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Date: Wed, 7 Jul 1999 08:42:14 +0200 (CEST)
From: konfrontatie <>

Edward S. Herman

A jarring moment in the Philadelphia area propaganda outpouring in support
of the bombing of Yugoslavia was a passionately prowar Op Ed column in the
Philadelphia Inquirer by long-time local antiwar activist Mark Sacharoff
("NATO did what it had to do," April 1, 1999). It is of course noteworthy
that Sacharoff's piece was selected for publication by the paper--antiwar
offerings have not been welcome, and in past years Sacharoff's Op Ed
entries were rare indeed. But what caused him to move into the prowar

Speaking with Sacharoff on the phone about his views, I asked him if he
read Z Magazine or EXTRA! or The Nation, and as I expected he didn't--he
reads the Inquirer and other establishment media almost exclusively. I had
a similar experience with another former peace activist, who has not been
a supporter of the NATO war but has also not been antiwar; overwhelmed by
the evil of Milosevic and the Serbs he has been neutralized. This
individual, also, reads and listens almost entirely to the mainstream
media, and does not read Z, EXTRA!, or The Nation. He was even upset at my
denunication of Trudy Rubin, the bloodthirsty Thomas Friedman equivalent
at the Inquirer, who occasionally qualifies her support of U.S. policy--on
land mines, bombing anybody in sight, and anything else of
importance--with minor flourishes of hopefulness ("This weekend's talks
hold hope for settling the Kosovo crisis," Feb. 5, 1999) and even
criticism (e.g., "U.S. slammed doors on Iraqis who stepped up to battle
Hussein," June 23, 1999). 

Of course, the fact that Rubin is considered reasonable by one of them,
and that neither of these two individuals were repelled by the mainstream
perspectives and felt any need to seek out left publications, suggests
that they were moving rightward in any case. But once they allowed
themselves to be confined to the establishment media it was only a matter
of time before they would succumb to the flood of materials on atrocities
and framing of issues that served the propaganda needs of the state. To
avoid this they needed alternative ways of looking at the issues, as well
as facts that did not fit the esablishment frames. 

I have always been impressed by the case made by British media analyst
James Curran on the importance of the death of the social- democratic
press in Great Britain in the 1980s for the subsequent decline of the
fortunes of the Labor Party and triumph of Thatcherism (most painfully,
with the victory of Tony Blair). Three social-democratic papers--the Daily
Herald, News Chronicle, and Sunday Citizen--died or were taken over by
folks like Rupert Murdoch in the early 1980s, and were converted into
rightwing or depoliticized scandal sheets. The Daily Herald especially
"provided an alternative framework of analysis and understanding that
contested the dominant systems of representation in both broadcasting and
the mainstream press." Its loss and that of the other two papers surely
weakened labor and social democracy by the absence of any contesting
frameworks that represented the interests of the non-elite members of
society. In the United States and Britain today, the increasing
concentration and commercialization of the media make them ever more
potent as instruments of state propaganda. When wars come, the media
operate like a military phalanx in demonizing the enemy, focusing on enemy
misdeeds, lying without shame or uncritically transmitting the lies of
officials on their having exhausted negotiating opportunities--"before
resorting to force, NATO went the entire extra mile to find a peaceful
solution" (Albright)--and ignoring historical context and the real bases
of state policy. This is done in each case almost by formula, but with
such unanimity and self-righteous indignation, and with personalized
stories of victimization by the enemy, that it is hard to resist.  This is
why the preservation and expansion of a left media is so important and
easy to underrate. Without the alternative frameworks and contesting facts
that they provide, even liberal and left veterans are easily swept into
the establishment web or rendered inert. Those of us who get the left
journals, or ZNet Comments, and are lucky enough to have other e-mail
friends who supply the comments of Robert Fisk, Philip Hammond, and John
Pilger in Britain, Nicholas Busch and Jan Oberg in Sweden, Johann Galtung
in Norway, Saddharth Varadarajan and K. Subrahmanyam in India, and the
generally anti-NATO war non-NATO media across the globe, live in a
different world from the citizens faced by the mainstream media propaganda
phalanx. And frankly, any serious opposition movements are going to
require the buildup of ZNet and other forms of critical media; otherwise
we are going to see a further attrition as more folks from the
liberal-left communities are swept into the "humanitarian war" camp. 

uit: ZNet


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