If you want people to think that a country resistant to US leadership is a festering doomscape, just underexpose the hell out of your photographs.
This is a fascinating observation, but I wonder if the ascribed intent is the whole story. Though some of these examples look like poor editorial decisions, a few of the examples look better to my eyes with reduced exposure. I wonder if it's a case of house style being taken too far in some cases. I'm not saying that's definitely the case: I'm not one to defend corporate media.