Written Dec. 5, 2004
When the media manages us
The medium is the message."
-Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980)
Everyday, when we watch the day's news, listen to the hourly update, or read the nearest scandal sheet, we are being managed by the nation's powerful media machines.
Some of us, who believe we are well-informed, will doubtless dispute that claim, and point, perhaps, to the number of papers we read, or the number of news shows we watch, as proof that we consume a wide range of news, and therefore are able to escape the claws of the news managers.
Perhaps they are right. Let us see. I'll bet that it is rare for most of us to see, or hear, or read of the continuing Iraq War as an "occupation." We also rarely hear about Iraqi fighters against this occupation as anything but "terrorists, or perhaps, "insurgents."
Indeed, the very words "Iraq War" are rarely used, at least in the present tense, for, according to the bought-and-sold voices in the corporate press, the war is over, for hasn't the Grand Lord Emperor, George W., so decreed it? And, lo and behold, like the meanest serf in feudal Saxony, like scribes to ancient princes<\m>voila!<\m>so be it. It is fact. It matters little that, if deaths, of either Iraqis or even Americans count, the war, a guerrilla war, rages in a dozen cities in Iraq.
The media manages us with words; like coalition forces, like terrorist, and finally, and perhaps most fatally, like democracy.
Not since the Vietnam War have we seen such myth-making by the media, for did they not then try to spin the web of democracy over the eyes and minds of millions? Did they not then proffer assorted imported toadies to act as presidents and prime ministers, that the Vietnamese people regarded as strangers and, worse, traitors?
Only in the rare, underground and radical press could those truths be spoken, for the major dailies, the three big networks (back then, there were only three), and corporate radio told the government's side of the story. And that story was a lie.
Americans weren't told that it was a People's War; that everyone from children in the villages, to prostitutes in the hootches, to guerrillas in the jungles, to intellectuals in the cities, was waging a war against the Yankee foreigners, as they had waged against the French colonialists a generation before, and the imperial Chinese centuries before. They were people who fought for their own country against the U.S., and those the U.S. imposed. They were fighting for the right to decide for themselves what kind of government would rule.
The Big Secret today is that, increasingly, the same thing is happening in Iraq. It's not exactly the same. It never is.
They know that the freedom promised by the Americans and the British isn't their freedom. And they know, all too well, that Americans don't give a hot damn about them; they have seen the pictures from Abu Ghraib (and perhaps, hundreds more that the U.S. government and American press hasn't allowed you to see!). They know, in their guts, that the Anglo-American objective is the black crude that courses below their dry earth.
They know that the [Ahmed] Chalabis, and the [Ghazi] Al-Yawers have sold themselves to the CIA or MI6, and are there to sell the wealth of the nation. But most Americans don't know, and don't want to know.
Americans are fighting for freedom. Uh-huh...
It is their corporate, sell-out media that is responsible for these public illusions. They have betrayed their craft as journalists, and signed on, to the highest bidder, like slaves, who sell their faces and their words, to power.
Luckily, as in the 60s, there exists a growing alternative media, that is performing its function, and driving the big TV and cable networks into irrelevancy. May it only grow.
This column may be reprinted and/or distributed by electronic means, but only for non-commercial use, and only with the inclusion of the following copyright information: Text (c) copyright 2004 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of 4 books:
WE WANT FREEDOM: 'A Life in the Black Panther Party'; 'Live from Death Row'; 'Death Blossoms';, and 'All Things
Write to Mumia directly at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal AM 8335
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370