News is Our News
by Michael I. Niman, ArtVoice 10/3/02
“There's no doubt he can't stand us. After all, this
is a guy that tried to kill my dad…”
-- George W. Bush speaking of Saddam Hussein (New York Times 9/27/02)
Anybody who tuned in to NPR news in mid-September was privy
to hearing the shattered remains of a once proud news organization.
Today’s NPR, dubbed “National Propaganda Radio” by critics, had
sunk to broadcasting an all day regimen of war-mongering drivel.
In NPR’s America, we were all gung-ho to goose-step off to wherever the
Bush regime wanted to send us. Voices
of dissent, or any resemblance of a sane dialog, were either marginalized or
outright ignored. The same holds true, of course, for the commercial media –
but many of us had higher hopes for our “public” alternative.
Only recently, when someone flicked the “on” switch on a long dormant
Al Gore, and with some conservative business leaders seeing the potential
economic havoc that war would bring, have we heard an inkling of debate.
American news anchors have adopted loaded Bushspeak terms
seamlessly into their lexicon. They
refer to friendly governments as “governments,” while those who stand in the
way of American imperial aspirations are degraded as “regimes.”
Invasion or subversion of a foreign government, illegal under
international law, is now sanitized by the term, “regime change.”
Foreign leaders who support Bush policies, such as Pakistan’s General
Musharraf, who came to power in a military coup, are now known as
“presidents.” Leaders we oppose are “dictators” and “strongmen.”
And of course official enemies are all now unquestionably dubbed
“evil,” as in “Axis of Evil” or “the evil ones.”
Though, as in George Orwell’s world, they easily migrate from evil to
friend and back to evil again as political needs dictate.
Newscasts have degenerated into the realm of
“reality television.” With a rainbow of alert codes, we follow the
lives of an imaginary cast of bombers and saboteurs as they plot their evil, or
as we learn after a few commercial breaks, run their delis and go to their
classes. The “terrorism alerts”
have an uncanny habit of coinciding with news releases about corporate
corruption or our free-falling economy, yet for legions of reporters and news
anchors, these wolves are real. And
the real wolves move about unnoticed.
In the world of American TV and radio news, there one
dominant message. Be scared.
Violence is still the conflict resolution strategy of first recourse, even
though history has shown that it usually begets more violence.
There is no dialog and there is no hope. There’s just an endless stream
of nightmarish scenarios. News
shows are stacked with pundits restating the official consensus as they search
for language to better agree with each other.
“Average” Americans are recruited for cameos, droning on about how
they fear Saddam and support George Bush. Questions
about who poses a greater threat to America are absent. The new war is being
framed as a struggle against one man – the evil one.
The hundreds of thousands of people who will die as a result of this
personality clash are invisible.
Moderating voices such as former US Marine and UN weapons
inspector, Scott Ridder, are often trivialized by the media as saps or madmen.
Others, such as former president Jimmy Carter, are ignored or downplayed. The media is treating the forthcoming war deliriously as a
bizarre sort of sporting event – with straight-faced reporters making book on
the upcoming battles. Peace is not
an option. The insanity of starting
a new and possibly endless war, when we are still engaged militarily in Kosovo,
Bosnia, Columbia, and Afghanistan, and when our economy has tanked due to our
excessive military spending, is hardly discussed. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission recently reported that the
so called report that Bush cites as evidence that Iraq was only months away from
acquiring a nuclear bomb, never existed – yet this story is all but unreported
in our media.
People in virtually every other country in the world,
however, are watching, reading and hearing another story.
Most of the world’s major governments have condemned Bush’s war plans
and voiced support for a plethora of strategies for peaceful settlement of this
crisis. They know that various
international weapons inspectors are now in Iraq with more on the way.
If the US starts a large-scale war, they will all leave, and presumably,
the very weapons programs we are so worried about, will resume.
I use the term “large scale,” in the previous sentence, because the
US has been regularly bombing Iraq for months, recently leveling a civilian
airport. These raids are both
aggressive and illegal, and the rest of the world knows about them and the human
damage they’ve been wreaking.
While the American media constructs the illusion of a
national consensus and supports the myth of potential international support, the
rest of the world is losing patience with the arrogance of the world’s only
“super-power.” The term
“super-power” itself needs new examination.
It once referred to military and economic might.
As we have seen with the former Soviet Union, you can’t sustain
military might without economic might. Yet,
as William Greider reports in this week’s The Nation (9/23/02),
we no longer have that might, nor do we control the destiny of our economy.
Our hedonistic consumerist culture and its ensuing drunken spending spree
have given us a globally unprecedented trade deficit while turning us into the
world’s largest debtor nation, with a foreign debt predicted to reach $3.5
trillion by 2006. Currently our
trade deficit is running at 25% of our GDP.
If current trends persist, this will reach 50% by 2013.
If you’re wondering how this happened, just take a walk through Wal
Mart. Bankruptcy is the darker side of our addict to cheap
International debt is more complicated than, say, consumer
debt. As we, as a nation,
accumulate foreign debt, foreign powers accumulate ownership of American real
estate, banks and corporations. Our
money markets, bond markets and stock markets are currently floating on this
foreign capital, yet we continue to thumb our noses at our new landlords.
What if They
If the world loses patience with us, and a divestment
movement kicks in, as it did with regards to South Africa during that
country’s days of Apartheid, our days of empire will abruptly end.
This, in fact, may already be happening.
William Greider points out that Saudi Arabia, for example, upset with
American insinuations about its duplicity with global terrorism, has recently
pulled $200 billion out of US stock markets, contributing in no small way to the
recent stock market crash. A lack
of international confidence about Bush administration integrity and competence
in managing the world’s largest economy has also already stimulated capital
flight. If the US illegally invades
Iraq and becomes an international pariah, a full-scale divestment movement will
Of course, most Americans are ignorant of this fact as we
continue to bask in a Potemkin empire. And
if they get their news from the corporate owned media, they’re also not likely
to be informed about the tens of thousands of their fellow Americans who have
taken to the streets all over the country to protest against the Bush regime,
it’s draconian threat to democracy and its war plans. They also won’t be
informed about how people have been protesting for almost two years against the
regime’s devastating environmental prostitution and shameless whoring for an
economically and environmentally suicidal corporate agenda.
Most Americans are not likely to know that the US is viewed globally as
an ecological pariah, and how we’ve stifled international efforts at promoting
sustainable development and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
They probably are not aware that US Secretary of State Colin Powell was
heckled on the final day of the Earth Summit last month.
He wasn’t heckled by protestors – he was heckled by dignitaries
representing the world’s governments. This
occurred after the US blocked global efforts supporting renewable energy –
which in itself is ludicrous when you consider the fact that North Dakota alone
has been termed the “Persian Gulf of Wind Energy” and has enough wind to
supply the entire US with electricity. Many Americans probably didn’t know the
Earth Summit occurred.
Our SUVs Run On
It’s this technologically backward addiction to oil that drives our foreign policy, just as a handful of oil industry executives now control the White House. During recent Senate hearings discussing the upcoming war, Republicans explained that after the US ousts Saddam Hussein, we’ll then win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people by taking control of their oil industry and redistributing the profits among the Iraqi population. In other words, the Bush team is ready to militarily impose socialism on Iraq. This control of the Iraq’s oil supply, one of the hugest remaining reserves in the world, they explained, would also be used as a hedge against OPEC price increases. Oh yeah, and only those countries that supported our war effort would have access to this cheap US commandeered Iraqi oil booty. Are there still any questions out there as to what this war is all about? We can conserve energy without changing our lifestyle by driving smaller cars or developing wind and solar energy. Or we can go to war and take what we want, even if we really don’t need it. Our SUVs don’t run on gas alone. They run on blood.
None of this should be news to anybody.
But most of it is, since our media omits those stories that are most
important to us. Hence, we’re all
nauseatingly familiar with the daily dose of “our leader’s” halting
speech, edited into coherent sound bites, and often put to music.
And of course we know who threw the winning touchdown, which sneakers we
want, and what new blockbuster movie we have to see.
But it’s the important stories that are slipping unnoticed past the
national zeitgeist – and our very survival as Americans is imperiled by our
People who want to protest against the war in Iraq can
join with the Western New York Peace Center in a Peace Rally on Sunday
October 6th, 12:30 PM at Bidwell Parkway and Elmwood Ave.
“Another World is Possible.” For
a comprehensive list of alternative media sources, see http://mediastudy.com/picks.html.
Dr. Michael I. Niman’s previous columns are archived online at http://mediastudy.com/articles.