Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Who Watches The Watchmen?

Felicitations, Loyal Reader.

Periodically I may ask of you an indulgence.  This is one of those times.  Confronted with serious issues I may occasionally be forced to get serious in kind.  At least to the best of my limited capabilities.

Although this may seem like a bitter pill to swallow I promise that my next blog entry will be positively chock o' block with the usual puerile, sophomoric nonsense that you've come to expect.

You have been duly warned.  For those of you brave enough to plunge onward, I promise that you may be changed somewhat by what's to follow, kinda like when Neo took the red pill from Morpheus in "The Matrix".

And with that grand claim, we'll continue.   

It was never my intent to politicize this blog, which is a bit of an oversight on my part.  I've been politically active since I had the power to vote and I've always had an inexplicable interest in things like military history.  Likely because extreme human behavior is always something I've struggled to wrap my head around.

First off, the genesis for this comparatively sober entry was the following headline: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/ottawa/story/2010/06/26/afghanistan-soldier-dead.html .

Maybe I'm feeling a bit hypersensitive to this right now because Halifax just finished up a week-long celebration for the Canadian Navy's Centennial (http://www.navy.forces.gc.ca/centennial/3/3-c_eng.asp) which, for me, culminated in witnessing the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo (http://www.nstattoo.ca/) for the first time ever. On top of this, for the past four years I've been doing loads of independent research though media outlets both traditional and alternative.

I just want to know right now, in all seriousness: When exactly did our media become "neutered"?  Especially regarding the very serious state of war that we've been embroiled in for nearly ten years now? 

The media wasn't always like this, but it has shown a remarkable aptitude for propaganda.  During the Second World War the media was all on board with the Allies because the conflict was considered to be uniformly just.  I still believe that.  I also believe that the entire tragic conflagration was set off by the Nazi's corrupt ruling elite who had an an agenda to go to war.  After all, the invasion of Poland was justified by the Nazis when the bodies of concentration camp prisoners were dressed up like Polish soldiers and strewn along Germany's border (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Himmler).  The German High Command pointed to this as evidence of Polish aggression, and with the media already under the thrall of state and corporate interests, it didn't take long for the court of public opinion to make up it's mind.   

So, in essence, when the German people went to war for the second time in as many decades, they did so with a sense of grim but righteous resolve.  Their leaders, whom they were supposed to rely on for the truth, blatantly lied to them through the state-controlled press  in order to get them to pursue this insanity in good conscience.

Mercifully the Allies triumphed against this naked, global aggression and the world was made safe again.  But not for long.  Communism soon reared it's head as the new political bugaboo to struggle against.

And, working from this mindset, it could very well be argued that the Korean War was justified as well.  Burned by the sort of appeasement that allowed Hitler to annex half of Europe even before one shot was fired just decades earlier, the United Nations and President Harry S. Truman undertook the first of many "police actions" when North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950.  

But around the time the Korean War kicked off, something alarming happened.  Whereas America's peacetime industry had been been forced to retool itself to make weapons when the country was pulled into the Second World War by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, there now existed a permanent armaments industry dedicated solely to the enterprise of making weapons or war.

In other words, private companies now held valuable contracts with the federal government to produce arms and armaments on request.  The Korean War proved that armed conflict was big business for these holdings.  These economic titans sent lobbyists to Washington where they would soon display a troubling influence on America's foreign policy.  

This trend was so worrisome to President Dwight D. Eisenhower that he took great pains to warn the American people about it in his farewell address in January of 1961. Here's a chilling snippet of this incredibly prophetic speech:

Soon his predictions came to pass.  Details have since come to light about America's induction into the Vietnam War.  On August 2, 1964 the US destroyer USS Maddox was bobbing around in the Gulf of Tonkin monitoring the communications of the North Vietnamese in hopes of passing this intelligence on to their sympathetic allies in the South.  During this time it was alleged that the vessel was fired upon by three North Vietnamese Navy torpedo boats. A skirmish occurred during which the Maddox returned extensive fire and the exchange was reported back to President Lyndon Johnson and his secretary of state, Robert McNamara.

Ultimately the incident was used to justify America's involvement in a land war in Vietnam. But in this snippet from the eye-opening documentary "Fog of War" McNamara's confesses that the incident was largely exaggerated for political purposes:

While the war in Vietnam was being prosecuted journalists from a slew of independent outlets were dispatched into combat zones to document war as it really was.  As such, the evening news was rife almost every night with stone-cold reality: firefights, burning building, and body bags.

It wasn't very palatable.  But then again, I'm one of those weirdos that thinks that war should never be glamorized, normalized or sanitized lest we enter into it too lightly.

It gets creepier the farther down the rabbit hole you go.

In 1967 a little-known but eerie event occurred centered around the U.S.S. Liberty, an American technical research vessel (a spy ship in layman's terms) that had been diverted alone, for no apparent reason, to international waters just off the coast of Egypt.  At the time the Egyptians were embroiled in their Six-Day War with the Israelis, which the Americans had attempted unsuccessfully to mediate on behalf of their Israeli allies.

During this mission the Liberty was attacked without provocation.  The prolonged and brutal assault came from both sea and air and it resulted in the death of thirty-five crew members with one-hundred-and-seventy others wounded.  This was odd enough, but what was stranger was the source of the attack.  The clearly marked American vessel hadn't been attacked by the Egyptians but by their allies: the Israelis! 

After the dust settled, both the U.S. and Israeli governments investigated the incident and jointly concluded that it was just an honest mistake of friendly fire when the Israeli military mistook the Liberty for an enemy vessel.   But to this day, many survivors, intelligence officers, independent investigators, and American diplomats continue to dispute the official explanation and maintain that the attack on the USS Liberty was a deliberate but failed false flag operation orchestrated to give the United States a reason to go to war in the Middle East.

In fact, to this day, it's still the the only major event in U.S. naval history not to be investigated by Congress. 

Here's a stellar, hour-long independent documentary produced by the BBC called "Dead in the Water" that tells the full tale.  If your going to watch anything this week that takes up an hour of your time, promise me you'll watch this versus, say, "America's Got Talent".   You really owe it to yourself:

The documentary presents ample evidence that the level of deception and chicanery surrounding this virtually unknown tragedy (as well as the suspect reasons for America getting involved in Vietnam) is just a considerably more sophisticated riff on the tactics the Nazis used to ease it's unwitting populace into a state of  war. 

With the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, Communism was now a dead horse for the purpose of exercise for the Military Industrial Complex.  But  when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, George H.W. Bush used it as a fine opportunity to hand out some boffo military contracts.  Anybody who thinks this was done for purely humanitarian reasons needs to look at the conspicuous lack of oil in places like Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur.

And like any good comic book villain, Saddam conveniently lived to fight another day.  

At about the same time critical, by-partisan media outlets were dwindling and dying.  Burned by the black eye the U.S. government had received on the nightly news and in print courtesy of probing investigate journalism, laws preventing corporations from owning multiple media outlets were relaxed considerably.  The Telecommunications Act of 1996, for example, paved the way for mass deregulation.  It was sold to legislators with promises of improved competition, but it had the opposite effect.  A slew of critical watchdogs vanished in a slew of mergers. 

So what's the effect?  The big television networks like ABC, CBS and NBC (and the lions share of smaller cable channels) are guided and sponsored by an incestuous web of banking cartels and global corporate holdings, which are free to disseminate only the information and news they see fit to tell you.

Anyone who watches Fox News for anything longer than five minutes is bound to see what I'm talking about.  The real story behind Rupert Murdoch's pet network is even more disturbing:


So, it's not surprising that the media outlets you rely on failed to talk about this little chestnut.  In September 2000 an ultra-conservative think tank called "Project for a New American Century" (PNAC) published a treatise that you won't hear about on your evening news.  It's basically an action plan to ensure America's continuing preeminence on the world stage.  This called for the U.S. to "fight and decisively win in multiple, simultaneous theater wars".   In order to get the generally peaceful and apathetic American people to get behind this agenda the document called for "some catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor."

Well, when 9/11 conveniently happened a year later, it gave George W. Bush's neo-con dream team carte blanche to do the following:
  1. Rework the geo-political structure in the Middle East by occupying Afghanistan and Iraq. 
  2. Create a sphere of influence in a region containing 40% of the world's oil reserves.
  3. Give the Military Industrial Complex, in the form of the "War on Terror", a perpetual state of war focused not one one specific nation or idealism but on a tactic that could find it's home anywhere.
So, needless to say, the second Gulf War came pre-sold, like any good sequel.  Any dissenting voices who railed against the rush to war were branded traitors to America by the now-hawkish media.  Remember poor Natalie Maines from "The Dixie Chicks"?  She voiced some sincere and heartfelt criticisms at ole' Dubya at the time and was both tarred and feathered by the hawkish press and her own redneck audience who were tuning into Fox News for "fair and balanced" reporting:


Turns out she deserved the last laugh, but I suspect she still doesn't feel like laughing much.

If we still had critical investigative journalism I truly believe that we wouldn't be staring at this: http://antiwar.com/casualties/.
Here in Halifax we used to have three major sources for independent, print-based investigative journalism.  One remains independent, one eventually dissolved, and one had it's beat reporter pool gutted because sales were supposedly dwindling in this electronic age.

Frankly I think that's crap.  The papers are still doing fine in Europe, mainly because they aren't all owned by some Conrad Black-style Svengali who decided to sack half the staff when they were critical to his corporate interests and political buddies.  In fact, circulation is still very strong because these papers are staffed by professional muckrakers who are trying to keep politicians and corporations honest. And there's nothing people like more than a good, 'ole juicy scandal!  

Then one of our defunct papers was replaced by this journalistic abortion:


This rag is given out for free on the streets because it's paid for entirely by corporate advertising.  The local reporting is admittedly pretty good, if a bit sketchy.  The national news, however, looks to be pulled from  some homogenized, corporate news wire source.  In the past the paper has featured shameless wraparound covers pimping "Canadian Idol" and other brain candy.  The issue I have in my hands right now has a front cover (yes, I said front cover) featuring a respectable story about downtown improvements in Halifax wedged between a photo of belly dancers and the pertinent headline "RUINED? WONDER WOMAN GETS MAKEOVER.  NEW LOOK, NEW STORY".

Anybody who thinks they're getting a critical view of the world through this bird-cage-carpet-worthy piece of crap is kidding themselves.  There are six pages of "Cliff Notes" style news bites, one business page, one editorial page and then eleven friggin' pages of sports, lifestyle, horoscopes, and other assorted crap.  The story about Sgt. James MacNeil, a soldier from Cape Breton who was killed in Afghanistan is perched just above the headline "Twilight Star to hit P.E.I. for TV taping."  There are half-page adds in the news section for luxury apartments, long distance phone plans and an app for an electronic version of this same crappy newspaper! 

What the f#$& is going on here?  Aren't we at war in Afghanistan?  Are we really supposed to blindly  trust these vapid sources of information to honestly give us all the reasons why our troops are still there after nearly a decade?

Yes, our troops are helping the local population and infrastructure recover from oppressive rule.  Yes, we're (in theory) keeping an eye out for that other Ernst Stavro Bloefeld-style villain Osama Bin Ladin.  But just a cursory bit of independent research also reveals some hypothetical and and considerably more nefarious  reasons for our presence over there.

Could it possibly have something to do with this? 


Or this?

Or this?


Given what I've shown you so far, isn't it all least possible that these things factored in at some point? After all, does anyone still believe the "official" reasons for the invasion and occupation of Iraq?

I guess this is also part of the reason why I get so pissed off when self-righteous a**holes put "Support Our Troops" ribbons on the back of their cars.  Of course everyone supports our troops!  It's not like there's a cabal of ghouls out there sitting back, wringing their hands and saying: "Boy, those Jarheads really don't belong over there!  I really hope some more of those guys get blown up by IED's this week!  That'll learn 'em!"

And if there really are mutants out there that think like that, they must know this: they will soon come to fear me.

In fact, I support our troops so much, I want them the f#@% out of unnecessary harm's way.  How about that for a stance?    I support our troops so much that I want them back guarding our own borders against terrorists or engaging in much-needed humanitarian efforts around the globe.

After all, does anyone really believe that you can export democracy by force, especially to a culture that largely considers the sheer presence of westerners on their native soil more of an affront than you can possibly imagine?   

As much as I loved the Naval Celebrations last week and the Tattoo that followed, it left me feeling somewhat uncomfortable.  It was admittedly spectacular and the effort that went into it was nothing short of massive.  But it galled me somewhat when the Tattoo included a narration of a veteran talking wistfully about how "World War II" was "their war" and Afghanistan is now "his grandson's war."  After doing a bunch of my own investigation I can tell you with all conviction that the war in Afghanistan resembles World War II about as much as Dane Cook resembles someone funny.

It also pisses me off when jingoists like Don Cherry use national forums like "Coach's Corner" to spout off about a subject they clearly have little knowledge of.  The Canadian metal/punk outfit "Propaghandi" summarized my thoughts on this nicely in a song called "Dear Coach's Corner":

And, trust me, it's not just the "Metro" that's failing to dig up the real dirt on our behalf.  The other day I made the mistake of checking out the supposed news headlines on MSN and got this:

INTERNAL AFFAIRS: Nine things you need to know before jumping into bed with a co-worker…

More on MSN
•    World's ugliest dog contest 
•    Competitive belly flopping 
•    Is the web making us shallow and distracted? 
•    How to divorce your work spouse
•    Walk your way slim 

I just love how they ask "Is the web making us shallow and distracted" amidst the other "headlines" when the web is actually one of the last pure sources for independent knowledge.  Corporate interests haven't figured out a way to completely quantify and regulate it yet, but mark my words, it's coming: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10320096-38.html

Just promise me: if the internet becomes the next target for political or economic censure it's time to riot in the streets!

So by subsisting on corporate mainstream media and a constant diet of reality show pablum, what will become of us?  My biggest fear is that future generations won't even care about news at all, in lieu of finding out who punched Lindsay Lohan in the mush today.  If that happens and politicians and corporations given free reign to abuse us in increasingly transparent ways will we still have the right to complain that their all "crooked"?

Please don't let it happen.  I know everyone is tired with work and kids and life in general.  It's tempting to let authority figures spoon-feed information to us.  But trust me when I tell you: there are powers out there that are relying on you to be apathetic, listless and disengaged.  I hate to do this but you leave me no choice:

Now, I don't want you to take everything I've written here at face value.  In fact, just the opposite; I'm hoping to get you so riled up that you'll want to do your own independent investigation and prove me wrong.  I think I'll sleep better for it.     

Support independent media sources.  Read more.  Unhook yourself from the I.V. drip of reality television.  Don't take news for granted if it's born from concerns over profits, investors, advertising, and stockholders. 
Because, as a wise man once said: "dissension is the purest form of patriotism."  Don't stop kicking and screaming, Informed Readers.

Here are a few more eye-poppin' docs to whet your appetite:

EPIC:    http://www.sprword.com/videos/controlroom/
   Control Room

Why We Fight


The Fog of War - Eleven Lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara


Manufacturing Consent - Noam Chomsky and the Media

Stellar metal/punk album "Supporting Caste" by Propagandhi:
 Supporting Caste

FAIL:  http://current.com/items/88927559_corporate-media-is-failing-us.htm

1 comment:

Brodie said...

Bravo to telling it like it is! It baffles me that the corruption in the American political system has existed as long as it has, with only a few blunders like Watergate to show for it. If the media were as good at their job as they are at blinding us, the whole lot of them would be exposed for what they are. Maybe then they could use their power and influence to help out suffering regions instead of exploiting them.