So far, we’ve only covered the first assertion of the argument, which is:
1. It’s likely that we cannot trust the information being given to us about wars.
If you’ve read the first 5 posts I hope you’ve seen that war absolutely relies on propaganda. It’s an essential component. Without well executed propaganda you get a result like the one that happened after World War I, where the American public felt lied to, and wanted nothing to do with another European war. With books like Myth of a Guilty Nation and Falsehood in War Time revealing the truth about the Great War, F.D.R. had to go to extraordinary lengths to get us into war the second time around.
Propaganda has since been built into the very fabric of the system. It’s not a separate entity any more. There are no more short films from the Committee on Public Information. Now days the money and influence that pushes certain ideas into the media are extremely hard to trace. Advertising dollars control the message in the broadcast and print mediums. Gargantuan, lucrative defense and energy companies have a very strong motive to push for war through these channels. We have to be skeptical of everything we hear. If what you watch and read contains advertisements of any kind, you’re being lied to, to some degree. It’s just a matter of how much and about what.
For instance, why would a global defense contractor be an “underwriter” on something like NPR? It’s obviously not about boosting sales or brand recognition. Nobody listening to NPR is unfamiliar with those companies. Instead, it’s a largely unspoken investment in controlling the narrative. Giving a media outlet $2 million dollars a year to slant their coverage in a direction that favors military intervention is a win for all involved. The media outlet gets money directly (media lobbying?). The defense contractor gets money for building new weapons through increased public support of military actions. And, politicians get more money through defense lobbying and more power through the exercise of this corporatism.
This neo-propaganda technique is the fabric that we see the world through. It’s pretty difficult to get outside the box. And, doing propaganda this way is highly effective. It comes across simply as news. It’s not jarring at all, so none of our built-in red flags go up. For instance, you hear a story repeated on multiple news channels about Gaddafi giving Viagra to his troops to encourage raping of citizens. The repetition and slickness of production give the story credibility, even though a careful listen reveals a whole lot of “alleged” and “unconfirmed” references. What you will never see is the report detailing that those allegations could never be confirmed. So, that story goes into our minds, and creates a picture of Libya and it’s leader. And, these types of mental pictures are being built every day by the media we consume. A picture can be worth a thousand words, but a mental picture can be worth billions of dollars.
The bottom line with my first assertion is that media coverage of military issues is a reality distortion field, where it benefits everyone involved to pursue more and more military action. For this reason, we cannot trust that the information being given to us about wars are truthful. Some information may actually be true, but we cannot trust it without vetting it ourselves. Even the most plausible news story has to be double-checked by going to the source and getting the other side’s perspective. You will find, many times, that this reveals quite a bit of distortion.
Next time, I’ll move to the second assertion: “Most of us can’t make an informed decision about the history, or context that lead to conflict.”