The Insidious Power of Propaganda

To study the effects of political propaganda in what used to be called the ‘free world’ there could hardly be a better time than now. We are living through an instance of insidious propaganda that has clean contours. It fills a common need. In a period of large-scale slaughter and other man-made disaster the morally conscious person can do with some clear categories of good and bad, desirable and despicable. Political certainty, in other words. You can even sell wars using ‘moral clarity’ as a sales pitch, as happened with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Good-evil classification is easy enough when we have imprisoned journalists decapitated by jihadis. Those who “will do something about that” are automatically placed in the ‘good guys’ category. But there is a problem of murkiness in this sample. Syria’s Assad has been listed for years at the top of the bad guy list, and yet he appears to be changing into something of an ally of those who are intent now on setting things straight. On top of which, Americau2019s Deadlies... William Blum Best Price: $2.25 Buy New $37.49 (as of 07:25 EST - Details) the fact that the radical Islamists out of which ISIS emerged were funded and encouraged by the United States and its Arab allies is not a deep secret, and the fact that none of this mayhem would now exist were it not for the sorcerer’s apprentice effect of the decapitation of the Iraqi state in 2003 has been pretty much agreed on.

The Ukraine sample is more clear-cut. Here we have fighters for democracy and other Western values in Kiev vs a character who is throwing a spanner in the works, who does not respect the sovereignty of neighbors, and whose intransigence does not lessen, no matter what sanctions you throw at him. The First Casualty: Th... Phillip Knightley Best Price: $14.32 Buy New $29.73 (as of 10:35 EST - Details)

The story of the downed plane with 298 dead people is no longer news, and the investigation as to who shot it down? Don’t hold your breath. Last week Dutch viewers of a TV news program were informed about something that had been doing the rounds on internet samizdat: the countries participating in the MH17 investigation have signed a nondisclosure agreement. Any of the participants (which include Kiev) has the right to veto publication of the results without explanation. The truth about the cause of the horrifying fate of the 298 appears to have been already settled by propaganda. That means that although there has been no shred of evidence that the official Killing Hope: U.S. Mil... William Blum Best Price: $5.94 Buy New $61.31 (as of 08:10 EST - Details) story of the ‘rebels’ shooting down the plane with Russian involvement, it remains a justification for sanctions against Russia.

After the crisis slogged along for weeks with further bloodshed and bombing devastation, and anxious NATO grumbling about whether Putin’s white trucks with humanitarian relief supplies could possibly amount to a fifth column, interest in the Ukraine crisis has reached another peak in the mainstream media with an alleged Russian invasion to aid the ‘rebels’. On September 1 st the NY-Times carried an op-ed article announcing that “Russia and Ukraine are now at war.” Another propaganda product? It certainly looks like it. Foreign volunteers, even French ones, appear to have joined the ‘rebels’ and most of them are likely to be Russian – don’t forget that the Rogue State: A Guide t... William Blum Best Price: $1.87 Buy New $2.99 (as of 08:10 EST - Details) fighters of Donetsk and Lugansk have neighbors and relations just across the border. But as the new Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Donetsk National Republic Alexander Zakharchenko answered a foreign reporter at his press conference: if there were Russian military units fighting beside his forces they could already have moved on Kiev. From sparse information one gets the impression that his forces are doing rather well on their own without the Russians. They are also helped along by deserting Kiev troops who lack enthusiasm for killing their Eastern brethren.

Dispassionate editors have hardly any direct means to find out what may be happening on the ground in Donetsk and Lugansk, because they cannot send experienced reporters to where the fighting takes place. The astronomical insurance costs involved cannot be met by their budgets. So we have little more to go on than what we can glean from some internet sites with good track records.

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