What a difference a century makes, eh?
100 years ago, the US government pulled off a propaganda masterpiece the likes of which America had never seen before—and so Americans fell hard for it, millions of them signing up to save poor France and Belgium from “the Hun,” and thereby “make the world safe for democracy.”
The propaganda was so slick, and so pervasive, that those boiling over with indignant fury at what Germany was doing Over There quite literally had no clue that those atrocities were largely fiction, or that that war was really NOT a great humanitarian crusade but an apocalyptic brawl between imperial competitors.
So off they went to that unprecedented slaughter, which turned out to be nothing whatsoever like the chivalrous adventure that those wide-eyed troops had been encouraged to expect, but an unimaginable clusterfuck comprising poison gas, machine guns, land mines, barbed wire, tanks and other grisly innovations that had somehow gone unmentioned by the president and everybody else who sold the people on that “war to end all wars.”
The shock was great; but since the USA was in that war for only some ten months, it was a lot less shattering for those Americans than it was for all the European millions who were massacred, disfigured, maimed, bereaved and/or uprooted throughout their four years of war: a trauma that birthed fascism Over There, while Over Here it “only” gave us the Espionage Act, a new cult of state secrecy, and a larger and more powerful FBI, while also fatally dividing the American left, putting a full stop to the Progressive Era, and—not least—teaching the elites in US government and business that smart propaganda WORKS, especially on those who don’t perceive it, and aren’t told anything about it.
So that’s what happened back in 1917, when Americans were so much easier to jerk around than we are.
A New Anti-Assad Propaganda Offensive
Exclusive: The mainstream U.S. media, including the “liberal” New Yorker, is reprising its propagandistic role before the Iraq War now in Syria with a new round of one-sided reporting, as Daniel Lazare explains.
By Daniel Lazare
Now that Syria’s “cessation of hostilities” appears to be crumbling and rebel forces are gearing up for a fresh offensive, the mighty U.S. propaganda machine is once again up and running.
A case in point is “The Assad Files,” an 11,000-word article in last week’s New Yorker that is as willfully misrepresentative as anything published about Syria in the last five years or so, which is saying a great deal.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Written by a young Columbia Journalism School graduate named Ben Taub, it tells of a Canadian political entrepreneur named William Wiley who, starting in 2012, persuaded the European Union and the German, Swiss, Norwegian, Danish and Canadian governments to give him millions of dollars so he could begin building a criminal case against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
To that end, Wiley hired lawyers, translators, and analysts and sent investigators into Syria itself alongside “moderate” rebels so that they could rifle security and intelligence installations in search of incriminating evidence. Once they got what they were looking for, they either squirreled it away locally or spirited it over the border to an undisclosed location in Western Europe where the documents could be scanned, bar-coded, and safely secured.
The upshot is a 400-page legal brief that Taub says “links the systematic torture and murder of tens of thousands of Syrians to a written policy approved by President Bashar al-Assad, coordinated among his security-intelligence agencies, and implemented by regime operatives.” It is “a record of state-sponsored torture,” he adds, “that is almost unimaginable in its scope and its cruelty.”
Taub fills his article with lots of J-school-style color, informing us that Wiley is “a field guy, not an office guy”; that he “handles the considerable stress of his profession with Cuban cigarillos, gallows humor, and exercise,” and that, at age 52, “he bench-presses more than three hundred and fifty pounds.” He describes in vivid detail one of Wiley’s associates negotiating his way through 11 rebel checkpoints while transporting a truckload of captured Syrian government documents. But for all his diligence, he manages to overlook the blindingly obvious problems that Wiley’s activities raise. For instance:
–He notes that no international judicial body has jurisdiction over Syrian war crimes and that, in May 2014, Russia and China specifically vetoed a UN resolution assigning the International Criminal Court such a role. So what’s the point of a 400-page legal brief if there’s no court to present it to? Is this a genuine pursuit of legal truth or just another propaganda exercise funded by the West?
–Waving such objections aside, Taub quotes Wiley as saying: “We’re simply confident – and I don’t think it’s hubris – that our work will see the light of day, in court, in relatively short order.” But what on earth does this mean? That Wiley has inside knowledge that Assad is about to fall?