Deconstructing Propoganda in the Age of Empire

Posted by Bob Lord

Patrick Smith has a wonderfully instructive piece up at Salon, Chomsky's Right: New York Times' Latest Big Lie, showing, at the micro level, how the American public's misperceptions originate. 

Do you know why the recent talks with Iran broke down? You wouldn't if you'd relied on the NY Times' reporting.

On this one, it's all in the Times' use of quotation marks. First, some background, which Smith provides:

As all know, a deal with Iran over its nuclear program is the biggest game going these days — an historic opportunity, as previously asserted in this space. Fumble this, and the Obama administration will go down as hopelessly moronic on the foreign-relations side.

You may know, too, that a round of talks between six world powers and the Iranians just hit a pothole. It is essential to understand why.

The paradox is apparent, not real. Knowing why reveals what a nation with imperial ambitions looks like when it is nearing exhaustion and would rather decline than shape up, re-imagine itself, and take a new and constructive place in the global community. Not knowing why encourages Americans to preserve their righteous self-image even as the moths of history chew holes in it.

Best, in Washington’s view, that we do not know why talks in Geneva last weekend failed.

So, how does our supposedly progressive beacon of mainstream media handle this one?

The Iranian government’s insistence on formal recognition of its “right” to enrich uranium emerged as a major obstacle, diplomats said Sunday.

See how the quotation rights are used to imply that Iran has no right to enrich uranium? You have to dig deeper into the Times' reporting to find their explanation for the marks.

Iran has asserted repeatedly that it has the right to enrich uranium….The Obama administration is prepared to allow Iran to enrich uranium to the low level of 3.5 percent…. But the administration is not prepared to acknowledge at this point that Iran has a “right” to enrich….

Trouble is, Iran does have that right under international law. Smith:

This is how the consciousness of empire is dribbled into us and sustained, one touch at a time. Iran asserts only the validity of international law. What the administration is prepared to allow or acknowledge has nothing to do with what Iran can and cannot do as a sovereign nation.

This is also why these talks are very likely to fail. If they do, it will be the fault of Washington and its allies and the complicit media. It is this kind of language that enables Congress to begin debates on new sanctions against Iran. Concessions and demands are different: Iran may choose to concede this or that; the U.S. cannot demand those things by pretending international law does not (somehow) apply.

In my view, we are amid a pandemic of misinformation as to our global behavior. The dishonesty with which we are given the world — an essentially fantastic version of it — is becoming abject to the point of danger. And it is frighteningly willful. Here is the paradox: We cannot bear to see things as they are because things as they are constitute a refutation of our dearest mythologies, but we must see things as they are if we are to make sense of ourselves in the 21st century.

The Iran case has just become urgent in this regard. As I have asserted previously, it will be profoundly detrimental if the U.S. and the Europeans do not pursue what is a patently serious effort on Iran’s part to claim its rights and ease the world’s worries as to its nuclear program.

If the honorable editor will permit the unconventional, two things belong in caps so that a modest few Americans might stop wandering in the dark purposely created by the Times and all the other media too weak-minded to make judgments without reference to the Times:

ONE: IRAN HAS AN UNAMBIGUOUS RIGHT UNDER LAW TO A NUCLEAR PROGRAM, INCLUDING ENRICHMENT, EVEN IF THIS MAKES IT (AS IT WILL) NEARLY CAPABLE OF WEAPONIZING. READ YOUR DAILY NEWS DOSAGE WITH THIS IN MIND.

TWO. THERE IS ZERO EVIDENCE THAT IRAN DESIRES A NUCLEAR WEAPON, AND DECADES OF POLICY TO INDICATE IT PREFERS A NUCLEAR-FREE MIDDLE EAST. THERE IS ONLY ONE REASON IRAN WOULD CHANGE ITS MIND: ISRAEL’S NEVER-MENTIONED ARSENAL OF NUKES. THE MOTIVE WOULD BE DETERRENCE, AND MOST OF US WORSHIPPED AT THE ALTAR OF DETERRENCE WELL ENOUGH DURING THE COLD WAR. IRAN HAS SIGNED THE NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY; ISRAEL DECLINES TO DO SO.

Of course, the depressing problem is that millions will read the Times' coverage or watch Fox News for an even more absurd distortion of reality, while perhaps a few hundred will read Patrick Smith's piece. And that's how the citizenry becomes delusional in the age of empire. 

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