Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Un-War

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate."
"Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the [U.S.] media."
- Noam Chomsky

In high school, I loved the history classes. One of the half-year classes I took was called simply "Contemporary History". This class was focused on 20th century U.S. History. The teacher was a veteran from the Vietnam era, though he only served state-side. One of the points made about the Vietnam War, is that is was nicknamed the "TV War". Almost every night on the evening news, Americans could watch video, sometimes close-up and graphic, portraying the indiscriminately violent meat-grinder that that war was. This was a historic first for any war, primarily due to technological advances, the willingness of the media to report the whole story and the government letting the 'free press' actually report what it wanted. The lesson learned by the powers that be was that the constant flow of these video and still images were seen to be a significant factor that contributed to public opinion finally souring toward the war.

As we see today, this lesson was not lost on the Pentagon. 'Embedded' journalists, the cushy 'green zone' and press restrictions are all designed to let the government control the message, not the press. Another lesson of history is that when the government controls the message it isn't called news, it's called propaganda. Furthermore, propaganda is most effective, when it doesn't appear to be propaganda. If anyone still thinks that the main stream media is actaully giving us independant news and information, they should take a much closer look. Coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan in almost any country in the world is less sanitized and controlled than it is here. In the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz cites Marty Kaplan from the Huffington Post on this subject:

"So let's see. If you take the amount of time that Greta and Rita and Anderson et al currently spend on a typical day on sensational crimes here at home... and divide that by the number of victims, and then multiply that per capita coverage times the number of Americans daily wounded or killed in the war... let's see... carry the seven... it looks like there would no time left for any of the cable channels to cover anything but casualties. No Michael Jackson, no runaway bride, no Natalee; just American troops, doing their patriotic job, and paying a terrible price."

"That the Bush administration has thoughtfully banned coverage of returning coffins; that the president has refrained from attending military funerals (can't show favoritism by being selective, can he?); that it's too dangerous for tv crews to venture out of the green zone to report on our troops; that Bush and Rumsfeld relentlessly mau-mau the press about excessive coverage of "bad news" and scant attention to all the swell progress being made: these make it especially easy for cable news, so dependent on pictures, to excuse its disproportionate blindness to war casualties."

With the advent of 'entertainment news' that more often every years seems to merit coverage as 'front page' news, news media no longer competes with itself, it now competes with 'American Idol', 'Brangelina', Britney and car chases that CNN inexplicably covers as 'breaking news' on a national level seemingly once a week. This is all by design. Entertainment news diverts the attention, primarily of women, away from real issues that will actually have an impact on their day to day lives. Just as Sports, diverts the attention of, primarily, the male populace.

What we have is one of the best propaganda mechanisms the world has ever seen, combined with high tech, muliti-media 'Bread and Circuses' that has sucked most of the oxygen out the sphere of public discussion about issues that most directly effect the public.

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