ABC of Propaganda

Random Lengths News | September 15, 2006
I was rather struck a few weeks back when I watched the rebroadcast of “Dan Rather, A Reporter Remembers”, which was made to justify his career after being unceremoniously ditched as news anchor on CBS following the debacle of the Swift Boat story in the 2004 election cycle. The deal is that Dan Rather is still one of the best on-the-ground reporters since Edward R. Murrow reported from London during the World War II blitz. What struck me most about this documentary of his career was the integrity of his Vietnam War reporting. That reporting, I realize now, was even more significant than I remember it then because so much has changed.

Even back in the tumultuous years of the 1960’s, with the US military reviewed news reports, I assume that they even censored some of it or delayed the broadcast of it for “strategic” reasons. But what did get aired was compelling and honest reports from the battlefields of ‘Nam. When Saigon fell, the US military vowed to never let this kind of war happen again, which many of us took to mean that they were never going to be used a political pawn in an unjustified war with no exit strategy. Since that time, the Pentagon has pretty much held to this vow– in Panama, in Grenada, even unto the first Gulf War. Yes they have been used as pawns and the justification have been tenuous at best, but they always had a backdoor plan for getting out. Not so in Iraq 2006.

What also has changed since Vietnam is that step by step the Pentagon with the help of each successive administration, save perhaps Clinton’s, has squeezed down media coverage to the point that what we now see amounts to not much more than government authorized video press releases of the wars. The heavily edited coverage, especially of Iraq, gives us only the images of the latest car bomb attack and then the numbers of the casualties. No pictures of wounded or dying soldiers, few dead Iraqis, and nothing of the horrors of war or of the battles as they happened. Oh yes, there was some footage of the aftermath of that one Marine platoon that went on a killing spree, but for the most part the western journalists are corralled inside the Green Zone in Baghdad for fear of being kidnapped and beheaded. Because of this threat, they are almost exclusively accompanied by US forces when they do go beyond the Zone. All of their reports are processed through a media liaison before release.

I do not have a moribund curiosity; at least no more than the rest of you do when passing a crash on the freeway; but I do know what the power of brutally honest images of war have on people, especially us Americans. Simply take into consideration the Civil War photos of Mathew B. Brady (1822-1896) whose stunning portraits of the aftermath of battlefield carnage and cannonball’s wreckage, which still has a stunning impact on the American consciousness, still wakens a revolt to the monstrous brutality of that war, all wars and most probably this war. We have no brutally honest images in the public domain to match this yet. They have been closeted and sequestered by our government to divert our eyes from the stupidity of it all.

We have been given the sanitized images. We have only seen the “ready-for –prime-time” images and even the ones more honest, like the ones of the people jumping from the World Trade Center on 9/11 only appear a year or more later and seldom then. I do not have a moribund curiosity with death, no more than you do.

You see, we live in an era of instant digital messaging where we can see almost anything instantaneously, except for this war and what goes on in Oval office. Yet we refuse to admit that our government is censoring the news with the sole intent of manufacturing political consensus. Even to the extent that they are paying journalists to write planted stories in both the domestic and foreign press, even to the extent that Disney’s TV subsidiary ABC can be used for a propaganda exercise in “The Path to 9/11” ––which aired or shall I say erred on the fifth anniversary.

Several problems converge here: corporate monopolization of the media, centralized one party control and a demagogue who gets his orders from god have all been used, misused to divert our control over the institutions of government that we have democratically erected. I do not have a moribund curiosity with death but I do insist on being told the truth! And it is high time that the American people are told more of it. That would be sometime before the fall of Baghdad. Sometime before they outlaw the Bill of Rights and sometime before they start arresting journalists in this country for asking the “wrong” questions or printing the right answers.

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Founded in 1979 as a counterbalance to the conservative, corporate- owned daily paper, Random Lengths News draws on the rich history of the Los Angeles Harbor Area. The name harkens back to a description of the lumber that used to...
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