By Daniel Margrain
In a media age in which information is filtered and people can be bought and sold like any other commodity, it can appear to be abnormal not to be suspicious of people who have a tendency to express too much truthfulness in their rhetoric. It takes time to adjust to trusting people who speak the truth – especially to power. One wise man once said that we hear so many lies until the truth sounds weird to us.
The Corbyn phenomena is an example of this. Many of us know deep down that he speaks with an authentic voice, but so brainwashed have many of us become, often all that it takes to offset this is a repeated demonizing phrase in the media. If a lie is repeated enough times the deceit will eventually be regarded as a universal truth and so reversing it, as Orwell alluded to, becomes a subversive act. This doesn’t merely apply to what could be described as formal dictatorships but is relevant to liberal democracies too.
In these dark and surreal times, the propaganda of deceit and illusion, legitimized by a compliant corporate media machine, touches all our lives in the way advertising does. The aim of mainstream news is the consumption of infotainment – an instant gratification fix akin to consuming fast food. Edward Bernays, who invented the term, “public relations” as a euphemism for “propaganda”, predicted this more than 80 years ago.
Bernays foresaw that advertising and public relations would become an unseen power that would come to dominate the political sphere and shape the minds, tastes and ideas of the population. The aim of this “invisible government” is the conquest of us: of our political consciousness, our sense of the world, our ability to think independently, to separate truth from lies.
The latter which is promoted both consciously and subconsciously to the detriment of the former, as Chomsky and Herman acknowledged in their Propaganda Model, is systemic. Conversely, underneath the lies and spin exists a political reality implicit in truth-telling – a marginal process that has to be searched out rather like an investigator looking for the clues of a crime.
Yesterday morning on BBC television I heard Prime Minister David Cameron accusing Russia of indiscriminate attacks in Syria, as if it’s actually possible to discriminate between one set of terrorists (many supported by the CIA) from a multiplicity of others when bombing from a great height. Predictably, Cameron’s comment went unchallenged by journalists but it did make for a good soundbite. That was, of course, the point.
Later in the day, I checked out the BBC web page which ran with the headline “Cameron condemn’s Russia’s strikes in Syria”. Needless to say, there was no subsequent headline that read “UK accuses US over Afghan strikes” So how can this discrepancy not be in breach of the BBC Charter that prides itself on its supposed impartiality? The answer might have something to do with the fact that the head of the “objective” BBC News is James Harding, Murdoch’s former editor at The Times.
The implication of the BBC report is that the strikes by Russia are indicative of it being the first time a major power has bombed Syria. This is nonsense. In fact, the US-led coalition has conducted 2,579 (2,442 by the US) strikes compared to the eight undertaken by Russia two days ago. Moreover, there is also the assumption that it’s only bombs dropped by the official enemies’ of the Western powers – in this case Russia – that kill human beings and are uniquely destructive.
US and UK bombs have devastated the Middle East for over a decade, killing hundreds of thousands of people, including many thousands of children. But only after Russia started bombing Syria did the media suddenly notice that bombs kill an awful lot of civilians. But only Russian bombs, of course. British bombs are cheerful, happy and their shrapnel and blast are brilliantly engineered only to go in the direction of bad guys. The truth is, no journalist gave a toss about civilian casualties in Syria until two days ago. Neither did they give a toss about the thousands of civilian casualties caused by NATO’s bombing of Sirte in Libya which was approximately 500 times more devastating than the Russian bombings.
It’s also worth mentioning that.Russia is at least the 10th foreign government to launch airstrikes in Syria this year. Other countries other than the United States that have been involved include Britain, Canada, France, Australia, Turkey, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. According to VDC figures, the realities of using force to protect civilians in Syria has thus far resulted in the deaths of 200,000 people, hardly any of them by Russia. This is the context which is missing from all media reports.
That’s not to say that Russia has not been ruthless in its suppression of, for example, the legitimate desire for national independence of the Chechen people, as part of it’s imperial objectives. On the contrary, Russia is an imperialist power who, like the US, is motivated by geopolitical and economic strategic considerations not the protection of civilians. Nevertheless, the historical record shows it’s the American’s more than anybody who have used bombs in an attempt to solve complex political questions as part of their “exceptionalist” world view.
From the initial outbreaks of Syrian violence in March 2011, it was clear that this was not ostensibly a civil war but more of a proxy war that has escalated to become part of the complex conflict that principally involves Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United States, Turkey, Britain and France on one side, and Syria, Russia and Iran on the other. The fact that Syria is a proxy war for multiple external powers -.including the US and Russia – has not been mentioned by Polly Toynbee or any of the other “experts” when discussing Syria.
The destruction by US bombs several times over the course of a thirty-minute period of the Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that killed at least 16 people, among them three children, also comes as a stinging corrective to the media pretense that Russian bombs are somehow uniquely evil and destructive.
“UK accuses US over Afghan strikes” or “US air strike kills Afghan medical staff’ are headlines that don’t appear anywhere on the BBC. Instead they went with “Air Strike kills Afghan medical staff.” When the “other” kill civilians, it’s a sickening, despicable outrage. When “we” kill them, it’s a terrible tragedy; how must the pilots feel? For the last month for which there is data available (August), there were 143 Coalition airstrikes in Afghanistan, the most in ten months.
What’s the media strategy that underpins all this carnage and death? – more carnage and death. The Express headlined with a part crazed propaganda piece and part press release from the arms industry: “UK must prepare for WAR with Russia” Milan Kundera’s phrase “The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting” is more relevant than ever..