Media

Jun
11

"Modern Warfare Destroys Your Brain" in More Ways Than One

Tag: Media, Peace and War

The most likely way to die in a U.S. war, by far, is to live in the country that the United States is attacking. But the most likely way in which a U.S. participant in a war will die is by suicide.

There are a couple of widely observed top causes of hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returning from recent wars deeply disturbed in their minds. One is having been near an explosion. Another, which has been around longer than explosions have, is having killed, having nearly died, having seen blood and gore and suffering, having imposed death and suffering on innocents, having seen comrades die in agony, exacerbated in many cases by having lost faith in the sales pitch that launched the war -- in other words, the horror of war making.

May
30

How Dateline NBC Lies About Drones

Tag: Media, Peace and War

By David Swanson

NBC's Dateline program aired pro-drone propaganda this week and has posted the video online. Their so-called report purports to be "balanced" and "even-handed." In fact it misleadingly promotes an extremely destructive government program that millions of people would protest if they knew the actual facts of the matter.

Dateline introduces us to drones with the claim that drones have saved lives by "hitting terrorist targets." Unlike any negative statement about drones made in the course of this Dateline video, such positive statements are never immediately countered by somebody authoritative saying the opposite in a different vocabulary (such as "murdering human beings never convicted or even indicted for any crime" rather than "hitting terrorist targets"). Much less is any positive statement countered with actual facts. At the very end of the program we'll hear that during this "war on terrorism" terrorism has increased, but the causal connection recognized by numerous experts is brushed over. In fact numerous top officials involved in the U.S. drone program blurt out, the moment they retire, that it is generating more enemies than it is killing. Numerous such statements are publicly available, and such voices could have been included in this program.

Next Dateline shows us a drone pilot in Nevada in his car and "on his way to fight ISIS." In fact, U.S. drone pilots (who dress up as pilots and sit at a desk) blow people up in numerous countries, have (like their commanders) no idea who most of the people are whom they blow up, and have seen ISIS recruitment soar since the U.S. began bombing that organization which its earlier bombings and occupations and prison camps and torture and weapons sales were absolutely central to creating.

Dateline shows us footage of drones, but none of what they do -- only fuzzy videos selected by the Air Force in which we see no humans, no bodies, no body parts, and are just told that the people murdered were ISIS, which is supposed to make it moral and legal. Endless footage exists and is available, including of course from the Air Force, of the people blown to pieces by drones. Plenty of reporting explains that this type of warfare kills more innocent people than even other horrific types of warfare. But Dateline will instead eventually get around to focusing on phony critiques like "Is this too much like playing a video game?"

Dateline lets us meet "pilots" and hear their views. We meet no victims, no survivors (available footage includes testimony before Congress), and no targets. A man recently traveled to London from Pakistan to request to be taken off the kill list and for the United States and Britain to stop trying to blow him up. He was not arrested, by the way, which CIA Director John Brennan falsely claims later in the program is always preferred.

Drone pilots and the narrator (should we call him a "reporter"?) tell us on Dateline that they protect human lives, rather than destroying them: "Operators often keep watch over U.S. troops on the battlefield." Dateline glorifies the technology describing "an exotic array of onboard bombs and missiles." Dateline shows us drone footage of their "journalist" that is fuzzy but that he tells us is clear. Yet that's the closest we come to seeing footage of an actual drone victim. Government documents that reveal that most victims have never been identified or targeted, and which contradict much of what government officials say on this program, are public.

"Do you ever feel guilty that you're fighting an enemy who can't hit you back?" Dateline asks a drone pilot, reinforcing the idea that he's fighting an enemy, and not asking if he feels guilty for killing human beings, for killing non-enemy human beings, for generating more enemies, or for violating the laws against murder and against war. "We're saving our troops on the ground," the drone pilot says, without explaining how or, of course, why those troops are on that ground and couldn't be saved by leaving it.

"Drones are decisive weapons, key to U.S. military dominance," Dateline tells us. Then we see Brennan claiming drone murder protects the United States. Then we see fuzzy distant footage of an unarmed drone's film supposedly showing Osama bin Laden prior to 9-11. The implication is that blowing him up would have prevented 9-11 and its thousands of deaths, if not perhaps the millions of deaths caused by the U.S. wars marketed as responses to 9-11, since those wars might have been given a different marketing theme. But the cartoonish implication that a single evil mastermind was the source of all resentment and violence toward the United States, and that murdering him wouldn't have further enraged many others, is torn down by Dateline itself which later claims triumphantly that drones have murdered seven potential replacements of bin Laden.

The CIA's role in the Dateline film is more extensive than in the production of Zero Damn Truth -- er, I mean, Zero Dark Thirty -- and we next hear Brennan claiming that "Counter-terrorism professionals always would prefer to capture individuals." That counter terrorism is terrorism, that children living under the constant buzz and threat of drones are traumatized, never comes up. And Brennan's claim is false. We know of numerous cases when someone could have been easily arrested, but murdering them and anybody nearby was preferred -- or at least murdering whoever had that person's cell phone at the time.

Brennan's next utterance is ludicrous: "Taking kinetic action against a target or individual usually is a last resort." Because the option of not doing so doesn't exist?

This flood of propaganda is not impeded by the voices of critics, protesters, lawyers, survivors, or victims, by the views of foreign governments or the European Union or the Pakistani courts, by the perspective of families afraid to step out of doors. The "successful" drone war in Yemen that predictably led to a larger war is not examined. The spread of terrorist groups, the strengthening of al Qaeda in places like Yemen goes unmentioned. Instead, Brennan blatantly lies that al Qaeda has been "very methodically dismantled." No voice replies to that provable falsehood. In fact, Brennan tries to fudge his words to leave a way out, but the message received by the viewer is false.

Dateline's "reporter" who is to a reporter more or less what a drone pilot is to a pilot holds up what he says is a list of "285 names of terrorist targets" and exclaims that "about half are gone" -- clearly expecting us to shout Hurray!  

Then -- blink and you'll miss it -- we hear from critics of drone killing, specifically three former participants therein. But it's the Dateline reporter who claims this: "It's because drones are so effective that we use them more than we should, critics say." Effective at what? The critics he then turns to say drones are counterproductive and immoral, but they don't say that on Dateline. The seconds they are given do not allow them to say on NBC what they've said elsewhere.

The former pilots and participants do raise the topic of killing civilians, and the "reporter" asks whether they didn't realize the military kills people. He also asks them if drone warfare is "video game warfare" and then takes that line of his to the commander of Creech Air Force base and asks him the same silly question. He also lets that commander claim that "every effort is made" to avoid killing civilians, before devoting one sentence to what "international human rights organizations say," without putting them on the air to say anything. But our "journalist" counters that with what Obama says -- allowing Obama to say it directly -- and then brings on a pseudo-critic to wisely tell us that the truth must lie somewhere in the middle. Isn't it more likely that the truth lies somewhere near the serious journalism that identifies the victims?

Dateline brushes aside the question of who's being murdered and never touches the question of legality, focusing instead on the supposed need for "transparency" from the White House. Dateline briefly mentions signature strikes and double taps, and even has Brennan acknowledge that the number of terrorists has grown (without commenting on why).

The best question Dateline asks is when it asks the base commander what the U.S. will do if other nations do drone murders (perhaps in the United States). But the reply is not met with laughter or critique: "We'll adapt. We don't rest on our laurels." Adapt how? Wasn't that the question.

Brennan closes out his program by saying: "When I see the extent of evil and the number of individuals who wantonly murder innocents, the obligation of government is to ... protect its citizens." Nobody mentions that his drone pilots are murdering innocents, that doing so is evil, or that it's endangering U.S. citizens -- or that in fact some of his drone victims have themselves been U.S. citizens, including in one case that we know of a child -- whose head may not have been cut off with a knife but whose head certainly didn't remain on his body.

Jump to the end of this episode of Dateline, sponsored by the number 1 and the letters "C" "I" and "A" and we are treated to footage of little children speaking in their cute little voices over military music telling us how heroic the U.S. military is. "They protect people" a tiny boy says in his cute little baby voice.

The United States is the one nation on earth that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child which forbids military recruitment of children.

Seymour Hersh 8891d
May
10

Seymour Hersh Erases Public's Role on Syria

Tag: Media, Peace and War, Political Ideas

By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune

We once again owe the great reporter Seymour Hersh a serious debt for his reporting, in this case for his London Review of Books articles on President Barack Obama's war making, now published as a book called The Killing of Osama bin Laden. Despite the title, three of the four articles are about Syria.

But there is a shortcoming in how Hersh tells history, as in how many reporters do. I've watched Hersh do interviews about the topic on Democracy Now and never once heard him mention the U.S. public. In his book, the public gets one mention: "The proposed American missile attack on Syria never won public support, and Obama turned quickly to the UN and the Russian proposal for dismantling the Syrian chemical warfare complex." Taken in isolation, that sentence suggests what I think is an important causal relationship. Taken in the context of a book that spends many pages offering other explanations for Obama's decision, that one sentence seems to be simply stating two unrelated incidents in chronological order.

Mar
08

The Killer Drone Lovers Have Their Movie

Tag: Book and Movie Reviews, Media, Peace and War

If the recent spate of anti-drone movies and plays was making you feel warm thoughts about U.S. culture, you'll want to avoid seeing "Eye in the Sky," starring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Aaron Paul. This is what "Zero Dark Thirty" was for torture lies. This is what "The Interview" was for hatred of North Korea. The Director of "Eye in the Sky," Gavin Hood, openly brags about having had military advisors on this film, just as those films had their government advisors. And it shows.

"I'll bet the military loves this film," I told Hood after a screening in Washington, D.C., on Monday. He claimed that some loved it, some liked it, both in the military and in some human rights groups that I won't name because I doubt very much Hood's implication that at least one of them didn't condemn this piece of propaganda.

Let's be clear, this film is the best quality drone film yet made and has the coolest technology in it, including drones the size and shape of birds and beetles. But it is the furthest presentation of drone use from reality. Following the film screening, the director and General Eaton (no last name, like Cher) and Patrick Tucker, a technology writer from Defense One, gave a little presentation that included flying a tiny drone in the theater. Said Tucker, as if he had proved this: "So everything you saw in this movie is very close to reality."

I asked the director roughly this: We know of actual cases where the target was not identified, where the target could have been captured, and where the target was not actually about to commit mass murder. In fact the Justice Department has redefined "imminent threat" to be virtually meaningless, and I don't know of a single case in reality that matches this fictional fantasy. Do you?

Gavin Hood hemmed and hawed but said that No, he was unaware of a single case in reality that matched what he had produced in his slick propaganda. Then it was his turn to question me: Do I oppose the whole drone program?

I replied that it is counterproductive and that every time a top official retires they point that out, that it creates more enemies than it kills. Remarkably, Hood said that he agreed entirely and that in fact this point (which showed up nowhere at all in his movie) was the very point of his movie.

Then Hood strayed back into his own fantasy, recounting as if we hadn't just seen it that in the film one politician comments that it might be better politically to allow foreign terrorists to kill lots of people than for the politician's own government to be exposed as having killed one person.

Well, yes, this proves that in a fantastic scenario that hasn't ever happened a fictional politician could cynically discard human lives. It proves nothing else. But it creates the sick pretense that murdering is wise and not murdering is a form of propaganda. And, for the record, the "one person" was actually one unknown innocent plus several other people understood to be complicit in planning mass murder.

The cherry on top of this movie's feat of manipulation is Hood's making one of the drone victims white. Thus the drone program is not racist, is not killing people who haven't been identified, is not killing people who could have been captured, and is only killing people who are literally in the act of arming themselves to kills lots of other people momentarily.

The killer drone has its movie and it also has its argument. This piece of fiction is what the ticking time bomb nonsense is for torture. This is what every reincarnation of Hitler is for war as a whole. This is Obama's dream eulogy when the first drone warrior king is finally laid to rest.

All sins have been absolved.

Relax. Get some popcorn.

Or wake up, get outraged and join the next protest at Creech Air Base. Please. We're better than this.

The military routinely endorses and promotes the NFL.
Feb
07

The Super Bowl Promotes War

Tag: Culture and Society, Media, Peace and War

By David Swanson, teleSUR

Super Bowl 50 will be the first National Football League championship to happen since it was reported that much of the pro-military hoopla at football games, the honoring of troops and glorifying of wars that most people had assumed was voluntary or part of a marketing scheme for the NFL, has actually been a money-making scheme for the NFL. The U.S. military has been dumping millions of our dollars, part of a recruitment and advertising budget that's in the billions, into paying the NFL to publicly display love for soldiers and weaponry.

Of course, the NFL may in fact really truly love the military, just as it may love the singers it permits to sing at the Super Bowl halftime show, but it makes them pay for the privilege too. And why shouldn't the military pay the football league to hype its heroism? It pays damn near everybody else. At $2.8 billion a year on recruiting some 240,000 "volunteers," that's roughly $11,600 per recruit. That's not, of course, the trillion with a T kind of spending it takes to run the military for a year; that's just the spending to gently persuade each "volunteer" to join up. The biggest military "service" ad buyer in the sports world is the National Guard. The ads often depict humanitarian rescue missions. Recruiters often tell tall tales of "non-deployment" positions followed by free college. But it seems to me that the $11,600 would have gone a long way toward paying for a year in college! And, in fact, people who have that money for college are far less likely to be recruited.

Despite showing zero interest in signing up for wars, and despite the permanent presence of wars to sign up for, 44 percent of U.S. Americans tell the Gallup polling company that they "would" fight in a war, yet don't. That's at least 100 million new recruits. Luckily for them and the world, telling a pollster something doesn't require follow through, but it might suggest why football fans tolerate and even celebrate military national anthems and troop-hyping hoopla at every turn. They think of themselves as willing warriors who just happen to be too busy at the moment. As they identify with their NFL team, making remarks such as "We just scored," while firmly seated on their most precious assets, football fans also identify with their team on the imagined battlefield of war.

The NFL website says: "For decades the NFL and the military have had a close relationship at the Super Bowl, the most watched program year-to-year throughout the United States. In front of more than 160 million viewers, the NFL salutes the military with a unique array of in-game celebrations including the presentation of colors, on-field guests, pre-game ceremonies and stadium flyovers. During Super Bowl XLIX week [last year], the Pat Tillman Foundation and the Wounded Warriors Project invited veterans to attend the Salute to Service: Officiating 101 Clinic at NFL Experience Engineered by GMC [double payment? ka-ching!] in Arizona. ..."

Pat Tillman, still promoted on the NFL website, and eponym of the Pat Tillman Foundation, is of course the one NFL player who gave up a giant football contract to join the military. What the Foundation won't tell you is that Tillman, as is quite common, ceased believing what the ads and recruiters had told him. On September 25, 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Tillman had become critical of the Iraq war and had scheduled a meeting with the prominent war critic Noam Chomsky to take place when he returned from Afghanistan, all information that Tillman's mother and Chomsky later confirmed. Tillman couldn't confirm it because he had died in Afghanistan in 2004 from three bullets to the forehead at short range, bullets shot by an American. The White House and the military knew Tillman had died from so-called friendly fire, but they falsely told the media he'd died in a hostile exchange. Senior Army commanders knew the facts and yet approved awarding Tillman a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion, all based on his having died fighting the "enemy." Clearly the military wants a connection to football and is willing to lie as well as to pay for it. The Pat Tillman Foundation mis-uses a dead man's name to play on and prey on the mutual interest of football and the military in being connected to each other.

Those on whom the military's advertising succeeds will not typically die from friendly fire. Nor will they die from enemy fire. The number one killer of members of the U.S. military, reported yet again for another year this week, is suicide. And that's not even counting later suicides by veterans. Every TV pundit and presidential debate moderator, and perhaps even a Super Bowl 50 announcer or two, tends to talk about the military's answer for ISIS. What is its answer for people being stupidly ordered into such horrific hell that they won't want to live anymore?

It's in the ads

At least as big a focus of the Super Bowl as the game itself is the advertising. One particularly disturbing ad planned for Super Bowl 50 is an ad for a war video game. The U.S. military has long funded war video games and viewed them as recruiting tools. In this ad Arnold Schwarzenegger shows what fun it is to shoot people and blow up buildings on the game, while outside of the game people are tackling him more or less as in a football game. Nothing here is remotely warlike in a realistic sense. For that I recommend playing with PTSD Action Man instead. But it does advance the equation of sport with war -- something both the NFL and the military clearly desire.

An ad last year from Northrop Grumman, which has its own "Military Bowl," was no less disturbing. Two years ago an ad that appeared to be for the military until the final seconds turned out to be for Jeeps. There was another ad that year for Budweiser beer with which one commentator found legal concerns:

"First, there's a violation of the military's ethics regulations, which explicitly state that Department of Defense personnel cannot 'suggest official endorsement or preferential treatment' of any 'non-Federal entity, event, product, service, or enterprise. ... Under this regulation, the Army cannot legally endorse Budweiser, nor allow its active-duty personnel to participate in their ads (let alone wear their uniforms), any more than the Army can endorse Gatorade or Nike."

Two serious issues with this. One: the military routinely endorses and promotes the NFL. Two: despite my deep-seated opposition to the very existence of an institution of mass murder, and my clear understanding of what it wants out of advertisements (whether by itself or by a car or beer company), I can't help getting sucked into the emotion. The technique of this sort of propaganda (here's another ad) is very high level. The rising music. The facial expressions. The gestures. The build up of tension. The outpouring of simulated love. You'd have to be a monster not to fall for this poison. And it permeates the world of millions of wonderful young people who deserve better.

It's in the stadium

If you get past the commercials, there's the problem of the stadium for Super Bowl 50, unlike most stadiums for most sports events, being conspicuously "protected" by the military and militarized police, including with military helicopters and jets that will shoot down any drones and "intercept" any planes. Ruining the pretense that this is actually for the purpose of protecting anyone, military jets will show off by flying over the stadium, as in past years, when they have even done it over stadiums covered by domes.

The idea that there is anything questionable about coating a sporting event in military promotion is the furthest thing from the minds of most viewers of the Super Bowl. That the military's purpose is to kill and destroy, that it's recent major wars have eventually been opposed as bad decisions from the start by a majority of Americans, just doesn't enter into it. On the contrary, the military publicly questions whether it should be associating with a sports league whose players hit their wives and girlfriends too much.

My point is not that assault is acceptable, but that murder isn't. The progressive view of the Super Bowl in the United States will question the racism directed at a black quarterback, the concussions of a violent sport that damages the brains of too many of its players (and perhaps even the recruitment of new players from the far reaches of the empire to take their place), sexist treatment of cheerleaders or women in commercials, and perhaps even the disgusting materialism of some of the commercials. But not the militarism. The announcers will thank "the troops" for watching from "over 175 countries" and nobody will pause, set down their beer and dead animal flesh and ask whether 174 countries might not be enough to have U.S. troops in right now.

The idea that the Super Bowl promotes is that war is more or less like football, only better. I was happy to help get a TV show canceled that turned war into a reality game. There is still some resistance to that idea that can be tapped in the U.S. public. But I suspect it is eroding.

The NFL doesn't just want the military's (our) money. It wants the patriotism, the nationalism, the fervent blind loyalty, the unthinking passion, the personal identification, a love for the players to match love of troops -- and with similar willingness to throw them under a bus.

The military doesn't just want the sheer numbers of viewers attracted to the Super Bowl. It wants wars imagined as sporting events between teams, rather than horrific crimes perpetrated on people in their homes and villages. It wants us thinking of Afghanistan not as a 15-year disaster, murder-spree, and counter-productive SNAFU, but as a competition gone into double quadruple overtime despite the visiting team being down 84 points and attempting an impossible comeback. The military wants chants of "USA!" that fill a stadium. It wants role models and heroes and local connections to potential recruits. It wants kids who can't make it to the pros in football or another sport to think they've got the inside track to something even better and more meaningful.

I really wish they did.

Feb
01

Getting Closer to Being Sorry I Ever Promoted John Oliver

Tag: Media

"Finally, Fake News Done Right," I proclaimed. John Oliver had gone after nukes, prisons, income inequality, internet censors, and climate destroyers. He has since gone after many other evils. But -- apart from the nukes -- as far as I've seen it's never war, not at length and not briefly.

In fact, Oliver likes to joke that peace is boring, wants people to throw mangos at the head of the president of Venezuela, supported a coup in Ukraine and hostile lies about Russia, mocks peace and Japan, and wants the U.S. to control the South China Sea while making fun of China. He thinks U.S.-Iranian relations were good in the 70s and that Iran is trying to create nuclear weapons.

While he once made fun of the CIA, his only mention of the primary activity of the U.S. government (war) that I know of was making fun of Obama for being too reluctant when killing people. He does mention Israeli wars and Korean hostilities, pushing a false equivalence in both cases.

But he does get angry and promote hatred in response to violence done by Muslims, and proclaim European superiority to them.

The best he's done has been to go after drones. But drones are one weapon used to kill lots of people. What about the general practice of killing lots of people?

Bernie Sanders 14b15
Jan
23

Bernie v. Media

Tag: Elections, Media, Peace and War

By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune

Major corporate media outlets in the United States are reporting on a new viability for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, based on his rise in the polls nationally and in Iowa and New Hampshire -- and possibly, though this goes largely unmentioned, based on his big new advertising purchases from major corporate media outlets. In independent progressive media as well, there's a small flood of maybe-he-can-really-win articles.

Whether this goes any further or not, something remarkable has happened. The Donald Trump campaign (in many ways outlandish and uniquely dangerous) more or less fits the usual mold in terms of media success; the data are very clear that the media gave Trump vastly disproportionate media coverage, following which he rose in the polls -- the same polls later used anachronistically to justify the coverage. This was the story of how the media created Howard Dean's success before tearing him down in 2004, and it has been the story of most candidates, successful and otherwise: the polling closely follows the coverage, not the other way around.

Bernie is something new. The major media has given him ridiculously little coverage, and belittled him in most of that coverage. Yet he has surged in the polls, in volunteers, in small-donor fundraising, and in real world events. While television news has shunted aside actual events, crises, social movements, the state of the natural environment, any number of wars, countless injustices, and most legislative activities in order to focus more than ever on the next election, and has done so ever since it was nearly two years away, the media has also given wildly disparate attention to certain candidates, in a way that bears no correlation to polling or internet searching or donors or any such factor. As of last fall, Bernie Sanders had received a total of 8 minutes of coverage from broadcast evening news, less than Mitt Romney or Joe Biden got for deciding not to enter the race.

And yet, Bernie polls better against Donald Trump (now that a pollster finally asked that question and released the results) than does Hillary Clinton. And Bernie is gradually catching up to Clinton in polls of Democrats. If he wins New Hampshire (very likely) and Iowa (pretty likely), all sorts of bandwagon jumpers could switch their support to him, and uninspired voters become inspired to vote in the next several primary states, snowballing the magical force of "momentum" into an upset victory with great media ratings, even if horrifying political implications from the point of view of major media outlets' corporate owners.

According to Ted Rall, we are seeing the failure of propaganda: "Everyone in a position to block Sanders' campaign did everything they could to sabotage him. ... Marginalization always used to work. Remember John Edwards? His 2008 primary campaign was doomed because TV networks refused to cover him. But the media's cold shoulder isn't hurting Bernie."

As Glenn Greenwald sees it, Sanders is riding the same wave of backlash against the establishment that Jeremy Corbyn has surfed in Britain. Part of that tidal wave may also motivate Trump supporters who, in some cases, admit that they don't like his views but simply love that he says whatever he feels like saying. Sharp policical observer Sam Husseini pointed out to me that the more the media demanded Bill Clinton's impeachment, the more the public opposed it. Sometimes what the media wants backfires. As the media shifts from ignoring Sanders to attacking him, that could benefit him, or it could hurt him. As Dave Lindorff and others have pointed out, "socialist" is actually a popular word now. Pundits in whose world "socialist" is equated with traitor, could actually hurt the cause of derailing the Bern inferno if they keep labeling him a socialist.

Some observers are far less sanguine about the defeat of propaganda. "If Bernie wins the nomination," media critic Jeff Cohen told me, "I suspect we'll see a barrage of mainstream news media bias and smear and distortion against Bernie and his platform on healthcare and Wall Street and taxes and government-funded jobs that will be at a level rarely witnessed in history. Not to mention a new level of attack ads bought by dozens of GOP and corporate SuperPACs. And all this will have impact, partly mitigated thanks to social media and indy media."

Cohen draws on history, which he clearly believes has not ended: "The anti-Bernie barrage will be reminiscent of 1934 when former Socialist Party leader Upton Sinclair left that party and stunned the nation by winning the Dem nomination for governor of California on a totally progressive platform; Sinclair was defeated in the general election by new innovations in smear politics from business interests, especially the Hollywood studios. If Bernie somehow gains the nomination, we'll see whether, aided by new media, the public is any smarter 80 years later in seeing through and fighting back against the distortions."

For the better part of a year I have shared Cohen's expectations for what the media might try to do to Sanders in early 2016. I assumed it would wait this long because a contest makes for better ratings than a coronation. But I did not predict this level of success for Sanders. I think we will see media support for all kinds of lies coming from the Clinton campaign, like those issued recently around healthcare. We'll see smears about sexism, and all variety of molehills turned into mountains. We'll also see Sanders denounced as a cowardly pacifist endangering us all by refusing to bomb enough people.

The tragic and ironic flaw in Sanders' strategy may be this. He'll take criticism as a socialist because he is one. And he'll take criticism as a pacifist although he's become a dedicated militarist at heart, intent on continuing drone kills and "destroying" ISIS, and unwilling to say he'll cut military spending. Not only is cutting military spending incredibly popular, not only would proposing to cut it lead to people like me knocking on doors for Bernie, but if Bernie were willing to cut a small fraction of the military that he routinely says is loaded with fraud and waste, he wouldn't have to fund healthcare or college or anything else with any sort of tax increases.

The U.S. government does not need more money in order to provide world-class social services. It needs to tax multi-billionaires in order to reign in their power. But it can fund our wildest dream by shifting money out of the military. And Bernie knows this. Yet he has opened himself up wide to what will likely be the most common criticism: "He wants to raise taxes!" He can explain that you'll save more by ending private health insurance than you'll pay in higher taxes, but how will he fit that in 4 seconds? How will he repeat it as often as the accusation? How can we be sure people are both mad at the establishment and intelligent enough to see through its deceptions?

Incidentally, peace groups have tried everything short of interrupting a Sanders event on the Black Lives Matter model. The Black Lives Matter activists who did that may have looked ill-informed, but they improved Bernie's campaign and benefited his campaign and thereby the country. Peace activists should consider that.

Most media deceptions are somewhat subtle. Look at this Time magazine video and text. The video at the top of the page is remarkably fair. The text below it, including an error-plagued transcript apparently produced by a robot, is less fair. Time says of Bernie: "[H]e's so far been unable to convince most Democrats he'd make a better candidate against a Republican than Clinton." By no stretch of the English language is the 48% or 52% backing Clinton in polls "most Democrats." The polling story should be that Sanders has climbed from 3% to 37% or 41% without any help.

Here's Time's summary of Sanders' platform: "He talked taxes (he'd raise them), turning points (he thinks he's at one) and tuxedos (he's never owned one)." Notice that two of the three items are sheer fluff and the only serious one is that he'll raise your taxes. Time follows that by linking to an article making the case that Sanders cannot win. Time of course has no "balancing" argument that he can win.

Time then links to an article on "The Philosophical Fight Underlying the Democratic Debate," which presents this very serious, well-researched reporting: "If Sanders and Clinton were in business together, he'd be the dreamy one pitching the next big thing while she'd be the hard-nosed one arguing that they need to stay within their budget. The decision voters will have to make is: do they want big dreams or clear-eyed realism?" Gosh, I want clear eyes and a hard nose, doesn't everyone?

What weighs against this steady stream of bias on the Time website is the transcript of Sanders' own comments, and his willingness to push back against the media. Pushing back against the media is even more popular than taxing billionaires or cutting the military. Here's Sanders replying to a cheap shot from Time: "Someone says oh you're raising taxes by $5,000. No, I am lowering your healthcare costs by $5000. So you can take a cheap shot, say I'm just trying to raise taxes. That's a distortion of reality. We are substantially lowering healthcare costs." Fewer people will hear his reply than hear the accusation, but they'll hear it in the context of media criticism, and that could inspire them. Check out this exchange:

Time: "So as president you're calling rallies—"

Bernie: "It's not just rallies, don't be sarcastic here."

The media mocks popular assembly, free speech, and petitioning the government for a redress of grievances, and Sanders instructs the media not to be sarcastic. That's a plus for Bernie.

Will it get him past the onslaught? If it does, will the super delegates outvote the people? Will the DNC outmaneuver him? Is the voting process itself rigged? If he gets elected will anything get through Congress? Let's Bern those bridges when we come to them.

Jan
19

If a Social Movement Falls Outside of the Media, Are Any Lives Improved?

Tag: Media

When We Fight We Win! is the overly violent and overly optimistic title of a very good new book about recent nonviolent social struggles in the United States for LGBTQ rights, immigrants rights, economic justice, public education, a sustainable environment, and an end to mass incarceration.

My initial response to this book was very different from my considered response.

My initial response to a table of contents like the one in this book is always: Where the hell is war? Don't they know that war eats up all the money that could solve all these problems with ease? Haven't they considered that immigrants are refugees from war? That discrimination and hate feed off war? That the top destroyer of the environment is the military -- which destroys the environment in the process of killing people for oil with which to destroy the environment?! Goddamn it, when did acceptance of mass murder become progressive?!

Then I calm down a bit, wipe the blood off my forehead, pick up the broken dishes, apologize to the owner of the coffee shop, and read the book.

By the end of this book, I was wondering why a completely different topic was missing, or rather, why it wasn't in the headline since its shadow so dominates almost every page. That topic is media reform / media production.

The chapter on LGBTQ rights reminds us of the length and complexity of the struggle, and of how much it has been a struggle of communication. The chapter itself, like the rest of the book, is in fact not so much devoted to analyzing activist strategies as to actually engaging in the strategy of communicating the stories of the relevant people. The book is an act of communication, and such acts are the heart of the activism described.

Accounts of successes are inspiring, even if we harbor doubts that the oligarchy really objects to LGBTQ rights. But the point of the chapter is largely to do what a truly democratic television channel or newspaper or online journal could do: show us what is unfair, make us feel suffering, bring us in on people's struggles for justice, convert us to the cause.

When it comes to the defense of public education, we're dealing with a struggle against vast wealth, and it is mostly a losing struggle, but this book focuses on successes, including in Chicago where Rahm Emanuel got a little too greedy. The lessons learned include the need to organize and build personal relationships, but also the need to communicate through the media and through artwork and by aligning teachers with parents and community in a major struggle for huge goals, not technical details.

With mass incarceration and the environment we see potential in divestment campaigns and, again, the need to build large coalitions. But a big focus is media reform in the piecemeal sense of forcing the worst programing, such as Cops, off the air via public pressure. ColorofChange.org targets prisons by targeting ugly and racist portrayals of black men on television. (Peace groups have done the same with war shows.) Immigrants rights groups have persuaded the Associated Press to stop calling people "illegal."

They've also moved President Obama by standing up to him -- and meeting with him but refusing to shake his hand, refusing to censor outrage -- and by threatening to make news advancing their cause with one of his party's Republican rivals. Longtime organizer Marshall Ganz "advised the activists that their story could be their most potent tool for social change." The media attention given to the Occupy movement is also recorded as a successful tool for social change, and for state-level reforms that have been achieved in housing and lending.

It's not that everything is communications, or the media is all that matters, but the media is hugely important. You can watch Bernie Sanders in 1988 propose that labor unions and progressives pool their money and create media outlets. Apart from some small but significant steps on the internet, that's never really happened. I used to work for the AFL-CIO and lobby it to create media outlets, and it chose to put everything into pitching stories to the corporate media.

Seen any good stories about the struggles of working people in the corporate media lately?

And yet somehow Bernie Sanders, who's had the right positions on media reform for decades, has found his way into what amounts to a massive amount of media attention for someone saying something decent -- a significant percentage even of the media coverage Joe Biden received for not entering the presidential race; Sanders may even reach double figures in time spent belittling him as a percentage of the time spent hyping Donald Trump in the media. That could be worth many millions of dollars.

Bernie Sanders' platform is, of course, the same as the table of contents of When We Fight We Win. He's not communicating much, if anything, about peace as an alternative to war. But he's communicating a similar message to Occupy's about wealth and economic justice. If people actually don't know what Scandinavian countries do, or if people literally can't imagine funding education and retirement rather than billionaires, Bernie could be a single-handed movement for change. At the moment, I think he is.

But to the extent that what people learn is that a movement should be a presidential candidate, and should live or die with that candidate, then they are learning a deeply flawed lesson with great potential for debilitating disappointment and despair.

On all of the topics in When We Fight We Win, Bernie advances the discussion beyond where the usual candidates take it. If the media does to him what I've long assumed it will do, or if -- as I certainly hope -- it doesn't, the question will be the same: how can we seize opportunities to accomplish larger and more lasting steps forward, building on anything that anyone learned from his campaign?

A good place to start is with When We Fight We Win.

World Beyond War

RootsAction.org

War Is A Crime

Talk Nation Radio

There Is No Way To Peace

Peace is the way.

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