The Battle of Information

Targeted media campaigns are no longer a regional issue, but a pressing global one. A newspaper's mission has long been to search for the truth, deliver facts to its audience, and express opinions freely and professionally. But in the West today, particularly in the US –  so often looked to as an example of true freedom of expression - we find that the digital era has transformed the profession into a tool for campaigning and spreading false news.

There are many examples in this regard. One of the most prominent examples of where the media was used to propagate misleading information is the confession of former US official in Obama's administration Ben Rhodes, to the New York Times' David Samuel in an interview before Trump was elected president. He admitted to creating an "echo chamber" which depended on fresh correspondents. This chamber has effectively pushed the mostly anti-Mullahs public opinion to accept his country's deal with Iran. The same echo chamber helped silence and sometimes intimidate the deal's critics.

Ben Rhodes and his colleagues perceived that newspapers' role has declined in favour of the social media giants. Given the huge losses they incurred, newspapers underwent a restructuring that resulted in the closure of overseas bureaus. "All of these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus," he said. "Now they don't. They call us to explain to them what's happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That's a sea change. They literally know nothing."

Since then, Obama's staffer understood how to use newspapers to move forward with his political agenda. After a long history of being an independent authority to be reckoned with by any government official, newspapers have become a mere echo of the administration. If it were not for serious newspapers, Americans would not have heard of "Watergate", which took Nixon down, or even the "Iran-Contra Affair", the secret trilateral deal between Israel, US and Iran.

In fact, the opposite took place during Obama's administration. Ben Rhodes promoted a narrative in which the administration started negotiating with Iran after moderate Hasan Rouhani was elected president in 2013. However, the truth is, negotiations began at an earlier point with the hardline decision-makers, and a framework for the agreement was reached even before Rouhani's election. The decline of newspapers hindered the uncovering of the incident.

Unfortunately, along with the digital revolution, we have all entered an age of misleading and false news. In contrast to newspapers' decline, social media rose to greater significance. The problem with the social media giants is that they are owned by people whose political views and identities are mostly pro-democratic, and they apply a kind of censorship against the content they disapprove.

Throughout his four-year term, Trump faced accusations of Russian intervention. Even after these claims were proved false, the rumours continued to haunt him. If social media can control what people publish and see, how much influence does it have on their lives and choices? For example, in the case of Joe Biden's son – who was accussed of accepting bribes from Chinese businesses – was largely obscured to American voters who were prevented from learning about its details due to internet censorship.

One of the downsides of this approach is that the people in power cannot listen to other voices.

Hence, a large portion of the US feels marginalized, not only concerning foreign policy but also in gun and abortion laws and other sensitive issues.

Therefore, dysfunction is not limited to newspapers; it extends to economic and social arenas. Dysfunction of this nature brings the community to a state of imbalance; the biggest problem currently facing the US.

This is one understanding of the reasons behind why 75 million Americans voted for Trump in 2020. It is a huge number that should not be ignored by US decision-makers and the intelligence community. This large group is not a terrorist supremacist mob, as they have been superficially described. On the contrary, they are people who feel marginalized. 75-million people reflect the size of the US problem. If Trump is the manifestation of the problem, neither Obama nor Biden can solve it.