The Media Merry-go-round


America’s most potent weapon is not its plethora of lethal arms, its nuclear weapons of mass destruction, it’s ” free and democratic way of life”. It is its media.

America doesn’t need guns and bombs, Cruise and Stinger missiles or Stealth bombers to control the world and keep its communities at bay. Yes, a show of force is necessary from time to time in its history, to show the world who’s boss, to make inroads into territory it covets, to establish an air base here or there or investigate (militarily) a valuable oil pipeline link to western lands. However, America’s big arms manufacturers also have to be kept happy and in business, as they do the tobacco industry, for governments and their economies to remain powerful. As long as the government continues to provide its state-sponsored media with enough fodder to keep it in business, the media will be its mouthpiece.

Wars have been fought many times in America’s history, dirty wars for causes that are inevitably self-centered and have blatantly ulterior motives. To continue to appear to the American people to be the world’s only superpower, America needs the full support of its media. The media is the most powerful weapon a country has, especially a country like America with its closets full of skeletons of every caste, colour and creed. It controls what it wants the American people to hear and to know. ‘The power of the pen and freedom of speechéor state-controlled American TV?

It is a well-known fact of history that when things are bad at home or popularity polls are down ( while 7000 people have died in the recent WTC and Pentagon attacks and many more are dying in Afghanistan, American government and media are periodically obsessed with popularity polls) or when the people’s attention needs to be diverted, governments use unconscionable external ploys to do just this– divert national attention. Start a war somewhere. Just like that. Manufacture a plausible enough reason (‘our free and democratic way of life is under attack’) brainwash the media with those reasons and guarantee them long-term military action to cover and get on with the job of targeting the hapless ‘rogue’ nation, while two, three, four devious purposes are served. The media, in its turn, begins brainwashing viewers and you see the tide of opinion, within, gradually nodding in affirmation of the government’s policies.

The popularity polls move upwards as the sitting president/prime minister’s speeches become more eloquent, almost evangelical and the timbre of voice more ‘Churchillian’; arms manufacturers show big sales and bigger profits, new weapons are tested on the “rogue” country, old weapons are sold to poorer nations, the ‘collateral damage’ is glaringly there, but discreetly underplayed and the media saturates the airwaves with news broadcasts round the clock.

Simple. A time-honoured way of fooling the naive and gullible American public, ( but, thankfully, not the rest of the world) and achieving three, often four objectives in one fell swoop. And everybody’s happy as a lark. The arms manufacturers, the media, and the hawks in the government. “Never mind the deaths of innocent civilians. They’re expendable. The price will be worth it. Besides, we said there’d be collateral damage. Oh yes, we forgot, we’re dropping food packets on the country we’re bombing, (just to show how humanitarian we are) just 37500 of them for a starving population of 7.5 millioné. well, we’re doing the best we can… in the circumstances.” And the food drops are being beamed across the world but they’re not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes.

And all the while, the media is having a carnival on the airwaves. Yes, the media is America’s most potent weapon. When its war objectives are announced by the government, it’s picnic time for the media vultures. They gear up in full force for round-the-clock reporting. Breaking news is announced with urgency and triumph, a smirk and signature music rising to a crescendo. Reporters and correspondents are dispatched post haste, money’s no object, to the ends of the world to dig up every bit of dirty linen on the country about to be attacked—and the media blitz is on.

Guests are called on to speak, even if what they have to contribute is not worth its salt, because, we, the viewers, have to be barrage-d by comprehensive media coverage. It has to be all-encompassing. Bring out the troops. No holds barred. How exciting a war is! There’s so much to keep repeating ad nauseum. And then, the speculations. They’re the best. Keep them coming, keep people wondering and they’ll keep coming back to the same channel for further news on the last speculation.

If there wasn’t a war to cover, what would the television and radio news channels broadcast? Foot and mouth? The love life of Lady Diana? The Queen Mother’s latest hip surgery? How tame! Not enough meat to sink your teeth into. Now a war… bombs pulverising city after city, great blinding flashes of light, people fleeing for their lives, women and children dying, terrorists hiding out in cave after cave, THE SEARCH, THE HUNT…that’s the stuff of drama, that’s what the people want.

As the action progresses, the state-sponsored media brings new and dramatic words and phrases into its lexicon. Gone the days of ‘freedom fighters,’ it’s ‘terrorism’ now for all shades of freedom fights. And the fine-tuned ‘carpet bombing’ and ‘bio-terrorism.’ And ‘rogue states’. And ‘pariah’ nations. When America napalm-bombed Vietnam to smithereens with Agent Orange, they didn’t call it ‘bio-terrorism’ then. They said they were trying to keep the communists out. And when Mcarthy went ‘witch-hunting’ in the 50’s, they said the same thing. And when J. Edgar Hoover introduced drugs into the African-American community in America to keep them from rallying against racial discrimination, he said the same thing too. ‘Quelling uprisings’, is another gem.

The American community is hard-pressed to understand ‘why’ the attacks took place on American soil. There’s the plaintive, “why not in Iraq, or Sudan or Kosovo, or Palestine as they’ve always been? Why not indeed. American foreign policy has dictated that wars must be fomented and conducted on the soil of other countries, while its own remains sacred…hallowed ground. Thus, for America, not ever having experienced a war on its own soil since the Civil War, the audacity or ‘evil brilliance’ of the WTC and Pentagon attacks was unbelievable for the American people. So you have a nation—utterly insular and abysmally ignorant about the world around them and the grisly part its nation has played in earning that hatred— shattered emotionally and I think, irrevocably by this great tragedy in their midst. The key phrase here is, ‘in their midst.’

This is lasting damage done to a nation that has been made to believe by successive governments and their media that it is invincible. It’s the classic betrayal, really. America took its people’s trust, their naivete and their money and lulled them into a false sense of security. America gave them (instead of geography and history of the world and the truth about how America has achieved its superpower status) a false aura of confidence, a false sense of greatness, and the American Dream and wham! It all went up in smoke. Literally.