John Pilger looks at what the Western media offer up as journalism and sees instead propaganda. He sees the essence of the mainstream media as not information but power.
The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.
The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.
The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.
Pilger observes that the collapse of mainstream media, their all too willing surrender to messaging and propaganda in lieu of journalism, has proven to be an extremely deadly affliction. The American and British pogrom on Iraq is an example.
…had journalists done their job, had they questioned and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children might be alive today; and millions might not have fled their homes; the sectarian war between Sunni and Shia might not have ignited, and the infamous Islamic State might not now exist.
Even now, despite the millions who took to the streets in protest, most of the public in western countries have little idea of the sheer scale of the crime committed by our governments in Iraq. Even fewer are aware that, in the 12 years before the invasion, the US and British governments set in motion a holocaust by denying the civilian population of Iraq a means to live.
Those are the words of the senior British official responsible for sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s – a medieval siege that caused the deaths of half a million children under the age of five, reported Unicef. The official’s name is Carne Ross. In the Foreign Office in London, he was known as “Mr. Iraq”. Today, he is a truth-teller of how governments deceive and how journalists willingly spread the deception. “We would feed journalists factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he told me, “or we’d freeze them out.”
The handmaidens of suppression have done their job well. Consider the effects. In 2013, a ComRes poll found that a majority of the British public believed the casualty toll in Iraq was less than 10,000 – a tiny fraction of the truth. A trail of blood that goes from Iraq to London has been scrubbed almost clean.
The most effective propaganda is found not in the Sun or on Fox News – but beneath a liberal halo. When the New York Times published claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, its fake evidence was believed, because it wasn’t Fox News; it was the New York Times.
The same is true of the Washington Post and the Guardian, both of which have played a critical role in conditioning their readers to accept a new and dangerous cold war. All three liberal newspapers have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia – when, in fact, the fascist led coup in Ukraine was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and Nato.
Pilger questions whether we’re being conditioned for war. He’s not alone. In August, the leading German financial newspaper, Handelsblatt, warned that we’re being “mentally mobilized” to accept war with Russia.
“If you wonder,” wrote Robert Parry, “how the world could stumble into world war three – much as it did into world war one a century ago – all you need to do is look at the madness that has enveloped virtually the entire US political/media structure over Ukraine where a false narrative of white hats versus black hats took hold early and has proved impervious to facts or reason.”
Parry, the journalist who revealed Iran-Contra, is one of the few who investigate the central role of the media in this “game of chicken”, as the Russian foreign minister called it. But is it a game? As I write this, the US Congress votes on Resolution 758 which, in a nutshell, says: “Let’s get ready for war with Russia.”
Pilger concludes by apparently calling on journalists to heal themselves, something that strikes me as unimaginable until we first break up the corporate media cartel.
“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”
It’s this kind of silence we journalists need to break. We need to look in the mirror. We need to call to account an unaccountable media that services power and a psychosis that threatens world war.
In the 18th century, Edmund Burke described the role of the press as a Fourth Estate checking the powerful. Was that ever true? It certainly doesn’t wash any more. What we need is a Fifth Estate: a journalism that monitors, deconstructs and counters propaganda and teaches the young to be agents of people, not power. We need what the Russians called perestroika – an insurrection of subjugated knowledge. I would call it real journalism.
It’s 100 years since the First World War. Reporters then were rewarded and knighted for their silence and collusion. At the height of the slaughter, British prime minister David Lloyd George confided in C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian: “If people really knew [the truth] the war would be stopped tomorrow, but of course they don’t know and can’t know.”
It’s time they knew.
Canada is in no better position than Britain or the United States. If anything, our corporate media cartel – Sun Media, PostMedia, Bell, CTV, the G&M – don’t even make much of an effort any more to conceal their conservative/corporate alignment. Their cartel has to be broken up if we’re to preserve a democratic Canada for future generations.
Concentrated, corporate owned media and politics are mutually corrupting because each can, and invariably will, do the other invaluable favours all at the public expense. For both of them, it’s “win-win.” For you, it’s all “lose-lose.”
You can’t have a corporatist state and a democratic state at the same time. You can’t end corporatism when you have a corporatist government operating under the cover of a corporate media cartel. Can’t be done.
Democracy cannot exist without an informed electorate. To achieve an informed electorate the voting public must have ready access to the broadest range of views and voices: left, right, and everything in between. The public needs information to empower them to make informed decisions.
The corporate media cartel in service to a corporatist state doesn’t sell information. It peddles messaging, slanted information, groomed information, that is of itself a form of misinformation.
If you don’t hear about this ongoing and dire threat to Canadian democracy from Justin Trudeau or Tom Mulcair, it’s no oversight. They’re fine with the status quo. They’re fine with the modern media cartel. They either see no purpose in dismantling the cartel or they consider it in their personal best interests to allow our media predators to gorge themselves on the Canadian public undisturbed. Whether motivated by personal advantage or cowardice they’re not prepared to stand on the side of democracy, Canada and our people and confront the forces of corporatism and the media cartel they wield.