Breaking the Glass: Beyond the Cataloguing of Imperial Evils
I had a curious experience in reading one of Glenn Greenwald's recent posts about the relentless push for war with Iran by the media.
It was, as usual, a powerful piece, marshalling a wealth of damning evidence that laid bare the corporate media's avid -- not to say rabid -- eagerness to serve the desire of our ruling elites to finally break the "recalcitrant tribe" of Persians and restore Washington's dominance over that strategically situated -- and oil-rich -- land. One cannot underestimate the simmering resentment still felt by American elites from their "humiliation" during the 1980 hostage crisis -- which, as you'll recall, only ended after the sainted Ronald Reagan gave the Iranians everything they'd been asking for to release the hostages: i.e., the money Jimmy Carter had frozen in American banks. What's more, the severely conservative Reagan also cut deals to send the "mad mullahs" weapons and spare parts for their military arsenal. (And we won't even go into the brazen act of treason Reagan's handlers committed in negotiating with the Tehran "terrorists" in the run-up to the 1980 election.)
This psychosexual humiliation -- which has passed down to American elites who were still in diapers (or not even born) when it occurred -- is but one factor behind the relentless, maniacal, slavering drive toward war with Iran which is suddenly filling front pages and prime TV time everywhere. In the main, it is simply the decades-long, thoroughly bipartisan agenda of world domination that the American elite have been pursuing since the end of World War II -- as Noam Chomsky outlines here.
In any case, while reading Greenwald's stringent stripping of the lies and prejudices of a recent NBC report on the "Iranian threat," I kept waiting for him to make the pivot to something beyond yet another trenchant piece of media criticism. I kept saying, Yes, you're right, the media are misinforming -- miseducating -- the American people in the most egregious way, preparing them for yet another pointless war of aggression and domination that will only degrade their own lives, and kill thousands of innocent people ... now what? I honestly thought, as I was reading along, that he would at any moment link to Arthur Silber's recent articles (here and here) which lay out a specific, practical -- and non-violent -- plan precisely for the kind of counter-education campaign that is needed to combat the propaganda that Greenwald was rightly condemning.
As I understand it, Silber's idea is kind of jiujitsu: it uses the power and procedures and tropes of our reality-distorting media to combat the media's own pernicious effects. In other words, it would use the media to subvert the media. Or, to put it more positively, it would return the media to its more proper function of looking reality plainly in the eye and speaking the truth about it.
Silber's plan -- which he offers merely as a starting point, not an ironclad blueprint, inviting any and all creative suggestions to make it more effective -- relies on high-profile figures in the dissident media to leverage their public profile, their media platforms and their extensive contacts to bring in the money needed to launch a national campaign of truth-speaking, with hard-hitting print and video ads that bypass the decorous filters of corporate journalism to take the truth directly to the public.
And so, caught up in the flow and logic of Greenwald's piece, I thought he would have to get to that -- if not in a direct reference to Silber's campaign then something very much like it. But instead, it was, in the end, just another slam at our servile, power-enablinng, dysfunctional media.
Now, I like a good slam at the servile ministers of our media as much as the next person. Indeed, I've been enjoying them for lo these many decades, going back to, say, James Fallows in the 1990s, to Chomsky and Hermann's "Manufacturing Consent" in the 1980s -- even to some of Gore Vidal's bitterly insightful pieces in the 1960s and 70s. I have in fact spent my entire conscious life reading trenchant criticisms of how the corporate media misinform and manipulate the American public into support for the elite's destructive wars of domination. I am entirely in agreement with Silber when he writes:
Those writers and websites have offered hundreds, even thousands, of articles over the years about the immense destructiveness of U.S. foreign policy in general, and more particularly about the devastation and chaos that would result from a criminal U.S. attack on Iran. They have also published articles about the destruction of civil liberties and the massive growth of the surveillance state. I've written many such articles myself, including many dozens about Iran and the Middle East. During this time, all the terrible problems to which we've devoted so much attention have gotten steadily worse -- and not simply worse, but much worse. How do I know this? I follow the news -- and I read the dissenting writers and the alternative websites. They tell me that all these problems become more nightmarish by the day, and they tell me (and all of us) in excruciating, lengthy detail. Thousands of articles document the gathering, worsening horrors -- and the horrors constantly grow still more horrifying.
I do not want to be misunderstood on one critical point. The articles I refer to (and the alternative websites) have very significant value. They provide an inestimable educational service, by setting forth history, facts and analysis that are not available elsewhere for the most part. That is crucial. Also, and very importantly, they offer a sense of community and kinship to those who would otherwise feel isolated and alienated by the depravity and cruelty that dominate our culture.
But I also agree when he says this:
But if we hope to alter the course of events, even if all we can do is slow down what now seems to be a rush toward disaster on an ungraspable scale, thus to buy ourselves more time if we can, it cannot be disputed that all those articles are not enough -- and they will never be enough.
And so I read the Greenwald piece looking for, hoping for, that pivot beyond the customary criticism, the laying out of evidence (which, let me add, is really all that I do here). Hoping, I suppose, that someone who commands a far larger reach than a relatively marginal site like mine or Silber's would at least reference something like the Silber idea, if only to say: "Hey, here's a thought -- why don't we try something like this?" Or "What do people think of this?" Or even, "Silber suggests this, but I have an even better idea."
Again: I very much believe that the enumeration of imperial evils serves a useful purpose. As I said, that's basically what I do here. But I also believe -- more strongly all the time -- that this is not enough. Not nearly enough. The historical record shows that the cataloguing of such evils has not stopped them or lessened them or mitigated them at all. From the time I began reading Vidal and Chomsky more than 30 years ago to the powerful critiques of Greenwald and others today, things have only gotten worse on the domination front. The system is more brutal and brazen than ever; our society is more degraded; our liberties are more shredded.
There is only so much that talking at the margins can do. We must look to those who have the platforms and networks and leverage to put these issues into national circulation -- in a very concrete, practical way, not just preaching to the choir but taking the truth directly to those now starved of it.
If could do it, I would. But I don't have that platform, that leverage. I have a few hundred readers. I'm only rarely linked to any larger site. I can't get a meeting with George Soros or some well-funded foundation or organization that does have the money necessary to put something like Silber's education plan into action. So while I continue to appreciate and be informed by the trenchant media criticisms and evidence gathering that fills the choir room of the 'dissident' blogosphere, I know that something more must be done. We must somehow break through the thick, cloudy glass that mutes the truth from the general public. I hope that those better placed to do it will take up this challenge and carry it forward.