Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Benign Intent

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it." - Ellen Goodman

In a healthy society governed by democratic principles and the rule of law, news media would be analogous to a powerful telescope, a roving, scrutinizing eye from which little or nothing can hide. Corrupt societies - ones that require the vast majority of the population to be passive, obedient, misinformed, ignorant, distracted and consumptive - require instead a media that acts as a kind of prism, a distorting lens that presents a perversion of reality.

The scale of this distortion varies greatly around the world, with some - mostly independent - media (sometimes lone journalists) laudably aiming to shine a torch as best they can on state and corporate power. At the other extreme, dictatorships like North Korea use state media to portray a false reality to help control their people, who nonetheless are surely aware that their freedoms are strictly limited.

Western corporate-owned media, however, is unique and quite remarkable in that while it depicts a reality as laughably false as that shown to the North Koreans, its readers/viewers - more accurately its consumers - are overwhelmingly unaware that they are being fed a pack of lies, that the picture given to them is - in key areas that concern corporate power and Western control of world resources - diametrically opposite to reality.

A person's worldview (a term borrowed from the German 'weltanschauung') refers in part to the 'framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it'. With a corporate media monopoly over the information that enters people's brains, information that is crucial to the formation of their worldview, reality is skewed with ease to serve the interests of capital and control, and in such a way that not only are consumers of such information not aware of this cynical manipulation; they are not even aware that they are not aware.

Various propagandistic methods, many drawing from the work on crowd behavior and social contagion of the French psychologist and sociologist Gustave Le Bon as well as techniques developed later by Edward Bernays and others, are employed to ensure that the worldview of the masses is conducive to the aims and objectives of those in power. Perhaps the most devastating tool, widespread throughout mass media (and hence unconsciously mimicked by other writers, bloggers and activists), is the assumption of unwavering benign intent on the part of Western institutions, powers and their allies. Simultaneously, current opponents of Western power and ideology must be unerringly portrayed as having malign intent.

This has had the devastating effect of making billions of people believe that the West is an altruistic force for good in the world, that the overriding priority of the officials they vote for in elections is the citizens under their care. It is only recently, thanks in great part to the rise of credible alternative media, that people on a mass scale have had a glimpse of the true nature of the corruption and illegality carried out in their name and with their taxes; that the truth has begun to come to light: the existence of an all-devouring corporate empire that has deeply infiltrated all the key strategic institutions that govern life on Earth.

Writer John Stanton in an article published at the Center for Research on Globalization lists the corporations that own the news and hence have such direct control over the worldview of billions:

Here is a sampling of the vertically integrated companies that make you not you, but them: Disney owns ABC News, ESPN, Touchstone Pictures, Marvel Comics, Cruise Lines, Hyperion Books and Reedy Energy Services. Comcastowns NBC Universal, the Philadelphia Flyers, and is attempting to acquire Time Warner Cable. Fox News Corporation owns the Dow Jones & Company (Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, DJX, etc.), Harper Collins Publishers, Move, Inc. (real estate news), 20th Century Fox, Fox News Channel, and Amplify (educational products for K-12). CBS owns Simon & Schuster, CNET, the Smithsonian Network, and 130 radio stations. Time Warner owns CNN, Time magazine, HBO, MAX, Sports Illustrated Kids, and People Magazine.Pearson influences the course of American education through its publishing houses, digital learning platforms, and a 50 percent interest in the Economist Magazine, Penguin Random House and the Financial Times.

He further muses:

Perhaps the day will come when the pundits, journalists, think tank mavens, and retired war machine veterans will be required to dress like NASCAR or Formula One race car drivers whose clothing is littered with patches advertising this and that corporation/sponsor.

Examples of this intentional upending of reality are numerous. The Edward Snowden revelations, for example, have proved devastating to the image of Western security and intelligence services. The British intelligence and security apparatus GCHQ, for instance, has been revealed to employ tactics reminiscent of those used by the Stasi.

From the article:

This is illustrated in the most insidiously devastating disclosure so far, published today in Glenn Greenwald's The Intercept. In it we discover that the until recently secret GCHQ JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group) unit created, among others, a training document called 'The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations' and presented it to the NSA and other partners.

Other recent documents covered in partnership with NBC news detailed a host of 'dirty tricks' used by British spies to "'destroy, deny, degrade and disrupt' enemies by 'discrediting' them, planting misinformation and shutting down their communications". Tactics include 'releasing computer viruses, spying on journalists and diplomats, jamming phones and computers, and using sex to lure targets into honey traps'.

The newly published JTRIG document details state efforts to, in the words of Greenwald, "control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, [compromise] the integrity of the internet itself".

These tactics are in direct contradiction to the standard portrayal of the NSA and GCHQ as organizations that act within the law to protect national security.

International banks, depicted unquestioningly as crucial to the success of the world economy, are almost never described in straight reporting as the destructive, criminal, psychopathic, mafia-like enterprises they in fact are.

Global financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank are portrayed as benign rescuers of states suffering economic difficulties. The reality, as John Pilger explains here, is the polar opposite, with these US-dominated organizations acting in fact as key tools of modern imperialism via the imposition on impoverished nations of the post-war form of colonialism - debt.

The hoarding by the rich of trillions of dollars in tax havens is rarely mentioned, let alone questioned, while the poor are lambasted for 'feckless benefit scrounging', despite the fact that benefit fraud is utterly dwarfed by the scale of the theft by corporations and the rich of public institutions and the world's resources. To illustrate: the North Korean government is (rightly) condemned for keeping back food for its troops while citizens starve, but this hoarding of unimaginably vast wealth in the West, against the backdrop of 22,000 children dying of poverty-related causes (according to UNICEF) every day, is barely, if at all, mentioned.

Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are lauded and encouraged while those in the West are condemned, ridiculed and dismissed. Victims of brutality by current Western enemies (like Malala Yousafzai) are paraded before the media and given the Nobel Peace Prize, while victims of the West are figuratively (and literally) buried and forgotten, described at the time as 'suspected militants' if they are even mentioned at all. An earlier article on this blog described this phenomenon:

Ask yourself if you have heard the name of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped and murdered by US marines after her family (34-year-old mother Fakhriyah Taha Muhsin, 45-year-old father Qasim Hamza Raheem, and six-year-old sister Hadeel Qasim Hamza) were killed.


How about Safa Younis Salim, a 13-year old girl who amazingly survived the Haditha Massacre, in which 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed including seven children, a 1-year-old girl staying with the family and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair?

How did she survive?

"I pretended that I was dead when my brother's body fell on me and he was bleeding like a faucet."

A six-year US military prosecution ended with none of the eight Marines sentenced to jail, despite one of the men - Sgt. Sanick De La Cruz - testifying (in return for immunity) that he had urinated on the skull of one of the dead Iraqis. This outcome outraged the Iraqi people (as the attack on Malala outraged the West) but the name of Safa Younis Salim remains practically unknown.

Enemies of the West, especially Russia (the rogue du jour), are subjected to a tidal wave of condemnation, contempt, ridicule and lies. Any attempt to defend or mitigate the actions or words of Vladimir Putin or his officials is pounced upon as 'naive', 'deluded' or 'idiotic' by any journalist or critic who wishes to keep being taken seriously within the Western media establishment - anyone who wishes to rise higher and higher toward the holy grail: access to the rich and powerful.

Articles on Russia must contain the word 'oligarchs', while enemies of the Russian government such as fighters in Chechnya are 'rebels', not 'insurgents' - explained expertly here by Russia Insider. The irony of the fact that the US itself is a deeply corrupt oligarchy appears lost [it is not, of course] on some Western editorial writers.

Perhaps the most egregious rewriting of reality, however, concerns the actions of the CIA. The US Central Intelligence Agency, while often depicted as containing corrupt elements in both fiction and reality, is nonetheless characterised overall as an organization working in the interests of both US and global security for citizens. The true characterization of the CIA - as the greatest purveyor of criminality and terror in human history - is notably absent from mainstream narratives.

This week, we are informed by the corporate media, the CIA is 'braced' for 'one of the most damaging moments in its history' as the Senate Intelligence Committee prepares to release its report on the CIA torture and rendition network. Up to 54 partner nations are also 'braced' for flak as the depth of their involvement is exposed; at least they would be if the report was not heavily redacted, as reports suggest it is extremely likely to be.

Fortunately, while these redactions may obscure new details, we will still have other sources of information to show just how low the US and its allies have gone with torture. When Barack Obama withheld some of the pictures and videos from the Abu Ghraib scandal, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh provided some extra insight [from a Salon.com report by Alex Koppelman]:

"Some of the worst things that happened you don't know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib ... The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It's going to come out."

It is clear little has changed over the years. Back in 1987, John Stockwell, a former high-ranking CIA officer delivered a lecture on the methods and operations of the CIA, revealing, among other things, that the agency ran massive drug running operations and directly caused the deaths through its operations of over six million people (as of 1987). His bestselling book In Search of Enemies contains an account of a CIA officer having Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba's body in the trunk of his car.

He says of CIA torture:

We had the `public safety program' going throughout Central and Latin America for 26 years, in which we taught them to break up subversion by interrogating people. Interrogation, including torture, the way the CIA taught it. Dan Metrione, the famous exponent of these things, did 7 years in Brazil and 3 in Uruguay, teaching interrogation, teaching torture. He was supposed to be the master of the business, how to apply the right amount of pain, at just the right times, in order to get the response you want from the individual.

They developed a wire. They gave them crank generators, with `U.S. AID' written on the side, so the people even knew where these things came from. They developed a wire that was strong enough to carry the current and fine enough to fit between the teeth, so you could put one wire between the teeth and the other one in or around the genitals and you could crank and submit the individual to the greatest amount of pain, supposedly, that the human body can register.

Now how do you teach torture? Dan Metrione: `I can teach you about torture, but sooner or later you'll have to get involved. You'll have to lay on your hands and try it yourselves.'

All they [the guinea pigs, beggars from off the streets] could do was lie there and scream. And when they would collapse, they would bring in doctors and shoot them up with vitamin B and rest them up for the next class. And when they would die, they would mutilate the bodies and throw them out on the streets, to terrify the population so they would be afraid of the police and the government.

Torture is illegal under international law and binding international treaties such as the United Nations Convention Against Torture and, for international conflicts, the Geneva Conventions III and IV. Condemnation comes from all quarters: the Catholic Church, no stranger to torture in its own history, unequivocally condemns torture in its Catechism of the Catholic Church as follows:

In recent times it has become evident that these cruel practices were neither necessary for public order, nor in conformity with the legitimate rights of the human person. On the contrary, these practices led to ones even more degrading. It is necessary to work for their abolition. We must pray for the victims and their tormentors.

The CIA and its Western counterparts will have damage limitation control measures in place throughout the media, where pet journalists will deflect the issue in whatever ways they deem best to defuse public outrage, most likely to frame it as: 'yes, they broke the law, but they did it to protect us'. Distraction will soon grab people's attention and the latest report will take its place among all the other forgotten (and redacted) indictments of Western crimes.

The ultimate aim of media assumption of benign intent is to make the extreme normal and the truth extreme. That this has been profoundly successful can be observed in the respect and gravitas accorded to Western war criminals like Tony Blair, and the venom, ridicule and ostracism dealt out to those who politely point out, with evidence, the truth ('activists' and 'dissenters'), or - heaven forbid - those who question official narratives based on suspicion ('conspiracy theorists').

In order to make sense of the world, to make oneself aware of just how extreme the 'mainstream' now is, one needs to fully reject the narratives imposed in the corporate media, as these narratives exist for one purpose alone: to serve corporate power, an endeavor that is always antithetical to the interests of ordinary citizens.

Written by Simon Wood

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