HomeArticleMSM Finally Concedes Defeat On Yemen, Ceases Blackout Of Coverage

MSM Finally Concedes Defeat On Yemen, Ceases Blackout Of Coverage

Last month, an article by Fair.org went viral in republications by popular alternative media outlets ranging from Salon to Zero Hedge to Alternet to Truthdig, among many others. The article was initially titled “ACTION ALERT: It’s Been Over a Year Since MSNBC Has Mentioned US War in Yemen”, but many subsequent republications went with variations on the more attention-grabbing headline, “MSNBC has done 455 Stormy Daniels segments in the last year — but none on U.S. war in Yemen”.

The centerpiece of the article was the following graphic, which I saw shared on its own many times in my social media feeds:

That’s about as in your face as it gets, isn’t it?

Ever since the Saudi-led assault on Yemen began in March of 2015, alternative media outlets everywhere have been repeatedly and aggressively decrying the mainstream media in the US and UK for their spectacular failure to adequately and accurately cover the violence and humanitarian disaster with appropriate reporting on who is responsible for it. After the 2016 US election, journalist Michael Tracey wrote an essay documenting how throughout the entire year and a half that Americans were pummeled with updates from the mass media about candidates and their campaigns, not one single question about Yemen was ever asked by any mainstream outlet of any candidate.

This is of course outrageous, but because of how media coverage works, mainstream attention was never drawn to the problem. It hasn’t been a total media blackout, but because it only turns up in mainstream media reports every once in a while with little if any emphasis being placed on who is behind the devastation, it occupies a very peripheral place in western consciousness. The average American would probably be able to tell you that some parts of their government appear to be concerned about Russia, Syria, Iran and North Korea, because those rival nations have been the subject of intense mass media coverage, but if you asked them about Yemen you’d likely be told something like “I think there’s some kind of humanitarian crisis there?”, if anything.

This has all changed in the last few days. Suddenly, the atrocities being inflicted upon the people of Yemen are being pushed into mainstream attention by the mass media outlets which have been ignoring them for more than three years. The Washington Post editorial board published an op-ed titled “End U.S. support for this misbegotten and unwinnable war”. CNN did some actual, real journalism for a change with a viral exclusive documenting which American war profiteers were behind some of the more devastating Saudi bombings. And yes, MSNBC finally did cover the violence in Yemen, breaking its year-long silence to report on a US-supplied bomb which killed 40 children with such urgent condemnation of those responsible you’d never know they’d been consistently ignoring such incidents which have been going on for years. Now politicians and celebrities everywhere are shoving the horror of their government facilitating the slaughter of innocents into mainstream attention.

What’s interesting here is that nothing at all has changed except for the coverage. US-supplied bombs have been dropping on marketplaces, hospitals and funerals and slaughtering civilians in far more deadly incidents for years, and the US has also been providing extensive assistance to Saudi airstrikes, as well as attacking Yemeni targets directly. The only thing that has changed is that now it’s being reported with an urgency and volume that is appropriate for such a horrific incident instead of an occasional low-profile mention with little or no mention of responsibility.

Nobody with their eyes open believes that the mainstream media have just suddenly developed a conscience and now deeply care about the mass murder of Middle Eastern civilians. So why the change? If you ask some of the Trump supporters I’ve seen responding to the shift, it’s because their president can now be unfairly blamed for a military campaign which began long before he took office. But that doesn’t really hold water, does it? I mean, the aforementioned year in which MSNBC didn’t cover Yemen took place entirely during this administration, and every American with cable TV knows that MSNBC markets itself as the anti-Trump network. If they’d wanted to use Yemen as another angle from which to criticize this administration they would have done so, instead of not doing so at all. The entirety of mainstream media have been grossly neglecting this issue up until the last week despite having every opportunity to condemn Trump for it.

For the record, while we’re on the subject, I personally don’t much care if Trump gets all the blame for the Yemen catastrophe at this point. I’ve spent 2017 and 2018 fighting the insane corporate liberal notion that all American depravity began in January of last year, but at this point I’m happy with literally anything that just ends the death and devastation. A year into the war, the 30-year CIA veteran Bruce Riedel said that “if the United States of America and the United Kingdom tonight told King Salman that this war has to end, it would end tomorrow, because the Royal Saudi Airforce cannot operate without American and British support.” If using this as an opportunity to attack Trump creates the necessary political pressure to end the bombings, blockades, starvation and disease that is killing untold thousands of Yemeni civilians, then fine, whatever, I’m all for it.

But again, from what I’m seeing right now I don’t believe that this is about Trump. Not directly anyway. From what I can see right now, I think what we are witnessing is a clear instance in which alternative media successfully caused the establishment to lose control of the narrative on an important issue.

In the US, criticism of Saudi Arabia is nearly as taboo as criticism of Israel. As we saw explained in a leaked State Department memo last year, it is standard US policy to use human rights abuses as a bludgeon with which to attack rival governments, while sweeping the atrocities committed by allies under the rug. Because of its lucrative petrodollar deal with the US, and because its opaque and unaccountable monarchy makes it capable of nefarious maneuvers to advance geopolitical agendas that an ostensible democracy would have a hard time getting away with, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of America’s most important allies. And the plutocrat-owned media, whose controllers have a vested interest in protecting the establishment upon which their kingdoms are built, consistently fall right in line with that same State Department policy.

This, and the fact that the control of a key strategic region is at stake, is why we’ve been seeing the Saudi war crimes in Yemen and the US facilitation thereof downplayed for years by the mass media. And they would surely remain downplayed indefinitely were it possible.

But it wasn’t possible. The story kept getting pushed toward mainstream consciousness year after year, and eventually the fact that an outlet which upholds itself as the flag bearer of Trump’s opposition has been completely ignoring this administration’s facilitation of war crimes was made viral. At a certain point a Dem-voting audience which is being told day in and day out that Trump presents a unique and unprecedented level of danger to the world will lose trust in the outlets which market themselves to that demographic if they refuse to make a big deal about the fact that this administration is helping tyrants murder busloads of children.

For this reason, western mainstream media have been forced to finally report on the cruelty being inflicted upon the people of Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its allies in order to avoid losing credibility. The story got out, and the story about their lack of coverage of that story got out, and now they’re all reporting on it like they’ve been doing so this entire time. Which, if it continues, will make it very difficult for the US/UK/Saudi war machine to retain the consent of the governed for its mass slaughter.

In my opinion, we can safely call this a win for alternative media. The voices who aren’t beholden to the empire and its geopolitical agendas refused to let this story die, and eventually succeeded in overtaking the dominant narrative. Not because media-controlling oligarchs like Brian L Roberts and Jeff Bezos gave them permission to, but because unauthorized truth was spoken and carried by many ordinary people into mainstream consciousness via Facebook shares, Twitter retweets and speaking out loud and proud wherever possible. A people’s information battle was fought and won by the people.

If things go as I am hoping they will go, we will see more and more such populist hijackings of dominant narratives in the future, and ultimately a failure of the oligarchs to continue manufacturing consent for their omnicidal, ecocidal, Orwellian agendas. We will have to be aggressive, we will have to be creative, and we will have to be interesting enough to catch the eye of the casual citizenry, but the fact that trust in the mass media is at an all-time low and our ability to network and share information is at an all-time high combines with the fact that we have truth on our side to create some very exciting possibilities. I find this all very encouraging.


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Latest comments

  • Caitlin, make that “the US/UK/Saudi/Israeli war machine.” IMHO that is the real reason the MSM have buried this issue for so long. Saudi Arabia crawled into bed with Israel several years ago, to the extent that wounded ISIS soldiers have been treated in Israeli hospitals and Netanyahu has visited them to give pep talks. This is just another proxy war for Israel. Future historians will scratch their heads bald trying to figure out how the mightiest empire in human history became the sniveling lapdog for a tiny artificial country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea.

    Next on the agenda: forcing the MSM to lift its blackout on the deepening catastrophe in Bernie Sanders’ favorite socialist paradise, Venezuela.

  • Thanks for this article! My kids are there (yes, they’re American). I worry for their safety every second of every day. The bombing and total insanity there has to stop.

  • I’ve spent 2017 and 2018 fighting the insane corporate liberal notion that all American depravity began in January of last year,

    You are preaching to the converted here. However I do not think it is a “insane corporate liberal notion”. I think almost every American believes their own myths than the US is a bastion of freedom and human rights.
    It is likely every US president since WWII is a war criminal. Some were just worse than others.

    My knowledge of US history is not that great but I literally cannot think of an occasion since the founding of the US republic where the US encouraged democracy and human rights in another country with the possible exceptions of Japan and the Marshall Plan in Europe where such a strategy was necessary to prevent the success of various Communist Parties that would likely have allied with the USSR.

    • @jrkrideau: “It is likely every US president since WWII is a war criminal. Some were just worse than others. My knowledge of US history is not that great…”

      Your knowledge is incomplete. No offense.

      Not every US president since WWll was a war criminal. There was one exception.The first American presidential coup d”etat occurred on November 22, 1963. John F Kennedy chose to defy the Deep State. It cost him his life.
      His commencement address at American University in Washington D.C. June 10, 1963 was the trigger that got him murdered.

      See also: JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters First edition by James W. Douglass (2008)

      This war has been waging for many years…

  • What US support ? Are you saying the US should stop selling weapons to allies, so KSA would buy them from Russia or China ? Are you saying the US should send a message that it cannot be relied upon because whenever an ugly war happens it will bail on allies after the first batch of innocents is killed ? You think the other side, the Houthis in this case, give a damn about civilians ? You think there is some op-ed in Iran and Russia claiming they should stop suppling arms to the Houthies because of innocent Saudis dying.

    • You use the word “allies” as if there were some fixed set of countries that the U.S. does, and should, partner with. Saudi Arabia is run by a bunch of autocratic thugs, and there is zero justification for calling them “allies”. Are we frightened they won’t sell us oil? That’s silly: oil is available from all over the world, though we might have to pay a few cents more for it.

      The U.S. should get its big fat nose out of the Middle East. It is wasting trillions of dollars and causing nothing but misery and ruin.

    • Err what? Saudi bombers wouldn’t even be able to reach Yemen without US tanker planes refueling them. Houthis are native to Yemen. They didn’t attack the Saudis. In fact after having chased the wildly unpopular pro-Saudi government, led by Hadi, out of the country the Houthis was about to establish a republic with representatives of all groups in Yemen. The Ansarullah movement, lead by the Houthis, is popular even today and consists of many fractions and the majority of what was the Yemini Army under previous dictator Saleh (backed by US). UN was even involved in the negotiations for a peace deal and new government but then the Saudis started bombing. A month ago Wall street Journal reported that now the Pentagon will take more direct control of the targeting in Yemen..”fine-tune” as they called it.. then a school bus goes up in flames. And that blockade, which is basically siege warfare starving the whole population and a war crime, is not possible without US support both with actual ships but also logistics and intelligence/surveillance. So spare me the Empire shilling. Aren’t the US supposed to be better than Iran and Russia?!?! #NoBeautifulChildrenInYemen #TearsForAleppoNOtearsForMosul #OnlyRegimeChangeLivesMatter

  • Great piece, Caitlin. I would only add that the US has been actively bombing Yemen since at least December 17th, 2009, a full week before the Christmas-day Yemeni underwear bomber — the latter event coming to serve as the pretext for Obama’s bombing and covert war that has continued on into the present. The quirky math hasn’t raised many eyebrows. Likewise, the AP report that a second Yemeni underwear bomber in 2012 was actually a CIA-Saudi intellligence asset passed the notice of sleeping Americans like so many ships in the night.

    p.s. Please make sure that I am subscribed via email. My every attempt has so far failed. I hear others are having the same difficulty.

  • Is it a “defeat”? I recall seeing TPTB switch plans but don’t recall them ever admitting defeat.

    Maybe, instead, the propaganda network — don’t call it “mainstream” because that legitimizes it — is starting to discuss it because TPTB wants to pitch us on escalating our involvement.

    Hope that’s wrong.

  • Hurray for us.
    Thank you Caitlin!

  • Keep pounding your “control the narrative” message!

  • Fabulous news re the Yemen war finally being reported on in MSM.

  • GEOFFREY Yes, I think the independent media needs to be creative in combatting censorship. Perhaps co-oping platforms and resources with other journalists and content producers is worth an attempt. Scattered sources may not provide enough strength and certainly does not provide an independent and reliable source the public can turn to, hence we are all still on corporate social media.

  • It certainly seems correct to point the finger of blame at KSA and the US for the war in Yemen. However, journalism against the war will likely not be successful if the role of the Iranian and the Yemeni government elites is left out of the picture. The antagonism between the 2 factions is over 1300 years old. It is religious, political and tribal. The allies for both sides go beyond the US and include Israel, Russia and the Gulf states. The existence of Yemen as a nation is as bizarre the existence of Iraq or Yugoslavia. Yemen is more of a geographical battlefield for a proxy war for nations afraid to fight each other directly than it is a coherent nation.

    While I earnestly wish for peace in that land and the peasant genocide to cease, I’m not clear if the US has the power to stop it. The neocon antagonism towards Iran is a particular instance of its antagonism towards the Middle East in general. This antagonism would likely be directed towards KSA if it were not for the current detente of the KSA with Israel.

    Does the American journalistic hegemony have a political interest in the welfare of KSA and Israel? The answer is not in dispute. Whatever they say about Yemen will be face saving. They have been embarrassed by the alt media but by no means countered in any significant way. They have not and will not criticize the obscene amounts of arms poured into KSA and Israel, those unlikely bedfellows. Russia’s contributions to Iran may be small, but they’re not insignificant either.

    Which brings us back to the material cause of the conflict – the MIC’s of the world. If there is any hope for an end to conflicts like Yemen it is in this direction. No weapons, no wars.

  • Of course, I am simultaneously glad of the victory of alternative media and wishing that no such victory were necessary, nor that we even had need of an alternative media. The media is supposed to be the single strongest bastion of truth and freedom, but the MSM seems to have crawled away into the mist of a dark night, unafraid to stand up to the bullies and equally disinterested in doing so.
    As for Yemen itself and the atrocities it has been forced to suffer, it is about time that it is out in the open, but I do really fear that the average American either still didn’t hear the news, or has been so dulled that his or her response is, ‘What’s the Big Deal.’ Or, perhaps, ‘It’s so sad, but I didn’t have anything to do with it; now what’s on television.’
    The sad fact, in my experience, is that the average American, whether pro- or anti-Trump, wants only to harangue about a strongly entrenched position, rather than actually discuss the issues. As a people, we seem to be as much at odds as the two major political parties, each seeking power over everything, even though really much alike. And, never forget, unless an American family loses someone in Yemen, or in any of the other god-forsaken, ill-purposed, undeclared wars in which our military is currently engaged, it all seems to be happening ‘over there,’ since we really are on the other side of the world, from where the unspeakable atrocities really are unseen by most American eyes.
    I posit, then, that the MSM still has not done nearly enough to make the entire situation openly known not, more specifically, to make the Yemeni cause far more worthy of reporting on than a hurricane or a World Cup match.

  • If Caitlin is right, that’s the good news, but I fear it will be quickly followed by the bad news: namely, that independent media resources like hers will be shut down.

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