With this new era of Trump, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of mass media and its relationship with governments.
Over 16 million people died in the First World War. It left the public yearning for knowledge and images for the unknown. The camera was a new exotic invention and would set the modern day parameters of how war is seen and reported. The Prime Minister of England at the time, David Lloyd George is quoted saying to CP Scott the (then) editor of the Guardian Newspaper;
“If people knew the truth, the war would be stopped tomorrow, but of course they don’t know and they can’t know.” This statement has arguably laid the foundation for many US and UK governments to follow.
Edward Bernays was a marketing heavyweight (think Mad Men in the 20s) – a pioneer in manipulating the masses (and actually coined the term Public Relations). Bernays was used by the American government during world WWI to help recruit and sell war to the American public. The campaign was sold to the American public not by facts but by manipulating the fear of the masses. Working in partnership with Woodrow Wilson they conceptualised a mass propaganda crusade aimed to appeal to the instinctual emotions of the public. Bernays said; “The intelligent manipulation of the masses is an invisible government” and so was born the father of mass media Manipulation.
The media played a huge role in selling the Vietnam war to the masses whilst hiding the truth and brutality of the (then) longest bombing campaign in history and the industrial killing of more than 3 million people. On 11th September 2001 the World Trade Centre in New York was hit by a suicide bomber and the United States of America was hit with the first ‘terror’ attack on its own soil since 1814 killing over 2900 people. The attack left the western world perplexed at how the mighty global empire of the USA could be attacked in their own territory.
Over the last two centuries, Europeans have left a devastating blood trail through imperialistic domination of most of the world – but it has seen little retaliation by those nations who felt the force of this dominance.
It’s not surprising to consider 9/11 as a pinnacle moment in history. It broke the norms that are engrained into Europe’s bloody epistemology (the norm being that the colonised oppressed do not attack the colonial oppressor in their homeland), and has led the USA to continue their pursuit of an imperialistic like dominance over the modern world. 9/11 has been used as a tool to generate fear amongst the western world and manufacture the consent of a vulnerable public much like Wilson and Bernays did with WWI. After 9/11, George W Bush (with the backing of Tony Blair) initiated the ‘War On Terror’ and Afghanistan was invaded on this premise. It also provided the smokescreen to invade Iraq and rid the Iraqi people of Saddam Hussein whilst ‘providing’ Iraq with the democracy the US and UK decided the Iraqi people needed.
The term ‘War On Terror’ was first used by George W Bush in a public address in response to the 9/11 terror attacks, “Our War On Terror begins with Al Qaida, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.”
The ‘War On Terror’ is a manipulative tool to manufacture the consent of the masses.
The ‘War On Terror’ uses the rhetoric of fear in order to manipulate the public into a state of servile, apolitical dependency and unquestioned ideological support. The concept of fear associated with ‘terror’ is inundated into pop culture – we are partly enamoured by images of violence in endless television dramas, special news reports, newspaper articles and documentaries.
This culture of fear and the manipulation of the media has been used to portray the USA as the victims in the ‘War On Terror’ rather than the Imperialistic invaders some of the Islamic world would claim them to be. After 9/11 we were plunged into a permanent state of war or a permanent state of fear. Fear that we are unsafe in our homes as the threat of Islamic extremism is constantly forced into all levels of society. Is it right that there is now a sense of “the other”? If the USA and the UK are the good guys in the ‘War On Terror’ then why do they need to manufacture the consent of the public? Is the USA, in partnership in with the UK, in fact the perpetrators? It could be said they are not fighting a ‘War On Terror’ but are in reality engaging in a ‘War Of terror’ and are possibly the biggest terrorist organisation in the world.
We have to ask ourselves will the ‘War On Terror’ ever end? Quite frankly no.
The media’s role in the ‘War On Terror’ is pivotal – providing governments with the perfect hegemonic tool to control and foster ideas of fear in regards to the other-ing of Islam. But we have to ask ourselves, is this what the governments want? And with the newly crowned “Leader of the free world” who’s rhetoric implies he is on a war path as he rallies the fringes of society, is the ‘War On Terror’ going to spiral out of control? I believe that not one person, place or ideology can stand alone against the atrocities in this world and as humans we must unite to liberate our minds and then the world.
Written by Jay Crutchley