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Media and state crimes

[TamilNet, Monday, 25 October 2010 19:47 No Comment]

“You don’t say or even think that the invasion of Iraq is a criminal aggression of the kind for which people were hanged in Nuremberg… Suppose a newspaper started publishing the truth—that the invasion of Iraq was a criminal invasion that destroyed the country, that newspaper or the TV station is not going to get any ads”, said 82-year-old Noam Chomsky in an interview to India’s Outlook, last week. Meanwhile, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, making his most brazen disclosure – 391,832 secret documents on the Iraqi war, is a hunted man by the world’s Establishments, reports The New York Times, Saturday. “You play outside the rules, and you will be dealt with outside the rules,” Mr. Assange an Australian national was told by an Australian official.

Twelve weeks ago, Wikileaks posted some 77,000 classified Pentagon documents on the Afghan conflict.

In a news conference in London on Saturday, Assange said that the current release of Iraqi war documents “constituted the most comprehensive and detailed account of any war ever to have entered the public record.”

Sweden rejected residence visa to him, Australia signalled cooperation with the US in any possible prosecution against him, and he placed Britain along with Australia among those who are too easily influenced by Washington.

Mr. Assange has become that figure for the Internet era, with as yet unreckoned consequences for himself and for the keepers of the world’s secrets, The New York Times said.

Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 exposed a 1000-page secret document known as Pentagon Papers on Vietnam War commented, “I’ve been waiting 40 years for someone to disclose information on a scale that might really make a difference.”

There is a general belief in the Eezham Tamil diaspora circles that the USA, while busy with cases of arms supply to the LTTE, is sitting on many secrets related to crimes in the Vanni war, committed locally but abetted internationally.

Delivery of political justice appropriate to a national question is the straightforward way for the war criminals to wash their sins. But no one involved seems to have appetite for it locally and internationally, the diaspora circles further said.

Speaking to Outlook, Chomsky commented on how the media behave supporting state violence in contemporary times:

“Their major commitment is to the centres of power—state and private…. As soon as the plan to invade Iraq was announced, the media began serving as a propaganda agency for the government. The same was true for Vietnam, for state violence generally.”

On a question about ‘liberal media’ put to him: “Do you mean that propaganda enables the elite to dull the will of people, depriving them of the capacity to make political choices,” he said:

“The huge public relations industry, for example, has its goal to control attitudes and beliefs…And the task of intellectuals, media and so on is to make sure that they are quiet, subdued and obedient…..I don’t doubt that the media is liberal in that sense.”

Chomsky further said in the interview: “A large majority of the population is disillusioned with everything. They are anti-government, anti-business, opposed to the political parties, Republicans even more than the Democrats; they dislike Congress, they don’t believe the professions, the scientists. It’s as if their lives are falling apart. So, yes, they don’t like the media.

Overwhelming majority of the population don’t have the time to do research projects, in finding out the truth of what the media brings out, Chomsky said, but added that how important the trust of people to a media.

“The second largest newspaper in Mexico, La Jornada, is a very high quality newspaper, one of the best I know. It gets almost no commercial advertising because the government hates it, business hates it. They survive on readership support. Why can’t it happen in a rich country? That’s because people in Mexico trust La Jornada. They are doing their job, you can see people reading it on the streets. You learn from it…La Jornada is the only independent newspaper in the whole hemisphere.”

On the media of India and on the attitude of the Indian elite he said the following:

“I spent three weeks in India and a week in Pakistan. A friend of mine here, Iqbal Ahmed, told me that I would be surprised to find that the media in Pakistan is more open, free and vibrant than that in India.

“In Pakistan, I read the English language media which go to a tiny part of the population. Apparently, the government, no matter how repressive it is, is willing to say to them that you have your fun, we are not going to bother you. So they don’t interfere with it. “The media in India is free, the government doesn’t have the power to control it. But what I saw was that it was pretty restricted, very narrow and provincial and not very informative, leaving out lots of things.

“As far as the elites are concerned they want the public to be disciplined, passive, obedient and directed to other things…If we can direct people to that, they will keep out of our hair, we can run things. You see that in India, certainly.”

To a question whether family-owned newspapers are better in comparison to the corporatisation, he said: “It is hard to choose. Take Rupert Murdoch. He owns a good part of the press. Is that a good thing? What would be a good thing is democratic control.”

“In the late 19th century… There was a great variety of newspapers, most often run by the factory workers, ethnic communities and others. There was a lot of popular involvement. These papers reflected a wide variety of opinions, were widely read too. It was the period of greatest vibrancy in the US.”

“But two things pretty much eliminated them. One, it was possible for the corporate sector to simply put so much capital into their own newspapers that others couldn’t compete. The other factor was advertising; advertiser-reliance. Advertisers are businesses. When newspapers become dependent on advertisers for their income, they are naturally going to bend to the interest of advertisers.”

“The first thing they do is to layout where the advertising is going to be, because that’s an important part of a newspaper. You then put the news in the gaps between advertisements. In television there is a concept called content and fill. The content is the advertising, the fill is car chase, the sexy or whatever you put in to try to keep the viewer watching in between the ads. That’s a natural outcome when you have advertiser-reliance.”

On the current intellectual culture Chomsky said: “We, again, come back to Orwell’s point—about an intellectual culture in which elites and great universities are inculcated with the understanding that there are things that just wouldn’t do to say.”

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