In a December, 2014 speech to the London-based Centre for Investigative Journalism, veteran Australian journalist John Pilger asked a few of the right questions.
“Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers?”
The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq is Pilger’s case-in-point. If the media had done its job, the war would not have happened. A million lives would have been saved, millions more would not have been injured, yet millions more would not have been displaced.
But the media did not do its job in 2002-03. Nor has it learned from its failures. If anything, propaganda dominates the mainstream media more than ever. Here is what Pilger says about Ukraine:
“The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember. The biggest Western military build-up in the Caucasus and eastern Europe since World War 2 is blacked out. Washington’s secret aid to Kiev and its neo-Nazi brigades responsible for war crimes against the population of eastern Ukraine is blacked out. Evidence that contradicts propaganda that Russia was responsible for the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner is blacked out.”
Pilger recalls a time forty years ago when Carl Bernstein, one of the journalists who broke the Watergate scandal, created a sensation by revealing that more than 400 journalists and news executives worked for the CIA.
Today, such clandestine intrigue isn’t necessary. On matters related to “national security” and international policy, mainstream media willingly serve the purposes of the empire. The fabled independence of the press has disappeared; it has become an integral part of the governing power structure.
Thus, says Pilger, “We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media—a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.”
Pilger acknowledges that the modern era of government-generated propaganda began 100 years ago when public opinion was shaped to support World War 1. The so-called father of propaganda, Edward Bernays, called that carefully hidden propaganda operation ‘an invisible government.’
Now, says Pilger, the propaganda apparatus is no longer invisible, but front and center. The empire knows it has achieved full-spectrum dominance and has the firepower to rule the world. The only remaining obstacle is public opinion. Will we view the empire’s ruthless domination as “justice” or as “brutality?” This is the pivotal question.
Thus, the empire’s “principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.”
Think about that: the empire’s main objective is “the conquest of us.”
We thought we didn’t matter. Yet conquering us is what worries the empire.
This is immensely encouraging. There is something we can do to stop the empire’s madness: stop believing its lies, stop granting legitimacy to its pillage and devastation, reveal its violence for the brutality that it is.
You and I have this power, small though we are. It is “the power and the glory” of “the son of man” described by the seventh chapter of Daniel and by Jesus in his final public teaching (Mark 13:26) and in his response to the accusations of the Jewish high priest (Mark 14:62).
The empire knows that legitimacy is the key to the kingdom. It’s the one thing we hold and on it everything the empire does depends.
Isn’t it time we stop pretending there’s nothing we can do?