Any lingering notions that we have an independent and free media system must surely be evaporating under the vast weight of evidence emerging as the US and Britain manipulate and deceive their way to a war for control of Iraq’s oil. Consider tonight’s breathtaking report on ITN’s Evening News at 6:30. Newsreader Katie Derham began the report on Iraq, declaring:
“Saddam Hussein has lied to the United Nations and the world is one step closer to a war with Iraq. That’s the message from America tonight, as the UN’s chief weapons inspector admitted there’s nothing new in Saddam’s weapons dossier. The White House confirmed a short while ago that president Bush is now ramping up towards an attack.” (December 19, 2002)
Once again, the role of the media is merely to report the view of power. Given that this is the case, power is free to do exactly as it pleases – the public will be told what power believes is right, wrong, good and bad. With no rational challenge, with all other views ignored as irrelevant, the public will be in no position to contradict the “message from America”.
Derham handed over to International Editor Bill Neely, who asked, “What’s missing?” in the Iraqi arms dossier. Neely’s answer:
“Iraq doesn’t account for hundreds of artillery shells filled with mustard gas that inspectors know it had. Iraq said in the past it had lost them!”
No need to question if these missing artillery shells are being proposed in all seriousness as a reason for launching a massive war. No need to question if use of these awesome weapons – described by arms inspectors as battlefield weaponry of minimal importance – might be deterred by the US’s 6,144 nuclear warheads. No need to question why, if these weapons are such a dread threat, weapons inspectors have been allowed to come and go as they please in Iraq.
Speaking under a banner graphic reading, ‘Timetable to War’, ITN newsreader Nicholas Owen said:
“It seems the question is no longer +if+ we’ll attack Iraq, but +when+ and +how+. So what happens next? What’s the timetable to war?”
All questions that might be asked by any sane individual at this critical time can safely be dumped, then, in the understanding that imminent war is now simply a fact of life to be accepted. If the powerful have decided on a course of action, then who are +we+ to question or challenge what they have resolved to do. Owen continued:
“Unlike the last Gulf War, there’s no option of leaving Iraq with Saddam still in power. This war +will+ happen and Saddam +will+ be disposed, and that message comes from the top.” (Nicholas Owen)
Again, the “message from America”, this time from the president himself, is war! And so Owen declares war a certainty and predicts the fall of Saddam Hussein. The media’s job is simply to relay the message – rational and moral concerns are of no concern to our free press. Owen then moved on to discuss ‘The Risks’ under a banner headline with the same words, indicating the possible need for hand-to-hand fighting on the streets of Baghdad:
“An urban warfare nightmare in which there could be many casualties… A risky strategy for any US president in a country that doesn’t readily accept its soldiers returning home in body bags.”
Imagine if a massive foreign superpower were contemplating hand-to-hand fighting on the streets of London. Other risks might spring to mind. But, as in Afghanistan, the horrors facing a captive population in thrall to a dictator and targeted by our bombs, is no concern of ours.
Next, correspondent John Irvine in Baghdad:
“On tonight’s News at Ten, I’ll be reporting on the problems any invasion force might face in this country. Following the Gulf War, the Americans do have experience fighting in the desert. But this time the ultimate prize will be different – the capture of this city, Baghdad.”
Note that Irvine can actually stand in the target capital among a civilian population utterly crushed by earlier wars (by the 88,500 tons, the equivalent of seven Hiroshima-sized bombs, dropped during the Gulf War, for example) and a decade of genocidal sanctions, and refer to problems facing only an “invasion force”. The problems facing the hundreds of thousands of people all around him – problems like being mutilated, incinerated and killed – are not now and never have been an issue for our media.
Under a banner graphic reading, ‘War Against Saddam’, Owen continued:
“As John said, he’ll have more on the War Against Saddam on tonight’s New at Ten.”
Within hours of the US announcement of a “material breach”, even as UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insists (deceptively) this does not mean an automatic trigger for war, ITN has decided in its infinite wisdom, and servility, that this is now a ‘War Against Saddam’.
Finally, Robert Moore in Washington declared:
“The bottom line here at the White House, certainly, president Bush believes that Saddam Hussein has missed his final opportunity to save his regime.”
Thus, with perfect symmetry, ITN’s report ended as it had begun – with a “message from America”, from the powerful – the only message that counts in a media world utterly lost in ignorance, casual brutality and servility.
Media Lens will unfortunately be going off-line over the next week. We would like to say a very sincere thank you to the many readers who swamped the BBC with cogent and heartfelt emails in response to last night’s Media Alert. We hope you will continue sending emails – it is tremendously important to keep challenging the media.
Tonight, both the BBC and ITN maintained the, by now, insane level of saturation propaganda, reporting that sky marshals will be used to protect British planes from terror attack. Before we sign off, we thought it would be interesting to leave you with an explanation from Noam Chomsky of the rationale for this kind of propaganda in preparing a country for war. Please forward this with your letters to the email addresses at the bottom of the page. We send you our very best wishes.
The Editors – Media Lens
“First of all I think we ought to be very cautious about using the phrase ‘War on Terror’. There can’t be a War on Terror. It’s a logical impossibility. The US is one of the leading terrorist states in the world. The guys who are in charge right now were all condemned for terrorism by the World Court. They would have been condemned by the U.N. Security Council except they vetoed the resolution, with Britain abstaining of course. These guys can’t be conducting a war on terror. It’s just out of the question. They declared a war on terror 20 years ago and we know what they did. They destroyed Central America. They killed a million and a half people in southern Africa. We can go on through the list. So there’s no ‘War on Terror…
You’ve got to kind of admire the intellectual classes not to notice that the only people in the world who are afraid of Saddam Hussein are Americans. Everybody hates him and Iraqis are undoubtedly afraid of him, but outside of Iraq and the United States, no one’s afraid of him. Not Kuwait, not Iran, not Israel, not Europe. They hate him, but they’re not afraid of him.
In the United States people are very much afraid, there’s no question about it. The support you see in US polls for the war is very thin, but it’s based on fear. It’s an old story in the United States. When my kids were in elementary school 40 years ago they were taught to hide under desks in case of an atom bomb attack. I’m not kidding. The country is always in fear of everything. Crime for example: Crime in the United States is roughly comparable with other industrial societies, towards the high end of the spectrum. On the other hand, fear of crime is way beyond other industrial societies…
It’s very consciously engendered. These guys now in office, remember they’re almost entirely from the 1980s. They’ve been through it already and they know exactly how to play the game. Right through the 1980s they periodically had campaigns to terrify the population.
To create fear is not that hard, but this time the timing was so obviously for the Congressional campaign that even political commentators got the message. The presidential campaign is going to be starting in the middle of next year. They’ve got to have a victory under their belt. And on to the next adventure. Otherwise, the population’s going to pay attention to what’s happening to them, which is a big assault, a major assault on the population, just as in the 1980s. They’re replaying the record almost exactly. First thing they did in the 1980s, in 1981, was drive the country into a big deficit. This time they did it with a tax cut for the rich and the biggest increase in federal spending in 20 years.
This happens to be an unusually corrupt administration, kind of like an Enron administration, so there’s a tremendous amount of profit going into the hands of an unusually corrupt group of gangsters. You can’t really have all this stuff on the front pages, so you have to push it off the front pages. You have to keep people from thinking about it. And there’s only one way that anybody ever figured out to frighten people and they’re good at it.” (Chomsky, Winter Solstice 2002, Issue 386, WAKE UP! WAKE UP! IT’S YER CHRISTMAS. SchNEWS, CHOM’PIN AT THE BIT)
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