Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Lies that Kill

     Osama bin Laden at one time lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan. When he moved to Pakistan he left behind a collection of 1500 audiotapes which by a circuitous route came into the hands of CNN.

    Among these tapes was the entire speech from which American journalists extracted what has come to be known as the "Declaration of War against the United States" speech. A journalist by the name of Flagg Miller, who speaks Arabic, has listened to the entire speech and in his judgment calling it a declaration of war against the United States is a complete misrepresentation. According to Miller the main targets of criticism in that speech are authoritarian Muslim regimes. (https://news.vice. com/article/what-i-learned-about-al-qaeda-from-analyzing-the-bin-laden-tapes)

    Obviously that puts the conflict in the Middle East in a very different light. What has been presented to us an enemy of the US, Al Qaeda was, at least originally, a much more complex and disunited movement. We have spent the last 15 years making sure that we would become the main enemy of dissident Muslim movements like Al Qaeda.

    This reminds us once again that the political system we live under has ceased being a democracy. In a democracy the citizens at large have, at least, an important voice in setting government policy. But if the opinions and judgments of citizens are manipulated by making them believe, for instance, that they are in danger, when in fact they are not, they no longer are the independent rulers of their country but are no more than pawns in a high-level power game that few understand.

    Many Americans believed that Al Qaeda was dedicated to only one goal, the destruction of America. That seemed to justify the expense in life and in money we suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now it turns out those stories were made up. The situation is and was much more complex as were the conflicts in which, at first, we were at the margins and the enemies were Muslim dictatorships.

    Al Qaeda was not the threat we were told it was. Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. Our country has spent excessive amount of money which was needed at home, on killing and destroying in faraway places. The decision to do that was not made by well-informed citizens but by voters manipulated by journalists and politicians, for reasons of their own – reasons that are often still opaque.

    The attack of 9/11 and its aftermath of manipulating public opinion into two wars which we lost, have indeed dimmed the reputation of the United States.. But the authors of this loss were not primarily Arab conspirators but manipulators of the news in the United States itself.

    It is really alarming to realize that. Our enemies are not overseas. They are not the youngsters at the margins of American society who dream of glory fighting with ISIS. Our main enemies are the manipulators of news, the manipulators of congressional actions, the public relations experts who misrepresent to us the world in which we live.

    These hidden enemies are assisted, often unwittingly, by local politicians, by high school history teachers, by notables who give commencement addresses, and others who pass on the misrepresentations foisted on us by the media and the people who own and run them.

    The upcoming generation grows up misinformed about their, and our, world. When young people talk about the 1960s, they know about the "hippies" but know little about the antiwar movement. They know about Martin Luther King but do not know the cruel and, at the same time, inspiring history of centuries of black resistance. The relative changes in the position of African-American is presented to them as the action of benign government that passed civil-rights legislation after Dr. King addressed a large crowd on the Mall in Washington

    Anyone who suggests that there is a group of people manipulating government policy by manipulating the information voters get, is likely to get accused of being paranoid, i.e. crazy.

    Were I to say that there was a secret cabal of powerful people who run everything, that accusation might be deserved. But of course the situation is much more complex. We were manipulated into two devastating wars – devastating for us, and even more devastating for the people in the Middle East – by a group of warmongers, with macho fantasies about US military power and glory, with an important side interest in controlling Middle East oil.
 The mythology about capitalism and the free market system is obviously perpetrated by a different group consisting of businesses large and small that receive government subsidies but want to resist regulation. These myths have tended, at times, to produce a workforce that will,  without complaint, accept layoffs in the interest of stockholder dividends. They have tended, at times, to produce a working class that does not get rewarded appropriately for its efforts but accepts that by blaming itself for not having more education.

    The mythology that global warming is the invention of scientists greedy for research grants is pushed by different groups again.

    The perpetuation of racism must be blamed, in part, on media who sell more copy "if it bleeds." Stories about addiction, drug dealing, gangs are preferred. Stories about decrepit schools, unjust treatment by social workers and police, of being taken advantage of by landlords – those stories are not heard very often.   

      If the people are fed many mythologies about their own country, they are not in a position to rule. What we call democracy is no more than an elaborate charade. The strings are being pulled by those who manufactured the information that most people get. The misrepresentation of Osama bin Laden’s "Declaration of War against the United States" is just one horrifying example of that.