Orcinus proves his genius once again

Not that I ever doubted it. This time the world’s smartest blogger looks at our military’s PsyOps — psychological operations, and how they were applied to create illusions to keep us all behind the war, from the toppling of Saddam’s statue to — well, he can say it better than I can.

We have in fact known from even before the outset that the war against Iraq would prominently feature psychological warfare. Most people have assumed that this warfare would be directed against the enemy and the subject citizens. They have not stopped to consider that, by definition, it would also be directed toward the American public as well.

This reality raises a serious concern about the fragility of democracy during wartime. Because under the aegis of a seemingly eternal war, the American government has clearly been involving the public in its psychological combat, and has hijacked the nation’s press in the process. The entire meaning of the Iraq war — and by extension, the “war on terrorism” — is inextricably bound up in the psychological manipulation of the voting public through a relentless barrage of propaganda.

This is why the both the runup to the war and its subsequent mishandling have been so replete with highly symbolic media events — many of them played repeatedly on nightly newscasts — that have proven so hollow at their core, from the declarations of imminent threat from Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, to phony images of Saddam’s statue being torn down, to flyboy antics aboard aircraft carriers, to meaningless “handovers” of power. It also explains why certain important and humanizing symbols of wartime — civilian casualties, the returning flag-draped coffins — have been so notably absent from our views of the war.

The role of the media in this manipulation cannot be overstated. The abdication of the media’s role as an independent watchdog and its whole subsumation as a propaganda organ bodes ill for any democracy, because a well-informed public is vital to its functioning.

Brilliant. And it correlates perfectly with my post yesterday about America’s “gag rule” and the book of that name by Lewis H. Lapham. This is Lapham’s premise in action — not necessarily repression, but manipulation of the media resulting in its failure to hold the government to account. A malleable press is just another tool of the government, exactly what a free press is not supposed to be.

And the never-ending war is an invitation to endless meaningless photo ops and BS to keep us hypnotized, mesmerized, pacified in our contentment that things are going as promised. Never mind that it is a choreographed illusion. And the media know it.

Dave Neiwert (aka Orcinus) never fails to amaze me. You should make it a daily read. Or twice-daily.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

What was that quote from Orwell again? I found that so utterly terrifying for exactly the reasons Orcinus outlines here.

Please get these people out of power. I would vote against Bush if I could.

July 7, 2004 @ 7:41 pm | Comment

It’s quite amazing. Neiwert’s post proves Orwell’s point dramatically. An eternal war fueled by propaganda, guaranteed to keep those at the top in power.

July 7, 2004 @ 9:34 pm | Comment

“What was that quote from Orwell again?”

Was it this one?

“But there is a minority of
intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive
appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for
totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying
that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the
writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do
not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed
almost entirely against Britain and the United States”
-George Orwell-

July 7, 2004 @ 10:20 pm | Comment

I’m pretty sure that it’s this quotation from Nineteen Eighty-Four:

In accordance with the principles of double-think it does not matter if the war is not real. For when it is, victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won, but it is meant to be continuous. A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance, this new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia but to keep the very structure of society intact.

July 8, 2004 @ 3:06 am | Comment

Or, to put it a bit more concisely:




A fitting trio of slogans for a right-wing élite that believes that further unprovoked attacks against foreign countries will make the U.S. safer; that all of society’s ills could be cured by a return to Victorian morality; and that the Bible is the only textbook our schools really need.

July 8, 2004 @ 6:51 am | Comment

David, you’re right. Vaara, you’re right as well; both quotes apply. Shenzhen, wrong I’m afraid. There is a time for war and a time for peace. When Orwell was excoriating pacifists he had in mind those who would not stand up to oppressive tryrants. While he may have favored deposing Saddam, as did I, he would never have approved of our endless “war on terror,” which is utterly open-ended, without even an attempt to define what “victory” is. Everything about the Bush administration — secrecy, abuse of power (holding citizens in disregard of habeas corpus), staging photo ops designed to create an illusion divorced from any reality — all of these things are precisely what 1984 warns us about. Ashcroft would put telescreens in our homes if he could. No, Orwell would roll over in his grave if he had the slightest idea of how America has deteriorated over the past three years.

July 8, 2004 @ 8:31 am | Comment

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