Wednesday 22 June 2011

Avoid the propaganda on Page 1 - Seek out the silent heroes of page 32!

Why did my heart sink when I saw The Observer’s front page headline ‘Revealed: war crimes files that could convict Gaddafi’?

Do I not think Gaddafi is a potential monster, capable of systematically killing his own people?
I do.

Do I not think that it’s good to have a War Crimes Tribunal that can punish perpetrators of massacre and genocide?
I do, even though, with few exceptions, all war is a crime.

So why so sad?
Because it was such blatant propaganda. Perchance it’s all true and maybe none of it is, but what matters is that The Observer ran the headline. Of course it did. Even though it’s the favourite paper of this sad news junky’s week, it still follows the line.

This colyoom has often in the past mused that one human life is neither more nor less precious than any other, but here in the Developed World we need to have a regular supply of enemies. As Orwell showed us when he wrote 1984 in 1948, a good hate figure helps to divert the population’s negative energies elsewhere. As long as we’re Us and they are Them, we behave ourselves.

So yes, Gaddafi is a dangerous megalomaniacal nutter, capable of genocide, who is killing his own population.
But so is Assad in Syria.
So are leaders of the Congo, Sudan, Somalia and North Korea.
So why don’t we see them on the front page?

We’re told from an early age to pick our fights. You can’t take on the world and win. As adults we’re force-fed our fights by the media, and if foreign journalists are not allowed into the country, we don’t hear about it.

We know all about Netanyahu. We know all about the Taliban, just as we knew all about Saddam Hussein. Liberals and conspiracists are right to be appalled by what’s going on in Gaza and the West Bank, but Israel is a democracy, so the voices of the moderate Israelis and peacemaking Palestinians are heard the world over.

In North Korea, Kim Jong Il does as he pleases, and we’re none the wiser. The international media can’t report the truth of what happens there, and the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is such that Americans cannot threaten the country without fear of lethal reprisal, so we don’t hear.
So we don’t care.

It’s what I call ‘anti-propaganda’: the omission or under-reporting of a story.
The situation in the Congo region is so complex, involving so many disparate groups in extremely hostile conditions that the western media just don’t bother to try and report it.
So we don’t know about it.
So we don’t care.

As long as NATO warplanes are bombing Tripoli we’re going to hear about Gaddafi. We’re going to be reminded again and again how bad he is. Assad can continue to kill and torture and maim swathes of his Syrian people, but because foreign media are not allowed inside the country, we’ll hear little about it compared to atrocities performed in neighbouring Israel/Palestine.

As ever it’s the news stories on pages 14 and 27 that I read. The tiny paragraphs that slip through the net unnoticed. If it’s under-reported it piques my interest.
I don’t like being told what to think.
I just want to know what’s going on, so I’ll stick to my own news, thanks very much.

Right there, on page 32 of the Sunday Mirror (well, you have to buy a red top once in a while) runs my favourite story of the week, The antidote to my anger at anti-propaganda is a story reported by Richard Jones and Susie Boniface, revealing how 300 Old Age pensioners in Japan have volunteered to

 “...give their lives in the battle to bring the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant under control.”

Michiaki Okimoto, one of the volunteers, was 8 years old when he saw the atomic bomb explode over Hiroshima:
‘I know about the fear of radiation. I saw the flash and heard the explosion. To me this is like any other project. My physical strength may be weaker, but I have the same spirit as a young man.’

72 year-old Yastel Yamada explains:
‘We feel responsible. The nuclear plants were created by my generation and we should fix the mess. The cancers take 10, 20, 30 years to appear. Most of us will be dead by then.’

Avoid the anti-propaganda of omission on Page 1. Seek out the hidden secrets of page 32.

And raise a glass to those selfless heroes in Japan.

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