit media watchdog that’s been a persistent thorn in the foot of the corporate press since its founding during in 1986, the network has virtually ignored Yemen.

This comes at a time of increasing opposition to the war and the Trump Administration’s aid to Saudi Arabia in Congress. On November 13, 2017 the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to remind Trump it had not authorized U.S. participation in the Yemen war. A resolution may be debated in the Senate in the near future.

Given the possibility of a war crimes investigation into the Saudi attack upon Yemen at some point in the future, for things like deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, including food production, deliberate use of starvation as a weapon, the use of white phosphorous and more, a greater media focus on the consequences of the war and U.S. responsibility for helping fuel it could have created more pressure by now to end it. The lack of attention likely cost Yemeni lives.

According to FAIR:

For the popular US cable news network MSNBC, the largest humanitarian catastrophe in the world is apparently not worth much attention—even as the US government has played a key role in creating and maintaining that unparalleled crisis.

An analysis by FAIR has found that the leading liberal cable network did not run a single segment devoted specifically to Yemen in the second half of 2017.

And in these latter roughly six months of the year, MSNBC ran nearly 5,000 percent more segments that mentioned Russia than segments that mentioned Yemen.

On 7 August 2016 in Yemen, Zahra stands in the rubble at her neighbour’s destroyed home, in the south-western city of Lahj, which has experienced intense fighting due to the escalation of conflict in the country. Escalated conflict has exacerbated the already critical humanitarian situation in Yemen – where basic social services are on the verge of collapse, leaving millions of people without access to health care and safe water and adequate sanitation, as well as thousands of children out of school. By July 2016, an estimated 1.3 million children had been internally displaced as a result of the ongoing fighting, which began in late March 2015. UNICEF image.

Moreover, in all of 2017, MSNBC only aired one broadcast on the US-backed Saudi airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. And it never mentioned the impoverished nation’s colossal cholera epidemic, which infected more than 1 million Yemenis in the largest outbreak in recorded history.

All of this is despite the fact that the US government has played a leading role in the 33-month war that has devastated Yemen, selling many billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia, refueling Saudi warplanes as they relentlessly bomb civilian areas and providing intelligence and military assistance to the Saudi air force.

With little corporate media coverage from MSNBC or elsewhere, the US—under both presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump—has staunchly supported Saudi Arabia as it imposes a suffocating blockade on Yemen, diplomatically shielding the draconian Gulf dictatorship from any form of punishment as it has plunged millions of Yemeni civilians into mass hunger and pushed the poorest country in the Middle East onto the brink of famine.

Roots Action, Just Foreign Policy and World Beyond War are all organizing to put pressure on MSNBC to adequately cover According to Just Foreign Policy: Urge Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, and MSNBC to correct their failure to report on the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and the direct U.S. military role in causing the catastrophe by signing our joint petition with RootsAction and World Beyond War.

Look for much more data and analysis on the corporate press and how they’ve covered the news in the near future. MSNBC is far from alone in ignoring the Yemen story.

As the Intercept has noted, other corporate media has done an equally poor job of reporting the Yemen crisis. In November 2017, Scott Pelley and CBS News’s popular 60 Minutes program devoted thirteen minutes to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen without once ever mentioning that the still-growing catastrophe was caused by a Saudi war that would not be possible without direct U.S. military assistance.

Some parting words of wisdom on a relevant aspect of media criticism from Michael Parenti:

For many people an issue does not exist until it appears in the news media. How we view issues, indeed, what we even define as an issue or event, what we see and hear, and what we do not see and hear are greatly determined by those who control the communications world. Be it labor unions, peace protesters, the Soviet Union, uprisings in Latin America, elections, crime, poverty, or defense spending, few of us know of things except as they are depicted in the news.

Even when we don’t believe what the media say, we are still hearing or reading their viewpoints rather than some other. They are still setting the agenda, defining what it is we must believe or disbelieve, accept or reject. The media exert a subtle, persistent influence in defining the scope of respectable political discourse, channeling the public attention in directions that are essentially supportive of the existing socio-economic system.

Be this as it may, growing numbers of people are becoming increasingly aware that the media are neither objective nor consistently accurate in their portrayal of things. There seems to be a growing understanding that we need to defend ourselves by monitoring and challenging the information we are fed.

Excerpted from Inventing Reality, The Politics of the Mass Media, published 1986.

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