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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Surge Myth Busted; Spotlight on the Media

Interpress Service reports the reality that the surge isn't working in its article titled "Despite Huge Media Campaign, Facts Show Massive Failure in Iraq."

The choice of title is important is separating the content from mass produced, perception-managed gunk from the MSM. The writers at Interpress are 1) honest and 2) not beholden to editorial oversight like that seen in all branches of mainstream media. Dahr Jamail, co-author of the Interpress article alongside Ali al-Fadhily, was the only unembedded American reporter in the entirety of Iraq for an extended period which included the rape of Fallujah circa 2004.

Good follow-up reporting, abandoned in entirety by the MSM, from Jamail reflects his true passion for honesty--keeping the story in a place close to the heart, for both his subjects and his readers. Jamail's perspective has generated fantastic original content about Iraq, much of which violated in its entirety the government's "we are winning" myth long before Olbermann and others dared challenge the status quo.

Watchers of the media aren't surprised by the wholesale sell-out to officialdom by the Mainstream Media since 9/11. Trying to get away with what it could in the wake of that event, the Bush administration seized on Iraq invasion plans that neocons had been itching to use. Looking at the consequences of being mired in Iraq (for up to 100 years apparently), the public needs to scutinize Big Media's relationship with the President and his closest advisers. The neocon's witchcraft needs to be exorcised out of the system. Neocon villains must be brought forth to hang in the public square in order to properly end the Iraq failure, ~the end~.

The inability--or is it unwillingness--of the media to question Bush's countless lies about WMD in Iraq was the precedent for the present abuse of the public trust in establishing the premise that a surge has worked. The cozy relationship between government and the mainstream media offers plenty of precedent.

We saw in the Plame Outing the consequence of intermingling by press people like Judith Miller (and her editors who were at a minimum extremely careless with their management of the facts) with her "trees-in-Aspen" confidante Scooter Libby. Cheney's chief of staff, now disbarred, Libby had been part of a White House Iraq Group headed by Cheney which sought to talk up the threat posed by Iraq.

Eager to defend the administration from Joe Wilson's criticism in his famous op-ed, Bob Novak outed Plame after being encouraged to believe Plame's husband Joe Wilson had been sent on a junket to discredit Bush's famous sixteen words about yellowcake in Niger. The statement which had been allowed to bypass advanced screening by the CIA, a traditional responsibility of theirs which had been applied to all previous State of the Union addresses. (This breach of protocol might have led Novak to believe that the CIA sought revenge by discrediting the administration's case for war, by sending Wilson to Niger to discredit the claims.)

Why is the Plame story so important today? Because it demonstrates a pattern of media/government complicity in the distribution of lies (not called that but instead faulty intelligence, propaganda, etc.) that continue to this day. Plame need not have been outed but for the willful manipulation by White House insiders Richard Armitage and Scooter Libby, who fed "false intelligence" to Judith Miller, whose stories on Iraq WMD routinely made their way to the front page of the NYT. Miller's assertions were neither fact-checked nor scrutinized, despite their obvious value in serving the Administration's cause in spreading the WMD lie, nor to this day has the NYT issued an extraction.

By 2004, a dubious alliance between mainstream press and their mogul managers with strong ties to the GOP had cemented. The result was the continuation of government-directed myths and propaganda into the stream of media reporting. The official myths were better propagated through changes in FCC ownership rules which gave Media owners what they wanted. In return, the limited media channels would order their employees to go soft on Bush, particularly in regard to Iraq, through the '04 Election.

Coincidentally, CBS/Viacom, a major winner in the consolidation wars, held off on a 60 Minutes episode exposing Bush's National Guard Service on the grounds the story would prejudice voters too close to the Election. MSNBC's Olberman, a somewhat late arrival to the now fairly common crowd of Bush-bashers, only really sank his teeth in after Bush had taken Ohio.

The pattern of media-government complicity is well documented during the Cold War, when the CIA and Pentagon actively produced news meant for direct consumption by the American public, called Operation Cointelpro. So sophisticated was the operation that the government controlled entire magazines and reputable media people as conduits for their propaganda.

It's the quid pro quo between Big Media and the Presidency that should disturb Americans who are concerned with the truth, as it has allowed the confidence of millions of Americans in their country and President to become built upon a web of deceit and lies. The media is a huge player in preserving the vitality of any functioning democracy. When lies become truth, the trust Americans have in their government erodes, and we see serious damage to the national psyche, not at all unlike the period after Vietnam.

At some point even the Mainstream Media has to report the truth, as they did when the Tet offensive in 1968 showed clearly the strength of the Viet Cong throughout Vietnam. No lie can go on forever without being contested. Nazi propagandist Goebbels said that propaganda needed to be composed of truth, at least in part, to be effective.

As in the early portions of the Korea and Vietnam interventions, the MSM was inclined to make announcements of progress. Yet in the present case, the corner may have been turned, a corner which reflects historical precedent and war fatigue.

Back to Iraq

The Iraq War has reached the point where no lie can shroud the powder keg. The bodies have piled up to the point no coverage can avoid confronting the true scale of the destruction and the neverending flow of dead Americans for what are dubious results at best.

The absence of transparency paralles the absence of accountability for the war, and getting us into this mess. How many more years before supporters of the war will answer for the failures of their policies? The reality--as I'm sure Bush and the war's architects knew all along--is that they'd be gone long before the 10-year period--given by self-proclaimed "experts" as the minimum time frame required to defeat the insurgency--had elapsed. How convenient.

A Reuters reports 933 civilians killed in March in Iraq, "up 31% from February and the dealiest month since August 2007." (source.)

The MSM reporting does introduce a spin that suggests the surge's failure is a surprise. The Reuters article goes on:
"The figures are a blow to the Iraqi government and the United States, which have pointed to reduced overall levels of violence in recent months as evidence that a major security offensive has made significant progress."

My translation--backed by facts which have appeared in countless alternative media for months--is that the surge has not worked. This fundamental truth is only controversial to the talking heads and gurus of corporate media who've passed on the lies of our own government about the surge.

For those who've embraced the facts, the success of the surge was a myth. The shattering of the surge myth is neither news nor newsworthy except among those who've sustained the lie, and the dwindling number of people who actually believe what they see on their TV screens. While average Americans once appeared willing to believe what their commmander-in-chief has told them, the War President's announcements of impending victory have increasingly been washed out by economic concerns and rising gas prices.

I did see Bush talk in Romania on April 1st and he sounded quite convincing, though I was not swayed. It's hard not be impressed with how logical he sounds. Whatever perception management and media massaging Bush can do, he cannot hide his failures in Iraq.

Bush made the NATO effort in Afghanistan and Iraq seem gallant. Truly amazing in their hypocrisy were his ruminations about saving innocent Afghan and Iraqi civilians from evil terrorists who Bush claims are still out there, eager to attack cities in Europe or North America. Nowhere in Bush's self-sanctifying, war-glorifying speech was there any mention of the possibility of failure. Contrary to being peacekeepers and life-savers, military operations by NATO members are actually the greatest cause of suffering and loss of life Iraq and Afghanistan. How long can this metric be dismissed? Without winning the hearts and minds, no counterinsurgency can succeed.

Why the Pro-Government Spin?

Many employees of the MSM companies who've been responsible for passing on the surge success myth are well aware of the failure of the surge. The issue therefore so troubling is why those responsible for one of the three pillars of democracy has chosen to pass on falsehood as fact. This media hypocrisy demonstrates a willingness to disregard the truth. Perhaps more than blaming the individual writers and reporters, the chief focus needs to be the upper levels of media companies--managements and directors--yet these are same people who can blacklist any would-be detractor in the media field.

Owners of the media companies should be concerned about federal influence over their content. Virtually all major newspapers have seen massive drop-offs in viewership and readership, which may or may not be the result of weakened content. Most news items on TV are offered as if they were food items in a buffet or a row of shoes in a shop, to be chosen or ignored at the whim of typical viewer with the attention span of a bat.

People are moving to the web, following the news junkies and techies who for years have known it to be the preminent source of information. Today's mainstream media is .

Judging by the extent of media consolidation, newsrooms have suffered as they've been turned into profit centers as they run the quarterly race for earnings, each divisions of the parent conglomerate challenged to produce endless growing buckets of money. {I attribute most of my understanding of corporatization and consolidation trends I first learned in a University of Illinois conference back in 2005, offered by McChesney and the freepress people, who're back in the news here, in Ben Scott's fight for Internet neutrality. I wrote an article on the 2005 event.}

Much of the media changes can be explained by the drive toward profitability by the parent companies. Eager not to alienate potential advertizers, corporate media entities have tried to tone down the intensity of their news divisions. In the end the news is simply dumbed down, dumbed-down, offered as entertainment product designed to accelerate sales of books, music, and movies offered by associated business groups. Fewer people watch, and those that do are more likely to be stimulated by lower impulses, which by no coincidence generate consumption of the media conglomerate brand and its commercial sponsors.

I'm no analyst of the newspaper market, but it takes no genius to see reports of shrinking prescription bases, with their ultimately economic consequences. I'll advance the hypothesis that the failure of the media to perform its traditional responsibility has led to its diminished profitability. The news isn't doing what it must, what it needs to do in order to entertain, in its traditional way.

Where is the grinding and gnashing of teeth by shady executives cold-sweating a 60 Minutes session? How many of us have gone to sleep with a schadenfreude smile on our lips thinking about some corporate scheister exposed by some prodding journalist? I for one would greatly enjoy news that's willing to challenge the status quo. I don't see how news directors can provide satisfying content by obeying corporate dictates from management. Maybe this flaccid approach to confronting the powerful has denied American media the greatest source of its popular appeal: its fearlessness. Just going along with what the government tells us is scarcely different from accepting the obvious lies of some Faslow/Kozlowski-type of greedy executive that virtually everybody in America wants to see cruxified on the media. As a matter of fact, there might well be far fewer Enrons and Tycos if the media took to heart their absolutely vital role as cruxifiers of greedy middle-aged white men whose humiliation in the public square we all savor underneath it all.

Consolidation has played into the hands of very Republican and even more significantly, pro-Zionist media moguls. Just as managerial control over the newsroom peaked as company swallowed company, control by stalwart partisan negated negative coverage of Bush and the wars he started. The goal of media ownership by the Right is clearly to enable the agenda of the Right by shaping public perception.

I've mentioned in the past the war profiteering element which motivates companies like GE to seek billions in contracts from Iraq. I guess it's therefore it should come as no surprsie then that Jack Welch was a major George Bush supporter and his network fired Phil Donahue just before the war.

As the Plame Outing did to the intelligence community, the Donahue firing sent a message industry-wide that the brass were not going to tolerate any insubordination. Truth and objectivity were the first casualties of the Iraq War-media coverage suffered as a result. While unprecedented levels of transparency were achieved through embeds and 24/7 updates, the real quality of reporting suffered. At some point subsequent to the invasion, self-censorship began to be exercised, so that negative coverage could be curtailed and the illusion of success perpetuated through uncontested facts and propaganda.

Into the present the consistent pro-war bias has marched. Media consolidation has continued, which has meant more control and power for the few. This is a typical pattern for capitalists dear to Bush and his system of crony capitalism which dispenses huge sums in government contracts to friends who share his political philosophy. In short, our government is being looted by these capitalists-par-excellence, who've evolved the office of the President into one huge funnel for enrichment of those nearest and dearest.

Ironically, the media moguls have sacrificed the profitability of their companies by dumbing down the news and converting it into infotainment. A rebound in viewer-/readership is vital to sustaining the industry, but it may already be too late for people who've fled the MSM for the internet. It's really too bad the public doesn't want to learn more, but the dumbing down of the news may be the major cause of long-standing ignorance.

At the very least, introducing more truth to the MSM networks would help build back public confidence, an essential element if the media is to do its duty in our democracy. While many newspapers are transitioning to webspace, they bring with them the diminished credibility of their parent companies. Rather than resemble a standard for quality, MSM brands have become liabilities as more and more Americans are turned off by the disconnect between what they see on TV and in their papers and the actual results in Iraq. The MSM does provide invaluable resources but with them come increased uncertainty in the veracity of the content.

The recent destruction of the myth of the successful surge is but one of many dispellings of government misrepresentations echoed by the mainstream media. For those who've chosen to find the truth, despite its potential for dreaded unhappiness, the news presented by the mainstream is quickly debunked as nothing more than what the government wants said, unconditionally. Increasingly the exercise of pre-judgment can lead to instant dismissal of the news by virtue of its source. It's simply easier to believe a Dahr Ismail than a news division that has a well-established record of replaying the frothing half-truths and outright lies of our leaders as if they were uncontested facts issued from "On High"--beyond any scrutiny by mere mortals like you and me.

Wars can't be won by domestic perception management alone. They slink and slither to and fro, subject to the many whims and forces affecting any major geopolitical event. Succeed as it might in controlling the bulk of media content in the early days of the war, the government is losing its ability to determine what is said about the state of war. In this regard, we've reached the "Tet moment" were the patent falsehoods of our government's assertions have been shattered by the equivalent of guerillas emerging in major urban areas, striking the Green Zone, just like the Viet Cong did to our embassy in '68, fighting pitched battles in the streets, in places deemed safe and under "friendly" control.

We saw a similar pattern in Vietnam, where the mainstream media seemed particularly uncritical of the war up through the Tet offensive. Then Walter Cronkite's coverage was delivered into the homes of millions of Americans more or less uncut and with it any illusions of easy victory or progress. At that point, echoing propanda that the US intervention in Vietnam was successful would have contrasted idiotically with what any average America could have seen at the time simply by turning on their TVs.

Given a choice between believing what media and the government says and what unfolds in full view on a TV screen, I think virtually everyone would trust their eyes. This fear of exposing the lies and propaganda for what they really are has historically led governments down the path of censorship. Even successful military actions coverage is highly controlled, in a large part due to the transparency of Vietnam War coverage. Shaping media coverage is now considered a vital task in establishing "full spectrum dominance" over the "battlescape", to borrow the Pentagon's terminology.

The surge myth has ambled along more or less unmolested in the mainstream until the recent blow-up in Iraq revealed it to be the obvious lie it's always been. Whatever gains were made subsequent to the increase in US troops strength which began circa early 2007 could have been attributed to other reasons. One potential reason for the slowdown in violence was that Shia/Sunni ethnic cleansing had largely run its course. After most epic blood-lettings, there are simply too few left to kill for the killing to continue on forever. Likely any potential victims of ethnic cleansing have most likely fled if they "got the message" or gotten themselves killed, a stark choice indeed.

Well, our allies in control of the Iraqi government--those with whom we are committed to protect under a new long-term agreement--have found new people to kill. No longer is the onus on divisions between Sunni and Shia, but now al-Maliki wants to battle rival Shia in Basra who dare oppose him. I've read that the agreement which stopped the fighting was a major political defeat for the Iraqi Prime Minister.

The present deterioration in the security environment demonstrates whatever progress had been made as transient, if it ever existed. More likely everything said pertaining to the surge has been rhetorical in purpose--designed to convince Americans that we were achieving something by continuing to occupy Iraq. Well, we aren't.

If you believe the MSM, you need to start following the facts now instead, if you want the truth. It may just be easier to go along, but sooner or later the war's continuation will touch us all. I would hope Americans regret supporting the decision to go war, and have been affected by the war in their conscience at least.



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