Scripting the big lie
by Heather Cottin The titans of the military-industrial-media complex are working around the clock trying to annihilate the truth so people in the United States won't care what happens to the people of Afghanistan. Using every propaganda vehicle the Bush administration is driving hard to control the minds and hearts of the American people and, if possible, people around the world. In a briefing, Bush spokesperson Ari Fleischer warned reporters that, in times like these, "people have to watch what they say and watch what they do". CNN and other major commercial news organisations are obeying Fleischer's admonition. During the bombing of Afghanistan, network news outlets endlessly repeated, "Taliban claims are impossible to verify." CNN has ordered reporters to frame reports of civilian deaths with reminders that "the Pentagon has repeatedly stressed that it is trying to minimise" such casualties, and that "the Taliban regime continues to harbor terrorists who are connected to the September 11 attacks that claimed thousands of innocent lives in the US". In a special report on November 5 that took other media to task for letting the world know about the slaughter of innocents in Afghanistan, Fox News anchor Brit Hume said, "Civilian casualties are historically, by definition, a part of war, really. Should they be as big news as they have been?" Mara Liasson from National Public Radio agreed, "Look, war is about killing people. Civilian casualties are unavoidable." US News & World Report columnist Michael Barone added, "I think the real problem here is that this is poor news judgement on the part of some of these news organisations. Civilian casualties are not, as Mara says new. The fact is that they accompany wars." A memo circulated to editors at the Panama City, Florida, News Herald and leaked to Jim Romenesko's news warned: "DO NOT USE photos on Page1A showing civilian casualties from the US war on Afghanistan. DO NOT USE wire stories which lead with civilian casualties from the US war on Afghanistan ... play down the Civilian casualties, DO IT." Propaganda extravaganza A New York Times article on November 11 delineating the "Battle to Shape Public Opinion", explained in detail how the Bush administration was setting up "a round-the-clock war news bureau" in Washington, London and Islamabad to help develop a "message of the day". The Times called the effort a "21st century version of the muscular propaganda war that the United States waged in the 1940s." The State Department brought in former advertising executive Charlotte Beers to sell the US line. This message "dovetails with the domestic news management" under the supervision of Karen P Hughes, the White House communications director. Beers holds meetings with foreign correspondents "closed to American journalists". "We cannot give our propaganda to our own people", said Price Floyd, deputy director of media outreach at the State Department. Heavens no! According to the Times, the State Department and Defence Department aren't allowing any real information out about military operations. Clark Hoyt, the Washington editor for the Knight Rider Newspaper chain, said "American forces are engaged in combat overseas, and we are basically shut out". The Frankfurter Rundschau wrote, "Substantial amounts of information about current military actions and their consequences is subject to censorship by parties to the conflict." Moviegoers beware! This is total war even if incredibly one-sided, and the administration has drafted Hollywood. The heads of the Warner Brothers television studio and of the CBS and Fox broadcasting networks met with Karl Rove, President Bush's senior advisor, to find "common ground on how the entertainment industry can contribute to the war effort, replicating in spirit if not in scope the partnership formed between filmmakers and war planners in the 1940s." The Sunday Herald of Scotland noted, "Hollywood stars and script writers are rushing to bolster the new message of patriotism, conferring with the CIA and brainstorming with the military about possible real life terrorist attacks." Many of the "stars" are thrilled. Actor Tom Cruise, concerned about upcoming roles as a CIA operative in his next movie, wants to show the "CIA in as positive a light as possible." Sylvester Stallone is working on the script for a fourth Rambo film in which he parachutes into Afghanistan to battle leaders of the Taliban (New York Post, November 13). You can't make this stuff up. Michael Macedonia, of the army's Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command, was enraptured with the prospect of using Hollywood as a propaganda tool. "You are talking about screen writers and producers. These are very brilliant, creative people. They can come up with fascinating insights very quickly", he told the Sun Herald. Actually, Hollywood has always been a willing tool for propaganda. Many people know nothing about the world except what they see in war films. These are carefully planned and funded. For example, a little think tank, the Institute for Creative Studies at the University of Southern California, received funding of US$45 million from the US army in 1999, writes the Sunday Herald. The New York Times noted, "Effort to create public service spots for TV and movie theatres, documentaries on terrorism and home security, live shows for American troops featuring Hollywood performers and perhaps some involvement in helping spread the American message abroad, provides an opportunity for the studios to reassert their patriotism while being good business." Hollywood as big business is in tune with the sensibilities of the oil companies. The owners of the major studios are the same capitalists who own the defence and oil industries, which are the major beneficiaries of the war for the Middle East and Central Asia. There is no contradiction between Hollywood's goals here and Pentagon strategy. They are all profiting from the war. This is just war by other means, war on people's hearts and minds. Attack on academia The Bush administration's minion are meanwhile on the attack against students and professors who oppose the war in Afghanistan. The Boston Globe reported on November 13 that a "conservative academic group founded by Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, fired a new salvo in the culture wars by blasting 40 college professors as well as the president of Wesleyan University and others for not showing enough patriotism in the aftermath of September 11." "College and University faculty have been the weak link in America's response to the attack, "says a report by Cheney's newly created American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The report names names and criticises professors for being "short on patriotism". Not content with creating what one professor called tactics "reminiscent of McCarthyism" against university professors, the administration has called in the intelligence agencies to beef up the attack on culture and the free expression of ideas. On November 7, FBI and Secret Service agents visited the "Secret Wars" exhibit at the ART Car Museum in Houston, Texas. "Secret Wars" is an exhibition investigating artistic dissent to covert operations and government secrets. Donna Juanca, a worker at the museum, said, "It was a very scary experience in a day, what the traffic was like, how did we advertise. They let us know they are watching us now." Tex Kerschen, the museum's curator, said to Independent Media, "The FBI are going to move in as quickly as they can to investigate any kind of dissent."
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