The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Let Them Eat Fake

The only defensible war is a war of defense – G. K. Chesterton

Anthony McIntyre • 6 May 2004

So little information comes out of North Korea, that when it does it almost emits an audible creaking sound as it struggles to free itself from the dead weight of state censorship. And when the country was afflicted by a rail explosion in April causing widespread death and injury, it was via China that news travelled. A strange conductor of information, given its attempts to stop news of the SARS virus reaching beyond its own borders coupled with its more recent hostile resistance to media probing of the spread of AIDS within the country.

State hindering of newsgathering agencies is something that totalitarian regimes impose. In the democratic West our news comes unfiltered, virtue of a plurality of sources and the separation of powers. That is if we choose to believe the official account of how our societies function. But why would anyone other than the devout affirmer of self-denial go for that? As Glenn Garvin could complain of much US commentary on events abroad, it is ‘utterly, dumbfoundingly, whoppingly wrong.’

The very evening that I watched reports about state censorship in North Korea, on the very same news channel, and without the merest hint of irony, the same broadcasters informed their viewers about attempts by the White House to ban photographers from taking pictures of coffins containing US war dead arriving back at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington. The White House attitude to such matters apparently summed up by an earlier Barbara Bush comment on Good Morning America:

why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it's gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Or, I mean, it's, it's not relevant. So, why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?

When the dead soldiers her son's policies produce are dismissed as irrelevant, then a very relevant question is why should American parents waste their beautiful children on someone like her or her strategically dysfunctional son who is evidently only too willing to follow in the footsteps of his mother’s Marie Antoinette logic: 'look, nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens. I don't. It's a tough time for the American people to see that. It's gut-wrenching.’ As well as not applying to Saddam's dead sons, it rings hollow in a country where the governor of California is celebrated for over the top gratuitous violence in his stiff movies - was it 17 cops he killed in one attack in Terminator 1? Apparently, make-believe dead are alright. Have a nice day, kind of thing.

In these matters Eddie Holt is always worth revisiting: ‘without censorship, war becomes unbearable.’ It hides from us what is done in our name; diverts our minds into conscience-comfort regions where we view it as we might a bad play - distasteful but not unbearable. Westmoreland appreciated it in Vietnam - 'without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.'

The US ability to wage its war in Iraq needs protected from the actions people might take as a result of what they see. And not good for the revolting business of war is the type of comment made by a school friend of 20 year old soldier Michelle Witmer at her Wisconsin funeral: 'I am absolutely revolted. I'm ready for the war to be over. It just seems like a hopeless case.'

But concealment is the name of the game, as American professor of journalism, Robert Jensen asserts:

Those same powerful people also do their best to derail critique - the process of working to understand the nature of things around us and offering judgments about them - because that tends to energize people and leads to resistance.

Ironically, the coffins that Bush wants to hide but is nevertheless prepared to see filled with US troops in pursuit of his crazed theocratic vision have seen their traffic volume increase dramatically as a result of US attempts to impose censorship on Iraqis. After Paul Bremmer closed Sheikh Moqtada al-Sadr's weekly newsletter, alleging that it had incited violence in the country there was an uprising which led to multiple deaths including American military. But the paper had not advocated attacks on US troops stationed in the country. The excuse for closing it was “false reporting.” And Fox News can stay open? Censor your way in and censor what is coming out.

In its attempts to suppress news reaching home US troops have on occasion murdered journalists. And for those courageous enough to go against the grain within the country they face the wrath of rabid right wing scribes like Ann Coulter who seek to crucify anyone dissenting from their own perspective on the war, even decorated war heroes from previous forays abroad. Writers and film makers like Michael Moore who might provide the US public with a better insight into the nature of the US governing strata are also facing censorship. The Walt Disney Company is blocking the distribution of his new documentary Fahrenheit 911, that is severely critical of President Bush, linking him to prominent Saudis, including close relatives of Osama bin Laden. It also critically scrutinises the president’s actions before and after 9/11.

Moore commented: ‘at some point the question has to be asked, should this be happening in a free and open society where the moneyed interests essentially call the shots regarding the information that the public is allowed to see?’ And it is lame journalistic logic which justifies concealment on the view that ‘shock overwhelms information every time.’ In other words, only information that soothes rather than shocks. Moore added if his documentary is partisan in any way ‘it is partisan on the side of the poor and working people in this country who provide fodder for this war machine.’ More fake more fodder, Michael, and you are upsetting it for them.

Earlier this week World Press Freedom Day took place. North Korea is not the only place in need of it.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

7 May 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Sectarianism and the DUP
Sean Fleming


It's A Dirty Job
Brian Mór


Let Them Eat Fake
Anthony McIntyre


The 10 Year Merry-go-round
Michéal O'Donnaigh


Needle in a Haystack
Will Hardiker


3 May 2004


A South American Verdict
Anthony McIntyre


A New Year for the Oldest Colony of the UK
Brian Mór


Politics in Command
Liam O Ruairc


Report Discredits U.S. Institute of Peace
Distorts truth and offends Irish-Americans

Sean Mc Manus, INC


Forensic Evidence 'Interfered with' in Case of Tyrone Men
J Sean Burns, IRPWA


Easter Commemoration Speech on behalf of the Republican Socialist Movement, Milltown Cemetery Belfast



The Legacy of Bobby Sands
Charles J. Murnick




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