Created on Thursday, 29 March 2007 07:43
Written by William Bowles
Us and Them
by William Bowles
We are so used to the ruling political class making decisions â€˜for usâ€™ that we forget that they exist and act only because we allow them to. We allow it because we think that once elected, our representatives will act in our best interests. And because â€˜we electâ€™ them every so oftenâ€”itself an illusion produced by the illusion that once elected, they â€˜representâ€™ usâ€”our involvement in the political process ends.
This relationship between â€˜us and themâ€™ is essentially a one-way-street with the ruling political class invariably telling us that whatever they do, they do in â€˜ourâ€™ interests or the â€˜interests of the stateâ€™, the assumption being that the stateâ€™s interests and our own are the same. They call it a social contract, or at least they used to, before Thatcher did her best to tear it up with her â€œThereâ€™s no such thing as societyâ€ bullshit.
Without a popular mandate it explains why we invariably have
to be persuaded to â€˜supportâ€™ our governmentâ€™s actions through the only
outlet we have, one that exists in the â€˜Looking-glassâ€™ world of the
media itself, whereby â€˜opinion pollsâ€™ of various sorts, are used to
reinforce an interpretation of the world that has already been created
by the â€˜newsâ€™ in the first place.
But itâ€™s not only â€˜opinionâ€™
polls, itâ€™s the very nature of â€˜newsâ€™ coverage itself. The way it works
is so obvious it verges on the ludicrous, yet it works as the reams of
analysis of state/corporate news coverage reveals.
nuclear threat posed by Iran is a case in point with all the news
coverage starting from the position that Iran is lying or covering up
something, thus the central thrust of the â€˜newsâ€™ operates from the
position that the Iranian government has to â€˜proveâ€™ that it isnâ€™t
developing nuclear weapons.
Firstly, virtually all news of
Iranâ€™s â€˜intentionsâ€™ originates with the government or other
state-sponsored structures such as the IAEA, it is not necessary to
state categorically that Iran is actually developing nuclear weapons,
merely to repeat ad infinitum that it could be and secondly, as the
accompanying propaganda continually asserts, that the Iranian
government lies, then denials by the Iranians are worthless, thus itâ€™s
not necessary to prove that Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons,
merely that because the Iranian government lies, everything it says is
The third component of the propaganda process is the
â€˜threatâ€™ posed by the Iranians, but what is it based upon? Iran has
never attacked any other country, nor threatened to do so. The only
â€˜evidenceâ€™ are the statements made about Israel, which by themselves
mean nothing. There is no accompanying evidence that Iran is planning
to attack Israel or any other country.
The fourth element is the
nature of Iranâ€™s nuclear programme, uranium enrichment, which as a
signatory to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty it has every right to
do, just as other countries, also signatories to the NPT, also carry
Thus we have four central elements to the major mediaâ€™s propaganda war:
major media coverage of Iran originates initially from government
sources (which, because itâ€™s the state, â€˜ourâ€™ state making them, are
assumed by the media to be truthful);
The Iranian government lies, thus it cannot be trusted (again, this assertion originates with the state);
Iran is a threat to its neighbours, or more precisely to Israel, based on the statements of a single individual;
refuses to halt its legal right to pursue its uranium enrichment
programme, acknowledged on occasion but because itâ€™s already been
â€˜provedâ€™ that the Iranian government lies, then itâ€™s using the cover of
being a signatory to the NPT to develop nuclear weapons.
these processes are in play all that is necessary is to maintain a
daily flow of â€˜newsâ€™ stories that reinforce the four elements and how
they interact. Iran is in the unenviable position of trying to prove a
negative as itâ€™s been â€˜provedâ€™ that it lies, so short of dismantling
its nuclear programme, it cannot possibly do.
Thus the â€˜newsâ€™
becomes a self-referential system, a closed world if you like, that
creates a world view closely aligned to that of the ruling political
class. And itâ€™s the only one most of us ever see, at least on a
continuous basis, 24/7.
The problem of course is that â€˜ourâ€™
government is not trusted. It lied to us about Iraq, inventing reasons
to justify the invasion and indeed, youâ€™d be hard-pressed to find any
topic that the government is truthful about, from our National Health
Service to our education system.
The role that the major media
play is therefore crucial, as any trust that existed between the people
and the state has all but disintegrated, so itâ€™s up to the media to
convince us that government policies are not only correct but in our
interests to support.
This can only be done by excluding any
views that run contrary to the prevailing interpretation of events. An
interesting example of this is the arrest of the 15 British Navy
personnel last week. Predictably, the British government asserted that
its forces were in international waters and predictably too, the
Iranian government insisted that they were arrested on Iranian
Now as itâ€™s already been established that the Iranian
government lies, the British government had little or no convincing to
do, it relied on the media to disseminate its position and do it
without fear of contradiction.
But as the days passed, it became
clear that all was not as it seems firstly because the area in question
is â€˜contested terrainâ€™, with the Iranian government stating that its
12-mile territorial waters begin at the end of its land which just
happens to be mud flats that are daily covered as the tide ebbs and
flows. So the first question to be asked is exactly where does Iranâ€™s
12-mile territorial limit begin?
Moreover, the area in question
is not covered by any international treaty (which is not what initial
media reports were stating, in fact the BBC was flatly stating that the
area where the Navy personnel were detained was covered by a 1975
treaty between Iran and Iraq). Again, it was merely aping government
handouts rather than doing its own independent investigation.
the co-ordinates wouldnâ€™t necessarily help us as there is no formally
agreed boundary â€¦ It isnâ€™t clear the incident happened off the water of
Shatt al-Arab. We are talking about territorial waters beyond.â€¦ Iran
and Iraq have never agreed a boundary of their territorial waters.
There is no legal definition of the boundary beyond the Shatt al-Arab.â€
â€” Richard Schofield, an expert in international boundaries at Kingâ€™s
Then we had the embarrassing statement by a
high-ranking Iraqi government official that questioned the British
governmentâ€™s statement about the location of its personnel, forcing it
to agree to make public GPS data (not that it proves anything one way
or the other as Schofield states).
â€œThe British Government has
published a map showing the coordinates of the incident, well within an
Iran/Iraq maritime border. The mainstream media and even the
blogosphere has bought this hook, line and sinker.
â€œBut there are two colossal problems.
The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map
does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government. Only
Iraq and Iran can agree their bilateral boundary, and they never have
done this in the Gulf, only inside the Shatt because there it is the
land border too. This published boundary is a fake with no legal force.
Accepting the British coordinates for the position of both HMS Cornwall
and the incident, both were closer to Iranian land than Iraqi land. Go
on, print out the map and measure it. Which underlines the point that
the British produced border is not a reliable one.
None of which
changes the fact that the Iranians, having made their point, should
have handed back the captives immediately. I pray they do so before
this thing spirals out of control. But by producing a fake map of the
Iran/Iraq boundary, notably unfavourable to Iran, we can only harden
the Iranian position.â€â€” â€˜Fake Maritime Boundariesâ€™, Craig Murray, March
Several things should make us suspicious of British
government statements. Firstly, thereâ€™s the timing, just before the
crucial UNSEC vote on sanctions. Second, thereâ€™s the actual location of
the alleged intrusion which according to a report on BBC 2 late night
news programme on the 27 March, was not one normally frequented by the
British navy (perhaps precisely because the actual territorial limit
was contested or not established?).
When placed in the larger
context of the threats being made by the US (which now has the largest
assembly of Naval forces in the Persian Gulf since just before the
invasion of Iraq), it has all the hallmarks of a provocation designed
to increase tensions.
Tony Blair has now upped the ante by
making unspecified threats stating that unless those arrested are
released now, the situation would â€œenter a different phaseâ€.
expect [Blair] means that we shall have to step up criticism and
generate additional international pressures on Iranâ€ â€” Sir Richard
Dalton, former ambassador to Iran
Underlying all the media
coverage of the incident is the assumption that whatever the British
government says is, per se, the truth. Nothing must be allowed to
question this fundamental assumption, yet the overwhelming evidence
available to us is that the British government lies and has done so for
many decades. Thus surely the mediaâ€™s role should be one of skepticism
when it comes to government statements, yet it invariably accepts
government media statements at face value (even when contrary
information is freely available).
Built into the relationship
between the state and the mediaâ€”which although allowing a degree of
questioningâ€”is an unstated symbiosis that reinforces and importantly,
reinterprets for public consumption, basic government policy positions.
As many have pointed out, this is shown to be true, for example over
the reasons given for the invasion of Iraq which some of the mainstream
media finally conceded may have been a â€œmistakeâ€ but even here, you
will not find one instance where the MSM has accused the government of
Thus although conceding that invading Iraq might have
been a â€˜mistakeâ€™, the fundamental honesty of the government is not
questioned, for to do so would open a hornetâ€™s nest, something that is
simply not permissible, for it weould reveal just how fragile is the
relationship between the state and the people, for it depends on the
majority of us if not believing in, then at least acceding to
Were the media to actually do the job it
claims to do then there could be no basis for any kind of â€˜contractâ€™
between the state and its citizens as any investigation of the
governmentâ€™s actions would reveal duplicity and lies on a grand scale.
The mass mediaâ€™s role therefore is revealed as one which props up and
maintains the status quo, for although the state does not exclusively
represent big business (of which the mass media is an integral part),
both the state and the media ultimately defend the interests of capital
especially when it is threatened.
As I have pointed out before,
when USUK invaded Iraq in 2003, any attempt at linking oil to the
invasion was immediately dismissed as the ravings of â€œconspiracistsâ€ by
the MSM including the â€˜liberalâ€™ media. You have to ask yourself why
such a fundamental aspect of Western foreign policy for the past one
hundred years should get such short shrift? Even defenders of Western
capitalism admit to its centrality albeit using a different
description, calling it â€œenergy securityâ€ or more vaguely, the
The reason is obvious because to admit that
oil was a major determinant of the US/UK invasion of Iraq would
undermine the carefully constructed story woven around not only around
the invasion but UK and US foreign policies in general.
for these reasons I believe that complaining to the BBC or the
corporate media is a fruitless endeavour, for there is no way they will
admit to their real role in society, itâ€™s simply not permissible. We
need only look at the stateâ€™s reaction to the Gilligan/Kelly fiasco, a
single chink in the armor of propaganda and all hell broke lose! The
top managers of the BBC were fired almost instantaneously and
henceforth news coverage of the invasion toed the government line,
almost without exception. The transformation was startling and occurred
literally overnight. New â€˜newsâ€™ editors were brought in and no doubt
the peons had the â€˜lawâ€™ laid down to them about what they could and
could not say.
The solution? Seek and ye shall find as they say.
Finding out whatâ€™s really going on is an active process, it means
developing oneâ€™s critical abilities. Question everything. The real
storyâ€™s out there, it has been well documented and analysed up the
yazoo, so we donâ€™t need the BBC or the corporate press to tell us
whatâ€™s going on in the world or why.
This essay is archived at http://williambowles.info/ini/2007/0307/ini-0479.html