by Colin Todhunter
Sun 24th Jun 2012
Noam Chomsky recalls writing his first article at around age ten. It was about the Spanish Civil War. Since then, he has gone on to change the face of modern linguistics and has been prolific in analysing and documenting the crimes and terror carried out by the US abroad. A colleague of Chomsky recently asked him if looking back on his 82 years of life whether all of his books, articles and presentations, gave him a sense of satisfaction. Without hesitation, Chomsky is said to have replied, “No.”
Chomsky has informed and inspired millions across the world, but his dissatisfaction stems from the fact US-backed killings, brutality and wars continue today despite his efforts and probably even more so than when he first became a prolific voice of dissent in the 1960s.
Historian William Blum recently documented that, since 1945, the US has attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, has grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries and has dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 others. Despite the efforts of Chomsky and others, the US carries on regardless. It is able to do so simply because it can. It has the military might. But it also does so in part because most people do not read Chomsky or have even heard of him. Be it Howard Zinn, Gore Vidal or John Pilger, people tend to obtain their information not from them, but from the mainstream media, which acts to secure the western public’s compliance for US-led foreign policies.
Someone recently told me that he doesn’t have the time or inclination to go searching the internet to look at ‘alternative’ news sites or voices after a hard day’s work. For him, and many others, it’s much more convenient to sit in front of the TV and watch the mainstream news sources.
And there lies the root of the problem. The mainstream corporate media has been fooling the public for decades. It fails to shine a light on important decisions that are made behind closed doors by unaccountable corporate players, senior politicians and unelected bureaucrats. It therefore fails to expose the close links between these groups that ensure unity of interest and action. The media torch does not focus on the already done-deals that the public never had any knowledge of or insight into. This is democracy – sham democracy.
Mainstream media news is shaped by selective filtering by or on behalf of media owners who, along with figures in officialdom, lobbyists and a range of other influences, determine the production and reporting of ‘news’. Chomsky has discussed in detail how the media serves to manufacture consent in this way. Whether it’s the one-sided reporting of the Libyan conflict or the gross misrepresentation of the Houla massacre in Syria, the outcome is the same: public discussion is kept within a narrow range of officially sanctioned discourse in order to produce support for state-corporate decisions.
We see this time and time again – the mainstream media’s distorted narrative on the Lockerbie airline bombing that conveniently pinned the blame on Libya despite strong evidence to the contrary, the wholesale swallowing by the media of government lies used to justify the invasion of Iraq and the bogus notion consistently put forward by the media that endless militarism abroad is necessary because it’s all about a war on terror.
While Chomsky and others had been exposing such things for years, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks came along and combined the technology of the internet with the leaking of highly sensitive diplomatic information. Assange was fired by the need to hold powerholders to account and was able to provide cutting insight into the back room deals that have traditionally occurred beyond the public gaze.
Assange used the internet to good effect by releasing information on the dodgy world of arms deals, military and corporate crimes and various other issues, enabling ordinary people to see how democracy really functions. In exposing state-corporate secrets and thus challenging powerful institutions, Assange made many enemies in high places across the world
US attorney general Eric Holder said Assange put the lives of US citizens ‘at risk’ through the leaking of diplomatic cables. But, if Assange succeeded in doing one thing, it was in shifting the public’s gaze towards the likes of Holder himself and those whom he sought to protect: the financiers, industrialists and corporate funded politicians who despise transparency, dislike democracy and hate anyone trying to hold them to genuine account. Assange’s tactics stabbed at the heart of the corrupt US establishment (among others) in a way that others had hitherto been unable to do. And that’s why he now finds him caught up in a justice system developed by the powerful and capable of being manipulated in favour of the powerful.
As the saga over his future continues to unfold in London, the world would do well to contemplate on what is happening to the real criminals who Assange wanted to expose and who have not merely put lives ‘at risk’, to use Holder’s words, but have quite literally got away with murder with their illegal wars and interventions.
Iraq has been torn to pieces by sectarianism since the US invasion and occupation, Libya is in turmoil in the aftermath of NATO intervention, Pakistan is being destabilised and a proxy war is being stoked by the US and its allies in Syria.
If we truly had justice, instead of Assange, we would see the likes of Bush, Blair, Obama, Cheney, Rice and their profiteering arms dealing cronies and private ‘security’ contractors, to name but a select few, standing in the dock and being made to pay for the hundreds of thousands of deaths they have caused. But we won’t. We not only have sham democracies but sham justice too.