All serious and intelligent journalists today know that the U.S. government has massive media management brigades to carefully control what Americans see in the media and, thus, what they are very likely to believe about things of which they have no direct experience, such as high-level politics, finance and foreign affairs. They also know that the government is extremely effective in secretly censoring the news by using devices such as “embedded reporting” in nations like Afghanistan and Iraq which the U.S. government invades, occupies, and governs.
Yesterday I saw Morley Safer, one of the real old timers of CBS, once again bemoaning the almost total loss of freedom in reporting on these invasions and occupations. As he said, in Vietnam, U.S. and other national reporters could hop a ride on U.S. or other vehicles to cover anything they wanted to cover, which led directly to their exposing the Big Lies of the U.S. military and politicians about what was going on there. In Iraq and Afghanistan the reporters are “in-bedded” (as I call it) with the military to prevent such free lancing and the soaring dangers of guerilla attacks almost totally prevents their even trying to circumvent the official censorship. Of course, none dare call it censorship for fear of being fired and ostracized to Alaska, so he did not use that forbidden word.
What they do not normally realize or, at least, ever mention is that the very concept of “The News” now totally blinds the media people and, thence, the public about the Big Realities everywhere. We all know that it is common for “specialists” to focus all their attention on the trees and, thereby, fail to see the forest. We all know about “Learned Ignorance,” the way in which even truthful, massive facts can totally mislead about the important Big Realities. In a society of immense division and specialization of function and labor, we are continually bombarded by narrow-minded, even stereotypic thinking about almost everything. Everyone focuses on the factoids of his narrow specialty and almost no one puts it together, “draws the lines to connect the dots,” as people routinely put it today. We know those things, but the media are overwhelmingly focused at all levels and in every way on narrow views of realities today’s food section, today’s casualty number in Iraq provided by the U.S. military, today’s promises by Bush, today’s endless “human interest” kickers, and on and on. The best and brightest journalists know all of this and much more but they fall victim to all of these problems every day in every way. The media are set up that way. That’s how they function. That’s what they do, over and over again, day after endless day in an eternal return of Groundhog Day. The brilliant analysts of the news media like David Altheide have shown us over many decades how the media operate in these ways and the effects they have on public thinking.
Brilliant media strategists and government propagandists have worked together intimately for decades to exploit these facts about the news media to control as best they can the thinking of the American public about the issues vital to the politicians who rule the U.S. By the 1980’s they brought all of this together under the direction of people like Lee Atwater and Karl Rove in the Republican Party and created a very powerful Media Propaganda Grand Strategy for controlling public thinking. The Party has daily media-war strategy consultations at the top, instant response teams, overnight polling and instant response special ops teams, daily talking points fed to massive brigades of media operatives worldwide to make the messages come from a vast number of seemingly independent inputs, and on and on. This Propaganda War Against the American People makes the Big Lie campaigns of Hitler and his media specialists look totally amateurish.
An obvious example is the Character Assassination Operation they launch against anyone who becomes or might become an effective critic of their vital policies in the media, thus undermining their Media War Strategy. A war hero Congressman who comes out strongly against the Party line on Iraq is instantly attacked from a great many “independent” sources using variations on the day’s talking points. The instant polls and quick response focus groups track the public response to the Assassination News.
When the polls for Bush and the Party plunged over their Assassination attacks on the war hero, the Party talking points immediately reversed their position on him, calling him a “fine American,” a strategic retreat to prepare for a counterattack recoil to regroup, regain strength and attack in a new way.
Less obvious are Party campaigns like “Emphasize the Positive In Iraq.” Anyone who knows anything about history knows that the crucial facts about any war tend to be negative facts on a narrow front. The U.S. and French defeated the British at Yorktown over a relatively few days when 99% of Americans were not paying any attention at all, but were going on with their daily, happy lives. (They couldn’t get news for days.) But those few days in that tiny part of America had profound consequences for Americans and for world history in the past few centuries. What happened in the U.S. prison at Abu Ghraib was tiny by comparison with the millions of children going happily to school in Iraq, but it has already had profound global effects, increasing the already soaring loathing of the U.S. for its hypocrisy, Big Lies, and mass killing. The children going to school did not have any comparable effect. Any newsman senses that. The U.S. media managers try to deceive them and the public by trying to force them with attacks for “Bias” to cover the irrelevant Happy News.
The powerful censorship effects of this Media War Against the American Public are most obvious in all of the language used by the American media to talk about Iraq, Afghanistan, and almost everything else. The media use only the U.S. government issued words for everything from the U.S. GHQ in Baghdad “The Green Zone,” a very Happy Talk Name to “Liberation” instead of “Imperialist Invasion and Occupation,” which is what almost all intelligent people around the world see it as.
The same is true about everything. “Inflation,” “Terrorism,” “Unemployment,” “War Crimes,” “blindness,” and on and on across the global spectrum is what the Party defines them as, not what they really are or what we in the public want them to mean. The Big Media especially speak only in Government Speak, not in truth speak. That is a fact of overwhelming and obvious importance in understanding the Media, but it is a fact that none dare ever mention. The Media in America are controlled more secretly and in some ways more indirectly than Pravda and Izvestia in the Soviet Disunion Empire (not the name they used for themselves), but their mission, daily operations and effects on government are basically the same. The U.S. media have covered a wider spectrum of the public discourse before invasions and annihilations and vast war crimes, but they always have fallen in line and saluted once the firing starts. On the vast majority of crucial issues in social life, from inflation to taxation and government debt and medical care, the media “News” stories are little more than parroting of discussions among government officials and their “experts.” There is certainly more “opinion” in the op-ed pieces and a somewhat wider spectrum of opinion, mainly from the Republican wing to the Democratic wing of the Republicrat Party, than in Soviet Media. But only a tiny percent of the people, the more intelligent and educated, read even that narrow spectrum of pre-approved Party opinion, all of it done in the officially approved Government Speak words.
“Good Journalism” as now taught in the best schools of journalism is now an enemy of the truth in America and, as far as I know, around the world where similar Parties rule and manage their Media in similar ways, always making adjustments for the local situations. An “Elite” newspaper like the New York Times is now almost entirely irrelevant to understanding what is really going on in our world. The journalists are not purposefully misleading or lying to people, though some of the top publishers and editors know exactly what is going on and they go along to get ahead in the Party or just to make more money by fattening the corporate “bottom line.” The reporters are generally telling truths about what is going on in Podunk and in Iraq, just as Pravda (Russian for truth) did to maintain their credibility. But those masses of little facts are irrelevant to understanding the crucial facts and the Big Truths in our world. They are the trees blinding the public to what is being done to them by The Party. The Media can be mined for “pearls” of facts, as serious analysts do, but they cannot be relied on in any serious way to tell you the Truth.
The public needs desperately to tune-out on these Party Media, just as the best and brightest young people are now doing more and more. They need to think critically and creatively, see how the massive dots go together in reality. When George Bush or one of his armies of media hacks makes his umteenth pronuncio by reading from a telepromter Party Script that is not NEWS that is a Big Lie. Anyone who covers it as News is deceiving you, whether he intends to do so or not.
People need to swear off on Party Government Speak. Make up your own names. The GHQ for the U.S. Imperial Invasion Force in Iraq is The Forbidden City, a huge inner city where Iraqis are not allowed to go without being totally vetted by the U.S. Government of Iraq. The Forbidden City was the term used by the Chinese for the Imperial Palace in Peking. The U.S. Forbidden City is just like that.
Free men and women think freely. They do not submit to Party Speak, a crucial fact of life George Orwell made all intelligent people aware of fifty years ago. Only those who think freely can be free. Those who think as the Party dictates through its Media are Party slaves, not free people.
November 29, 2005