By Charles Sullivan
26 October, 2007
been writing political essays for a few years now. I do so as a reluctant
enthusiast, not because I wanted to write on these themes; but because,
it seemed to me, that professional journalists were not telling the
whole story; that significant parts that would allow people to connect
the dots and understand what is happening from a historical perspective,
was being deliberately omitted from the official version of current
events, and from history.
As propaganda, the elements
that are deliberately left out of media are as important as those that
are retained. It is propaganda by omission, as much as by content. What
people are not told shapes their world view and influences their behavior,
as surely as what they are told. Imposed ignorance and selective knowledge
go hand in hand to forge public opinion and to shape cultural identity.
These conditions set the stage for belligerent government and aggressive
It is not coincidental that
professional journalists, those who write
for profit in the mainstream media, are the least likely to tell us
truth, the whole truth; whereas, free-lance writers, who operate under
a different set of rules and out of the mainstream, are more likely
to serve the public interest, and tell us what we need to know in order
to be a free people, and good world citizens.
are beholden to a code of ethics and personal conduct that free-lance
writers are not. Namely, they are part of a fraternity, a part of the
cultural orthodoxy, with an incentive in maintaining the established
order. The incentive is always financial and professional, and involves
creating the acceptance and trust of those in power, which may, when
properly executed, even result in the celebrity status of the journalist.
Journalists who have a vested
interest in maintaining the status quo or advancing their careers do
not operate in the public interest. Their purpose is not to inform but
When a major news anchor
reports upon the invasion and occupation of sovereign nations, uncritically
putting forth pentagon propaganda as justification for the attack, he
or she is in essence acting in the manner of a celebrity athlete endorsing
a product. The basketball star may endorse Nike sneakers, manufactured
by indentured servants in foreign sweatshops; while the news anchor
is endorsing war and disaster capitalism projected around the world
by Lockheed Martin and the Carlyle Group. Both are prostitutes.
Mainstream corporate journalism
is not about speaking truth to power, it is about selling products and
perceptions. It is about creating a culture of ignorant consumers incapable
of distinguishing between propaganda and news, fact and fiction.
This is marketing and perception
management masquerading as unbiased, objecting reporting. I call it
the big lie.
If the mainstream journalist
wants to prosper, if they want to have
access to the inner circles of power, they must play the game according
to the established rules. They must toe the corporate line, and provide
cover for the corporate assault on human freedoms, and the conquest
of nature, while keeping hidden agendas concealed from public view.
Journalists must be able to sell widely objectionable concepts to the
people, packaged in the garments of seductive—often patriotic
language, in order to make them palatable.
How many soldiers, outside
of those under the private contracts of firms like Blackwater, would
voluntarily stake their lives for corporate profits, and the subjugation
of a sovereign people, if they knew that is what they are really fighting
for, rather than the more popular and desirable goal of freedom or democracy?
Freedom, liberation, and
democracy have never been corporate objectives; nor can they ever be
the objective of corporate governance. They are only selling points
that conceal hidden corporate agendas; the attractive packaging for
war, occupation, and privatization, obtained at pubic expense.
If news stories are not believable
to the multitudes, if they fail to
garner popular support by masking corporate agendas behind deceptive
language, the majority of governmental polices and private agendas could
not be enacted. If the people knew what was being done in their name,
and who is profiting from those policies, there might be widespread
opposition and even social upheaval. It would be difficult to field
a voluntary military that knows it is fighting for the bottom line of
Halliburton, Bechtel, and Lockheed Martin, rather than for freedom and
democracy, as they are told.
Thus those who would serve
in the military as self-ordained patriots are sold a bill of goods.
By invading and occupying Iraq, they are, in effect, undermining the
very principles they claim to hold sacred, including those set forth
in the Constitution and the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.
Likewise, the average US citizen is sold a similar bill of goods in
order to garner support for policies they would, presumably, never voluntarily
sustain, if they understood them better.
That is the genius of modern
capitalism and its impressive marketing apparatus. The results have
Skillful perception management
always precedes empire. Well presented propaganda allows history to
be presented as a kind of fairy tale that ignores the horrible things
the government has always done in our name, at the behest of corporate
America and our wealthiest citizens, which should be too well known
to bear reiteration here.
In our capitalist culture,
journalism must not be thought of as a
reporting of facts, but as marketing propaganda—the selling of
ideas that might not otherwise be embraced by those who must carry out
hidden agendas, or the people on the receiving end of them. Seen in
this way, the US soldier and the Iraqi citizen are both pawns in a rich
man’s game: the former as the implementer of unjust war and occupation,
the other as the unwilling recipient of them.
The end result for both soldier
and Iraqi citizen is tragic: the soldier is told that he or she is protecting
their country from foreign threats, something that is patently false;
while the innocent Iraqi citizen, defending his or her home from foreign
occupation, knows that she or he is not a terrorist, but is treated
like one, nevertheless.
Both occupier and the occupied
share a common foe, but it is not each other; it is the criminals, aided
and abetted by the corporate media, who put them in formal opposition
to one another for financial gain.
Our recent history would
have been impossible without the consolidation of the media that occurred
during the Clinton presidency, and has continued ever since. The entire
spectra of mainstream media are now under the control of only four or
five corporations. We no longer have reporting on local issues stemming
from diverse perspectives rooted in local communities, but a monoculture
of state and corporate propaganda that betrays the public trust in its
pursuit of corporate profits.
Aided by the president and
congress, the public owned airwaves were hijacked and are being used
against the people by giant multinational corporations.
The result of this media
monoculture, as purveyed by the likes of Judith Miller and Tom Brokaw,
and countless others, is tragic. And they represent only the tip of
the mainstream iceberg. Think of the horrible and shameless lies, the
baseless fear and hate that are continuously voiced by the likes of
Rush Limbaugh, and the hateful broadcasts that emanate from Bob Jones
University, masquerading as Christian theology.
Corporate media is the vanguard
of empire and environmental destruction on a global scale.
Unlike its corporate counterpart,
reporting truth requires people of
unassailable integrity. It requires a thirst for justice with the strength
of character to oppose the powerful undertow of manufactured perception
and conformity, and the seductive language created to execute the hidden
agendas of corrupt governments. Uncovering truth requires commitment
to the people, rather than to profit driven corporate agendas.
Only a handful of professional
journalists have attained the kind of
stature that makes such reportage possible in the United States. Their
names are not at all well known, with the possible exception of Seymour
Hersch, Robert Fisk, Bill Moyers and Greg Palast.
More often than not, that
responsibility falls on the shoulders of
independent journalists and unpaid free-lancers. The professional
journalist must answer to his/her boss, and portray the corporation
that employs them in a favorable light, even if they are profiting from
unprovoked war and occupation. In contrast, the free-lancer is bound
only by the constraints of conscience, imagination, and ability.
Occasionally, an astonished
responder to one of my more poignant essays will tell me that I should
forward the piece to the New York Times: to NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox
News, or even the BBC. I never have.
It would be hard for me to
imagine any corporation undermining its own profitability by exposing
its hidden agendas, and denouncing itself as a commissioner of murder
and mayhem, motivated by insatiable greed and a lust for wealth and
power that would astonish even the staunchest mafia don. Don’t
hold your breath waiting for it to happen! Snowballs in hell have a
Its not that free-lancers
like me wouldn’t like to get paid for what we do; it’s that
our views do not enhance the bottom line of corporate giants and, in
many cases, actually undermine them. Thus it behooves the professional
journalist and the corporate media to ignore or discredit us as purveyors
of truth and seekers of justice.
Soon it will be an act of
sedition to speak truth in this country. Yet,
truth will continue to exist, despite all attempts to destroy it.
Whether they admit it or
not, virtually all of the best known
journalists in the US subscribe to the racist and sexist ideologies
of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny, and they go to great
lengths to advance these ideas, by presenting them as something other
than what they really are. Slight of hand is the rule of mainstream
journalism, not the exception.
Conversely, by serving the
people, free-lance journalists are, of
necessity, undermining the corporate agenda. Thus they are treated as
enemies of the state, which has become indistinguishable from the corporation
itself. We live in a culture where one cannot value truth and carry
forth corporate agendas. Truth is the enemy of empire.
This might also explain why
so many unembedded journalists have been deliberately killed in Iraq
and the Gaza strip by US and Israeli snipers. The world must not know
what the occupiers do, or the propaganda veneer may no longer have its
intended effect on the consumers of media.
Speaking truth to power,
especially corrupt power, is dangerous
business— particularly in war zones and fascist states, like the
one evolving in the US.
Corporate media is the vanguard
of colonialism and imperialist policy. It plays a key role in preparing
the public mind for imperialist wars and occupations and their subsequent
puppet governments; it also serves the emerging police state at home
that erodes our freedoms, until there is nothing left of them.
Yet, occasionally, even in
this artificially constructed myth loving
culture, truth wins out simply because someone cares enough to tell
it like it is, without sugar coating. Truth matters; and that is—and
always will be—of primal importance to some people. Let future
historical records show that there was opposition to what was being
done in our name, that there were people willing to speak truth to power,
to stem the evil tide by standing up for justice, cost what it may.
Future historians of the
dominant culture are likely to cast these
accounts into the memory hole and pretend that they never existed, carrying
forth the myth that the people were always united behind the injustice
and tyranny of our time. We saw this in Nazi Germany in the buildup
to World War Two, and we are seeing it now in the US.
But a culture that does not
value truth and justice is not worth
preserving. Such cultures will self destruct and implode upon
themselves; the world will eventually unite against them and bring them
down. All of the military might in the world, all the subterfuge, is
not powerful enough to overcome simple truth.
Any individual who values
truth more than lies, who keeps truth alive in his or her heart, despite
all efforts to dislodge it from its ethical moorings, is more powerful
than even the most advanced weapons systems. Truth emerges unscathed
from the rubble of fallen empire as immutable as an inviolable law of
nature. Nothing can bring it down because it is real.
If we are to evolve into
a justice loving people, truth must become our moral foundation, the
basis of our existence as a people. Truth and justice are inseparable
partners on the road to liberation from tyranny and fascism.
citizen, the poet-philosopher, Henry D. Thoreau, summed it up well:
“The one great rule of composition…is to speak the truth.
This first, this second, this third; pebbles in your mouth or not.”
Perhaps more than anything, that simplistic ability to speak plain truth,
and in all languages, is what I most admire about Thoreau. There is
much to admire and respect in a man who spoke in those terms, and lived
by that simple credo.
Truth is simple and uncomplicated,
whereas lies and distortions are complex. Truth stands strong and unwavering
without artificial support; lies and propaganda require elaborate schemes
and constant propping up, the mask of deception.
More of us must learn the
language of truth; we must be its faithful
guardians, if we are to be valuable citizens in this world, rather than
the useful idiots of empire. By holding truth and justice in the highest
regard, we demonstrate that another world is not only possible, but
As voracious consumers of
media, we must be as careful about what we admit into our minds, as
the food we put into our bodies. Food can nourish and sustain us, or
it can produce disease and decay. And so it is with media.
To date, we have not been
very discriminate, and the result is that we have become a culture of
the mentally obese, fed on junk media. Our minds, our souls, have been
deliberately poisoned; our perceptions twisted and distorted, our humanity
abandoned to the quest for profits and power.
We must purge our minds of
junk media and replace it with something more nutritious, if we favor
health over disease. Peace is not possible without two essential ingredients:
truth and justice. Neither is possible in the absence of the other.
We must live as if truth still matters.
Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance
community activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of
geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at
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