The Guardian

The Guardian November 28, 2001


Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

Bush's "white noise"

Have you noticed how much capitalist governments today are like a cross 
between used car salesmen and loan sharks?

Like the former, whether it's in Australia or the US, they use slick ads to 
convince you they are doing you a favour when actually they are robbing 
you.

If you wake up that you have been robbed and object, then like the latter 
they beat you up. If you get angry at that, they blow up your home or 
office, kill your children, at the very least break your legs.

But all the while they maintain a front of respectability. And central to 
maintaining that front is control of the media.

Where would Howard be without a compliant mass media, the dominant part of 
which has played the racist card for all it was worth. For months the 
Murdoch media has been full of alarming "news" stories of ethnic crime 
waves, racially based teenage gangs, and a tidal wave of Islamic boat 
people flooding into the country, overwhelming our borders.

This spin doctoring did not take place because the editor of the Daily 
Telegraph got a parking ticket from a parking patrol officer "of Middle 
Eastern appearance". It's a well-thought-out ploy designed to gain maximum 
public support for the imperialist reconquest of the Middle East.

Actually, of more than the Middle East  the region to be subdued 
stretches from Afghanistan to Algeria, and takes in the resource-rich 
former Central Asian republics of the Soviet Union.

But ever since the end of the Great Imperialist War of 1914-18, the people 
of the world have been told that conquering other countries is wrong. Only 
in fascist countries did it regain popularity for a while, and that 
experience led to the Second World War. Wars of conquest were definitely in 
a bad odour.

They had to be camouflaged by lies and obfuscation, but whenever the people 
could get at the truth they objected. As Judith Le Blanc observed in the US 
Communist Party paper People's Weekly World on November 17: "During 
the Vietnam War, frontline coverage unfolded nightly on TV, informing the 
public opinion that spurred on the anti-war movement.

"The constant declarations of success by the Johnson administration sharply 
conflicted with the news reportage. The American people saw the realities 
of war for themselves and ultimately changed the government's policy."

This experience was not lost upon the politicians and spin doctors of 
capitalism: "A whole generation of professional military people remain 
convinced that the media lost that war for the United States", says Le 
Blanc. "Far-right conservatives continue that drumbeat today."

In the Gulf War, the US kept a tight rein on the media, allowing only one 
closely monitored journalist to report on behalf of a group of news 
organisations. This allowed the amount of actual news to be kept to a 
minimum but the journalists complained that they had been manipulated. It 
left another sort of bad odour.

This time, for the Afghan war, the media have been kept out altogether. The 
Pentagon bought up all the available satellite photographs of Afghanistan. 
It cost millions of dollars, but it successfully kept the war damage out of 
the papers.

John MacArthur, US publisher of Harper's magazine, summed it up 
fairly accurately: "This will be the most censored war in history."

Capitalism's politicians are, of course, only following the lead of the 
capitalists themselves: Judith Le Blanc points to "support of this 
censorship among owners and management of media conglomerates".

She refers to a notorious memo issued in CNN, the cable news service that 
dominated coverage of the World Trade Centre attacks on September 11. This 
document instructed CNN's reporters to always follow coverage of Afghan 
civilian casualties with editorial comment stressing the "war against 
terrorism", the Taliban's role in "harbouring" bin Laden and the September 
11 attack itself.

Otherwise, people might draw their own conclusions about the desirability 
of the war, and then where would we be, eh?

Comments Le Blanc: "The restrictions on reporting the effects of the war, 
imposed by the Bush administration and the Pentagon, have perhaps been the 
greatest factor in maintaining the strong support for the war effort."

That comment almost certainly applies in Australia as well as the US.

The total control of war information, according to Salim Muwakkil, Senior 
Editor of the US news commentary In These Times, has resulted in 
"much of the media ... performing as the fourth branch of government".

Cynthia McKinney, a Democrat member of the US House of Representatives from 
Georgia, using a technical term for electronic interference that clouds a 
television picture, calls the Bush administration's media manipulation 
"white noise that's put out 24 hours a day".

"They don't want you to hear these other voices out there", she told a 
meeting in her electorate.

And in a masterpiece of understatement, the Associated Press Managing 
Editors Conference noted that the restrictions on news reporting now being 
implemented "pose dangers to American democracy".

And just in case you have any lingering doubts about the reporting of the 
war on Afghanistan being an exercise in spin doctoring, remember: "As the 
war was launched, the Pentagon immediately hired, without any bidding 
process, the public relations firm, the Rendon Group." Why? To give the war 
the right PR spin, of course.

Could anything be more blatant?

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