Pavel Serezhkin, “Profiles in Courage: ENN Middle East reporter Gertrude Bellinger” (2019)
Written and produced by The Grayzone journalist Rania Khalek who plays ENN Middle East correspondent / bureau chief Gertrude Bellinger, this very funny satirical video tears the strips off Western news media outlets and their correspondents in the Middle East for reporting disinformation and conforming, both naively and deliberately, to the Western agenda of invasion and overthrow of legitimate governments in that region. Rania Khalek plays Gertrude Bellinger (the name riffs off Gertrude Bell, the English writer / traveller who explored parts of the Middle East in the early years of the 20th century and later provided foreign policy advice to the British government) who is Middle East foreign correspondent and the head of the Middle East bureau for ENN (parody of the US media company CNN) in Beirut. Accompanied by long-suffering second stringer Alia – who acts as camera crew, secretary, researcher and maker of numerous soy lattes – Bellinger trawls Beirut and finds evidence of Hezbollah operatives and operations everywhere: three guys lazing about on a bench at the beach, a hunky fella doing push-ups and three black sedans driving down the highway in the same direction.
The funniest part of the film features Bellinger interviewing a guy who claims to be a senior Hezbollah commander through his translator Ahmed Ahmed. The “commander” spouts all kinds of guff in Arabic and Ahmed Ahmed deliberately mistranslates what he says in English to Bellinger. Viewers are privy to the guys scamming Bellinger; later the two men will saunter down the road to the local bar where they will regale their friends with stories about how they scammed the American reporter for big bucks. When Bellinger herself visits her local watering hole, a friend there tells her she is being scammed by the two men – the reality is that Hezbollah does not permit foreign press access to its most senior commanders – but of course Bellinger prefers to trust her own instincts (or whatever passes for them).
Along the way, Bellinger lives the high life visiting trendy cafes, people-gazing at the beach (and zeroing in on those hunky Hezbollah fighters sunning themselves on the sand or on the bench) and fixing her nails and hair while Alia runs around making more appointments with “senior Hezbollah commanders” and with the nail salon and hairdresser in some posh part of Beirut.
The production is very slick and professional-looking and Khalek is clearly having a blast at the expense of Western mainstream media outlets who, because of excessive cost-cutting and pressures from political and defence elites, push naive reporters into situations where they can be gypped for money (it’s their employers’ money anyway) and fed deliberate misinformation. Already brainwashed with years of propaganda on TV news and at school and university, the reporters are eager for any information that fits in with whatever they’ve been told to believe. The result is sloppy journalism that feeds an agenda increasingly out of touch with reality. When such an agenda pushes nations into wars that destroy lives and ruin societies, even entire nations, the role played by ignorant reporters such as those Khalek parodies, small as it is, can be seen to be dangerous.