The Danse Macabre of US-Style
By John Pilger
24/01/08 "ICH" -- -- The former president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere once asked, "Why haven’t we all got a vote in the US
election? Surely everyone with a TV set has earned that right
just for enduring the merciless bombardment every four years."
Having reported four presidential election campaigns, from the
Kennedys to Nixon, Carter to Reagan, with their Zeppelins of
platitudes, robotic followers and rictal wives, I can
sympathize. But what difference would the vote make? Of the
presidential candidates I have interviewed, only George C.
Wallace, governor of Alabama, spoke the truth. "There’s not a
dime’s worth of difference between the Democrats and
Republicans," he said. And he was shot.
What struck me, living and working in the United States, was
that presidential campaigns were a parody, entertaining and
often grotesque. They are a ritual danse macabre of flags,
balloons and bullsh*t, designed to camouflage a venal system
based on money power, human division and a culture of permanent
Traveling with Robert Kennedy in 1968 was eye-opening for me. To
audiences of the poor, Kennedy would present himself as a
savior. The words "change" and "hope" were used relentlessly and
cynically. For audiences of fearful whites, he would use racist
codes, such as "law and order." With those opposed to the
invasion of Vietnam, he would attack "putting American boys in
the line of fire," but never say when he would withdraw them.
That year (after Kennedy was assassinated), Richard Nixon used a
version of the same, malleable speech to win the presidency.
Thereafter, it was used successfully by Jimmy Carter, Ronald
Reagan, Bill Clinton and the two Bushes. Carter promised a
foreign policy based on "human rights" – and practiced the very
opposite. Reagan’s "freedom agenda" was a bloodbath in Central
America. Clinton "solemnly pledged" universal health care and
tore down the last safety net of the Depression.
Nothing has changed. Barack Obama is a glossy Uncle Tom who
would bomb Pakistan. Hillary Clinton, another bomber, is
anti-feminist. John McCain’s one distinction is that he has
personally bombed a country. They all believe the US is not
subject to the rules of human behavior, because it is "a city
upon a hill," regardless that most of humanity sees it as a
monumental bully which, since 1945, has overthrown 50
governments, many of them democracies, and bombed 30 nations,
destroying millions of lives.
If you wonder why this holocaust is not an "issue" in the
current campaign, you might ask the BBC, which is responsible
for reporting the campaign to much of the world, or better still
Justin Webb, the BBC’s North America editor. In a Radio 4 series
last year, Webb displayed the kind of sycophancy that evokes the
1930s appeaser Geoffrey Dawson, then editor of the London Times.
Condoleezza Rice cannot be too mendacious for Webb. According to
Rice, the US is "supporting the democratic aspirations of all
people." For Webb, who believes American patriotism "creates a
feeling of happiness and solidity," the crimes committed in the
name of this patriotism, such as support for war and injustice
in the Middle East for the past 25 years, and in Latin America,
are irrelevant. Indeed, those who resist such an epic assault on
democracy are guilty of "anti-Americanism," says Webb,
apparently unaware of the totalitarian origins of this term of
abuse. Journalists in Nazi Berlin would damn critics of the
Reich as "anti-German."
Moreover, his treacle about the "ideals" and "core values" that
make up America’s sanctified "set of ideas about human conduct"
denies us a true sense of the destruction of American democracy:
the dismantling of the Bill of Rights, habeas corpus and
separation of powers. Here is Webb on the campaign trail:
"[This] is not about mass politics. It is a celebration of the
one-to-one relationship between an individual American and his
or her putative commander-in-chief." He calls this "dizzying."
And Webb on Bush: "Let us not forget that while the candidates
win, lose, win again . . . there is a world to be run and
President Bush is still running it." The emphasis in the BBC
text actually links to the White House website.
None of this drivel is journalism. It is anti-journalism, worthy
of a minor courtier of a great power. Webb is not exceptional.
His boss Helen Boaden, director of BBC News, sent this reply to
a viewer who had protested the prevalence of propaganda as the
basis of news: "It is simply a fact that Bush has tried to
export democracy [to Iraq] and that this has been troublesome."
And her source for this "fact"? Quotations from Bush and Blair
saying it is a fact.
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