The ‘war on terror’ couldn’t have happened without mainstream media

war on terror media
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As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, The Canary has partnered with advocacy organisation CAGE. The organisation’s International Witness Campaign is commemorating 20 years of the war on terror.

Along with over 50 other partners, we’ll be rolling out coverage and events over the next 5 months. They’ll look to critique and analyse the role of media outlets in enabling the war on terror to continue. Whilst recent months have seen the US withdrawal from Afghanistan (and the almost immediate takeover of the Taliban), this by no means signals the end of the war on terror.


War criminal George Bush famously declared a “war on terror” when a number of mostly Saudi nationals bombed the twin towers in 2001. This declaration of war on a concept has characterised the domestic and foreign policies of Western governments over the past two decades.

There’s plenty to focus on in this area – weapons of mass destruction that never existed; CIA torture and rendition; the continued operation of Guantánamo Bay; illegal wars. It’s unmistakeable that the war on terror has not been fought on battlefields alone. It’s also been played out in workplaces, schools, hospitals, and prisons. In other words, it’s been a war that’s about domination and control of Muslims in every possible arena.

As we look back over the past 20 years, one element that’s been instrumental in the course of the war on terror has been mainstream media. Public opinion has swayed over the years, and appetite for war has been sporadic. Many protestors came together to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So much work has, and is, done to protest and resist Islamophobia. But much of this work has had to focus on repeated racism from the media.

Manufacturing consent

A functioning news media industry should question power, not work in service of power. Unfortunately, that generally isn’t the case in British media, and it certainly isn’t the case when it comes to coverage of Muslims. Outlets across the political spectrum are guilty of fanning the flames of Islamophobia and racism. It’s no accident that the phrase “manufacturing consent” often pops up in these discussions. Domestic and foreign policy decisions don’t happen in isolation. They happen within the context of a range of media outlets that prop them up.

A 2018 report from the Centre for Media Monitoring found:

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Almost 1 in 4 online articles (23%) misrepresent an aspect of Muslim behaviour or belief

The Muslim Council of Britain has a running tally of misrepresentation and outright hostility towards Muslims. The need for such reports and initiatives has come from domination of the media landscape by the same, few wealthy voices. Their wealth has brought them their connections. This, in turn, equips them to dominate propaganda about Muslims.

In 2019, the outgoing chairperson of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) Alan Moses said:

The portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the British press has been the most difficult issue facing the press watchdog in the past five years.


I don’t quote these reports and statistics to give legitimacy to the problem I’m describing. The fact that even white-dominated organisations like IPSO are noticing these trends tells us the scale of the issue. Muslims have intimate knowledge of how the media has used fear to whip up a public frenzy against them. And governments have instrumentalised this frenzy to push through their actions in the war on terror.

At this stage it’s almost pointless to offer up headlines and front pages to describe the media’s complicity. It’s become so ingrained in British culture that it’s now part of the fabric of this country. Governments may well have declared the war on terror, but it’s been the media that has kept the war drum beating.

Fear and ignorance

In his 1981 book Covering Islam, scholar Edward Said writes:

Far from challenging the vulgar stereotypes circulated in the media, the academic experts on Islam are… status symbols of relevant authority on Islam, and also dependent on the whole system constituting and legitimating their function within it: and it is this system which the media, in their reliance upon stereotypes based on fear and ignorance, reflect.

Whilst Said was discussing academics, the pattern of thinking he describes is also relevant for journalists. Mainstream media is full of white people who have no experience, relevance, or expertise to speak on Islamophobia or racism. And yet, they have the loudest voices and largest platforms. They peddle ill-disguised support for government policies which seek to make all Muslims the target of increased securitisation and suspicion.

Some journalists have neutralised their own capacity for critique in order to serve as cogs in the machinery of war that they uphold. They rely on stereotypes that keep the wheels of fear and ignorance turning. It’s not in their interests to question power, no matter how many Muslims are scapegoated, tortured, surveilled, or abused.


Even in the 80s, well before 9/11, Said warned about the dangers of media outlets misrepresenting and obscuring power:

Underlying every interpretation of other cultures–especially of Islam–is the choice facing the individual scholar or intellectual: whether to put intellect at the service of power or at the service of criticism, community, and moral sense.

What Said is describing here is the choice that commentators face when they report on the ‘war on terror.’ Are you going to work in the service of power? Or are you going to work in the spirit of critical thinking, community ties, and with a sense of morality?

What we’ve seen over the past 20 years from mainstream media outlets is a consistent commitment to racism, white supremacy, and Islamophobia. Indeed, it’s a choice which allies itself to the racism, white supremacy, and Islamophobia of any British government over the past 20 years.

Featured image via The Canary

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  • Show Comments
    1. Exactly the same as the “War on Drugs” It’s the same MSM, Elites, Old Money, Pirate, Slaver, Plunderer, Coloniser, Mafia Greedlords who make the laws, that reap the Criminal Money Benefits by the Millions. Why would May refuse a Cannabis legalisation Bill/Vote, because her husbands cosy shares in the Legal Cannabis Farms in the UK would be at risk of strong competition.
      Why would This Government and “Opposition Party” (more like supporting act!), act like Absolute Clowns, around the rotting corpses of Babies and their Mothers, Dads and Uncles, Grandmas and Grandpas, etc!? Because they are really thick and have absolutely NO EMPATHY!? NO! They Act The Clowns because that Act is their Money!
      Anyone who is not treated like Julian Assange, Edward Joseph Snowden, Jeremy Corbyn, etc, etc are, has a Firm Grip, under the Table, at a fat wad of Death Money dripping with Palestinian, Syrian, Yemeni, Afghan, Iraqi, etc, etc Blood! Who knows what other atrocities!
      The International Broadcasts of “Muslim = Terrorist” and the Normalisation of seeing dead “Terrorists” Started pretty early on you just need to search old TV Broadcasts and Old Papers, up to 1960 it was Pro-Arab in the 60s it started to turn into Muslim and Islam and slowly, slowly we were primed to see death and destruction of the Middle Eastern Arab/Muslim/”Islamist” “Terrorists” Armed with their weapons of mass destruction, stones and slingshots by the time “War Against Terror” came, people were primed for the imagery they saw. No Shock, Horror and Outrage!
      Imagine if all the people were Outraged and still had a tiny bit of Empathy! Just imagine how that would have affected The Murdering Greedmongers “War on Terror”!
      The War Pigs creating The War OF Terror!!!
      The People of the world are finally Zombified MSM Sheeple! Numb to the Horror on their TV sets, even in agreement “Well, they shouldn’t/should’ve have…..” etc! They show more Empathy for Soap/Film Characters than the real dead people they see every day!
      We are a Sick Volatile Species of Ape, living on a Sick Planet!

    2. Don’t underestimate the role of Israel, not just its government and its hasbara but the power of its lobbies across western governments and media.
      Israeli officials were present at Camp David when the two war-criminals made their blood-pact, aware of what a boost three thousand dead Americans was to their colonial project in Palestine.
      Subsequently, the media was instructed to employ every jingoistic and racist tactic to ensure that the invasions went ahead, whatever the cost.
      Meanwhile, Lebanon was attacked and Gaza flattened. And day by day the colonies increased in size and numbers while the world looked away.

    3. Written here is ‘Whilst recent months have seen the US withdrawal from Afghanistan (and the almost immediate takeover of the Taliban), this by no means signals the end of the war on terror.’
      What’s ignored by MSM is this so-called war is a way of self-enrichment by the Amerikan War Industrial Complex/Pentagon/CIA-FBI & ilk. War is big business encouraged by the trolls in the White House. More revenge attacks will occur as the brown people being bombed justly retaliate.
      Nowhere does the idea that to stop ‘terror’ (revenge) all Amerika & its lapdog followers have to do is stop bombing brown people.

    4. It all sounds very similar to the covid war on the British people by the same organisations over the last 18 months – except this time the alternative media has been in lockstep. This journalist says she distrusts the media – and I have no reason to doubt that – while at the same time repeating many elements of the media narrative on 9-11, which seem doubtful to many.

    5. Islam IS a threat! It is a threat to mindless consumerism, as a militant religion.

      It even enforces voluntary starvation, to teach the Faithful what its like to be poor and not afford food. It also has false practicioners, like the Sauds – but it is noted THEY are good friends with our .1%.

      While not a religion i would personally follow, it is not the slightest threat to me. Or – it’s possible ‘threat’ is .00000001% of the threat that MY OWN GOVT are to me, and to the rest of us that are not multi-millionaires.

      However, if ‘you’ intend to strip the population of wealth and political power, you need a ‘scapegoat’ to direct their anger onto.

      And if simultaneously, there is a small population that a powerful group wishes to exterminate – I don’t think I need to name names HERE – who also just happen to follow that religion too, then what a plus for those psychopaths!

      All planned. All deliberate. No concern whatsoever for the victims.

      After all, 100 years ago, Britain was dropping chemical WMDs upon their ancestors, and exterminating them in more creative ways than even the German Nazis.

      Of course, when i say “Britain”, I mean the amoral stinking f*ckers who ‘rule’ this country.

      Cos it sure as shit isn’t the actual population that merely lives here.

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