Propaganda and Reality: The media’s onslaught on our senses and sensibilities By William Bowles

28 April 2004

The BBC this morning on Radio 4 (28/04/04) carried two reports on the (ongoing) US attack on Fallujah. One by an ’embedded’ reporter with all that that means and the other, an interview with US commanding officer Brigadier-General Kimmitt, who informed us that attacks on the city were performed using “incredibly precise weapons system” that minimised “collateral damage”. Tell that to the hundreds of innocent civilians who have been murdered in Fallujah.

Firstly, the BBC has an obligation to explain what ’embedded’ means in the context of the coverage of US actions given that all ‘news’ reports from ’embedded’ reporters has to be ‘sanitised’ by US military censors. Contrast this with the way the BBC always presaged reports from pre-war Iraq with the tag that it had to be ‘cleared’ by government censors.

Secondly, any statements made by US military need to be contextualised as they should be regarded as nothing more than propaganda designed to put the most positive ‘spin’ on their actions. Where is the BBC’s critical and supposedly objective eye when we need it?

Third, how about an alternate view of what is going on in Fallujah? For in spite of the difficulties of covering events that includes a US ‘cordon sanitaire’ around the city, a total cut-off of water, electricity and communications, there are sources of news about the besieged city that present an entirely different view of events. Take for example, the following extract from TMP:

Fallujah Siege Never Ended … Coalition Press Reports Are Fantastical
(TMPress International – New York – April 27, 2004) – “The American Forces Press Service continues feeding headlines like, `Negotiating With Fallujans Worth a Try,’ etc. – well news to all U.S. Marine Snipers have probably inflicted more damage to children since the so-called unilateral cease-fire on April 9 was declared by the Coalition and representatives of the Iraqi Governing Council, along with the supposedly sponsored Fallujan leaders. The Coalition continues to attack insurgent positions on a constant basis, with AC-130 gunships just called in Tuesday night to pound insurgent-controlled areas.

“If anyone has seen these aircraft in action, one would realize that they have nothing to do with unilateral cease-fires by U.S. Marines targeting selected hostile positions – the fact is the city of 250-thousand plus has been pounded daily by Coalition troops – so in fact there is no cease-fire nor has one ever existed…. Iraqi Paramilitary Forces the U.S. Marines have been using, as helpers are Kurdish Peshmergah … Arab leaders in Fallujah have confirmed that they were fighting alongside the American forces as late as April 14, but they have been wearing the uniforms of the newly-constituted Iraqi Army. The Americans gave them the additional role of sharpshooters, using sniper fire – they had been serving as sharpshooters for the U.S. Marines … sometimes hunting down civilians, insurgents and ambulances alike from rooftop positions and mosque minarets. With nearly 800 Fallujans dead, one wonders if the overall plan is to continue to talk cease-fire and time for negotiations, while systematically engaging in free-fire zones, at will.” – By John Osborne, Sr. Political Editor – TMPress International Newswire

In addition to this view of events there are those of Dahr Jamail that I’n’I has carried over the past weeks that presents an entirely different view (and includes independent eyewitness accounts) of the punishment being inflicted on the people of Fallujah that has resulted in the deaths of at least 800 people, most of whom are civilians.

Today’s report from the Weekly Standard for example carries the following:

“Resistance fighters in Falluja have been able to turn Marine incursions away by fighting against them. The U.S. military has lost well over 70 soldiers in Falluja alone since the fighting began. The soldiers have been forced to set up a perimeter around Falluja and are using snipers to penetrate the city. In addition, the aggressors have resorted to using psychological operations such as blaring sounds of wailing women, crying children, barking dogs, Jimi Hendrix songs and music from the heavy metal band AC/DC at all hours.

“On a recent trip into Falluja a young boy yelled at my vehicle, “We will be mujahedeen until we die!”

“This mindset is also reflected by the adults fighting in Falluja. One of the several mujahedeen I spoke with in the middle of the city stated, “The Americans will not take Falluja until they have killed every Iraqi in it!”

“The veil of democracy and freedom has been stripped from the face of the U.S. occupation, particularly in Falluja, where the brutality takes the form of American snipers shooting grandmothers waving white flags.

“Mr. Maki Al-Nazzal, a 47 year-old Iraqi man who is managing one of the two remaining functional clinics inside Falluja, works for an Italian NGO, INTERSOS. I sat with him during a rare break in the nearly constant influx of wounded women and children being brought to his clinic for treatment.

“He wearily said, “For 47 years I had accepted the illusion of Europe and the U.S. being good for the world. The carriers of democracy and freedom. Now I see that it took me 47 years to wake up to the horrible truth. They are not here to bring anything like democracy or freedom.

“”You can use my name in your writing,” Al-Nazzal added. “What are they going to do to me that they haven’t already done here?”” –

There are also the reports being carried by DemocracyNow:

The Battle for Fallujah Intesifies; U.S. Poised to Attack Najaf
The daily carnage in Iraq continued across Iraq yesterday. Eight Iraqis and one U.S. soldier were killed in clashes in Fallujah, two U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi were killed in Baghdad and 43 Iraqis were killed in Najaf. We go to Najaf to get a report from a peace activist acting as a human shield and we speak with author Rahul Mahajan about Fallujah.

It remains for the BBC as with other major news outlets to carry a single report from independent media in their so-called coverage of the occupation.

Fourth, it should be made clear to listeners that the inhabitants of Fallujah are being punished firstly for the deaths of the four Blackwater mercenaries several weeks back (and let’s not forget the fact that the BBC has never described them as mercenaries, nor reported on the fact that all four were former members of US Special Forces employed by Blackwater) and for the resistance that began in April 2003 with US occupation of a school and the deaths of civilians.

In addition, the BBC, along with the corporate media, rarely if ever refer to the direct correlation between US tactics and those of the Israeli occupation forces in occupied Palestine or reports on the fact that Israeli military have been advising the US military since the invasion began on how to suppress opposition to occupation using ‘collective punishment’ tactics, that are a contravention of international law.

The BBC of course, continues to talk of “insurgents” and an “insurgency” rather than what is clearly a national uprising, in other words a war of national resistance to the occupation.

The same can be said of other Iraq-connected events such the appointment of former Reagan point-man for the Contra mercenaries in Nicaragua as ‘ambassador’ to Iraq, John D Negroponte (see “Bush appoints a Terrorist as US Ambassador to Iraq” by Michel Chossudovsky) or the exposure of the illegal lobbying by Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress to invade Iraq (see also my bio on wanted felon Ahmed Chalabi – oil man in Baghdad).

The issue however, goes well beyond coverage of the occupation and extends into virtually every subject that is of importance.

Take for example, the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Again, this morning on BBC Radio 4’s News, the UN representative for refugees in the occupied territories was interviewed regarding the humanitarian “crisis” that confronts the Palestinian people. In spite of the fact that the spokesperson for the UN dealt only with the facts of the results of the occupation, the BBC felt (and always does feel) it necessary to have the Israeli perspective on the issue by interviewing the acting Israeli ambassador to the UK, who spoke not of the conditions of the Palestinians but of ‘terrorist’ actions. This is meant to be ‘balanced’ coverage of events? Rather, it represents the fact that anything that criticises Israeli actions is considered “anti-Semitic” and has to be ‘balanced’ by the Israeli view. But where was the Palestinian view (or for that matter, where was the Iraqi view regarding events in Fallujah)?

More generally, state/corporate news coverage of events of any significance follows the same practice. Take for example the issue of immigration that has – by virtue of incessant media coverage of what is essentially a non-event – become a national obsession, whipping up xenophobic hysteria that this island nation is going to be overrun by ‘dirty, thieving Gyppos’, laggardly East Europeans and other fellow spongers who come here, conveniently fall ill upon arrival and exploit our ‘free’ national health service, and then move into our virtually non-existent public housing stock and steal all the jobs considered too demeaning for ‘real’ Brits to do. Moreover, ‘Thug’ Blunkett’s conflation of the ‘war on terror’ with that of ‘asylum seekers’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ has clouded the issue completely making rational debate all but impossible.

Yet what are the facts? Britain’s ageing (mostly white) population has led to a severe shortage of labour (compounded by the antediluvian British attitude to anyone over the age of 40 being considered unemployable). It ignores the fact that Brits leave this decrepid country in their droves and ‘steal’ housing that as a result is now beyond the price of the locals of other countries to buy. It is discriminatory as we don’t see the media getting worked up over the French, Germans, Italians, Spanish et al who have ‘taken advantage’ of British largesse being demonised the way Poles, Czechs etc are currently being treated.

Most importantly, regardless of the position taken by the media on the issue of immigration, it is the mere fact that they choose to regard the issue as major ‘news’ that is crucial, and here they take the lead from the government that has chosen to make it an issue for its own, devious and divisive political agenda.

It is instructive note that the government have played a sly game of ‘newsspeak’ by on the one hand, ‘welcoming’ immigrants and on the other being complicit with the more rabid elements of the mass media with its talk of ‘swamping’ our schools or the ID card propaganda war, falsely alleging that ID cards will, in one fell swoop solve the problems of organised crime, terrorism, exploitation of the benefits system, housing, jobs, education, you name it. The only thing missing is the allegation that ‘they’ are stealing our fair-haired daughters.

Yet according to a leading expert on the issue, there’s not a single country in the world that has managed to make even a crude version of a national ID system do any of the things it’s meant to do:

“It won’t work. It won’t make us more secure. In fact, everything I’ve learnt about security over the past twenty years tells me that a national ID card programme will make us less secure.”
Bruce Schneier, American security technology expert.

Schneier tells us that cards can be forged, false ones acquired, officials bribed but perhaps most important of all, because the entire scam depends on the use of identity documents that can also be forged or stolen, ‘Thug’ Blunkett’s ‘clean’ database will be compromised from the getgo. Blunkett’s bollocks about a ‘clean database’ is pure dissembling as there is no such thing (ask anyone who has tried to get their credit history to reflect their real status).

The one question the media fails to ask in the light of all we know not only about such schemes but also virtually all of the current databases owned by the government, none of which work as intended, what is the real purpose of a national ID database, for surely Blunkett knows that it will never work the way he claims it will?

For it assumes a benign government that has the interests of its citizens at heart, yet already we know how the Anti-Terrorism Act has been used to terrorise citizens exercising their (former) right to protest. The occasional bleatings from the ‘liberal’ media hardly constitute a challenge to the ongoing construction of the corporate security state, nor the regular statements of impending terrorist doom that come to nothing, that the media dutifully and uncritically report with tedious regularity.

Given what we already know about the use of surveillance and the creation of secret police databases on the populace, it is clear that the prime objective is to keep tags on and suppress dissent, ultimately of any kind. One would have to be extremely naïve in the light of the experience of history to assume anything else. Even before the creation of the current hysteria about terrorists, there are innumerable examples of the state spying on its citizens including the use of agent provocateurs, over the past thirty years and beyond. What makes you think anything has changed except for the worse?

The current situation is made all the more dangerous by the fact that the population has lost all trust in government and hence the government has lost the one thing that keeps the entire structure in place, it’s claim to legitimacy. Take this away and what you have is an instrument of repression that has only one objective, the protection of the state and the state’s machinery of control in which the BBC plays such a key role.

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