Glenn Greenwald wrote on Saturday that Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that the Obama administration, in order to conceal civilian deaths caused by their drone attacks, “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants...”
After noting that, without being asked, "mainstream" media outlets appear to have agreed to show the ultimate respect for the administration's habit of routinely lying by channeling the lies without any comment on them (other than "officials said"), he asks: What kind of self-respecting media outlet would be party to this practice? Here’s the New York Times documenting that this is what the term “militant” means when used by government officials. Any media outlet that continues using it while knowing this is explicitly choosing to be an instrument for state propaganda.
Greenwald goes on to talk about a drone strike in Pakistan Saturday morning which killed two, and cites the Washington Post article covering the incident which dutifully repeats the government's line, with "US missile strike kills 2 militants..."
Media outlets such as the Post and New York Times, Greenwald admonishes, don't have any idea whatsoever about who was killed in these strikes. All they know is that “officials” (whether American or Pakistani) told them that they were “militants,” so they blindly repeat that as fact. They “report” this not only without having the slightest idea whether it’s true, but worse, with the full knowledge that the word “militant” is being aggressively distorted by deceitful U.S. government propaganda that defines the term to mean: any “military-age males” whom we kill.
This situation is sort of like the old "trial by water" that 17th-century judges used to decide accusations of witchcraft. If you're living in Pakistan or Yemen and get killed by a drone attack, that makes you a "militant." No other evidence is necessary to prove the charge, and no whitebread newspaper or TV network will henceforth question the government's contention that whomever they call "a militant" actually is one.
In their reporting on our various overseas wars, the major media are now nothing more than a sewer pipe for government propaganda.
UPDATE: See also Tom Tomorrow's weekly cartoon at DKos.