How the Media Tried to Manufacture Iran War Consent in Real Time

War is big business. Defense contractors, weapons manufacturers, lobbyists and politicians seeking re-election have a big stake in armed conflict. But war is a money maker for media companies, too. And it’s sickening to see the lengths major news organization will go to in order to make sure war happens.

When Iran fired missiles at a U.S. base in Iraq on Tuesday night, major media outlets ran the same playbook they use in every foreign crisis: hand the mic to pro-war voices and ignore dissent.

As the ostensibly liberal news network MSNBC  spotlit the inevitability of displaying military dominance, Fox News’ pro-Trump guests and hosts welcomed Iranian strikes and openly encouraged the president (who was surely watching at home) to escalate things as soon as possible.

The difference between hard right Fox and liberal MSNBC are usually obvious (particularly when a Fox Business host is nakedly giddy about Lockheed Martin’s rising stock price). But when it’s time to sell war, they somehow manage to find common ground.

Reed’s assertion that it would be “difficult” to not retaliate is simply not true. Not retaliating is always an option. But as soon as missiles start flying, media figures portray war as unavoidable. And what began last night as shilling for war continued today in some outlets as glorification.

POLITICO published and tweeted this more than two hours before Trump’s “de-escalation” address. That speech was similarly lauded by mostly right wing pundits as even-handed and tame, ignoring how Trump dialed back a crisis he created. Maybe avoiding war is a good enough reason to pat Trump on the back, but it’s worth noting his actions, decisions and words put us here in the first place.

The media’s determination to go to war isn’t new. It’s the same drumbeat the media played in run-up to the Iraq War. When MSNBC identified Suliemani as “the world’s no. 1 bad guy” last week it felt like CNN was playing reruns of 2003-era “Axis of Evil” coverage. In the days since, major news outlets have debated whether to call Suliemani a terrorist and aired messages from Trump administration officials who fancy themselves action movie heroes.

The media has to report what the administration says and does, especially in regards to a potential war. But they can’t repeat the administration’s statements or report on its actions without question. We know what happens when the media doesn’t and we can’t afford to let that happen again.