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September 28, 2005

Iraq War, Two Happenings

And Weren't Any Big Deal On TV

I don't own a television. It's not only that I find the content shallow and annoying. I don't like the effect it has of externalizing thoughts and attention, turning minds into passive receivers progressively more dependent on what's fed in from the outside, to the steady erosion of their own internal powers of exercising judgment and arriving at their own conclusions. I also don't like the transparent ways in which it seeks to regulate beliefs and behavior by the use of stereotypes and image manipulation. When this came up in conversation in a local pub not long ago, someone told me in a rather superior and sneering kind of way that he liked knowing "what goes on in the world." It turned out that this vista of perception amounted to a staple diet of soccer matches--the European working-class religion--and nightly preselected items from the world's affairs that others thought he should be suitably schooled in, reduced to the depth and quality of bumper stickers. The fascinating thing was not so much that he never questioned any of this daily programming (pun unintended, but not bad so I'll let it stand); he was unable to conceive even that it might be questionable.

So it was with some interest that I came across an article entitled "War? What War? US Media A National Disaster" by Douglas Herman, posted on Jeff Rense's news site. It begins:

If you checked the National News anywhere on Sunday, you might not have known the largest antiwar protest occurred Saturday, the largest since before the war. Instead you saw endless footage of water soaked Texas streets and the levees of New Orleans. War? What war; we have standing water in the street!
If ever you doubted the collusion of the mainstream TV media with the imperial designs of the state, Sunday's curious omission of the Washington DC antiwar protest cemented the fact. The state, and the state-saturated media, spins the news. So apparently there was a big anti-war, lots of people came, but many of the public weren't told--at least, not by the major US TV media. So for the benefit of visitors who might have missed it and would be curious to learn more, here are some examples I found of how it's was covered elsewhere.

"Thousands Protest Iraq War, Globalization" More than 100,000 protesters flooded Washington on Saturday to stage dual demonstrations against the U.S.-led war in Iraq and economic globalization . . . .
-- Reuters

"Anti-War Fervor Fills The Streets" Tens of thousands of people packed downtown Washington yesterday and marched past the White House in the largest show of antiwar sentiment in the nation's capital since the conflict in Iraq began. . . .
-- Truthout (Reproduced from Washington Post)

"Anti-War Rally Held In Washington" Organisers said they were expecting 100,000 to turn out for the 11-hour rally, march and concert near the White House and Washington Monument. . . .
-- BBC News

An assortment of 11 more headlines are linked from the Home Page of www.antiwar.com including:
-- "Thousands March In Europe Against Iraq War"
-- "London: Thousands March To Demand Iraq Withdrawals"
-- "Tens Of Thousands Across California Protest Iraq War"
-- "Thousands Of War Protesters Take To Seattle Streets"

But as far as mainstream TV was concerned, rain-soaked Texas streets were more newsworthy.

In case this is starting to sound like an anti-American gloat, I hasten to add that things this side of the pond seem not that much different. I posted a piece recently on how the major Irish media downplay the disgrace of permitting military use of Shannon Airport.

An oddity that has struck me about many of the various "terrorist" outrages we've read about over the years is that the alleged perpetrators consistently lose in sympathy, support, image, and just about every other way conceivable, while the people who gain are invariably their opponents. A strange way to advance a cause, one would think.

This week we had the strange story of two British undercover SAS soldiers dressed as Arabs arrested in Basra after acting suspiciously. It turned out that "acting suspiciously" included opening fire on the Iraqi police who challenged them, killing one. They were later sprung from the jail by a British military storming force employing somewhere around 8 tanks backed by helicopters, in the process of which the building was destroyed and a number of people died. A bit of an over-reaction, especially from the supposedly so phlegmatic and unflappable Brits? Why would it be so important to prevent two undercover operatives being properly interrogated and brought before a court?

Then I came across an account of a Reuters report headed Soldiers Driving Booby-Trapped Car according to which, quoting Arab and Iraqi sources, the car the two were driving was packed with explosives and rigged to be detonated. Looking around further yielded

When I asked around locally how much of this had appeared in the British and Irish mainstream news, I was greeted with amazement. Apparently the version being dispensed was that the two SAS soldiers were on a routine "intelligence-gathering" mission vaguely described as "blending in" and "watching what's about in the streets." Nobody had heard any mention of their car being rigged as a bomb, or of an Iraqi policeman being shot dead. The slant seemed to be more along the lines of a gallant rescue operation to save comrades in arms from the clutches of a smelly, unwashed Arab mob that had got out of hand.

A revealing article by journalist John Pilger entitled Sinister Events in a Cynical War in the New Statesman, September 28, 2005, discloses among other things that although reported initially by the British Times and Mail, all mention of explosives quickly vanished from the news.

I'm not presuming to judge what's true and what isn't, because I don't know. But if it qualifies as news that such things are widely being said and believed, then those who are trusted to inform on "what goes on in the world" aren't doing so. Only if people are aware of what is being said can they think about it, debate it, and start asking the right questions. The grounding won't come from soccer games, sitcoms, tone-deaf adolescents, and parades of half-wits bemoaning their headaches, indigestion, dandruff, bad breath, and hemorrhoids.

Note Added 20 Oct 2005
Jeffrey Richman has drawn my attention to a photo posted on Yahoo News here which shows the collection of weapons and equipment said by the Iraqi police to have been confiscated from the two SAS agents. The point that Jeffrey makes is that the sheer amount of hardware makes the story of undercover bomb-planting hard to accept. Such an armory would hardly be carried only to be left behind--especially if the intention was to implicate Arabs. On the other hand, who in their right mind would expect to escape with it?

I said in the original post that the purpose was to encourage people to not just accept passively, but to ask questions. Well, here's somebody who does just that, and the answer he came up with.
End Note Added

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