Two reads on media propaganda

5 Jun

Rubber tramping again – here’s the van on the east bank of Loch Eck, Cowal Peninsula, yesterday evening – so will keep this brief.

In 2016, with the West’s media propaganda blitz on Assad at its height, one of several friends to object to my posts sympathising with Damascus protested that, “they can’t all be making it up, Phil”.

“It” being the smorgasbord of unspeakably barbaric deeds being methodically laid at the door of the eye surgeon reluctantly turned heir – Michael Corleone style – to his father’s leadership of ba’athist Syria.

“They” being our gorgeously independent media.

Making it up? Well it’s slightly more complicated, but only slightly. The bottom line is that when the real rulers of our pseudo democracies want to take out a foreign leader who stands in their way – by wishing perhaps to nationalise oil, or pursue dirigiste policies that benefit his own people – ‘our’ media, however much they play thorn in the side of power on matters less pivotal, can be relied on to do their considerable best to manufacture public loathing for that leader.

Manufacture? As with our consumer behaviour under the heavy influence of a trillion dollar advertising industry we fondly suppose ourselves immune to, our views on the world are more easily manipulated than it pleases us to believe.

My cue for suggesting you take a few minutes to peruse Caitlin Johnstone’s 15 reasons why journalists act like propagandists


Of course, in manufacturing our opinions to ruling class advantage on specific issues, news media do not operate in isolation. They tap, and in return feed into, ideological currents of a more general nature, currents which run deeper than rational consciousness. (This, incidentally, is why on the one hand leftists, on the other academics who can lecture at length on media bias, are no more immune to propaganda blitzes than the average guy in the street.)

I speak of ideology. Some call it, after the movie of that name, The Matrix. Two of its most important currents in the West are the entertainment industry and the arts industry. It’s the latter that interests me today. More specifically its literary wing, and more specifically still the late Martin Amis.

My cue for today’s second read recommend, a splendid takedown by Media Lens, often cited favourably in these scribblings.


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6 Replies to “Two reads on media propaganda

  1. Hi Phil
    I read this earlier really pleased to see you posting it.
    You are absolutely right about how difficult it is to be taken in by this propaganda
    Sorry to remind you many moon ago when we served our sentence at Sheffield Hallam
    I remember your email that appeared to fall foul of of following the Islamophobioc that was and is still present. I compared your critique at the time and linked it Amis particularly in those days you use to email ton a long list of participants. This is not to assign blame but to reinforce your point that the propaganda is pernicious and powerful
    It’s one of the few if not only time I have differed from what you said at the time
    We resolved our difference and I know your take is different now
    Keep up the good work

    • Yes, I’ve travelled a long way since then, Jawed. A comparable about turn was my coming to a very different take on 9/11 “truthers”.

      I do try to keep this in mind!

  2. Caitlin’s blog seems to be inaccessible at present.

    The concluding quote from Mark Twain in the Media Lens link raises the issue of what kind of impact the attitude described has on a society and its culture. The manufacture of consent is unlikely to be limited to the attitude “they can’t all be making it up, Phil” but is likely to extend to the kind of superior attitude described by Twain which is encapsulated in the now well known* quote from ‘Jungle” Joe Borrelll (of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party).

    Its not a great distance from believing the lies about others to believing you are part of the biggest, baddest and bestest at the top of the civilisational social pyramid – not withstanding how low you are in that pyramid. Because that’s part of the package. Everybody else are simply ‘Barbarians’.

    And the wider impact of believing in your own propaganda is being played out in real time in front of us. With self-identified “experts” filling the Corporate Media with increasingly desperate predictions of the Ukrainians doing a blitzkrieg round the Russian ‘Maginot’ lines (some buckshee Lance Colonel in the Mail) and the Russian Federation disintegrating from internal in fighting (can’t immediately recall the original source featured recently on a podcast from the Duran) contrasted with this report featured on Moon of Alabama…..

    … which two former U.S. special operations soldiers, Erik Kramer and Paul Schneider, who have been in Ukraine since 2022 to train Ukrainian troops paint a more sobering and realistic picture:

    “The armor/infantry relationship is supposed to be symbiotic, but it is not. The result is that infantry will conduct frontal assaults or operate in urban areas without the protection and firepower of tanks. Also, artillery fires are not synchronized with maneuver. Most units do not talk directly to supporting artillery, so there is a delay in call for fire missions. We have been told that units will use runners to send fire missions to artillery batteries because of issues with communications.

    Most of the military’s operations are not phased and are sequential. Fires and maneuver, for example, are planned separately from infantry units — and infantry units plan separately from supporting artillery. This mentality also carries over to adjacent unit coordination, which is either nonexistent or rare and causes high rates of fratricide. Unit commanders have concerns about collaborators and thus are hesitant to pass on critical information that can be used against them to sister units.

    These issues are compounded by unreliable communications between units and with senior leadership. The Ukrainian Armed Forces have a hodgepodge of radios that are vulnerable to jamming. Further, battalion missions are mainly independent company operations that do not focus on a main effort coupled with supporting efforts. The armed forces do not combine effects, so operations are piecemeal and disjointed. The separate missions are not supporting each other, nor are the missions of lower level units “nested” under a higher level mission. Sustainment is not synchronized with operations, either.”

    Reading this analysis rang all sorts of alarm bells to be frank. Simply because, stripped of the specific military descriptive terms, the picture described of the left hand not giving a FF what the right hand is doing not only encapsulates the organisational structure and processes of my pre-retirement employment but the entire operational neo-liberal, neo-conservative and neo-feudal model which the elites of the West insist is and can only be the only acceptable way of doing things across the entire planet. Period. End of.

    Alarm bells because, having recently finished reading Micheal Hudsons latest – “The Collapse of Antiquity” – the parallels Hudson lays out between the present no reverse gear Western elites and the Patrician Oligarchy responsible for the collapse of the Roman hegemon makes sobering reading:

    “Many basic skills disappeared, even wheel pottery for a few centuries. ‘The economy that sustained and supplied a massive middle and lower market for low-value functional goods had disappeared, leaving sophisticated production and exchange only for a tiny number of high status objects’…..

    ….The final stage of Rome’s debt-ridden economy thus operated on barter. ‘Monumental structures fell into disrepair, previously thriving cities emptied out; Rome itself turned into a shadow of its former grand self, with shepherds tending their flocks among the ruins. Trade and coin use thinned out, and the art of writing retreated. Population numbers plummeted.'”
    – Hudson p410.

    Hudson’s conclusion is that “Classical antiquity’s most fundamental role in the evolution of Western civilisation was to block the tradition of rulers (the state) overriding rentier power to prevent or reverse the polarisation of wealth and income. This flaw has remained the political hallmark of societies calling themselves democracies ever since.”
    – Hudson p430.

    Whether intended or not the consequences of believing your own propaganda are not without a blowback impact. As the two Alex’s from The Duran noted the other day a change of Government anywhere – US/UK/Germany/Holland et al – is not going to provide the structural change necessary to prevent what Hudson describes. Only a complete replacement of the political, media and managerial classes across the entire West is likely to alleviate the inevitable.

    *Though, surprisingly, not in every case you might expect. I recently had a
    conversation with a published acquaintance (in a collective sense here) from the left who referenced an observation from Borrell about the impact of the exporting of jobs abroad comparing it approvingly with the poorer economic analysis of much of the political left. When I raised the jungle comment it became clear he had no knowledge of it. The silos are obviously not confined to the organisational structures of the workplace.

    • Thanks for this comment Dave, detailed as ever. I’ve yet to read Michael’s latest book, but have the outlines from his interview with Ben Norton, featured a few weeks ago on this site. As you know, I’m a fan of his work and like what I sense of the man behind it.

      Cant respond as thoroughly as I’d wish. As I write this I’m preparing to hunker down for the night in a drab lorry park on the ‘skirts of Oban. Ferry to the Isle of Mull in the morning.

      The link to Caitlin’s post is good. Try again.

  3. Remaining on this threads subject of propaganda the latest Duran podcast….

    has two interesting examples:

    The first, starting at around 35 minutes 15 seconds concerns a photograph put out by the Visigrad Group…

    ….on its Twitter account of a young boy rescuing his dog in the floods from the recent destruction in Ukraine. Except that the photograph is actually from eight years or so ago from floods in Serbia. Same boy, same clothes, same dog.

    The second example comes in around the 36 minutes 49 seconds mark concerning a tweet from Greta Thunberg stating categorically that Russia is to blame for ecocide as a result on blowing up this dam.

    Leaving aside the obvious question of the absence of any supporting evidence other than the tautology of this being so because someone asserts that it is so in this post-truth dystopia that the West has embraced, the subsequent reply to this tweet from Zelensky himself – thanking Greta – demonstrates once again the necessity of joining the dots……

    ….When the Corporations are endorsing you and/or the Corporate Media are doing features on you and putting you on their front covers you ain’t the resistance.

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