Our Despicable Media Never Once Asked Either Candidate About Yemen
As a direct result of US policy, Yemen is in the throes of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. Children are starving to death, huge swathes of the population have no access to medical care, critical infrastructure has been obliterated — traumatized people live under constant threat of death-from-above thanks to our benevolent Saudi allies, who have been assaulting their impoverished neighboring country since March 2015.
None of this would be happening but for the direct material support that the US provides to its Saudi client, which is carrying out the assault. Therefore, in a very tangible way, the US is complicit in the untold suffering of Yemenis. It is also bombing and droning Yemen for tangential reasons, and has been for years.
SANA, Yemen - For decades, Mustafa Elaghil's family produced snack foods popular in Yemen, chips and corn curls in…www.nytimes.com
You’d think that this situation would’ve merited at least one question somewhere along the line, over the course of our ridiculously long presidential campaign process. Recall: Hillary launched her campaign in April 2015, Trump launched his in June 2015. Even prior to their formal announcements, “shadow campaigns” were underway seemingly forever— Hillary in particular had been in constant “running mode” since at least 2013, and realistically for most of her adult life. Throughout these insanely tedious, drawn-out spectacles, the candidates sit for innumerable press interviews; they dance with Ellen DeGeneres, do zany meme videos for BuzzFeed, and tell jokes on late night TV. Though Hillary shunned press conferences for much of the campaign, she was nevertheless available for queries at various points.
And yet, neither candidate was ever asked about Yemen. Not once.
I did ask Hillary about Yemen in June 2016 but she ignored my question. (It was really creepy; I’m 100% sure that she heard it, because I shouted it right in her face — she pretended as though she couldn’t hear me by projecting a very unsettling, practiced robot gaze. It was sort of… inhuman, but you’d expect a decades-long national-level politician to evince that quality.)
(If you know of another instance in which either Trump or Hillary were asked about Yemen, please let me know. I pay close attention to these things, and haven’t seen it, but I grant there could be something that I may have missed.)
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had traveling press following them around constantly, and there were opportunities to ask them questions, even given the very tightly-controlled mechanics of the modern presidential campaign. Afforded such a rare opportunity, the illustrious traveling media instead asked them questions about their favorite TV shows:
About whether they were excited to host Saturday Night Live:
And so on.
But for some strange reason nobody ever got around to asking either about Yemen, despite covering the presidential campaign on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis for 1.5 years straight. Why? The obvious answer is: because we are living in an era of accelerating imperial decline, and the elite press are key facilitators of that decline. But there’s more to it than just the grand, overarching explanation. Bluntly, I don’t think many of the people paid to professionally analyze presidential candidates are all that intellectually curious, and they certainly don’t have any kind of recognizable, coherent ethical framework within which they operate.
If they operated from within a sound ethical framework, they would have noted that Yemen is an ethical travesty, and further surmised that the people who set national policy in the US must be made to address it. But…for the most part these are just trivial, superficial people who simply don’t care about Yemen. Of course there are some exceptions. But as a group, they’re low-quality individuals who we should all be embarrassed by. They rise through the journalistic ranks because they’re not too pushy or confrontational. And then once they reach what was once considered the pinnacle of their profession — chronicling the daily doings of presidential candidates — they respond by asking questions such as, “How do the polls look?” That’s what they genuinely believe to be the most pressing issue of the day: what the polls are saying.
Remember this doozy?
Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg had a remarkable opportunity: she was one of the infinitesimally tiny fraction of Americans who had the officially-approved chance to question one of the leading presidential candidates in a formal setting. How does she handle the opportunity? Not by demanding accountability for the immiseration of Yemen (lest we forget, Hillary took tens of millions of dollars from the perpetrators of the crisis) — no, Jennifer chooses instead to promulgate absolutely asinine conspiracy theories about Russia, presumably because she reckons the resulting article/tweet will draw a lot of attention/clicks. Presumably her editors desire this “content.” That’s our media.
The people designated as “campaign trail press” generally aren’t well-versed on foreign policy; their world is polls, pundits, retweets, and so forth, and as such they don’t spend a heck of a lot of time reading up about Yemen. (Not that it would take a ton of effort to do: the New York Times and other thoroughly mainstream outlets have reported extensively on US culpability for the disaster.) This leads to a situation where we end up spending a full week in October litigating the 1996 Miss Universe pageant, rather than talking about Yemen or anything else of substance.
Yes, Trump contributed to this “superficial” dynamic by amplifying nonsense controversies constantly, but still: the media has agency. They can choose to ask about Yemen, rather than Alicia Machado (by the way, has there ever been a dumber “scandal” than that episode?) No one is forced to get enmeshed in trivialities. They could’ve asked, at some point, about Yemen. But despicably, nobody did — just one of many reasons why the entire media class has been permanently discredited.