Fighting wars through the media
In 1953 while addressing the New York Press Club, John Swinton – the chief of staff for the New York Times – declared that: “There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as an independent Press.”
That statement by Swinton may be a difficult pill to swallow for those media practioners who think of themselves as the custodians of the truth and protectors of transperancy.
“Truth” is as difficult to discern in the media today as it was when Swinton spoke of the non-existence of an independent Press back in 1953.
And the waters are just becoming muddier by the day, with the media – as Malcolm X once famously remarked – making people hate those they should love and loving those they should hate.
The contest to disseminate information to the general public is a tussle between those media houses on the side of the quest for unbridled power and those who genuinely seek to maintain a modicum of independent thought.
It is rather idealistic and simplistic to think that journalists give the public the true picture of what is going on in the world around them.
More realistically, journalists serve power and promote and perpetuate the interests of power.
As Karl Marx noted in “Historical Materialism,” the dominant ideas of any society are the ideas of the dominant class.
Recalling the tragic events that transpired during the Rwanda genocide of 1994, described as “100 Days of Hell” that led to the massacre of about 800 000 people between April and July of that year, it has been observed that the media played a big role in inciting violence and agitating for war.
Radio stations and newspapers were used by political conspirators to dehumanize the potential victims, Rwanda’s Tutsi minority and the result was hundreds of thousands of deaths.
And when the genocide started, the pliant Western media dutifully reported it as two tribes of African savages mindlessly slaughtering each other as they had done from time immemorial.
A similar role wa played out by the media in the lead-up to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as with this year’s conflicts in Cote d’Ivoire and Libya.
While the smoke was still billowing from the collapsed Twin Towers in 2001, the US legislature and Presidency rushed through the enactment of the Patrriot Act, which essentially stripped citizens of their civil liberties and the right to access of information.
The media, who were supposed to be the foremost opponents of this law, were at the forefront of glorifying the legislation and getting the American public to accept it.
It took just six weeks for the Patriot Act to become law, which must be an American record for driving through legislation as passing laws in that country normally takes months, if not years.
Why such a rush to muzzle the media and ensure journalists are mere lapdogs and poodles for power?
The answer can be found in a February 2005 address to journalists at the White House where former US President George W Bush said “the wars in this world will be fought through the media”.
Journalists are the soldiers while the men and women of power – political, economic and cultural – are the generals.
The truth is the collateral damage.
The quest for world domination is no longer pursued exclusively with bombs and guns; the new weapons of mass destruction are a compliant media that swallows anything that power feeds to them.
Obfuscation of the truth, twisting of facts, perversion of ideas and outright lies have been churned out by media houses that are becoming a potent weapon in Western power’s pursuit of global dominance.
This media-based war is propped up by a wide range of political devices such as embassy bulletins, and NGO newsletters, reports and studies that buttress the interests of power.
Thus we are often fed news reports and studies that create the notion that Third World peoples cannot govern themselves, are not trustworthy to manage their own natural resources and kill each other for no apparent reason.
For this, Western power must intervene to save us from ourselves.
The media justify the “need” for intervention, military if possible, and then when our countries have bombed and thousands of us have been massacred, the media then go about their work of convincing the survivors and the rest of the world that we are now better off than we were before the war.
We saw this in Afghganistan, Iraq and Libya. They have tried to do that with Zimbabwe.
We shall continue to see it for many more years to come.
The work is not just done by the CNNs, BBCs and France 24s of this world; local media are also co-opted to further the agenda.
In many cases, “local” media are created through NGO and embassy support so that the impression is created that even the people of the targetted country feel that being bombed back into the Stone Age is in their own best interests.
These agents of imperial power are often defined as the only free Press and are so so-well supported financially and (im)morally by the centres of power that they can easily overshaddow the truly indigenous media.
They are used to make us look at ourselves through the same eyes of Western power, to convince us of how wretched we are, to make us believe we are deserving of being bombed so that our lands and natural resources can be managed by multinationals.
And so we here people saying we were better off under colonialism and that we should want a return to brutal servitude.
The fact that Africa has advanced politically more quickly than any other continent in the world is ignored. We should be bombed.
Power’s mission in Africa, which it pursues so actively through the media, is that: “We must save them anew.”