Greg Maybury is a freelance writer based in Perth, Australia. His main areas of interest are American history and politics in general, with a special focus on economic, national security, military, and geopolitical affairs. For over 6 years he has regularly contributed to a diverse range of news and opinion sites, including OpEd News, The Greanville Post, Russia Insider, Consortium News, Dandelion Salad, Global Research, Dissident Voice, OffGuardian, Contra Corner, International Policy Digest, the Hampton Institute, and others.
We have blind men, one-eyed men, squint-eyed men, men with long sight, short sight, clear sight, dim sight, [and] weak sight. All that is a faithful enough image of our understanding; but we are barely acquainted with [men of] false sight. — Voltaire, The Philosophical Dictionary, 1924. Knopf, NY.
[M]ost establishment…journalists tend to be like their writing, and so, duly warned by the tinkle of so many leper-bells, one avoids their company. — The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2001. © Gore Vidal, Abacus, 2001.
It was while making news paper deliveries, trying to miss the bushes and hit the porch, that I learned about the importance of accuracy in journalism. — Charles Osgood (Attr.)
I heard the news today, oh boy…! — “A Day in the Life”, © John Lennon & Paul McCartney. 1968.
Brief: The gulf dividing established institutions—governments, political parties, academia, the judiciary, legislature, bureaucracies, the national security state, think-tanks, lobby groups, and especially the mainstream media—and those within and across the broader body politic, particularly those who’d challenge the chokehold such institutions seek to impose on the information and knowledge that forms the foundation of our political discourse as well as that of the official historical record, is expanding at a rate of knots. With a focus on one man who saw it all coming, it’s time to reflect on the backstory of this bourgeoning, perilous impasse, and what the implications might be for geopolitical stability and security, and indeed, the future of humanity.
— Living in a Fog of Historical Myth —
With an attendant lack of transparency and accountability, the mainstream media establishment routinely subordinates the basic tenets of ethical reportage in the public interest to the interests, demands, and expectations of what many refer to as the ‘deep state’.
This is largely driven by the failure or refusal of the Fourth Estate to live up to its basic remit in holding the ‘deep staters’ in turn responsible for their decisions and actions. This vicious circle, downward spiral reality is especially evident in matters of war and peace. Sadly, as we’ll see it was ever thus.
To underscore such sentiments and prepare the ground as it were, accounts of two recent newspaper pieces should do the trick. A Washington Examiner report by one Tom Rogan called on the Kiev regime to bomb the just completed Crimean Bridge. Even given the anti-Russian fervour — at once contagious and addictive — in the West at present, the unreserved call by any purportedly responsible media outlet of what is after all an unprovoked act of war against that nuclear-armed country might’ve once been unthinkable. In the Salem-like milieu that beclouds the Beltway though, for British analyst Neil Clark such ‘hate-filled incitement, masquerading as “commentary”’ is now evidently ‘thinkable’. More to the point, it perfectly showcases one of our key premises: the propensity for the MSM to act as cheerleaders for the war mongering ‘deep staters’.
Now we’ll return to the theme of the warmongering press in due course. But a quite different report—as surreal as that of the Examiner, but which also serves to highlight another of the motifs reflected in the opening—appeared via the New York Times (the newspaper Gore Vidal once cheekily noted that ‘prints only the news that fits its not-dissimilar mindset’). The erstwhile Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was quoted expressing deep distress for America’s democracy, saying amongst things there was a ‘crisis of ethics and integrity’ therein.
Placing to one side the fact he was using the occasion to have a none-too-subtle dig or three at his old boss Donald Trump over the Oval One’s own obvious shortcomings in this respect, and that as the former CEO of Exxon-Mobil, he was presumably never troubled by shareholder anxiety over himself prioritising corporate social responsibility (“ethics” and “integrity” being key components thereof) ahead of their pecuniary interests, we might marvel at why it took Tillerson so long to imbibe this reality and then share such disquiet with his fellow Americans.
After advancing a scenario wherein we ‘allow our leaders to conceal the truth’, and/or ‘become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts’, Tillerson went on to say, ‘we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.’ For the ex-oilman, ‘even small falsehoods and exaggerations are problematic… [W]hen we…as a free people, go wobbly on the truth even on what may seem the most trivial matters, we go wobbly on America’.
Now space herein precludes a thorough unpacking of Tillerson’s profound insights. Suffice to say all manner of pundits would have a field day if invited to do so. Judging by what Tillerson himself doubtless views are heart-felt ruminations on the body politic, he sees this all as a recent development. Yet contrary to his remarks, this scenario did not arise with Trump; as Chris Hedges and others including this writer have noted before, Number 46 is much more a product of the malaise Tillerson aptly described than he is a precursor.
As it is, said “malaise” has been a work in progress for some time, with British historian David Andress observing that its roots run ‘deep into our history’. Declares Andress in his recent book Cultural Amnesia: How the West has Lost its History, and Risks losing everything Else, there’s now ‘a crippling void at the core of politics’, most notably in the historically leading nations in the West [Britain, France, the US]. He further says of this “void”: ‘[There is] an absence of reflection so profound it is hard for conventional commentary even to perceive it…[P]olitical perceptions are breaking dangerously free from a mooring in history.’ [My emphasis]. Central to the creation of that “malaise” or “void” of course is the corporate media.
In juxtaposing dichotomous themes of trust and suspicion, truth and lies, facts and propaganda, reality and perception, acceptance and denial, reason and unreason, justice and injustice, democracy and autocracy, and to no lesser extent, war and peace, amongst our literary icons it was perhaps George Orwell who captured this “malaise” or “void” best. This is strikingly evident with regard to the mindset we as ‘consumers’ receive, process, and act on, knowledge about our history and from there, do same with information regarding the more contemporary events propelled by our political, media and bureaucratic elites and their paymasters. We’re not just talking about real news versus fake news; we’re talking about history both suborned (via censorship) and adorned (via propaganda) in more or less equal measure.
Of course Orwell has been name checked to within an inch of his not insubstantial repute. But to paraphrase another of the English language’s great wordsmiths Samuel Johnson, the man’s observations about the core rationale behind modern political psychopathy have touched little that haven’t adorned our own day-to-day reality. These embrace the hidden motives that propel it into the public sphere and the ‘substance’ of the discourse that frames it. This aberrant rationale has not just suborned our history; by extension, it has diluted our memory and devalued our understanding of it. That it continues to do so is self-evident. At least it is if we allow the ‘evidence’ some ‘breathing space’.
As for Orwell’s insights, what’s not to like about the following, each of which is pertinent in some way to our narrative and authored over 75 years ago?: ‘Who controls the past controls the future…Who controls the present controls the past’; ‘In our time political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible’; ‘Such concepts as justice, liberty and objective truth are still believed in….[T]hey may be illusions, but they are very powerful illusions’; ‘Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations’;…and last but not least, that perennial family favourite, ‘Big Brother is Watching You!’ There are many others on Orwell’s broad menu to be sure, but this is enough to kick-start us on our journey.
From there, Orwell also sought to reveal how “Big Brother” and his ‘siblings’ endeavour to disparage, marginalise, and then disenfranchise (or worse) those who might offer conflicting analyses outside their own tightly scripted ‘Newspeak’, ‘doublethink’ purview, a template which as noted is very much intact. A diverse range of folks from William Binney, Julian Assange, Coleen Rowley, John Kiriakou, Jesselyn Radack, Jeffrey Sterling, Karen Kwiatkowski, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden amongst others would one suspects provide ample testament to that reality.
One of the most (ahem) memorable of plot devices in his novel 1984 was the concept of the memory hole. This was a process allowing for the modification or destruction of troublesome or awkward information in order to alter history and people’s memory of it or create the impression that something never happened. Two recent examples of the memory hole in action are worth mentioning briefly, both involving incidentally the West’s current bete noir Russia.
The first is the recent documentary film Remembrance – Rewriting history: Red Army’s role in liberating Europe censored in the West, the title leaving one with no uncertainty as to what the narrative is all about. Suffice to say this: Today’s generation is of the general belief it was the US who did most of the heavy lifting in World War II, as ‘that’s what their textbooks tell them’. Yet as the historical record tells it, compared to American deaths in the European theatre (around 300,000), the Soviets suffered around 27 million or more; further their country was trashed, whilst America remained largely untouched by the conflict. Put simply, the US got off light*!
(*Author note: Be that as it may, in Guido Preparata‘s masterful Conjuring Hitler: How Britain and America Made the Third Reich, there is quite the back-story to the USSR’s own involvement in helping the Germans to rearm after the First World War, the purpose of which was not entirely out of sync with the aims and goals of the Anglo-American alliance. To say this is not common knowledge would be an exercise in understatement of heroic proportions. Preparata’s book contains a multitude of similarly astounding revelations about the causes of the “Good War”, likely to induce cognitive dissonance in even the most informed explorers of the historical record. A perfect example of how the news of the era subverts not just people’s understanding of what is being perpetrated in their name, but also how this all comes to subvert the historical record.)
Moreover, the Red Army fighting on its own turf killed over four times as many Germans as the US and its allies did on the Western Front. In fact, the D-Day invasion, belatedly opened the second front in Europe in June 1944 after being delayed several times over two years prior largely due to prevarications by the then UK PM Winston Churchill, much to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s justifiable chagrin. By this time, it was clear the USSR could achieve complete victory over the Nazis on her own, but by no means did this mean the allies were going to let the Soviets claim bragging rights to such an outcome. In any event, it appears this narrative has been quietly ‘memory-holed’. One is tempted to ask: To what end is this being done? It is straight out of the Orwell playbook. (One of history’s great imponderables is whether the Soviets
(The recent revival of the long dormant accusation the Russians were responsible for the downing of the MH-17 passenger plane over eastern Ukraine in 2014 is no coincidence. Once again it provides further evidence that the West’s march to war with Russia remains very much on the agenda, with my own country Australia being amongst the most vocal in pointing the finger, sans it would appear anything resembling convincing new evidence. As of this writing, the actual events leading to the tragedy remain a mystery, a status which presumably the Western powers hope they maintain indefinitely.)
And the second example of the memory hole was an extraordinary interview with Mikhail Poltoranin, former Head of the Government Committee on the Declassification of KGB Archives. He revealed that in 1950, the U.S. Air Force actually attacked Soviet bases just outside Vladivostok and destroyed over 100 aircraft. Poltoranin further disclosed that Stalin himself was poisoned; he didn’t die of natural causes! This assassination operation was carried out on Churchill’s instructions by British intelligence, themselves assisted by ‘some internal forces’ of the Soviet ruling elite, of which Stalin’s later successor Nikita Khrushchev was ‘certainly one’.
On any number of levels this latter revelation is highly credible. Churchill himself was one of the earliest cheerleaders of the as yet unnamed Cold War with his hysterical 1946 “Iron Curtain” tirade, thereby proclaiming one of history’s most portentous of self-fulfilling of prophecies. As well there was no love lost between these two former WWII allies, a reality laid bare in Susan Butler’s masterful 2015 tome Roosevelt and Stalin: Portrait of a Partnership. It is further noteworthy that when, during the course of this startling exchange the interviewer expressed disbelief at his revelations, Poltoranin responded with a comment very pertinent to our narrative: ‘We hid a lot of things. Actually, we live in a fog of historical myth…’ The “we” here doubtless included the West!
— All Wars are Media Wars (Lest we Forget) —
To be sure if Orwell were to be somehow resurrected today and allowed at his leisure to take in the zeitgeist, even he’d be at pains to appreciate how insightful his assessment was; how much he’d misjudged the power elites predisposition for orchestrated groupthink, perfidy, malevolence, disinformation, thought control, surveillance, censorship, manipulation, and oppression; and the degree to which the mass of ‘proles’ (that’s us cupcakes!) seem all too willing as it were, to ‘suck it all up’. This is despite the knowledge and information we supposedly have available today via the internet and especially social media, not least ironically the author’s own prescient admonitions via his writing or vicariously though others in the alternative media who are clued up on what’s happening! We might easily imagine the T-shirt cum bumper-sticker adage doing the rounds at present, to wit: ‘Memo to power elites: 1984 was not an instruction manual!’ would likely leave the fabled wordsmith at a loss for, well, words!
All of the above insights into the psychopathologies of the human condition (to say little about the societies and polities that emerge from the way in which they’re permitted to manifest themselves over time), are interconnected of course. Some of these will become evident throughout.
Let’s continue with another Orwellian maxim not included above, but still nonetheless crucial to our main leitmotif: ‘War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it’.
With this in mind, in my own study and experience of history and the human drama and utterly avoidable tragedy at its core, I cannot recall a more precipitously dangerous time for humanity than the here and now. More to the point, when any of us spend time thinking about those who previously served, suffered or died for the noble cause (aka the ‘noble lie’), even if they’d done so fighting for freedom, democracy, peace, love, understanding and the pursuit of happiness against the tyranny, oppression and evil intent of the ‘bad guys’ (the de rigueur cover story for the “noble cause”/“noble lie”), they’d be one imagines furiously spinning in their eternally designated plots of terra firma at what is now unfolding.
Put another way, what would they think of us allowing it all to happen déjà vu like all over again, especially given what we now know about how previous conflagrations unfolded and the real reasons why? To be sure, for its part “fake news” is now the new “conspiracy theory”: It is the political, economic, business, and financial power elites’ and assorted ruling classes’ preferred weapon of choice in their defence against those ‘heretics’ who challenge the official narratives of western capitalist governments and all those who seek via a range of tools (from cognitive infiltration, false consciousness to cultural hegemony and so many others), to perpetuate the status quo.
In the final analysis, fake or real, so much of today’s news becomes tomorrow’s history. For their part, the mainstream media mavens and their assorted paymasters cum patrons have adopted this ‘best form of defence is attack’ modus operandi for any number of reasons, not least of which is aimed to claw back the public’s trust and rebuild their credibility. Along with numerous others before them—the more recent being the former Yugoslavia; Iraq; Afghanistan; Libya; Ukraine et. al.—the above-mentioned conflicts were feverishly championed by the major media outlets with few if any mea culpas forthcoming in the pear-shaped aftermath. Indeed, it is largely because of this they’ve squandered whatever trust, integrity, and credibility upon which they might’ve once claimed bragging rights. The very things of course that appeared to animate the former Secretary of State’s comments mentioned earlier.
And although the road back up on to the high moral ground is invariably a rocky one even for the most redemptively minded, any attempt by the MSM to return there is likely to be little more than a ‘one-step forward, two steps back’ endeavour. And there’d be nothing remotely “moral” about the mission; its end-game will be all about perception management (their stock-in-trade after all), and rehabilitating their generic brand. Which is to say, their fundamental goal is the same as it ever was:
a) to create and sustain believable, acceptable establishment narratives by which its elites might justify its policy decisions and thereby solicit public support for their often hidden, self-serving, progressively more dangerous, irrational agendas;
b) to provide crucial camouflage for those individuals and institutions (including their very own) they seek to safeguard from public scrutiny regarding their true motives and [thereafter] impunity from legal accountability, and/or ethical and moral responsibility for their actions;
c) to preserve and bolster these illusory narratives as well as to burnish the reputations, then solidify the legacies, of those who fashioned the mythologies and deceits that underpin the narratives in the first instance; and lastly,
d) to establish an unassailable, yet still bogus, frame of reference (historical, political, educational, economic, psychological, social, intellectual, cultural) allowing for successive generations of elites to perpetuate then ‘recycle’ these “mythologies and deceits” to their own ends.
If all this sounds like a purpose built, vicious-cycle, ‘keep ’em in the dark and feed ’em on bullshit’, perpetual motion construct for history repeating itself then that’s possibly because it is difficult to view it as anything but. With the possible exception of wealth and poverty (issues themselves which I hope to similarly address in a follow-up, companion essay), in few other matters concerning the human condition and its oft presumed progressive betterment, the history of human endeavour, and the contemporary body politic is this more evident—or of greater import—than those to do with war and peace. For most reasonably informed observers of history and how the media works, if attended by an appreciation of the contemporary political landscape in general, they will immediately recognise it for what it is.
It’s worth noting here that the origin of the word “propaganda”—a concept that in its variant forms is a recurring motif herein—derives from the era of Pope Gregory XV. In 1622, the then Vatican (ahem) ‘commander-in-chief’ directed his cardinals responsible for foreign evangelical missions to establish the congregatio de propaganda fide, aka ‘congregation for propagation of the faith’, an organisation whose raison d’être should be self-explanatory.
For some this is perhaps fitting if not surprising. Viewed another way, it’s the Catholic Church (the original “deep state” perhaps?), which might lay claim to having conceived the first ‘psy-ops’ gambit, a Holy See enterprise that around 400 years later is apparently still ‘Johnny Walker’! It is further notable that British philosopher John Gray, in his compelling Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia, opened with the following: ‘Modern politics is a chapter in the history of religion. The greatest of the revolutionary upheavals that have shaped so much of the history of the past two centuries were episodes in the history of faith—moments in the long dissolution of Christianity and the rise of modern political religion’.
And when it comes to the subject of propaganda, although he deserves a ‘chapter’ all on his ‘Pat Malone’, we cannot of course not at least name-check Edward Bernays—Sigmund Freud’s nephew—the man generally acknowledged as the father of modern public relations. All of which brings us once again back to fake news. The descriptor “fake news” might have only recently entered into political discourse and popular vernacular; but as the indefatigable Scottish authors and bloggers Gerry Docherty and Jim Macgregor observe, it has ‘a long history’. It’s propaganda frocked up in a different guise.
Via their website and their two published books (see here and here), Docherty and Macgregor’s excursions into the historical terrain of the most consequential event of the twentieth century—that being the Great War—have not just provided us with possibly the most compelling, far-reaching insight into the causes and conduct of this catastrophic inferno, but its consequences. They’ve also delivered us a crucial understanding of how perfidious Albion (i.e. Great Britain) inveigled the rest of the world into fighting this war. With the ancien regime doing everything in its power to provoke Russia into war at present, this observation should not go unnoticed. (Those who think the British Empire as such had passed its UBD by 1945 really have not been paying attention, need to get out more, or require a check up from the neck-up.)
Now doubtless many folks will be having a “say wha?” moment at this point, to wit: Wasn’t it the Germans who provoked the First World War? Not so, according to Docherty and Macgregor (and many others before them albeit none of who are household names). Even more than that, for our purposes herein, they have provided us with a telling insight into the key role the media mavens of the era knowingly played in facilitating the grand schemes of the ruling classes (termed the Secret Elites by the authors). The campaign to ‘sell the war’ to the British public and to the rest of the world began in earnest at least ten years prior to its outbreak.
Although many abound, one example will suffice herein. This was the dogged manner in which various members of the Secret Elites coerced, cajoled and curried favour in the pre-war years with the various dominions and colonies specifically amongst their respective media outlets and leading politicians of the day—Australia, India, New Zealand, Canada to name the obvious ones—to ensure that once war began, there would be unstinting loyalty from all and sundry to the noble cause. It was all up of course an astonishing political, diplomatic and propaganda achievement, yet one we can now safely say, came at great cost for all those dominions and colonies, with little or nothing to show for it. To be sure, one of history’s greatest snow jobs perpetrated in the cause of perpetuating empire.
This was then Great Britain’s great propaganda machine at work, ‘an ‘infernal engine created in war…’ as as described by author Richard Milton in his Best of Enemies: Britain and Germany: 100 years of Truth and Lies….
‘…[b]ut impossible to switch off in peace….The indelible memory of atrocity stories that had taken place only in the imaginations of British propaganda agents proved to be stronger and more persistent than any facts. This curious discovery, the power of myths over facts, was the real legacy of the First World War.’ [My emphasis].
— History Down the Memory Hole —
Now although it’s been rightly noted that “all wars are bankers’ wars” (underscored by the preceding Orwellian maxim about the “moneyed classes”), few could argue that the “bankers” would’ve had great difficulty selling their wars on their own; a pliant, subservient, gung-ho media is by definition crucial at the outset in mobilising the populace at large and from there manufacturing the collective consent needed to do so.
Docherty and Macgregor’s follow-up tome—Prolonging the Agony: How International Bankers and their Political Partners Deliberately Extended World War 1, the title clearly underscoring what we’ve just observed—drives home the point. Which is to say, the war against Germany wasn’t just ‘sold’ to the world, with the establishment media at the time leading the charge and indispensible to this propaganda effort. The same media then played their own part in prolonging the war by ensuring the public did not lose their patriotic fervour.
Moreover, the British political establishment—incestuously intertwined with not just the press of the era but academia, business and finance, and the broader Western intellectual diaspora as well—ensured that through their control over the higher learning and research institutions and the education bureaucracy, they gave enduring, inviolable substance to Winston Churchill’s infamous maxim, ‘history is written by the victors’. Along with being one of official history’s most acclaimed authors (whose genre specialty we might say was historical fiction), Churchill himself of course was a ‘Secret Elitist’.
So effective was this propaganda exercise that the false narrative still stands today as the official version. It’s embraced by just about everyone from our politicians, our mainstream media, our academics, our military leaders, our veterans’ associations, and [to] our school curriculum writers and even those folks who end up teaching the fake history. Those rare folk who’d question this let alone decry it find themselves at best on the outside looking in.
Herein, Docherty and Macgregor unambiguously lay out their stall:
‘Lies masquerading as news are as old as news itself, with royalty, governments, public figures and the mainstream media purveying it to manipulate public opinion. In an Orwellian twist those very same groups now employ it as a pejorative term against the alternative media, truth writers and bloggers as a way of dismissing inconvenient truths and crushing dissent. We should all be aware of the state as keeper of the ‘the truth’. “Fake History” is another powerful weapon that has long been used by those in authority to retain that power and keep the masses in the dark.’
Of course we can travel further back in time to the Boer War (1899-1902) and the “splendid” Spanish-American War (1898) to find examples of Western MSM perfidy in sounding the battle cry for freedom as a cover for highly dubious state-sponsored wars of aggression, conquest, dominion, plunder and oppression. In backgrounding their core narrative, Docherty and Macgregor cite the former as primarily a dress rehearsal for the Big One to follow, a war championed by the British establishment press of the era, whose prime objective was laying claim to the huge Transvaal gold mines. Less ‘White Man’s Burden’ then than ‘White Man’s Booty’ then!’ As they note: ‘Their ambition overrode humanity, and the consequences of their actions have been minimised, ignored or denied in official histories.’
And though opinion remains divided as to the impact the media played in the US declaring war on Spain, there can be little doubt it was decisive. The ensuing conflict has since been classified as the first “Media War”, with the two most notable press barons of the era William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer going toe to toe and above and beyond the call of journalistic duty in their efforts to inflame U.S. public sentiment against the Spanish and incite an otherwise indifferent populace to man the barricades.
The propaganda onslaught included dodgy stories of atrocities allegedly committed by the Spanish against the Cubans—fortified by a conveniently timed false flag attack on the U.S. Navy ship the USS Maine anchored in Havana harbor thereby providing the pretext for the subsequent declaration of war—with then Assistant Secretary of the Navy, budding imperialist, and future POTUS Teddy “the Rough Rider” Roosevelt being amongst the most hot-to-trot of the leading politicians.
If the U.S. emerged from the nineteenth century as a leading world power after this war there can be little doubt Hearst and Pulitzer had done their bit to bring this about as great American patriots might have been expected to. The centuries-old blood-soaked Spanish empire was finally ‘deep-sixed’ for good with the U.S. taking control of Cuba and full possession of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam, themselves the first baby steps towards expanding its own already considerably “blood-soaked” empire outside of its own territory. For any aspiring hegemonist, this had to be seen as both a good start and an excellent return on their piddling investment, which doubtless contributed in no small measure to its fabled designation as that “splendid little war”.
That Hearst and Pulitzer sold a shit load of newspapers into the bargain—in an age when doing so actually meant something—and cemented their reputations as media monopolists and political power players to be reckoned with was of course neither here nor there. But they had in a sense pioneered a prototype of the more au courant phenomenon of fake news, in those days called “yellow journalism”. It is perhaps one of the supreme ironies (one might say of Orwellian dimensions) permeating the polity that the most sought after award in journalism, the Pulitzer Prize, is named after one of its most ruthless, opportunistic, and unethical of practitioners.
Whether by accident or design, they’d moreover done their bit to inculcate firmly into the collective psycho-pathology and historical memory of the ruling classes and power elites in America an incipient, and from there an abiding, sense of ‘exceptionalism’ and manifest destiny, the essence of which has been sustained by and large through propaganda. With only occasional lapses, this has framed and underpinned political discourse in U.S. foreign policy, and been a key driver of its interventionist approach ever since. It set the template for the future manner in which the Western media mavens embraced their responsibilities insofar as is they were expected to act in the public interest or guide civic opinion for the common good.
Another example that is instructive herein of course—and one which Docherty and Macgregor again provide key insights into—is the way in which the British government, once it found the pretext to declare war on Germany in 1914, then persuaded the U.S. to join in the melee. Here again, the media’s role herein was decisive. The First World War was a pivotal point in the way in which news and information began to be more formally and precisely, albeit covertly, manipulated—and indeed frequently contrived—to serve the interests of those seeking to mould public opinion towards a certain consensual view. In this it is instructive to note it was the Great War that, if it did not quite give provenance to one of the great truisms in the history of conflict, that being, ‘Truth is the first casualty of war’, it facilitated from there its popular usage.
Thus was the age of public relations born, and it was from there Bernays and his ilk never looked back. At its most basic “public relations” was/is “fake news”; indeed PR became the new terminology designed to replace the increasingly repellent phrase “propaganda”. Such was the decisive impact of this new mode of communication, it’s difficult to see how Americans might’ve been convinced to enter the war on the side of Britain, and by extrapolation, how Britain and its allies could have avoided defeat at the hands of the Germans.
— Fake News Good, Real News Bad —
As the mainstream (or corporate) media—as deservedly much-maligned as it is malignant—descends further and further into deceptive arrogance and dangerous incoherence, it increasingly seeks, in indirect proportion it seems and with an equal mix of hubris, dishonesty, chutzpah, and hypocrisy, to double down in its attempts to preserve and maintain its façade of credibility and integrity. Western political, intellectual and media elites are veritably hyperventilating at the prospect that their own “fake news” is being viewed for what it is: a desperate attempt to paper over the cracks in the wall of a crumbling Anglo-American-Zionist empire.
It’s instructive here to consider a few of the recent, most preposterous narratives that have been—or are being—breathlessly promulgated. These stories are ones amongst many that no serious media outlet claiming a modicum of integrity or credibility should be touching with the proverbial fourty-foot barge pole. That is of course unless it’s to refute the generally always evidence-free claims that frequently attend them and ridicule then discredit the person(s) making them. Here are just three of the ‘greatest hits’ as it were, currently topping the MSM charts:
a) the farcical, transparently duplicitous anti-Russian propaganda onslaught emanating from Britain and America that seeks amongst countless other high crimes and dastardly deeds to blame that country and its leader for constant interference in the affairs of other countries, whilst ignoring their own respective, and destructive track records in this regard;
b) the illegal seven-year old, seemingly endless war currently being waged by Britain, America, and Israel against Syria and president Bashar al-Assad, one which he’s successfully fought with all the resources at his disposal despite the combined forces of the empire pulling out all stops to malign him and then terminate him with extreme prejudice; and, last but not least
c) the increasingly deranged Israeli despot Benjamin Netanyahu reprising once again his tried and true dog and pony show to sell-out audiences advocating war on Iran because he claims they’ve not adhered to the 2016 agreement not to build any nukes, whilst refusing point-blank to answer questions about his own country’s nuclear program.
Whether in the U.S., Britain, Australia or anywhere else in the West for that matter, few of us should be under any illusions that the monolithic Fourth Estate remains steadfastly devoted to the ongoing betrayal of its purported brief by supporting the hidden—and not so hidden—agendas of those to whom it is, and indeed has always been, beholden. It’s notable that one of the U.S. establishment media’s flagship marques the ‘venerable’ Washington Post—whose high-minded, yet pedestrian positioning statement, “Democracy Dies in Darkness” is so positively Orwellian one suspects its authors were wearing ‘Freudian slips’ at its moment of conception—was given a deliciously outsized serve of ridicule recently by the media watch organisation Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).
And rightly so we might opine. The article, by Adam Johnson, chronicles the Wash-Post’s ‘top ten’ columns that he’s characterised as “sociopathic” in tone and temper. For ‘casually threatening economic ruin, inciting violence against entire populations, pushing for bombing faceless Muslims, or downplaying racism and child rape, there’s no better outlet’ Johnson says of the Post, ‘than [this] long-time echo chamber of power-serving conventional wisdom...’
‘In the pages of the Post’s opinion section, you can say the most sociopathic things and get away with it, because you are, by definition, Serious People offering Serious Solutions in a Serious Paper. The human cost of these extreme, reactionary opinions is of little matter; what matters is packaging calls for violence, sexism and racism in a nice, official-sounding tone.’
Along with ‘pointing the bone’ at the paper’s editorial board itself for its own track record of sociopathic sensibilities when opining about the Big Issues, Johnson name checks several of their high profile ‘by-liners’ past and present for special attention. These include Joshua Muravchik, John Bolton (now the White House’s Chief Warlord-in-Residence), and Richard Cohen amongst others. For Johnson, if there’s “one thing” the Post opinion editors love—and which is highly pertinent to the here and now along with being instructive in respect of our narrative—‘it’s columns threatening, plotting and advocating war against Iran. It’s the little black dress of foreign policy punditry—[it] never goes out of style’.
To bolster his assertion, Johnson showcases a piece written in 2015 by Muravchik, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Muravchik’s op-ed piece was titled “War With Iran Is Probably Our Best Option”. Johnson responded with the following:
‘[Muravchik]…argued nonchalantly that launching a war of aggression against Iran was “probably” “our” best “option.” He doesn’t explain who “our” refers to, or why a military attack was even an “option” to begin with….He [Muravchik] then asserts that Iran is uniquely irrational and cannot be compelled with material needs, asserting that “ideology is the raison d’etre of Iran’s regime” and concluding, as if he were settling on a Thai food order, that a bombing campaign that would kill tens of thousands is the “best option.”’
From this above ‘catalogue’ of dodgy Post reportage we might draw the following conclusion: It is in matters of war and peace that perhaps the MSM is most at conflict with the now decidedly old school journalistic canons, these being of course: accuracy, fairness, public accountability, objectivity, truthfulness, and impartiality. The current state of geopolitical affairs and international relations—as existentially precarious as it is—should be ample testament to this reality. The mainstream mastheads are not—and have never been known for being—bastions for the promotion of peace, love and understanding amongst nations, anymore than they have been known for their adherence to truthfulness, accuracy or any of the other “canons” cited earlier.
As anyone who has delved into the real (unofficial) backstory behind virtually all of the major wars and conflicts over the years knows, the “noble cause” is never, ever the real reason, the “noble lie” never, ever justified. And the “cause” will never be the real reason—or the “lie” rationally justified—whilst we as a species continue to tolerate those within our midst whose congenital and moral defects push them towards these ends.
It’s critical for this reason alone then we all disabuse ourselves of the notion that what’s happening now has anything to do with making the world safe for democracy and freedom; enforcing the tenets of international law in the cause of human rights; ridding the world of evil men with evil ambitions as if inspired by some vague quasi-Manichean apocalyptically-minded desire to make the world a better place; or some other such transparently fatuous nonsense. The only thing we’re making the world safe (or better) for is an entrenched, ruthless, misanthropically-inclined plutocracy.
The reality though is this: We should all try to open our eyes to how we as ordinary people allow our political, financial, intellectual, media, academic, and corporate ‘elites’ hoodwink then railroad us into supporting—mostly without question as if collectively driven by some inner, yet inexplicable, Pavlovian suicidal impulse—their grandiose, self-serving, and wholly disastrous schemes. Such “schemes”—political, military, financial, economic, psychological, social, cultural, educational—are engineered entirely for the preservation of their own personal material fiefdoms and the collective fiefdoms that were then, and remain, those of power, ambition, wealth, control, dominion, and above all, empire. And in this “empire”, as in all, the benefits are few for the many and many for the few, with “power” (as noted again by Orwell) an end in itself, not a means.
In the process, this ‘deep state’ cabal—whom Voltaire might’ve referred to as “tyrants of the soul”—have embraced ever more cunning, manipulative and (in every sense of the word) violent intrigues—and let’s not shy away from it, out and out gambits of the conspiratorial kind to cover their respective and collective asses—making them increasingly less transparent in their motives and therefore increasingly less accountable, before, during, or even well after the fact, for their actions.
As a contrasting corollary to this, they’ve sought—ever so successfully and as noted, with our increasing acquiescence—to exercise ever-greater control, influence and power over us, at the expense of not just our privacy, but our social, economic, and political security. This is evident not least in the backlash that is taking place against those folks and groups who dare to challenge the conventional wisdom, or more aptly, the conventional lunacy!
In order to bring things to a close, it is both prudent and relevant to name check the esteemed and courageous Israeli historian Ilan Pappe. As he cogently frames it in his tellingly titled book Ten Myths about Israel—the nation that arguably best embodies and reflects the Orwellian verities we’ve visited herein along with being the one nation to which the deference of the mainstream media seems to recognise few limits: ‘…history lies at the core of every conflict. A true, unbiased understanding of the past offers the possibility of peace…[T]he distortion or manipulation of history…will only sow disaster…’.
Of course Pappe herein is referring to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, along with the subjugation —and what amounts to the ethnic cleansing—of its original, long-time inhabitants. ‘Historical disinformation’ he continues, ‘even of the most recent past, can do tremendous harm. This wilful misunderstanding of history can promote oppression…’
‘It is not surprising, therefore, that policies of disinformation and distortion continue to the present and play an important part in perpetuating [the occupation of Palestine], leaving very little hope for the future. Constructed fallacies about the past and the present…hinder us from understanding the origins of the conflict. Meanwhile, the constant manipulation of the relevant facts works against the interests of all those victimized by the ongoing bloodshed and violence. [My emphasis].
Yet Pappe could be referencing any current ‘work-in-progress’ conflict, such as that which is brewing now for example between Israel, the U.S. and Iran; the U.S., Great Britain, and Russia; or the never-ending Anglo-American-Zionist campaign of regime change against Syria, whose allies are of course, Russia and Iran. Anyone of these ‘hotspots’ could trigger a larger geopolitical conflict, and if it so happens this way, it will be largely because of “policies of disinformation and distortion”, especially those which have been facilitated by the venerable Fourth Estate.
In his seminal book Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West, Canadian author John Ralston Saul noted that ‘[R]eason is a narrow system swollen into an ideology. With time and power it has become a dogma, devoid of direction and disguised as disinterested inquiry. Like most religions, [it] presents itself as the solution to the problems it has created.’
Now whilst it’s reasonable to assume our corporate media elites and those to whom they are most beholden would be reluctant to view themselves in any such light, from this writer’s vantage point, it seems like a pretty good ‘fit’ to me.
© Greg Maybury, May 25, 2018.