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Controlling the Interminable War-Narrative / By: Bruce G. Richardson
Thursday, 01.10.2013, 07:35pm (GMT+1)

‘After Barack Obama joined the rest of us in mourning the slaughter of innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama’s tears for the dead make me sick. What about weeping over the 400 or more Afghan children killed with drone strikes? Indeed, our president has shown no palpable concern over those deaths’….anti-war.com, 1/5/2013. 
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country - Herman Goering, ‘The Nuremberg Trials’, 1946

The foregoing reflects a belief, based on many years of study of the workings of the media, and for the purpose of this inquiry, the attendant news coverage of Afghanistan, that they serve to mobilize support for the special interests that dominate the state and private activity, and that their choices, obscurantism, emphases, and emissions can be understood best and oftentimes with striking clarity and insight by analyzing them in such terms. Leaders of the media claim that their news choices rest on un-biased professional and objective criteria, and that they have support for this contention in the intellectual community. (1, 14)
If, however, the powerful are able to fix the premise of discourse, to decide what the general population is allowed to see, hear and think about, and to manage public opinion by regular propaganda campaigns, the standard view of how the systems works is at serious odds with reality. (2, 14)
Walter Lippmann writing in the 1920s claimed that propaganda had already become a ‘regular organ of popular government,’ and was steadily increasing in sophistication and importance. (3) There are those among us who contend that this is not all the mass-media do, but many believe the propaganda function to be a very important aspect of their overall service. Contrary to the usual image of the press as cantankerous, aggressive, obstinate, and ubiquitous is its search for truth, we will endeavor to depict how an underlying elitist oligarchy largely structures all facets of the news. (14)  
For many people an issue does not exist until it appears in the news media. Indeed, what we even define as an issue or event, what we see and hear, and what we do not see and hear are greatly determined by those who control the communications world, be it a separatist movement in Chechnya, alleged terrorist attacks against U.S. interests, or UN assertions of Taliban transgressions, few of us know things except as they are defined in the news. Even when we don’t believe what the media say, we are hearing or reading their viewpoint rather than some other. They therefore are still setting the agenda, defining what it is we must believe or disbelieve, accept or reject. The media exert a persistent influence in defining the scope of respectable political discourse. (4, 14) 

The media’s misrepresentations rarely are accidental, nor merely the result of the complexity of actual events or the maladroitness of poorly informed journalists.  While those kinds of problems do exist, another kind of distortion predominates, one not due to chance or to the idiosyncratic qualities of the news production or news people. (5, 14) The major distortions are repeatable and systemic, the product not only of deliberate manipulations but of the ideological and economic intercourse within which the media operate. (6)
Be this as it may, growing numbers of people are becoming increasingly aware that the media are neither objective nor consistently accurate in their portrayal of issues and events. There has emerged a growing understanding that we need to defend ourselves by challenging the misinformation we are fed. (7) The question thus becomes: how much of what the news media tell us is true, and how does it control our view of the world, and how does the media influence and manipulate the public’s perception of reality? 
The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. (8, 14)
In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systemic propaganda. (9, 14) A propaganda model focuses on this inequality of wealth and power and its multilevel effects on mass-media interests and choices. It traces the route by which money and power are able to filter-out the news they deem fit to print, marginalize dissent, and allow the government  and dominant private interests to get their message across to the public: the essential ingredients of our propaganda model, or set of news ‘filters’ fall under the following headings, one: the size; concentrated ownership; owner-wealth; and profit orientation of the mass-media firms,  two: advertising as the primary income source of the mass-media;  three: the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and ‘experts’ funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; four: coercive measures taken by the power brokers as a means of disciplining the media, and five: antiterrorism replacing Communism as a national religion and control mechanism. (10, 14)
War on the Internet:

The Internet war began in earnest on Twitter September 14, 2011 amidst the attack on the US Embassy in Kabul. Until that time, NATO had monitored closely messages posted on two accounts linked to what has been characterized as Taliban’s media arm, but had refrained from acknowledgement. US military officials assigned to the ISAF coalition initiated verbal warfare dialogue with the Taliban in what has become a near-daily exchange. However, messages are limited to just 140 characters. The US alleges the Taliban terrorizing of the people while the Taliban charge the US-led ISAF with razing villages and the killing of innocent civilians, the incarceration of Afghan children as ‘combatants’, conducting night-raids and using proscribed weapons of mass-destruction proximate to dense population centers.  At this time, following failed peace talks, this recent running confrontational-dialogue appears the only open line of communication between the Taliban and the US/ISAF.
The US has concluded the imperative of seizing the initiative in order to ‘shape the narrative’ much more quickly than heretofore pedestrian news releases. The question of who is winning the media war is difficult to assess. Over the past year, US posts swelled from over 700 to nearly 18,000, whereas, Taliban posts have reached over 9,000. US official concern over Taliban participation or activity on social sites, centers on allegations that the Taliban have launched recruitment efforts in the US. As a result, House Homeland Security subcommittee on counter terrorism convened a hearing this month on how ‘Jihadists use the Internet as a recruiting tool’.  Media watchdogs, however, view this as one more attempt by the Obama Administration to control and or shape the narrative, and have expressed a profound fear of legislation that violates constitutional freedom-of-speech protections. (11, 14)

Rather than shaping and ascribing to inscrutable narrative, the US should be profoundly circumspect in reviewing and changing course from current foreign policy initiatives and thereby come to understand precisely what it is their Draconian policies have unleashed, with all the attendant benefits, both moral and economic, that such reassessment would entail.
By aggressively intervening in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the US has created an interest for a variety of Islamist states and non-state actors to cooperate with each other. Its policies of continued occupation of Afghanistan exacerbated by excessive and indiscriminate Drone attacks, threats against Syria and Iran, and ongoing antagonism towards Hezbollah and the Palestinians are creating precisely the unified front is says to fear. The leaders of the American Government make the gravest mistakes for a world-power. They believe their own propaganda. As such, terrorism always implicitly if not explicitly associated with Islam is the open-ended evil of the American psyche, used to justify foreign wars and the erosion of domestic liberties. (4, 6, 9, 14)
1. The Political Economy of the Mass Media, Edward S. Herman, 1988, pp. 106-117
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Unreliable Sources, Lee Solomon, 1995, pp. 122-133
5. Ibid.
6. Warriors of Disinformation, Alvin A. Snyder, 1995, pp. 15-18
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Warriors of Disinformation, Alvin A. Snyder, 1995, pp. 112-119
10. The Politics of Lying, David Wise, 1973, pp. 319-322
11. War on the Internet, Ernesto Londofio, 2011
12. Twenty-Five Years Later We come in Peace, USN Magazine, Col. Tim J. Geraghty, October,2011
13. **Portions of the preceding text published in Afghanistan, a Search for Truth, Bruce G. Richardson, 2009, pp. 227-234   
14. ‘Control of the preferred narrative is essential in today’s instant-news political culture. This has been particularly true since 9/11, as the US Government and the co-operative media have worked together to make sure that a series of enemies are identified and then attacked as a response to what has been shaped as a global terrorist threat,’ by Dr. Phil Giraldi, former CIA official, The American Conservative, 1/2/2013.
Bruce G. Richardson, 1/2013

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