Imperialist propaganda and censorship
I love Country Music. I remember when I was growing up and popular music was still singing about the moon in June, Country was addressing topics such as contraception, racism, poverty and the Dust Bowl tragedy in the American mid-west.
Of course Country music also produced songs about family dogs being run over by trains followed by an emotional funeral, but Country was, and still very much is, full of contradictions. It can produce the most reactionary music, yet can also produce the most progressive and honest music.
One of my favourite singers is a girl from Arkansas called Iris Dement? She came to prominence in the early 90s and was voted Best Newcomer by the Country Music Association and she was hailed as the future of country music.
In 1996 Iris made a mistake. She recorded a song she had written titled ‘Wasteland of the Free’ which was a devastating attack on corporate America and its development towards fascism. The song was banned from CM stations and from a major part of the mainstream radio stations.
Since that song, Iris Dement, ‘the future of Country Music’, has never had another record released.
Some of you may have heard of Steve Earle, especially after his involvement with The Pogues? Earle had the finances to create his own production company, so is not as vulnerable to the power of the music industry as Dement. On Earle’s latest release, ‘Jerusalem’ he cut a song called ‘John Walker’s Blues’ which tried to examine why an American student, John Walker Lindh, would turn his back on the materialism of American society and instead travel abroad to learn more about Islam.
Apart from Earle’s life being threatened, the song was banned from mainstream country radio and from most of America’s rock stations.
Of course they could not appreciate nor understand why an all American boy like John Walker Lindh could possibly turn his back on a culture of MTV and hot dogs and go looking for something more meaningful in life. He must be crazy.
Lindh was dubbed The American Taliban when he was captured in Afghanistan. Some of you may remember the interview the media did with him after his capture? Or perhaps I should remind you?
John Walker Lindh was found barely alive among the Taliban prisoners who had survived the Mazar-I-Sharif massacre in late November 2001. He was wounded in the leg and interrogated by CIA personnel, captured on video, taunted and threatened with death. He was then put in a metal container for six hours, his hands tied and his face covered. He was then shipped to a room 10 foot by 10 foot and it was there that the interview, put out by CNN and shown worldwide, was taken. After that interview he was interrogated by US Special Forces, he had his arms bound and a hood placed over his head.
At night he was stripped naked, fastened to a stretcher with duct tape, and placed in a metal container. For the next 48 hours he was denied medical treatment for his wound. It was during this period that Lindh signed a ‘confession’. He then received medical treatment for his wound. However he was still denied access to legal representation for a further 54 days.
Throughout the ‘American Taliban’ story no part of the media mentioned, even in passing, the Geneva Convention.
So you have Iris Dement, Steve Earle, and more recently, the Dixie Chicks, being threatened, their families threatened, and their music banned across the USA. The Dixie Chicks, three kids from Texas, had to endure ‘bulldozing’ events whereby their CDs were put in a pile and crushed by a bulldozer, an act not a million miles away from the burning of books in Nazi Germany. These ‘events’ were primarily organised by two country music radio stations, in reaction to one of the Dixie Chicks proclaiming she was ‘ashamed that George Bush came from Texas’.
Three media corporations orchestrated the bans – Cox Radio, Cumulus Broadcasting and Clear Channel – three companies that control thousands of radio stations across the States and can determine what millions of people can or cannot listen to. The head of Clear Channel is a Texan called Lowry Mays, he is connected financially and politically with the Bush Administration.
It is an example, even in the field of music, where the Government and the Media represent the same class interests.
And if this is what they do to kids making some music, just what are they prepared to do to anyone who poses a more serious challenge to their interests?
Shall we ask the journalists of Al Jazeera or the journalists of Abu Dhabi television, or the journalists of RTS in Belgrade, or the family of ITNs Terry Lloyd, an unembedded reporter who was shot by American forces in Iraq?
The introduction of the ‘embedded’ journalist takes propaganda to a new level. There were approximately 600 in Iraq. Hand picked journalists from ITN, the BBC and Sky all belonged to what was called ‘the forward transmission unit’, which was attached to the military. These journalists were portrayed as bringing ‘direct reports from the war zone.’
In reality they were packaging Government propaganda for their viewers.
So while Arab satellite channels were showing the tragic realities of war the American and British media were reporting on the capture of cities that hadn’t been captured, and about uprisings in Basra when in fact there was no uprising in Basra, they were reporting that weapons of mass destruction had been found, and then retracting the statement the next day. And this was passed off as objective reporting!
It wasn’t, it was propaganda, precisely because the interests of the media represent class interests.
The notion of embedded journalists, that is the formal incorporation of the journalists as part and parcel of the military propaganda machine, represents an assault on the freedom of the press, even in bourgeois society, and a threat to all of us.
The role of propaganda and propagandists figured prominently at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal at the end of World War Two.
The prosecutors at Nuremberg set out a legal principle, ‘That planning and launching an aggressive war constituted a criminal act and that those who helped prepare such a war through their propaganda efforts were as guilty as those who drew up the battle plans or manufactured the munitions.’
Hans Fritzsche, as head of the German News Service was put on trial at Nuremberg. The prosecutor, ironically an American Drexel Sprecher said: “The basic method of the Nazi propagandistic activity lay in the false presentation of facts. The dissemination of provocative lies and the systematic deception of public opinion were as necessary to the Hitlerites for the realisation of their plans as were the production of armaments and the drafting of military plans. Without propaganda, founded on the total eclipse of the freedom of the press and of speech, it would not have been possible for German Fascism to realise its aggressive intentions, to lay the groundwork and then to put into practice the war crimes and the crimes against humanity. In the propaganda system of the Hitler State it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.” Nuremberg Tribunal 1945.
During the Iraq war – in fact it is wrong to call it a war. When the outcome of one battle is 3000 Iraqis dead and just two American marines, it is clear that what we are witnessing is not a war but a massacre.
Anyway, during the extent of the Iraq conflict the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung monitored the coverage of the conflict in five countries. They monitored the amount of airtime given over to anti-war sentiment. In Britain our terrestrial channels were found to have given just 2% of their war coverage to dissenting views. American stations were monitored as giving 6% of airtime, and that was mainly the ABC Network.
In fact on February 6th, one week before the massive anti-war demonstrations in Britain and around the world, the BBC sent a memo to senior management cautioning them to ‘be careful’ about broadcasting antiwar actions. (The Guardian).
I would just like to take a closer look at the Media Corporations for a few minutes.
When we talk about the Media we are talking about: newspapers, magazines, Television, Radio, book publishing, records, movies, videos, DVDs, wire services and more recently, the Internet.
While the Media Cartel that controls what we see, read and hear, can grow at one place, shrink at another, the overriding trend is the concentration of the media into fewer and fewer hands.
For instance, in 1985 there were 50 companies who owned the bulk of the Media. Today there are 10.
It is a fair assumption that from the minute you wake up to the minute you go to sleep, the majority of what you see, hear and read, will have emanated from these companies.
Most of the Media giants are American, of course, but you have also Murdoch’s News Corporation, who owns the Sky network and newspapers – The Times, The Sun and News of the World here in Britain. It also owns Fox TV which is the largest in the US with 22 stations, and other television stations worldwide that broadcast in China, India, Japan, Indonesia, and Latin America.
You have the German Corporation Bertelsmann. Bertelsmann was founded by one Henrich Mohn who was a member of the Nazi SS. The company originally made its money by printing propaganda material for the Third Reich. It now operates across 54 countries and is the world’s biggest book publisher. It owns 22 television stations in Europe alone, one of them being the UK’s Channel Five.
Then you have Vivendi the French corporation, who not only control 60 publishing houses and 11 television stations but also probably controls the water you drink. It is a major player in the privatised water industry around the world.
So these multi-nationals don’t restrict themselves to the traditional media outlets. They are very much part of the private enterprise culture.
The role of the media has changed drastically from when it was originally seen as ‘a brake on the excesses of governments’. That is no longer the case, if indeed it ever was. The interests of the Media and their owner barons are tied up with the opening up of new markets and the creation of a new world order, with the gigantic profits that that entails. It is their job to feed you lies, to soften you up for new government adventures.
Of course after the event, in order to re-establish their credibility, they will claim they have been ‘mislead’ by government.
Have you seen Blair’s latest story that they are trying to sell us?
Blair is saying that nobody can prove conclusively that weapons of mass destruction are not in Iraq! That if something can’t be found then it must be there. And, if you can’t prove they are not there then they must be there! Get it?
The media had better success selling us previous ‘stories’.
They did it for Iraq in 1991, you remember the ‘incubator story? Hill & Knowlton staged it and the media showed it around the world, knocking a previously hesitant coalition into place.
They did it for Yugoslavia in 1999. (Ruder and Finn). They did it for Afghanistan in 2001 and they did it for Iraq again in 2003. And they will try to do it again for the next war, and the next, and the next. That is their task, to represent and protect their class interests.
Listen to this: ” Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” Hermann Goering, President of the Reichstag, Nazi Party, and Luftwaffe Commander in Chief.
‘To drag the people along’ that is the role of the media. But they have a problem. And that problem is you.
There is a growing resistance to the plans of Bush and Blair. More and more people are mobilising everyday around the world to say enough is enough. We do not want your New World Order. We no longer believe your lies.
But I will tell you now, the fight to stop wars, in order to be successful, has to be linked with a fight to create a new and different society. That is the lesson we must take from the massive protests that we have seen in Britain. Massive protests which failed to stop one single missile from falling on Iraq. It failed to prevent the death of one single Iraqi child. We must learn that lesson well, and we must build an alternative to the moral and political bankruptcy of Capitalism.
Such a movement is growing. And you know who presently is buying us the time to build it? The Iraqi people. They are buying us the time with their lives.
Five divisions of the United States Army are tied down trying to control and suppress the growing Iraqi resistance.
The United States and Britain in practical terms cannot even think at present of going on to their next conquest, whether that is Syria, Cuba, North Korea or even Russia.
The Iraqi people are doing a great and heroic service to people all over the world, and I salute them.