No 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.

We’re Bankrupt

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 sweatshop goods.

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 Divest?

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 likely ensue.

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 Blood

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 collective ignorance.  

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  Dr. Michael I. Niman’s previous columns are archived online at

copyright 2002