Mars Bitches

The documentary, “Hubris: Selling the Iraq War,” recently aired on MSNBC to mark the tenth-anniversary of the selling of the Iraq War by President George W. Bush’s administration.

Sometimes I wonder if American’s even remember this shameful period.

Thanks to Netflix, the wife and I have been re-watching the Dave Chappelle Show, that ran during the invasion of Iraq. While still funny as shit, the show is a reminder of the non-stop propaganda that accompanied the war. In one of his skits, Dave plays Black Bush, and adroitly demonstrates the absurdity of the Bush Administration’s numerous, ever changing, justifications for the invasion. At the end of the skit Black Bush changes the subject from the illegal invasion and instead talks about space exploration, exhorting–Mars Bitches.

It was very funny, but on a more serious note, it reminded me just how easy it is to lie to the American people. Gore Vidal always said that USA actually stood for United States of Amnesia. It’s true. Americans are clueless about history. They barely remember what happened yesterday. And, of course, there’s always American Idol, and Honey Boo Boo on the TV.

This recent historical amnesia is a feature not a bug. US media focuses on celebrities and trivial events, eschewing historical content and connection.

Both the MSNBC documentary and the Chappelle Show, also reinforced how subservient and craven the media were during this period. Then, as now, being pro-war is always good for ones media career. If you have any doubts, compare how pro-war and anti-war pundits fared, both during this period and in the present day.

“Pressures subtle and blatant were brought to bear. Phil Donahue’s nightly MSNBC talk show was virtually the only program of its type that gave antiwar voices a chance to be heard. Donahue was canceled 22 days before the invasion of Iraq. The reason was supposedly low ratings, but the New York Times intercepted an in-house memo in which a network executive complained: “Donahue represents a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. At the same time, our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”

Our media exists largely as an amazing system of propaganda, selling war the same way they sell neo-liberal economic policies that benefit the elite at the expense of everyone else.

Numerian examines the way that the media treats President Obama today, as he continues Bush’s policies of war, torture and drone assassination.

“Very little of this has been of interest to the US media. Perhaps they know something we don’t know. Perhaps they know the United States is well past the point where anything can be done about an imperial presidency that operates in almost complete secrecy, and that can intimidate both the Congress and the press into acquiescence and silence on any matter deemed to be highly classified and in the interest of national security. Perhaps they know that only the implosion of the national security state, as a result of reckless over-expansion and the ruinous financial drain it represents on the Treasury, can finally put some constraint on the military-industrial complex.”

Obama, like all other presidents, has one overarching task–maintenance of the US empire. Anyone who still has hope for a different foreign policy during Obama’s second term has not been paying attention.

This American empire is the reason for the imposition of neo-feudalism here at home. And, the propaganda used to sell empire is also used to sell the neo-liberal economic policies leading to neo-feudalism. The two are mutually reinforcing.

Americans used to be well versed in all this. Writers such as Mark Twain, made the connection between capitalism and empire.

“Mark Twain despised The American Empire. In fact, he was a founder and vice president of The American Anti-Imperialist League. It was pretty common knowledge among educated Americans at the turn of the 20th century. He wrote about it…sarcastically and vitriolic as usual…but with especial venom and passion. However, the most cutting and incisive of his loathing about the hypocrisy of Americans in their lust for wealth and imperial power.”

Capitalism needs new sources of raw materials, energy and markets. Twas always so.

“You can call it what you want, but America needs a war to pull the people together and expand into new resource rich areas. That’s what it has always done from Mexico on. And that is what it needs now.” 

This knowledge of capitalism and class used to be more widespread. Unlike today, American workers and farmers in the late 19th century understood that industrialists, bankers and railroad owners: the Carnegie’s, Morgan’s and Rockefeller’s, were their implicit enemy. Back then the bankers and industrialists of the day made no pretense about the unequal state of affairs. They used force to maintain control. Private armies, such as the Pinkertons intimidated, beat and killed workers who dared protest or strike for better working conditions.

“In the late nineteenth century, labor disputes often erupted into violent riots, and a cottage industry sprang up to serve the paramilitary needs of the modern industrialist. Local sheriffs were usually too poorly equipped or too sympathetic to labor to put down strikes. The Pinkerton Detective Agency, on the other hand, staked its reputation on crushing labor actions. Between 1866 and 1892, Pinkertons participated in seventy labor disputes and opposed over 125,000 strikers.”

Today, the elite are much more sophisticated in their approach. Instead of force, advertising, public relations and propaganda are employed to keep American’s complacent. As Alex Carey Australian writer and social psychologist who pioneered the study of corporate propaganda, described it as Taking the Risk Out of Democracy.

“The 20th century, is marked by three historic developments: the growth of democracy via the expansion of the franchise, the growth of corporations, and the growth of propaganda to protect corporations from democracy.”

So, when you watch TV or read the paper, remember what the brilliant comedian George Carlin said.

“It’s all bullshit, folks and it’s bad for ya.”

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