By Charles Sullivan
10/27/07 "ICH" -- -- I
have been writing political essays for a
few years now. I do so as a reluctant enthusiast, not because I
wanted to write on these themes; but because, it seemed to me,
that professional journalists were not telling the whole story;
that significant parts that would allow people to connect the
dots and understand what is happening from a historical
perspective, was being deliberately omitted from the official
version of current events, and from history.
As propaganda, the elements that are deliberately left out of
media are as important as those that are retained. It is
propaganda by omission, as much as by content. What people are
not told shapes their world view and influences their behavior,
as surely as what they are told. Imposed ignorance and selective
knowledge go hand in hand to forge public opinion and to shape
cultural identity. These conditions set the stage for
belligerent government and aggressive nationalism.
It is not coincidental that professional journalists, those who
write for profit in the mainstream media, are the least likely
to tell us the truth, the whole truth; whereas, free-lance
writers, who operate under a different set of rules and out of
the mainstream, are more likely to serve the public interest,
and tell us what we need to know in order to be a free people,
and good world citizens.
Professional journalists are beholden to a code of ethics and
personal conduct that free-lance writers are not. Namely, they
are part of a fraternity, a part of the cultural orthodoxy, with
an incentive in maintaining the established order. The incentive
is always financial and professional, and involves creating the
acceptance and trust of those in power, which may, when properly
executed, even result in the celebrity status of the journalist.
Journalists who have a vested interest in maintaining the status
quo or advancing their careers do not operate in the public
interest. Their purpose is not to inform but to deceive.
When a major news anchor reports upon the invasion and
occupation of sovereign nations, uncritically putting forth
pentagon propaganda as justification for the attack, he or she
is in essence acting in the manner of a celebrity athlete
endorsing a product. The basketball star may endorse Nike
sneakers, manufactured by indentured servants in foreign
sweatshops; while the news anchor is endorsing war and disaster
capitalism projected around the world by Lockheed Martin and the
Carlyle Group. Both are prostitutes.
Mainstream corporate journalism is not about speaking truth to
power, it is about selling products and perceptions. It is about
creating a culture of ignorant consumers incapable of
distinguishing between propaganda and news, fact and fiction.
This is marketing and perception management masquerading as
unbiased, objecting reporting. I call it the big lie.
If the mainstream journalist wants to prosper, if they want to
have access to the inner circles of power, they must play the
game according to the established rules. They must toe the
corporate line, and provide cover for the corporate assault on
human freedoms, and the conquest of nature, while keeping hidden
agendas concealed from public view. Journalists must be able to
sell widely objectionable concepts to the people, packaged in
the garments of seductive—often patriotic language, in order to
make them palatable.
How many soldiers, outside of those under the private contracts
of firms like Blackwater, would voluntarily stake their lives
for corporate profits, and the subjugation of a sovereign
people, if they knew that is what they are really fighting for,
rather than the more popular and desirable goal of freedom or
Freedom, liberation, and democracy have never been corporate
objectives; nor can they ever be the objective of corporate
governance. They are only selling points that conceal hidden
corporate agendas; the attractive packaging for war, occupation,
and privatization, obtained at pubic expense.
If news stories are not believable to the multitudes, if they
fail to garner popular support by masking corporate agendas
behind deceptive language, the majority of governmental polices
and private agendas could not be enacted. If the people knew
what was being done in their name, and who is profiting from
those policies, there might be widespread opposition and even
social upheaval. It would be difficult to field a voluntary
military that knows it is fighting for the bottom line of
Halliburton, Bechtel, and Lockheed Martin, rather than for
freedom and democracy, as they are told.
Thus those who would serve in the military as self-ordained
patriots are sold a bill of goods. By invading and occupying
Iraq, they are, in effect, undermining the very principles they
claim to hold sacred, including those set forth in the
Constitution and the preamble to the Declaration of
Independence. Likewise, the average US citizen is sold a similar
bill of goods in order to garner support for policies they
would, presumably, never voluntarily sustain, if they understood
That is the genius of modern capitalism and its impressive
marketing apparatus. The results have been breathtaking.
Skillful perception management always precedes empire. Well
presented propaganda allows history to be presented as a kind of
fairy tale that ignores the horrible things the government has
always done in our name, at the behest of corporate America and
our wealthiest citizens, which should be too well known to bear
In our capitalist culture, journalism must not be thought of as
a reporting of facts, but as marketing propaganda—the selling of
ideas that might not otherwise be embraced by those who must
carry out hidden agendas, or the people on the receiving end of
them. Seen in this way, the US soldier and the Iraqi citizen are
both pawns in a rich man’s game: the former as the implementer
of unjust war and occupation, the other as the unwilling
recipient of them.
The end result for both soldier and Iraqi citizen is tragic: the
soldier is told that he or she is protecting their country from
foreign threats, something that is patently false; while the
innocent Iraqi citizen, defending his or her home from foreign
occupation, knows that she or he is not a terrorist, but is
treated like one, nevertheless.
Both occupier and the occupied share a common foe, but it is not
each other; it is the criminals, aided and abetted by the
corporate media, who put them in formal opposition to one
another for financial gain.
Our recent history would have been impossible without the
consolidation of the media that occurred during the Clinton
presidency, and has continued ever since. The entire spectra of
mainstream media are now under the control of only four or five
corporations. We no longer have reporting on local issues
stemming from diverse perspectives rooted in local communities,
but a monoculture of state and corporate propaganda that betrays
the public trust in its pursuit of corporate profits.
Aided by the president and congress, the public owned airwaves
were hijacked and are being used against the people by giant
The result of this media monoculture, as purveyed by the likes
of Judith Miller and Tom Brokaw, and countless others, is
tragic. And they represent only the tip of the mainstream
iceberg. Think of the horrible and shameless lies, the baseless
fear and hate that are continuously voiced by the likes of Rush
Limbaugh, and the hateful broadcasts that emanate from Bob Jones
University, masquerading as Christian theology.
Corporate media is the vanguard of empire and environmental
destruction on a global scale.
Unlike its corporate counterpart, reporting truth requires
people of unassailable integrity. It requires a thirst for
justice with the strength of character to oppose the powerful
undertow of manufactured perception and conformity, and the
seductive language created to execute the hidden agendas of
corrupt governments. Uncovering truth requires commitment to the
people, rather than to profit driven corporate agendas.
Only a handful of professional journalists have attained the
kind of stature that makes such reportage possible in the United
States. Their names are not at all well known, with the possible
exception of Seymour Hersch, Robert Fisk, Bill Moyers and Greg
More often than not, that responsibility falls on the shoulders
of independent journalists and unpaid free-lancers. The
professional journalist must answer to his/her boss, and portray
the corporation that employs them in a favorable light, even if
they are profiting from unprovoked war and occupation. In
contrast, the free-lancer is bound only by the constraints of
conscience, imagination, and ability.
Occasionally, an astonished responder to one of my more poignant
essays will tell me that I should forward the piece to the New
York Times: to NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, or even the BBC. I
It would be hard for me to imagine any corporation undermining
its own profitability by exposing its hidden agendas, and
denouncing itself as a commissioner of murder and mayhem,
motivated by insatiable greed and a lust for wealth and power
that would astonish even the staunchest mafia don. Don’t hold
your breath waiting for it to happen! Snowballs in hell have a
Its not that free-lancers like me wouldn’t like to get paid for
what we do; it’s that our views do not enhance the bottom line
of corporate giants and, in many cases, actually undermine them.
Thus it behooves the professional journalist and the corporate
media to ignore or discredit us as purveyors of truth and
seekers of justice.
Soon it will be an act of sedition to speak truth in this
country. Yet, truth will continue to exist, despite all attempts
to destroy it.
Whether they admit it or not, virtually all of the best known
journalists in the US subscribe to the racist and sexist
ideologies of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny, and
they go to great lengths to advance these ideas, by presenting
them as something other than what they really are. Slight of
hand is the rule of mainstream journalism, not the exception.
Conversely, by serving the people, free-lance journalists are,
of necessity, undermining the corporate agenda. Thus they are
treated as enemies of the state, which has become
indistinguishable from the corporation itself. We live in a
culture where one cannot value truth and carry forth corporate
agendas. Truth is the enemy of empire.
This might also explain why so many unembedded journalists have
been deliberately killed in Iraq and the Gaza strip by US and
Israeli snipers. The world must not know what the occupiers do,
or the propaganda veneer may no longer have its intended effect
on the consumers of media.
Speaking truth to power, especially corrupt power, is dangerous
business— particularly in war zones and fascist states, like the
one evolving in the US.
Corporate media is the vanguard of colonialism and imperialist
policy. It plays a key role in preparing the public mind for
imperialist wars and occupations and their subsequent puppet
governments; it also serves the emerging police state at home
that erodes our freedoms, until there is nothing left of them.
Yet, occasionally, even in this artificially constructed myth
loving culture, truth wins out simply because someone cares
enough to tell it like it is, without sugar coating. Truth
matters; and that is—and always will be—of primal importance to
some people. Let future historical records show that there was
opposition to what was being done in our name, that there were
people willing to speak truth to power, to stem the evil tide by
standing up for justice, cost what it may.
Future historians of the dominant culture are likely to cast
these accounts into the memory hole and pretend that they never
existed, carrying forth the myth that the people were always
united behind the injustice and tyranny of our time. We saw this
in Nazi Germany in the buildup to World War Two, and we are
seeing it now in the US.
But a culture that does not value truth and justice is not worth
preserving. Such cultures will self destruct and implode upon
themselves; the world will eventually unite against them and
bring them down. All of the military might in the world, all the
subterfuge, is not powerful enough to overcome simple truth.
Any individual who values truth more than lies, who keeps truth
alive in his or her heart, despite all efforts to dislodge it
from its ethical moorings, is more powerful than even the most
advanced weapons systems. Truth emerges unscathed from the
rubble of fallen empire as immutable as an inviolable law of
nature. Nothing can bring it down because it is real.
If we are to evolve into a justice loving people, truth must
become our moral foundation, the basis of our existence as a
people. Truth and justice are inseparable partners on the road
to liberation from tyranny and fascism.
Concord’s greatest citizen, the poet-philosopher, Henry D.
Thoreau, summed it up well: “The one great rule of
composition…is to speak the truth. This first, this second, this
third; pebbles in your mouth or not.” Perhaps more than
anything, that simplistic ability to speak plain truth, and in
all languages, is what I most admire about Thoreau. There is
much to admire and respect in a man who spoke in those terms,
and lived by that simple credo.
Truth is simple and uncomplicated, whereas lies and distortions
are complex. Truth stands strong and unwavering without
artificial support; lies and propaganda require elaborate
schemes and constant propping up, the mask of deception.
More of us must learn the language of truth; we must be its
faithful guardians, if we are to be valuable citizens in this
world, rather than the useful idiots of empire. By holding truth
and justice in the highest regard, we demonstrate that another
world is not only possible, but highly probable.
As voracious consumers of media, we must be as careful about
what we admit into our minds, as the food we put into our
bodies. Food can nourish and sustain us, or it can produce
disease and decay. And so it is with media.
To date, we have not been very discriminate, and the result is
that we have become a culture of the mentally obese, fed on junk
media. Our minds, our souls, have been deliberately poisoned;
our perceptions twisted and distorted, our humanity abandoned to
the quest for profits and power.
We must purge our minds of junk media and replace it with
something more nutritious, if we favor health over disease.
Peace is not possible without two essential ingredients: truth
and justice. Neither is possible in the absence of the other. We
must live as if truth still matters.
Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer,
and community activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Province
of geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at
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