May 11, 2011
The American people are prisoners of state terror and victims of totalitarian propaganda. The American mind has been under a government and media siege ever since September 11, 2001 when the Bush administration committed the deadliest terrorist attack against America in U.S. history. But there are no cages, or military guards on the streets to signify that America is imprisoned. Guns are not needed to secure an illegitimate reign when people self-police their thoughts and police others by calling them conspiracy theorists if they champion a view of reality that is in stark contrast to the one that the men in power profess and the official ministers of propaganda publicize day and night.
It is tragic that too many people in America and other countries have learned to accept everything that the President tells them as the truth of history. Anyone who deviates from the President’s official account of history is judged as crazy and paranoid. People are unnerved because by questioning what the President says you question the history and reality of our times, and that is a scary thought to contemplate. It leads to the conclusion that the Matrix is real, and that we all live in a fake and manufactured reality, the construction of which benefits the killers and corrupt liars who have acquired absolute political power Washington.
Once a government lies to the people on a grand scale it cannot stop lying until a state of cultural and political crisis is reached when the lies stop working and the people demand heads to roll. Whether this epoch in history ends in catastrophe or redemption is anyone’s guess. If people accept the fact that they have been lied to by President Bush, President Obama and the entire U.S. National Security Regime about the 9/11 attacks, the war on terror, the official death of Osama Bin Laden, and countless other media-generated events, then the path to redemption and renewal may be a little easier to walk, but constant public denial of the truth about 9/11 and the fake struggle against terrorism will guarantee destruction and catastrophe for America, the Middle East and the whole world.
The idea of a manufactured reality and a politically constructed history is frightening. But the more one thinks about it, the easier it is to accept it and understand it. All authoritarian regimes lie to the people and make up history as it goes along, especially large empires like the United States. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union are the most famous examples of authoritarian regimes in modern times that succeeded because of the widespread use of mass propaganda and cultural engineering. These states also misused the ancient art of rhetoric and storytelling, and dabbled in myth to secure power and impress its opinions on the people.
All political leaders are storytellers. Evil storytellers like Hitler tell stories of revenge, mistrust, and hate in order to gain power and make war against other nations. George Bush and Barack Obama are storytellers too, but the script is already written before they speak so they just have to mouth out the words and pronounce the state’s lies and the empire’s history. They are play-actors. Washington is full of these men. America is an empire of political play-actors, state producers and directors, and media technicians, all of whom treat history as make-believe, and a collective fantasy.
The War on Terror can be understood as an evil imperialist fantasy play instead of a real war. The enemy in the war on terrorism was designed to be vague and mythic because such a skewed representation of the enemy ensures a long war, more government powers, and larger profits for politically connected war profiteers.
Fake villains like Osama Bin Laden play a central part in the fictional narrative of the war on terror, but the archetype of the villain is what is relevant, not the name or the man. People need a villain to hate and despise, otherwise America can’t play the role of the good guy on the world stage. The myth-makers and storytellers in Washington have a good grasp of human psychology, but they have harnessed the power of archetypes for evil ends.
II. The State as Storyteller
The war on terrorism is a story of good and evil. The American empire can’t start wars if it doesn’t demonize the countries it attacks as evil and terrorist leaders as epic villains who pose a grave threat to America, civilization, and mankind. But because reality isn’t black and white as it is presented by the U.S. government and the mass media, reality and history are replaced with a modern model of the age-old good guy/bad guy story for the American people who are treated like children and thus given fairy tales and fables instead of facts.
It is the job of the empire’s script writers like Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, and Philip D. Zelikow and the empire’s actors like George Bush and Barack Obama to take what is on the page of fantasy and put it on the big screen of universal history.
I think we can better understand what has gone on in the last decade if we view the war on terror as a cinematic achievement even more than a political one. The rulers of Washington are more like mad poets and diabolical philosophers than pragmatic legislators and honorable diplomats.
Karen E. Dill, author of “How Fantasy Becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence,” says that the mass media does more storytelling than reporting. She writes:
“The most popular forms of modern media (television, movies, video games) are essentially high-tech forms of storytelling. Noted media scholar George Gerbner spoke often about media taking on the role of storytelling. David Walsh’s work emphasizes these points as well. People have always told stories; storytelling is a fundamental element of a social system. A movie, like a book or a play, tells a story about people’s life experiences. To understand the social power and influence of mass media, we need to go back and ask ourselves some basic questions about storytelling. Why do we tell each other stories? Who are the storytellers? What are the storyteller’s goals? Who are the listeners? How are listeners affected by stories?” (1).
The danger of a state that makes up myths and tells stories to the public to increase its power over the people is that people go along with it because they think they are being told the truth. A good story is convincing and believable, and the story that was constructed around the war on terror has all the ingredients to make it a good story: a villain (Al Qaeda), a good guy (America), a dramatic event (9/11), a mission (fighting terrorism, protecting the public), an arc (announcement of Bin Laden’s death signaled that we are entering a new part of the story), and suspense.
Obama and his directors are able to get away with lying on such a big scale because many people can’t bring themselves to believe that they are being told a story. Essentially, the American empire has the power of a God over the American people.
Karen E. Dill has a quote in her book from Jean Kilbourne, an author and filmmaker, who says, “The most effective kind of propaganda is that which is not recognized as propaganda.” As soon as propaganda is identified as propaganda, presidential words lose their magic spell. Sometimes the President is caught in the act of lying about national security matters, but even in those instances people rationalize and continue to believe the official story about any given event.
Carl Boggs and Tom Pollard, co-authors of “The Hollywood War Machine: U.S. Militarism and Popular Culture,” focus on the unspoken marriage between Hollywood and Washington, and describe how historical events are manufactured and stories are generated by official myth-makers and skilled political plotters to benefit the president and the government. They write:
“Media construction of events and manipulation of popular consciousness have become integral to American political culture, and this lies at the center of all recent U.S. military interventions. Increasingly, media involvement in government lies, myths, and distortions has contributed vitally to legitimation of war as a means to advance U.S. global interests. TV, radio, and print journalism have been central to this process, routinely carrying forward those false discourses, bolstering the dominant ideological framework, and failing to critically investigate the claims and pretensions of government and military officials. Media culture has evolved into a propaganda apparatus, especially in the realm of international concerns, where corporate and Pentagon interests are able to create their own version of “reality” for an American public already inclined to follow the prevailing discourses. In many ways, as Neal Gabler writes in Life: The Movie, the boundaries separating reality and fiction, actual events and media constructions, have broken down as the society of the spectacle comes to dominate the public sphere. Recent films dramatizing this theme include Bob Roberts (1992), Bulworth (1996), Wag The Dog (1997), The Truman Show (1998), Pleasantville (1998), and Enemy of The State (1998). While reflecting the enormous growth of media culture in the United States, such cinematic fare demonstrates that widespread fear and paranoia are gripping the public, especially with respect to global issues.
Barry Levinson’s comedic Wag The Dog is probably the most germane of these films insofar as it dramatizes the way that media manipulation can serve two functions simultaneously: deflect attention away from a president in crisis and justify U.S. military operations against a manufactured foe patently falsely charged with transgressions. The movie features Robert De Niro as Conrad Brean, a political media mastermind who has the psychological will to impose his version of truth on the American people and is ruthless in his enforcement of power. Dustin Hoffman plays Stanley Motss, a Hollywood producer hired to enable the chief executive to survive the mounting storm engulfing him, reminiscent of the Clinton sex scandal throughout 1998. Brean and Motss team up by staging a “war” against tiny Albania, which, overnight, emerges as an imminent threat to U.S. national security. When that ploy stalls, the two create a phony war hero based on Larry Beinhart’s 1994 novel American Hero, which intimates that the first Gulf War was largely a staged media event based on “atrocities” that never happened (for example, Iraqis yanking babies out of incubators in Kuwait) that could seduce an ignorant, provincial, intensely nationalistic public. As Ray Pratt writes: “Wag The Dog cynically illustrates how political illusion-makers could hoodwink a public only dimly aware of distant events and totally dependent on television news reports for knowledge of events.” The media skills of Brean and Motss were indeed so honed they were able to dupe an entire nation.
The military actions of the Clinton administration, at a time when the president was faced with a sex scandal much like the one depicted in Wag the Dog, could easily be interpreted along these lines. There were stepped-up bombings of Iraq in 1998 to face a new Gulf “Crisis,” followed by bombing raids in Sudan and Afghanistan. More to the point was the nonstop, seventy-nine-day U.S.-NATO aerial campaign against Yugoslavia in spring 1999, an operation justified by extensive reports (later shown to be false) of Serb atrocities in the form of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide.” At the time of these bombings Wag the Dog was routinely played on Belgrade TV, another reflection of the dialectical intersection of media culture and actual events. Indeed U.S. intervention in the Balkans was preceded by a sustained, expensive public-relations effort in which Serbs were demonized as modern-day Nazis, a pattern that would be replayed in the lead-up to the second Gulf War. It should be emphasized that media manipulation of this sort, duly taken up by the film industry, cuts across the thin ideological line dividing liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. In this context the notion of a “liberal” Hollywood consensus extends only so far. (2).
The simplistic worldview of “good vs. evil” in Hollywood films mixed with the Pentagon’s atomic machinery makes for a catastrophic combination. But we can avoid a destructive end to the American empire if we understand how the world of myth is influencing the world of politics, and reassert human reason and common sense. Myth and politics don’t go well together. It ended horribly in Nazi Germany.
If you feel like that modern reality has been transformed into a video game or a movie then you’re not crazy. Our world is stranger than we like to think. Poets have long understood that the world is a drama. The Neocon imagination also grasped this. But they misused the power of the human imagination and the art of storytelling to make war and enslave the people.
In the world of the American empire it is good to perpetually create villains because villains are needed to scare the people and secure a steady flow of money to the military-industrial complex, but 99% of the people of the world don’t benefit from the American empire so why should we live in its world? It is the people’s task to imagine a new world, in which the war-makers and the bloodsuckers who betray soldiers and the people are the villains who must be done away with.
“Resist the urge to see things only one way,” writes Dill, advising individuals to seek out alternative narratives of reality and alternative viewpoints, and asking them to rethink their relationship with the mass media. I think it is great advice.
III. The War on Terror As A Movie: Future Film Releases By The Storytellers in Washington
1. The War on Terror: A 12-Disc Box Set. Starring Osama Bin Laden as a Muslim terrorist mastermind and leader of renegade group Al-Qaeda, and George W. Obama as President of the United States. Produced by the CIA, Mossad, and MI6. Co-written by the Neocons, Mossad, CIA, and Pentagon. Directed by the U.S. Shadow State, acclaimed director of The Gulf War: The Short Victory, and Gulf War II: The Long Defeat.
Special Features include “An Inside Look At The Making of The September 11 Attacks.” Go behind the scenes with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Karl Rove, and Philip D. Zelikow as they tell the untold story of how they pulled off the biggest terrorist attack against America in American history. Plus, a never-before-seen interview with MC Rove.
2. When Pigs Fly: The End of The War on Terror. It is 2058. Governments are still fighting against terrorism, as the world population falls to 2 billion. Osama Bin Laden’s grandson is the leader of a powerful Islamic army, and is the husband of Saddam Hussein’s granddaughter. The American people are terrified of this couple’s plan to produce a super terrorist child named Saddam Bin Laden who will grow up to destroy Western civilization once and for all.
3. The Lies and Crimes of Barack H. Obama. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this historic documentary tells the story of Obama’s life as a CIA double agent, and his rise to power in Chicago and Washington.
4. Weekend at Osama’s. A pair of CIA assassins crash at Osama Bin Laden’s Miami palace for a weekend and take his dead body out of the closet to entertain local Islamic terrorist guests.
5. The Neocon Invasion. Told from the point of view of the ghosts of the founding fathers, this short film captures the infiltration and invasion of the White House by Neocon terrorists and their takeover of America from inside out.
6. 28 Hours Later. The story of how the 9/11 story was made in less than two days. It examines how U.S. and Israeli government officials took advantage of the American people and the global public in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks by going on television and getting out their version of the attacks. Special focus is put on former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak’s appearance on the BBC, President Bush’s initial statements, and the media’s role in constructing the narrative involving Osama Bin Laden and Islamic jihad as the main enemies.
1. Karen E. Dill. “How Fantasy Becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence.” Oxford University Press: New York. 2009. Pg. 50.
2. Carl Boggs and Tom Pollard. “The Hollywood War Machine: U.S. Militarism and Popular Culture.” Paradigm Publishers: London. 2007. Pg. 179-181.
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