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JOHN PILGER: Silencing the lambs how propaganda works

For many years, propaganda has steered the course of the mass media’s narrative, dominated by the wants of state and company energy. John Pilger explains that nothing has modified in immediately’s world.

IN THE Seventies, I met one in every of Hitler’s main propagandists, Leni Riefenstahl, whose epic movies glorified the Nazis. We occurred to be staying on the similar lodge in Kenya, the place she was on a pictures task, having escaped the destiny of different buddies of the Fuhrer.

She informed me that the “patriotic messages” of her movies had been dependent not on “orders from above” however on what she referred to as the “submissive void” of the German public.

Did that embrace the liberal, educated bourgeoisie? I requested. “Yes, especially them,” she stated.

I consider this as I go searching on the propaganda now consuming Western societies.

Of course, we’re very totally different from Germany within the Nineteen Thirties. We reside in data societies. We are globalists. We have by no means been extra conscious, extra in contact, higher linked.

Are we? Or will we reside in a Media Society the place brainwashing is insidious and relentless, and notion is filtered in line with the wants and lies of state and company energy?

The United States dominates the Western world’s media. All however one of many high ten media corporations are primarily based in North America. The web and social media – Google, Twitter, Facebook – are largely American-owned and managed.

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In my lifetime, the United States has overthrown or attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, mostly democracies. It has interfered in democratic elections in 30 countries. It has dropped bombs on the people of 30 countries, most of them poor and defenceless. It has attempted to murder the leaders of 50 countries. It has fought to suppress liberation movements in 20 countries.

The extent and scale of this carnage is largely unreported and unrecognised; those responsible continue to dominate Anglo-American political life.

In the years before he died in 2008, the playwright Harold Pinter made two extraordinary speeches, which broke a silence:

In accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature, Pinter said this:

Pinter was a friend of mine and possibly the last great political sage – that is, before dissenting politics were gentrified. I asked him if the “hypnosis” he referred to was the “submissive void” described by Leni Riefenstahl.

“It’s the same,” he replied. “It means the brainwashing is so thorough we are programmed to swallow a pack of lies. If we don’t recognise propaganda, we may accept it as normal and believe it. That’s the submissive void.”

In our systems of corporate democracy, war is an economic necessity, the perfect marriage of public subsidy and private profit: socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor. The day after 9/11, the stock prices of the war industry soared. More bloodshed was coming, which is great for business.

Today, the most profitable wars have their own brand. They are called “forever wars”: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and now Ukraine. All are based on a pack of lies.

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Marshall McLuhan’s prophecy that “the successor to politics will be propaganda” has happened.

Iraq is the most infamous, with its weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. NATO’s destruction of Libya in 2011 was justified by a massacre in Benghazi that didn’t happen. Afghanistan was a convenient revenge war for 9/11, which had nothing to do with the people of Afghanistan.

Today, the news from Afghanistan is how evil the Taliban is – not that U.S. President Joe Biden’s theft of $7 billion of the country’s bank reserves is causing widespread suffering. Recently, National Public Radio in Washington devoted two hours to Afghanistan – and 30 seconds to its starving people.

At its summit in Madrid in June, NATO, which is controlled by the United States, adopted a strategy document that militarises the European continent and escalates the prospect of war with Russia and China. It proposes multi-domain warfighting against nuclear-armed peer competitors. In other words, nuclear war.

It says:

I read that in disbelief.

A measure of this “historic success” is the war in Ukraine, news of which is mostly not news, but a one-sided litany of jingoism, distortion and omission. I have reported a number of wars and have never known such blanket propaganda.

In February, Russia invaded Ukraine as a response to almost eight years of killing and criminal destruction in the Russian-speaking region of Donbas on their border.

In 2014, the United States had sponsored a coup in Kyiv that got rid of Ukraine’s democratically elected, Russian-friendly president and installed a successor whom the Americans made clear was their man.

In recent years, American “defender” missiles have been installed in eastern Europe, Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, almost certainly aimed at Russia, accompanied by false assurances all the way back to former White House Chief of Staff James Baker’s “promise” to Gorbachev in February 1990 that NATO would never expand beyond Germany.

Ukraine is the frontline. NATO has effectively reached the very borderland through which Hitler’s army stormed in 1941, leaving more than 23 million dead in the Soviet Union.

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Last December, Russia proposed a far-reaching security plan for Europe. This was dismissed, derided or suppressed in the Western media. Who read its step-by-step proposals? On 24 February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy threatened to develop nuclear weapons unless America armed and protected Ukraine. This was the final straw.

On the same day, Russia invaded – according to the Western media, an unprovoked act of congenital infamy. The history, the lies, the peace proposals, the solemn agreements on Donbas at Minsk counted for nothing.

On 25 April, the U.S. Defence Secretary, General Lloyd Austin, flew into Kyiv and confirmed that America’s aim was to destroy the Russian Federation – the word he used was “weaken”. America had got the war it wanted, waged by an American bankrolled and armed proxy and expendable pawn.

Almost none of this was explained to Western audiences.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is wanton and inexcusable. It is a crime to invade a sovereign country. There are no “buts” – except one.

When did the present war in Ukraine begin and who started it? According to the United Nations, between 2014 and this year, some 14,000 people have been killed in the Kyiv regime’s civil war on the Donbas. Many of the attacks were carried out by neo-Nazis.

Watch an ITV news report from May 2014, by the veteran reporter James Mates, who is shelled, along with civilians in the city of Mariupol, by Ukraine’s Azov (neo-Nazi) battalion.

In the same month, dozens of Russian-speaking people were burned alive or suffocated in a trade union building in Odessa besieged by fascist thugs, the followers of the Nazi collaborator and anti-Semitic fanatic Stepan Bandera. The New York Times called the thugs ‘nationalists’.

‘The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment,’ said Andreiy Biletsky, founder of the Azov Battalion, ‘is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival, a crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen’.

Since February, a campaign of self-appointed “news monitors” (mostly funded by the Americans and British with links to governments) has sought to maintain the absurdity that Ukraine’s neo-Nazis don’t exist.

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Refugees from Afghanistan and elsewhere have faced hostility in Europe whereas Ukrainian refugees are being treated with compassion.

Airbrushing, a term once associated with Stalin’s purges, has become a tool of mainstream journalism.

In less than a decade, a “good” China has been airbrushed and a “bad” China has replaced it: from the world’s workshop to a budding new Satan.

Much of this propaganda originates in the U.S. and is transmitted through proxies and “think tanks” such as the notorious Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the voice of the arms industry, and by zealous journalists such as Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald, who labelled those spreading Chinese influence as ‘rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows’ and called for these ‘pests’ to be ‘eradicated’.

News about China in the West is almost entirely about the threat from Beijing. Airbrushed are the 400 American military bases that surround most of China, an armed necklace that reaches from Australia to the Pacific and Southeast Asia, Japan and Korea. The Japanese island of Okinawa and the Korean island of Jeju are loaded guns aimed point blank at the industrial heart of China. A Pentagon official described this as a “noose”.

Palestine has been misreported for as long as I can remember. To the BBC, there is the “conflict” of “two narratives”. The longest, most brutal, lawless military occupation in modern times is unmentionable.

The stricken people of Yemen barely exist. They are media unpeople. While the Saudis rain down their American cluster bombs with British advisors working alongside the Saudi targeting officers, more than half a million children face starvation.

This brainwashing by omission has a long history. The slaughter of the First World War was suppressed by reporters who were knighted for their compliance and confessed in their memoirs. In 1917, the editor of the Manchester Guardian, CP Scott, confided to Prime Minister Lloyd George: “If people really knew [the truth], the war would be stopped tomorrow, but they don’t know and can’t know.”

The refusal to see people and events as those in other countries see them is a media virus in the West, as debilitating as COVID-19. It is as if we see the world through a one-way mirror, in which “we” are moral and benign and “they” are not. It is a profoundly imperial view.

The history that is a living presence in China and Russia is rarely explained and rarely understood. Russian President Vladimir Putin is Adolf Hitler. Chinese President Xi Jinping is Fu Manchu. Epic achievements, such as the eradication of abject poverty in China, are barely known. How perverse and squalid this is.

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When will we allow ourselves to understand? Training journalists factory-style is not the answer. Neither is the wondrous digital tool, which is a means, not an end, like the one-finger typewriter and the linotype machine.

In recent years, some of the best journalists have been eased out of the mainstream. “Defenestrated” is the word used. The spaces once open to mavericks, to journalists who went against the grain, truth-tellers, have closed.

The case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most shocking. When Julian and WikiLeaks could win readers and prizes for The Guardian, the New York Times and other self-important “papers of record”, he was celebrated.

When the dark state objected and demanded the destruction of hard drives and the assassination of Julian’s character, he was made a public enemy. Vice President Biden called him a “hi-tech terrorist”. Hillary Clinton asked: “Can’t we just drone this guy?”

The ensuing marketing campaign of abuse and vilification towards Julian Assange – the UN Rapporteur on Torture referred to as it “mobbing” – introduced the liberal press to its lowest ebb. We know who they’re. I consider them as collaborators: as Vichy journalists.

When will actual journalists get up? An inspirational samizdat already exists on the web: Consortium News, based by the nice reporter Robert Parry, Max Blumenthal’s Grayzone, Mint Press News, Media Lens, Declassified UK, Alborada, Electronic Intifada, WSWS, ZNet, ICH, CounterPunch, Independent Australia, the work of Chris Hedges, Patrick Lawrence, Jonathan Cook, Diana Johnstone, Caitlin Johnstone and others who will forgive me for not mentioning them right here.

And when will writers get up, as they did towards the rise of fascism within the Nineteen Thirties? When will filmmakers get up, as they did towards the Cold War within the Nineteen Forties? When will satirists get up, as they did a technology in the past?

Having soaked for 82 years in a deep bathtub of righteousness that’s the official model of the final world struggle, is not it time those that are supposed to hold the file straight declared their independence and decoded the propaganda? The urgency is bigger than ever.

John Pilger is a daily contributor to Independent Australia and a distinguished journalist and filmmaker. You can observe John on Twitter @JohnPilger.