Mehdi Hasan, Media Influence, and the Shifting Sands of Objective Journalism

Blinded By Journalism 1 - CC BY 2.0 DEED by AhmadHammoud
Blinded By Journalism 1 - CC BY 2.0 DEED by AhmadHammoud

Ah, the digital age – an epoch where our every thought, be it profound or pedestrian, can be broadcast with the simple tap of a screen. And within this digital coliseum, few gladiators wield as much influence as those like Mehdi Hasan, who, from the sanctum of CNBC’s polished studios, can shape perceptions and even rewrite histories. So when we observed the recent bout of wits (or perhaps, half-wits in certain cases) between a financial behemoth like Bill Ackman and Mr. Hasan, one couldn’t help but mourn the untimely demise of that venerable journalistic doctrine: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

In fact, Hasan’s narrative style raises a couple of (meticulously groomed) eyebrows. One can’t help but notice a certain … let’s call it ‘proclivity’… in Mr. Hasan’s approach to facts, particularly when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian narrative. Now, I wouldn’t dare suggest that Mr. Hasan, with his eloquence and platform, would be swayed by external influences, but it’s hard to ignore the subtle notes — or perhaps, not so subtle — that resonate rather harmoniously with the narratives peddled by certain powers, notably Qatar and Iran.

A casual onlooker might innocently ask: why would a distinguished commentator like Hasan, with the world’s facts at his fingertips, inadvertently (or dare one say, intentionally?) provide oxygen to antisemitic conspiracies? Could it possibly be the influence of those lush Qatari studios of Al Jazeera, where he previously held court, or perhaps the rather well-documented Iranian narratives that occasionally, almost serendipitously, align with his own? Coincidence? Maybe. After all, in a world where even the most outlandish conspiracies find believers, who’s to say where inspiration originates?

It’s almost poetic, really. Hasan, the vigilant guardian of the ‘truth’, occasionally lets slip these pesky little lapses in judgment. One might even say it’s a masterclass in narrative construction: just enough fact to give the illusion of credibility, with a generous sprinkling of bias to keep particular audiences engaged and particular sponsors appeased.

Oh, Mr. Hasan, your dance on the tightrope of ‘objective’ journalism is indeed a sight to behold. The sheer audacity of weaving a narrative that serves certain masters while standing on a pedestal of journalistic integrity. It takes talent, or perhaps just a particular brand of audacity. Either way, bravo! The world watches, and occasionally, some even with a discerning eye.

Ackman’s request for Harvard University to shine a light on the identities behind a contentious letter about the tumult in Israel was not an affront to the First Amendment; it was a clarion call for accountability. However, in a move reminiscent of smoke-filled rooms and obfuscating politicos, Hasan sought to paint this as a highhanded assault on liberty.

“Hedge fund guy who has pretended in the past to care about free speech now wants to name, shame, and punish college students for expressing views he dislikes and finds offensive”

Such flagrant misdirection is not merely disingenuous; it’s perilous. When media luminaries with Hasan’s reach distort earnest pleas for transparency into imagined attacks on freedoms, they create an arena where polemics thrive and discourse dies. This is not merely a shirking of journalistic duty; it’s a betrayal of the public trust.

Mr. Hasan’s choice to then silence his own tweet, whilst side-stepping the harrowing events relayed by Mr. Greenblatt in Israel, typifies a malignant trend: the alacritous embrace of obfuscation when truth becomes inconvenient. This selective muteness provides fertile ground for specious narratives, leaving the public grappling with half-truths and shadows.

The haunting question, so glaringly posed by Mr. Greenblatt yet evasively dodged by Hasan, lingers: where do these media figureheads truly stand amidst the maelstroms of our age? For the modern commentator, it’s insufficient to merely shout into the void or conveniently erase digital footprints. Real integrity demands unyielding stances, even when the storm rages.

In this delightfully befuddled age, where ‘alternative facts’ have been granted the undeserved dignity of mainstream parlance, figures like Mr. Hasan — with his lofty perch in the media pantheon — are expected, nay, demanded, to rise above the mire of triviality. Surely, one would think, with the responsibility vested in them, they’d champion the cause of robust dialogue and unclouded clarity. But alas! Instead of setting an example, we find ourselves treated to the digital equivalent of sticking one’s fingers in one’s ears and humming loudly: the hasty tweet followed by the even hastier deletion. It’s a veritable masterclass in how to amplify the very public doubts one hopes to assuage. One can’t help but admire the sheer audacity, the brazenness of such a tactic; after all, who needs credibility when you can have retweets and fleeting digital applause? Bravo, Mr. Hasan, for showing us the pitfalls of modern discourse in such vivid, almost satirical, detail.

Our role, as discerning consumers in this vast information bazaar, is to champion this accountability. We must dissect, challenge, and reshape the narratives before us, driving towards a media cosmos that educates rather than estranges.

About the Author
Catherine Perez-Shakdam - Director Forward Strategy and Executive Director Forum of Foreign Relations (FFR) Catherine is a former Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society and consultant for the UNSC on Yemen, as well an expert on Iran, Terror and Islamic radicalisation. A prominent political analyst and commentator, she has spoken at length on the Islamic Republic of Iran, calling on the UK to proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation. Raised in a secular Jewish family in France, Catherine found herself at the very heart of the Islamic world following her marriage to a Muslim from Yemen. Her experience in the Middle East and subsequent work as a political analyst gave her a very particular, if not a rare viewpoint - especially in how one can lose one' sense of identity when confronted with systemic antisemitism. Determined to share her experience and perspective on those issues which unfortunately plague us -- Islamic radicalism, Terror and Antisemitism Catherine also will speak of a world, which often sits out of our reach for a lack of access.
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