If all of us rolled down our car windows at 5 pm on weekdays, we would hear a single great voice booming out across the land as if God himself were thundering from the heavens. In reality it would be countless car radios beaming out in unison “All Things Considered,” sometimes known as “Small Things Considered,” so stunted is its coverage of the news. Such jokes abound, “Boring Edition” at morning commute time, with the whole operation labeled “National Propaganda Radio” or “National Pentagon Radio.” My contribution: “National Pablum Radio.”
But NPR is no joking matter; it reaches over 20 million listeners a week. (Rush claims to reach 15 million, 25% less, and even this is apparently, but not surprisingly, hard to verify.) By comparison, the Wall Street Journal has a daily circulation of somewhat over 2 million, The New York Times a little under 2 million and USA Today about 1.6 million. So NPR has enormous reach and influence in the constellation of the mainstream media. Its drive time “news” programs , “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,“ carried by almost all of its 900 member stations are its most popular fare. How could it be otherwise? The listeners are hermetically sealed in their cars for hours each day at these times.
NPR’s coverage of foreign affairs and of the wars of the U.S. Empire is especially nefarious. FAIR and other organizations dutifully and routinely plod through NPR coverage to document bias, an eminently worthwhile project. But such reports come too late to help immunize the average listener. We need a quick and easy way of seeing through the fog of NPR. Fortunately there is such a way: If we simply stop and think with some care about what we are hearing, we will discover it is the grinding day upon day repetition of imperial propaganda. The key is active skepticism, and we badly need to cultivate it in ourselves and our friends.
Let’s take a recent feature as an example. On April 22, Robert Siegal of Small Things Considered went for deep analysis of the situation in Yemen and the Middle East. He interviewed Nicholas Burns, a “professor” now at the Kennedy School of Imperialism (often mislabeled as the School of Government) at Dear Old Harvard. One might think Burns a non-government source, a good professor seeking the truth. Not so. Burns, before he was put out to pasture in that graveyard of Has Beens in Cambridge, “served” in the State Department at the highest levels under Bush I, the Clintons and Bush II. (At the very end of the feature Siegal hastily adds that Burns is “formerly of the State Department.”)
Watch, laugh – and cry. (It is preceded by a 15-second commercial in Hebrew.)
Now let’s be serious.
First, the Congress is completely humiliated, dancing to the tune of Netanyahu who is the representative of a foreign power. That humiliation extends to every American who cast a vote, expecting the Congresspeople to represent the voters, the American voters – not the Israeli ones.
To understand the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris last week, we need only invert George W. Bush’s 2005 mantra*, thus: "They will continue to attack us over here so long as we slaughter them by the millions over there."
In a word, this is one more instance of blowback, as Ron Paul tells us in his perceptive essay, "Lessons From Paris." Among other things Paul points out: "The two Paris shooters had reportedly spent the summer in Syria fighting with the rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Assad. …But France and the United States have spent nearly four years training and equipping foreign fighters to infiltrate Syria and overthrow Assad! In other words, when it comes to Syria, the two Paris killers were on ‘our’ side. They may have even used French or US weapons while fighting in Syria."
To grasp the magnitude of the neocolonial savagery of the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East, a catalogue of the recent offenses is a necessary beginning. A partial accounting of Western barbarism is to be found in "Destructive Western Mideast Policy Makes Radicals" by Muhammad Sahimi. Sahimi closes his essay by saying, "Indeed, so long as the abuses of the Western dominance of the Islamic world provides the fertile ground for extremist Muslim clerics and preachers to espouse their reactionary interpretations of Islam, a religion of peace and mercy, things will not get any better." The killings in Paris, horrific as they are, are but pinpricks compared to the vast devastation visited by the West on the Muslim world and indeed on most of the planet over the last centuries of colonialism and neocolonialism which has brought humiliation, genocide and grinding poverty to entire continents – and continues to do so.
There is a simple rule that is followed scrupulously by most U.S. commentators of every stripe on world affairs and war.
This rule allows strong criticism of the US But major official adversaries of the US, Iran, Russia and China, must never, ever be presented as better than the US in any significant way. The US may be depicted as equally bad (or better) than these enemies, but never worse.
Major Adversaries: Never better than the US
US (and the rest of West): Never worse than the Major Adversaries
Of course this is a recipe for demonization and war. In essence the US must be presented at worst as the lesser evil.
That is the Rule for Respectable Commentary.
Who or what is the enforcer? I have written to other writers who admit that they avoid speaking well of Major Adversaries even when it is warranted. They know that they will come under attack and their credibility will be questioned. They know that editors, ever conscious of their credibility (as they should be) and of their donors (as they should not be) will turn down the writing of one who violates The Rule for Respectable Commentary, hereafter known as The Rule.
So it is censorship that enforces The Rule, but largely self-censorship of the very kind which runs rampant in the Main Stream Media and which is so often bemoaned in the alternative press. "We have met the enemy and they are us."
Susan Rice has just completed her visit to Beijing to prepare for Obama’s November visit. She arrived as the envoy of the President of the Indispensable Nation and was greeted at the very highest level by Xi Jinping himself, president of one of the many Dispensable Nations.
Susan probably conceives this as an advance visit in more ways than one since Beijing is the final scheduled stop on the U.S. Empire’s march through Eurasia – after sacking Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran and Russia. Or so the plan goes.
But Rice might surely was given considerable pause on her visit. Just as she arrived China Daily, the English version of which was surely dropped outside her door in the morning, carried a front-page story, headlined: "China ‘largest economy’ by 2024." And with it was carried the striking graphic:
Reader, take note of the phrase "Nominal GDP." This means GDP in real dollars. The alternative measure and the one more often used is given in terms of PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), which corrects the value of the dollar for purchasing power from country to country. By the PPP measure China is already the equal of the US or will be so within a year’s time according to the World Bank.
Obama took to the airwaves yesterday, oh so coincidentally, on the eve of September 11, to roll out his latest "smart war." And it comes, oh so coincidentally, just before Congressional midterms when every member of Congress fears like the plague to be painted as a dove, just as happened in 2002 before Bush II took us to war.
Whatever role ISIS plays in this, Syria is certainly the target. It is telling that when it comes to money, Obama is asking Congress only for funding to train the Syrian "moderate rebels" in that bastion of Sunni moderation, Saudi Arabia.
The rationales that Obama is peddling make no sense. If the barbarity of beheading were the actual trigger of this latest onslaught on the Middle East, then the U.S. would not be sending our "moderate" trainees to Saudi Arabia where beheading is a well respected national past time – far more popular than allowing women to drive automobiles.
And if the barbarity that has motivated Obama were the wanton taking of American life, then we would be training Jewish "moderates" to overthrow the Apartheid State of Israel. For let us remember that the IDF bulldozed the American Rachel Corrie into the ground when she stood in the way of the destruction of Palestinian housing. And it was Israel that killed the American citizen living in Turkey, Furkan Dogan, who was on the Mavi Marmara in the Gaza Flotilla. And it was Israel that tried to blow the USS Liberty out of the water killing 34 American sailors and wounding 171.