May 2, 2004

American Journalism as Unchallenged Propaganda

by Lil Joe

Unlike other countries, e.g. England, where society is obviously class based and the press is openly class based and politically partisan, the United States claims a classless democracy -- class realities are hidden in a culture of denial. American "journalism" in the U.S. perpetuates as well as reflects this bourgeois sociology: that America is a "democracy" without the "rigid class divisions" characteristic of "old Europe".

This mythic American democracy goes on to boast of "Freedom of Speech", and "Freedom of the Press": that a "democracy is governed by consent of the governed". Rhetorically, its life-blood is debate, and voting by an "informed electorate". The actual function of the mainstream press in this delusional realm of classless "democracy" is to project itself as ostensibly above the partisanship of "special interests"; its claim is to objectivity, of seeking only to keep the citizenry "informed".

Thus, for instance, with the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, Americans are "informed", as though an objective description of an empirical fact, that the American bombing of an Iraqi residential community is "defensive responding to Sunni insurgents". These Iraqi's called "insurgents" are said to be attacking American civilians as well as military personnel. The subliminal suggestion in this language is that the belligerent U.S. occupation forces are really the legitimate people in Iraq and the Iraqis are presented as the belligerents. Thus the American press and media say that the American forces are the one's operating in "self defense"!

American children are taught in school that in the "American democracy" every individual is "equal", and has the same "opportunity" to become a "millionaire", or even "President of the United States" and that the "free press" is a vital element in keeping American citizens ostensibly "in democratic power" by voting for representatives of the ruling class, from the ruling class, into the Presidency and Senate.

American working-class school children are not told that in economic class reality, in America as in Europe, the capitalist class owns the means of production and distribution including the press. They are taught anti-communism from day one, for example.

Children in American schools certainly are not taught that "American democracy" has built in Constitutional limits that enable the minority of wealthy property-holders to hold the economic trump cards in determining which of it's class based political parties will dominate the Senate, the Presidency, the Courts, and the Military, or that the Senators, the Presidents and the Court Justices themselves are or soon become millionaires, and are placed in power by Political Parties financed by capitalists. The commissioned officers in the military officer corps are, or soon become part and parcel of the wealthy ruling classes.

Thus, Americans are not concerned with the fact that capitalists own ALL the major newspapers and electronic media, and publishing houses. The class partisanship in American democracy is hidden: capitalist's domestic and foreign interests are presented as "American interests".

The press presents to American workers American imperialist interests abroad as "American interests". The American working-class think that it is their interests abroad being protected and advanced when in reality it's the economic interests of American capitalists that determines American government "foreign policy", including Wars. It is American capitalist imperialist interests that are advanced in the media as "American interests", it is capitalist's interests that are being protected and advanced by the U.S. State Department, CIA and the American military abroad. It, in reality, is not in the interests of American workers, for instance, to have billions of dollars appropriated by the vampire state to go to Israel to arm and fund Israel's genocidal war on Palestinians; nor is it in the interests of American workers to kill Iraqi workers and destroy Iraq. The actual interest being served is American capitalist control of Iraqi and Persian Gulf oil states on one hand and in the interests of Israeli expansionism on the other.

In it's history, America had a vast "open frontier". In its formative years, poor European immigrants emigrated from openly rigid European class structure states to America. The ambitious among the European immigrants were able to migrate to the frontiers. Once the government militarily took Indian lands and all of Northern Mexico, those European working-class and poor individuals had the "freedom" to emigrate "West", and there "strike it rich" as Buffalo killers, Indian killers and scalpers ("soldiers") that engendered a deep psychic connection with genocidal activities in the minds of racist Americans.

The cultural significance of the frontier in the American psyche is reinforced by the press, as well as schools and Churches, romanticising many shrewd ruthless settler-farmers become plantation owners, cattle rustlers become barons, gold rush, oil strikes and so on. European American migrants who succeeded were very few and far between in comparison to the percentage of those who went bust, and ended up proletarians working. But the fact that many did succeed became the material basis for the delusional "American dream", which mitigated against clear class consciousness and class based socialist politics in the American working-classes.

These factors of the culture took root in the American psyche. The Western frontier mentality, racism, the myth of individualism and the religious ideological Protestant Work-Ethic assimilated American workers into bourgeois ideological culture and thus American workers subsequently never evolved class-conscious politics.

Things were different in Europe. In the English and French bourgeois-democratic Revolutions, the artisans and proletarians were brought into those class wars, allied with the rising bourgeoisie, against the landed aristocracies and monarchies, but in the course of these political battles came into conflicts with the bourgeois parties. The English artisans and poor farmers became Levelers, and Diggers and the proletarian communists (Gaard Winestanley) and in the French Revolution the proletarian party (Babeuf). In Germany, prior to the German bourgeois-democratic revolution, the proletarians were class conscious, self-organized into communist class parties (Marxist).

So, consequently, all over Europe, political struggles were open class war, and every class had its political associations each with its own newspapers, which were openly engaged in polemics between factions in the respective parties as well as between parties. American democracy had no such history, and its workers had no class party, and no partisan newspaper to develop its own independent political praxis.

Of course there were radical newspapers -- such as the abolitionists Liberator (Garrison), the North Star (Douglas) and the New York Tribune (Greeley) and the People's Weekly (De Leon). But the American labor movement -- the Knights of Labor, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO), the United Mine Workers, the Teamsters, and so on, never merged into a Labor Party with its objective of taking the productive forces from the American capitalist class, and so never formed a political party with class-conscious leadership battling for ideas and programs in the working-class through party presses.

The relatively unchallenged mainstream American press and media has always been, and is now, the bourgeois owned newspapers and medias pushing anti-labor legislation, patriotism, and anti-communism. Hearst newspapers exemplified this. Where there is partisan press in America, it is bourgeois partisan -- the New York Times and Washington Post mainly Democratic Party liberal perspectives and the Washington Times and Wall Street Journal Republican. But, even these don't operate openly as such, but each claim to practice "objective journalism", "balanced reporting", and other slither that enable their respective party propaganda to slip into workers consciousness as "information"!

Today the American capitalist owned press and medias -- AP, UPI, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX News carry on this bourgeois ideological journalism. These bourgeois medias define for American workers the parameters of what is the legitimate political "Left". The "Left" are the Democrats on CNN Cross Fire, ABC's This Week, Fox News, and the other Sunday Morning or Daily debate shows.

The American trade unionists, ethnic partisans, civil rights activists, environmentalists and even socialists and communists associate themselves with the "progressive" wing of the Democratic Party. They do not do so openly, of course. But, do so nonetheless in their tirades against "the Republicans", and presently to revel against the "Bush Administration" is consciously, or not, is deliberately or inadvertently campaigning for the Democratic Party "alternative". Yet every Democrat the same as every Republican in government, Congress, and every paid participant on every one of these talk shows, is anti-communist and a supporter of U.S. imperialist policies.

American workers will remain ideologically enslaved by bourgeois class propaganda so long as the bourgeois press and media is their sole source of "news and information". So long, therefore, what is politically "Right", and what is "Left", is defined by the mainstream i.e. capitalist owned and sponsored media.

This will change only when the American trade unions come together, stop supporting Democrats and build an American labor party with its own medias. There are bourgeois feminist cable stations, bourgeois "networks for men"; Black bourgeois cable stations, Latino bourgeois cable stations, and so on. What's preventing the American labor movement from having a 24-hour cable network News and information station where we define for ourselves what is right and what is left?

What is preventing proletarian praxis breaking the chains of bourgeois propaganda in the United States is that the American labor movement is politically tied to the Democratic Party.

At the grass roots level workers in trade unions need to challenge the Democrats in the trade union hierarchies from the bottom up. Run members of locals for local offices on the pledge that a vote for his or her campaign will be a vote to affiliate with the American Labor Party, and thus to completely withdraw the trade unions from membership in and money to the Democrats. In the Labor Party, these trade unionists will force the Labor Party to commit to participating in electoral politics. I mean Congressional elections that we can win.

The American communist and socialist sects ought to give up their sectarianism and become part of a labor party left participating in electoral politics, making their newspapers meaningful by becoming organs of debate within the labor party regarding how the American working-class can actually win the battle of democracy -- i.e., state power. This means national offices, i.e. seats in the House of Representatives.

The Peace and Freedom Party, and the Green Party, and the various socialist groups need to stop running candidates for un-winnable offices such as the Presidency, the Senate, and State Governorships. Also, stop running for relatively powerless and therefore worthless local offices, such as city mayor, city council, board of education and even state assembly. Rather, the P&F Party, together with the Greens and the Labor Party can form a United Front, supporting each other's candidates in Congressional Districts, put all their money and people power into those campaigns and actually win seats in Congress.

In Congress, they will continue to fight the Democrats as well as the Republicans on issues such as War, repealing the Patriot Act and the Taft-Hartley Act, legislating a Living Wage and Full Employment, reduction of the working day to six hours, and legislation that will nationalize plants that seek to emigrate. The newspapers of the various socialist and communist parties dealing with these issues will make those newspapers popular rather than sectarian esoteric issues of significance only to the few. This does not mean that such articles would cease, but that they are transformed into flesh and blood issues of proletarian praxis.

In this context, trade unions would be urged to become labor party cadres, and money and people power would go into starting, and maintaining several independent cable networks. There can be a cable network that would deal for instance with science issues and controversies, such as evolution vs. creationism, philosophical epistemology and neurology, psychology and sociology, materialism, stem-cell research, cloning, astronomy, anthropology, abortion, history, economic theory, and so on. There could be another cable network focused on music and the arts, presenting classical and contemporary drama, poetry, literary readings, ethnic studies, and so on. And, also, of course, a 24/7/365 political channel where trade unionists rather than corporate sponsors select topics and invite participants, with programming ranging from Congressional reports and reviews, daily business reports and analysis from a working-class point of view, to world news from a working-class perspective.

There is no alternative to this. Otherwise the American working-class will remain intellectual vegetables squeezed by one hand of bourgeois ideologists to the next, or as clay shaped by the bourgeois ideologists into any shape they please without any opposition. Today in Europe the proletarians are organized not only into powerful trade unions and socialist and communist parties but they also form their own opinions on world events. The American workers must do the same. But, to achieve this the American working-class must realize that "American exceptionality" ideology is itself a bourgeois ideology, embedded in American culture, whereas, in reality, America is a class society the same as Europe is a class society.

Notwithstanding the demagogic rhetoric of American bourgeois politicians, that of Democrats as well as Republicans, Kerry as well as Bush, the United States is NOT special. The "American democracy" is NOT the envy of the world, and wants to be emulated but by few, if any. This is true of Canada, and not even Israel is modeled on the U.S. "example". The United States is NOT a "light unto the world", but is regarded by most of the world as a cave of cultural darkness and ruled by politically backward, powerful and dangerous reactionaries - both parties. The United States is NOT the "leader of the free world", because there is no "free world".

Rather, America is regarded as a nuclear power and dangerous bully all the world over. This is the only reason the world pays attention to American elections, and heads of state make tributary trips to Washington to kiss the ass of the reigning American presidents. American citizens have to stop deluding themselves, being led by propaganda machines called the media and by demagogic politicians to believe that America is regarded as representing peace or freedom.

The overwhelming majority of the European democracies when they overthrew feudal systems by revolutionary democrats and socialists did not model their democracies on, nor in any way similar to the American Constitutional regime. There are no electoral collages in these countries, and no politically powerful Judiciary constitutionally empowered to overrule the will of the electorate, and of the parliaments.

Rather, Parliamentary democracies are based on party majority, and not the politics of the individual in which a President, selected by an electoral college is a virtual dictator. No matter how unpopular he is the American President can rule even if his party in Congress is the minority. In the Parliamentary system of democracy people vote for parties, based on party programs and not charismatic demagogues. The party with the majority forms the government, or a coalition government between parties that together make the majority. If and when the prime minister's party loses the majority elections are called. When the nations in the African, Asian and even Latin American countries liberated themselves from imperialist colonialism they modeled their governments after the European parliamentary systems, not America.

It is the class struggle revolutionary origins of democracies in Europe, and the class struggles in the 3rd world Asian, Latin American and African liberation movements, in which the political processes were openly polemical and ideas were decisive, that created political cultures where critical thinking is nurtured. Ideas are an issue of life and death.

In America, the Constitutional Convention was not an open public debate carried out in the press but a meeting held literally in secret, with drawn curtains in which the participants went beyond their mandate to pull off a counter-revolution against the principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence. The Shays Rebellion shocked the American capitalists and slaveholders. The propertied classes sent their political representatives to Philadelphia to draft a Constitution that would protect their property by a strong centralized bureaucratic-military state. The so-called Bill of Rights, or 10 freedoms were not written in the Constitution but forced into it by the masses in rebellion against it, as the First Ten Amendments the same way the anti-slavery 14th &C Amendments were the result of Civil War.

Notwithstanding the Constitutional "freedom of the press", "freedom of assembly", and "freedom of speech" in theory, yet, in reality, the press was capitalist owned and published in defense of capitalist property rights, in practice in America, the State allowed capitalists to hire Pinkerton and Brinks mercenaries to kill union organizers. The State itself has attacked labor and socialist organizers for speaking and writing against capitalism.

This history of repression of speech critical of capitalism and American imperial interests reached a crescendo in the Kennedy-McCarthy anti-communist Senate, that forced critical thinking by American novelists, playwrights, screen writers and yes, this was also the period when the State forced socialists and communist labor organizers from the trade unions, and repressed the activities of the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party.

There is thereafter no continuous tradition of any critical thinking in American journalism.

In the 1940s and 50s patriotic demagogy and Cold War ideologists gained control of American culture, its educational institutions, television, radio, and the press. Tom Joad in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (in the movie portrayed by Henry Fonda) was displaced by Irving Brechers and Groucho Marxs The Life of Riley, portrayed by William Bendix, which became a "classic" American sitcom, and other sitcoms followed where American workers are in the best of all possible worlds - American suburbs. Realistic anti-war Movies like Alls Quiet on the Western Front [1930] were deliberately displaced by demagogic patriotic pro-war movies like They Were Expendable (1942), The Green Berets (1968), The Longest Day (1944), and The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949).

In the 1950s, while children were forced to recite the pledge of allegiance and duck under desks with backs to windows as if this desk would somehow protect us from nuclear pulverization, but was really to engrain in students fear of communist Russia, simultaneously all kinds of trashy anti-communist novels and movies were written, and published or released such as "I married a Communist" and "Manchurian Candidate". Similarly in American religion rabid anti-communists including Bishop Sheen and Billy Graham who were the vanguard of the out and out reactionary anti-communist so-called "Bible prophecy ministries" associated communism and evil in the Soviet Union - "Gog and Magog" of Ezekiel and Revelation.

In the name of protecting American "freedoms" freethinking was/is repressed. And in the name of "communist brainwashing" an entire generation of Americans was brainwashed anti-communists. The American press and media played a key role in this. Anti-communist "journalism" occurred daily, especially in their "reports" on the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China and the U.S. aggressions in Korea and Vietnam, as "fighting for liberation" (occupation as liberation!) which they presented to the American public with the same ostensible "reports" as today they drummed patriotic insanity in the American press and media to justify the American invasions and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The American schools, press and media, inadvertently if not deliberately collaborate, tell Americans what to think and how to think. This cultural assimilation into bourgeois patriotic ideology is done in large measure by subliminal suggestions coded in language.

An example of this is the language used by the American media and press regarding the murder of American religious groups outside those given "freedom of religion". The Philadelphia police bombed the home of the M.O.V.E., religious community in Philadelphia, justifying this bombing by referring to their house as a "bunker". This was also true when the government sent tanks to Waco, Texas to attack the Branch Davidan religious community, referring to their house as a "bunker". The selective term "bunker" brings to mind in the television movie educated (brainwashed) Americans images of World-War II where German and Japanese were in concrete bunkers and pillboxes shooting machine guns at Audrey Murphy and John Wayne and their troops.

The point in all this language is to present the military assaults on civilians in military terms, and thus legitimize the slaughter of innocents. Of course, the media and government officials always blame the murder of children and innocents on those who are resisting U.S. military attacks. In the cases of MOVE and the Branch Davidians the government and media claimed that the parents deliberately started fires to painfully burn themselves and their children alive. Similarly in Iraq they claim that the U.S. troops are killing innocent civilians because the "insurgents" are using them as "human shields".

Balderdash and poppycock on all points! The American troops were and are responsible for the maiming and killing of innocents because that is what they do, and enjoy doing just as much as German Gestapo enjoyed killing Jewish men, women and children in Europe and the Israeli Gestapo the slaughter of Palestinian women and children in occupied West Bank and Gaza - they have the option of becoming refusnicks and mutiny.

In military theory it is universally accepted that the invading occupying power is by definition belligerent and the actions of the resistance by definition defensive. Yet, notwithstanding their knowledge of military history and theory, the American generals in Iraq, and former generals on CNN, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, and CBS together with the news reports, in unison cry to politically uncouth and gullible American patriotic audiences that the attacks by American forces on civilian Iraqis are acts of "self-defense"! More than that, the American mercenaries contracted to work in concert with the belligerent occupation including killing and abducting Iraqis, are presented as innocent "American civilians", and the Iraqi civilian resistance as foreigners and "murderers".

American capitalist owned media produce articles and air "on the ground 'reports'" operating under the guise of "journalism", and "reporting", that has presented to the American audience justifications for the past few days of U.S. dropping bombs on civilian Iraqi neighborhoods. This is ideological propaganda endorsement of the bombings in Iraq as American soldier's taking "defensive" actions, in "response" to "Sunni insurgents" ",Saddam loyalists", "foreign terrorists" and/or "Shiite militants followers of the 'radical cleric', Sadr". These articles and media "reports" thereby are intended to justify these bombing campaigns.

But even if it were true, "Saddam loyalist" in Iraq is in the right to kill American invaders and occupation forces the same as the Palestinians do in West Bank and Gaza. Knowone in America would regard the Nazi Gestapo occupation forces as the victims of French "terrorists" or "De Gaul loyalists" in occupied France during World War II; nor would they regard the Nazi Gestapo victims when the oppressed Jews in Warsaw, Poland rose in armed rebellion. Nor would the Americans side with the German Reich's occupation in Yugoslavia against the Yugoslav resistance, and "Tito loyalists". In reality Saddam, De Gaul and even Tito as individuals are irrelevant in determining the forces in conflict.

Americans do not think any government has the right to send military forces to the United States in search of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, overthrow the Bush regime, install a hand picked "American governing council", and kill American resistance forces ostensibly as "Bush loyalists" and "remnants of the Bush regime"! How twisted doublethink is, the logic of NEWSPEAK propaganda internalized by Americans who think that America has the right to do in Iraq what they would not accept Iraqis doing in America! The Iraqis have the same human right of armed rebellion against armed terror by an occupying foreign army as did the French and Jews against the German Nazis.

The bullshit regarding "Saddam" is the fact that today the Bush regime and its political and military representatives governing Iraq are displacing the puppet-"police" army by former officers of "Saddam's military dictatorship!" These are the real "Saddam remnants" -- generals and officer corps that have no qualm regarding the killing of Iraqis. This turn of events in itself puts the lie to the myth that the Anglo-America forces invaded Iraq to rid "the Iraqi people" of the "Saddam military dictatorship".

It must be remembered that it was to these Iraqi army officers that the American officials had originally supplied the chemical and other weapons used to kill Iraqis in the past. U.S. imperialism has no problem reviving these tried and tested murderers to kill Iraqi resisters of the occupation.

The residents of Iraqi working-class communities are not killing American soldiers because Allah is Great, nor because of any loyalty to Saddam, and the American government, military commanders and news medias know that these are not the causes. They know that Iraqis are killing American soldiers because American soldiers are trying to kill them! In a Guardian article refugees from Falluja report that "Americans have violated the ceasefire. They are attacking us with jet fighters, tanks and artillery. US snipers are on every roof and minaret. They don't care who they shoot. They are shooting old people, women and children."

The valiant resistance of the Iraqi workers in Falluja and Sadr City and elsewhere, Sunni and Shiite alike fighting together against a common enemy, has forced the invading army and the Iraqi ruling class to recall the old Iraqi military state's officer corps to power. This means that the restoration to official power of the Saddam officer corps -- the real "remnants of the Saddam regime" is the victory of the "Saddam regime" although without Saddam signalizing the failure of the U.S. "mission". This turn of events is the real story of the U.S. policy change in suppressing the Iraqi intifada. But the significance of this fact has been neither featured nor in depth discussed in the American mainstream media.

American anti-war activists have themselves capitulated to the media driven patriotism: "support the troops; bring them home now". Of course to take an open position in solidarity with the Iraqi working-class resistance to imperialist occupation will be dangerous. After all, as Scalia said, "America is not a democracy": the government will come at you with the Patriot Act, and the old line of treason accusing you of providing aid and comfort to the "enemy". But, follow the example of Muhammad Ali in the anti-war movement of the 60s where he told the American government and news media that the Vietnamese communists were not his enemy, but that they (the government and media) were his enemy (check out the movie "Ali").

The American anti-war movement is worming up to the Democrats. Yet, dating back to the First attack in 1992, through the Clinton genocidal sanctions and bombings, to the present invasion and occupation, the Iraqi working class and poor have suffered casualties into the millions with these genocidal policies being supported by ALL the Democrats in Congress along with the Republicans.

Yet, now as always the American government leaders, and spokespersons including the medias has asseted and continue to assert that the bombing, starving, and mass slaughtering of ordinary Iraqis has been, and is to quote Madeline Albright, "worth it". The news media daily assert that the destruction of Iraq and slaughter of Iraqis has made the Iraqis "better off without Saddam", and that the "world is a safer place" with Saddam in prison. Paula Zahn on CNN even had the gall to attack the Iraqis for not showing "gratitude" to America for destroying their country and slaughtering its people!

This propaganda pitch -- accepted by American workers but rejected by workers the world over -- is that the destruction of Iraq and the murder of its citizens are being done in Iraqis own interests, and has the support of the "Iraqi people"! To "prove" this CNN, Time Warner, Gallop and other propaganda numbers runners come up with "polls", and the Americans believe that these "polls" are "scientific sampling" of the Iraqi's support of the American occupation. When the truth comes out in the streets, as in the mass uprisings in Falluja and other cities in April, 2004 the government and media are caught with their lying draws down. To get out their obvious lies of having "Iraqi support", the government, the press and the media come up with the other lie that it is not the Iraqi resistance but "outside agitators", and "Saddam loyalists" that are fighting the U.S. Marines.

How do they then account for the Iraqi resistance that ALWAYS has been more by the Iraqi workers and farmers rather than the cowardly Iraqi ruling class army? Rather, the "remnants of the Saddam officer corps" are being recruited by the Americans to suppress the Iraqi worker intifada. It is not accidental that not a single of these obvious contradictions between the propaganda of so-called "Operation Iraqi Freedom", and actuality -- brutal occupation and bloody repression of the Iraqi people -- is pointed out by a single mainstream news media or newspaper.

The bombing of Iraqi residential communities by Americans is referred to by Bush and Kerry, and by "journalists" in the American press and media, as an "aggressive response to terrorism". This language intimates that the U.S. forces are the one's being unjustly attacked, are not the aggressors in a belligerent occupation, but the resistance fighting "occupation" by "foreign terrorists".

The American media and newspapers are representative of the American government, which represents politically the economic interests of American Capital. These capitalist owned mainstream medias and newspapers are churning out nothing but demagogic propaganda and bullshit and are the opposite of objective journalism.

Yet, the whole world knows that the American troops in Iraq are not there to liberate but to conquer and suppress. The American soldiers in Iraq are an illegitimate Gestapo army of occupation being attacked not by "foreign terrorists" but by Iraqi self-defense forces. It is self-contradictory where the American politicians and medias refer to the puppet army they are constructing, to work for the occupation against Iraqis as an "Iraqi Defense Force". The real Iraqi defense forces are attacking both the "Iraqi police" and the U.S. troops.

As I said, Americans do not think any government has the right to send military forces to the United States in search of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, overthrow the Bush regime, install a hand picked "American governing council", and kill American resistance forces ostensibly as "Bush loyalists" and "remnants of the Bush regime"! How twisted is the logic of NEWSPEAK propaganda internalized in Americans to think that America has the right to do in Iraq what they would not accept Iraqis doing in America! The Iraqis have the same human right of armed rebellion against armed terror by an occupying foreign army as did the French and Jews against the German Nazis.

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