By Paolo Bassi
The antidote to American and European self-righteous bluster about sovereign and human rights is always at hand – it is undisputed historic fact and argument based on analogy. The Anglo-American corporate media has naturally made a sophisticated art out of the very opposite – ignoring facts, history and contradiction. The current crisis in Ukraine shows the surreal separation from reality maintained by mainstream western media – more accurately the Public Relations Industry (PRI).
Washington and its lackey in all matters international, the British Government, have condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea as a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty – while their respective corporate noise machines have been in overdrive resurrecting the cold war. Whatever the political arguments over Crimea, Russia at least has the right not to be condemned as a violator of sovereign rights by London and Washington – covered as they are with the blood of hundreds of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Anyone with a basic grasp of history should be asking a few simple questions. How can Russian actions in Crimea possibly be a greater transgressions of international law than the Anglo-American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan or the American invasions of Haiti, Grenada, Panama, Vietnam, to name a few of the dozens of nations attacked directly or destabilized since World War II?
On what basis does Barack Obama mention human rights when, every few days, the American security state selects its next victim to be murdered by drones? What respect does Washington have for sovereign rights, having built dozens of permanent military bases in Iraq – in fact all over the globe. No meaningful legal, moral or philosophical inquiry is possible without analogy and application of a set of agreed-upon principles – the basis of human civilization.
Simple questions based on simple facts can easily dismantle western propaganda. This would of course require the western media to show some intellectual integrity and stop promoting the sanitized version of history that suits modern corporatocracy. In matters of foreign policy, the western – in particular the American – political class, the PRI and intelligentsia maintain an incredible discipline. They stay on message and know instinctively the permitted parameters of debate, the terms to subtly repeat and the contradictions that must be ignored.
Together these manufacturers of the collective consent are as effective as any totalitarian state’s mouthpiece. They proudly proclaim they write what they like when in fact their owners like what they write. Dictatorships would rejoice in having such a compliant media.
The deceit perpetrated by the western media is to be expected and is fully rational. The media is the most critical part of the capitalist superstructure since it has perpetual access to our minds and is the most obvious method of disseminating propaganda and controlling societies. The collective ignorance and amnesia over inequality and history are essential to the corporate agenda.
Domestically, inequality and hierarchy are presented as the results of freedom and human nature. Abroad, western actions only promote democracy and are basically well-intentioned. Shrill right-wing outlets like Fox News may have no respect for the truth but what they present does have very real effect in forming opinions. Who needs jackboots on the streets if the population is dumbed down enough and self-regulating? How about the thousands of intelligent minds in the media and higher education? Their intelligence seems to be mainly employed in finding creative ways around addressing fundamental fault lines in the dominant ideology.
The explanation for their passivity and discipline is probably simpler than conspiracy theorists believe. People in privileged positions with a sense of importance and power want to retain them for self–preservation. If one wants to advance, get on television, make money, write a book, get invited to the right parties and keep the children at private school – one had better not rock the boat. Just as IBM is hardly likely to appoint a socialist to its board, mainstream media will not promote those do not play the game. The PRI is unwilling and structurally incapable of the truth.
The emperor knows he has no clothes but he makes doubly sure no-one publicly tells him so. Institutions like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and the British BBC go further than the American media in asking questions and may even cause the odd bit of trouble. They certainly would never explore naked contradictions in state foreign policy to their logical ends. The BBC will – with breath-taking self-righteousness – harangue African politicians over human rights but would never dare to ask if the British State has committed war crimes in Iraq.
The fundamental character of the state and the morality of the dominant idealism which keeps the hierarchy in place may be ridiculed by clever satirists but never seriously questioned in a way that may educate ordinary people. To do so would render institutions like the BBC redundant. They would soon be silenced. What makes the BBC and others like the American NPR so much more dangerous than the corporate media is the seriousness with which they take themselves and the unwarranted deference given them.
One suspects they have come to believe in their own propaganda that they are actually truth-tellers independent of the governments which allow them to exist. In Russia troublesome journalists risk getting shot. In the U.S. they are simply shunted aside quietly and without violence.
This is what is called freedom of the press – the freedom to say what the corporate owners want. An independent media with the same level of access to the people as that enjoyed by the corporate media is a contradiction in terms – it will not and cannot be allowed.
Our rulers are watching which news sites we access – this much we have learnt – but there is every reason to go the news sources that the western media deem unreliable.