Posted by: L | July 16, 2007

How Propaganda Works: By Erasing Context…

An article I wrote in 2005 on the Monthly Review website about how the liberal press (NY Times, in this case) and the neo-conservative press (National Review) BOTH rewrote the story of Abu Ghraib to make it fit the establishment agenda.

WHY?

BECAUSE IF YOU BLAME JUST THE LAWS, THEN YOU CAN CHANGE THEM BUT STILL KEEP THE POLITICAL CULTURE. THE PARTIES IN POWER CHANGE BUT THE POLICIES STAY THE SAME. WE ARGUE ABOUT DIFFERENT THINGS AND SEE DIFFERENT FACES ON OUR SCREEN BUT NOTHING CHANGES — THE STATE ONLY GETS BIGGER….AND BIGGER……AND BIGGER…

“The Failure of Liberal Journalism on Abu Ghraib
(November, 2005)

” Eliminate the real details of what went on at Abu Ghraib, substitute a handful of strangely artistic nudes, and it’s only too easy for the National Review to make its case that the chatter about legal memos is simply a Victorian swoon by liberals. This is exactly what [Rich}Lowry does……

…Andrew McCarthy is right in concluding in a January 2005 National Review article that Alberto Gonzales’ “position on this matter [of treatment of detainees from Al-Qaeda and the Taliban at Gitmo] is not a radical view.12 It’s America’s view.”

The right even claims that the 1977 Protocol I to the Conventions that protects non-state actors was simply a partisan addition tacked on by Democrats and that the national liberation movements they were meant to protect were simply terrorist organizations.

Given that, why would today’s resurgent right-wing embrace a legal doctrine championed by Democrats and rejected by their hero Reagan? Why should we expect any other outcome except the “promotion of the promoter of torture” as one conservative publication put it?13

Again, one cannot state too often that the law is part of the problem for conservatives (and for much of America) and that liberals who fail to see this becomes no more than unwitting co-conspirators with conservatives in the legitimizing of torture…………

As long as movements for political and economic liberation are characterized as terror and state terror is disguised in the language of liberation theology, Abu Ghraib is always going to be acceptable to an inflamed population as necessary to “security.” As long as state terror is unacknowledged or normalized or hidden in covert actions, violent acts by individuals can be exaggerated so that they seem to throw up a monstrous irrational shadow against which surveillance and espionage and their other face — torture — can be justified as the state’s rational response.

And it’s finally the political context of this state surveillance — the pervasive presence, both explicit and subliminal, of an infinite voyeurism  that replicates and circulates its power in every transaction in society — that permits and finally sanctions the pornographic violence of the state.

This is the context which is fragmented or erased altogether by the media. This is the context without which Abu Ghraib — and in Arabic, Abu Ghurayb means the father of the raven, a bird of ill-omen — becomes no more than isolated and senseless acts rather than what it is literally — a prefiguration of things, a dark messenger from the future, a sign of evil to come.

More here.

Related:

1 American Civil Liberties Union, “Government Documents on Torture” (records the government has released under court order in response to the ACLU’s FOIA request).

2 T. T. Reid, “Guard Convicted in the First Trial from Abu Ghraib,” Washington Post (15 January 2005).

3 Rich Lowry, “Thug at the Prison,” National Review (14 June 2004).

4 Anne Applebaum, “Does the Right Remember Abu Ghraib?” Washington Post (5 January 2005).

5 Lowry, op. cit.

6 T.R. Reid, “Case Against Soldier Is Presented: Two Ex-Detainees Describe Alleged Abuse at Prison in Iraq,” Washington Post (12 January 2005).

7 Lowry, op. cit.

8 Lowry, op. cit. Neil Lewis and Eric Schmitt, “Lawyers Decided Bans on Torture Didn’t Bind Bush,” New York Times (8 June 2004).

9 Neil Lewis and Eric Schmitt, “Lawyers Decided Bans on Torture Didn’t Bind Bush,” New York Times (8 June 2004).

10 “Action Memorandum from the General Counsel of the Department of Defense” (2 December 2002); see also “Memorandum for the General Counsel of the Department of Defense” (15 January 2003).

11 Rich Lowry, “Bring It On: the Real Gonzales Fight,” National Review (7 January 2005).

12 Andrew McCarthy, “Should We Make a Treaty with al Qaeda?” National Review (5 January 2005).

13 Lee A. Casey & David B. Rivkin Jr., “Gunning for Gonzales,” National Review (31 December 2004).

14 Co-authored with John Yoo, a Berkeley law professor.

15 Peter Brooks, “The Plain Meaning of Torture? Literary Deconstruction and the Bush Administration’s Legal Reasoning,” Slate (9 February 2005)

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