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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023


I think it’s worth reflecting as dispassionately as we are capable of doing right now about the events of the past few days. Before we become overwhelmed in the strident rhetoric and hyperbole of the media and the politicians, we ought to evaluate what they mean when they claim that ‘terrorists’ have attacked us and that the attacks were ‘acts of terrorism’.

It’s conventionally assumed that a terrorist act is one that is random and unprovoked, carried out by the lone madman or a group of fanatics devoted to a cause, and not by governments or nation states. As such then it seems that the attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the pentagon are indisputably acts of terrorism.

A more critical look reveals a different picture. Acts of terrorism are never random and seldom unprovoked. Two interesting quotes came out of the day’s events. The first was made by President Bush in his televised address. In it he referred to the nation’s mood in the face of the attacks as one of “quiet unyielding anger”. The second was a statement issued by the Iraqi government that in being attacked the US was “reaping the fruits of its inhumanity”.

The Iraqis must know something of ‘quiet unyielding anger’. When asked, in 1996, for her reaction to the killing of half a million Iraqi children in five years due to US lead sanctions (not to mention bombings) Madeline Albright replied that “-we think the price is worth it” although admitting, it was “a very hard choice”. By 1999, estimates were about 4000 children killed each month.

It is hard for us to imagine the effects of living in such a society, where the infrastructure is all but destroyed thanks to bombing, embargoes and biological warfare, “exactly what it means to destroy water and sewage systems and electrical and other infrastructure, and to prevent repair or even supply of medicines”. Add to this the fact that the attacks were and are carried out by the most powerful and richest nation on earth. It may be hard for us to imagine but I doubt that ‘a quiet unyielding anger’ would adequately describe it.

According to a former UN diplomat, “Iraqi’s younger generation of professionals, the political leadership of the future-bitter, angry, isolated, and dangerously alienated from the world-is maturing in an environment not dissimilar to that found in Germany under the conditions set by the Versailles Treaty”. Obvious inferences follow.

The US is the nation most responsible for the conditions that exist in Iraq and we have been careful to duplicate them elsewhere. In the eastern hemisphere: we can see them in Southeast Asia, in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and in the Middle East with our support (until they disappoint us as was the case with Saddam Hussein) of the Arab royal families and other despots. In the western hemisphere: we have Central and South America. In the 1980’s we turned Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador into slaughterhouses. We are currently waging a civil war in Colombia, and have been torturing Cuba for the last forty years and Haiti for even longer. This doesn’t even touch on our sordid history on our own continent. The reach of US power is unprecedented in history, the first state to achieve true worldwide dominance.

As I said, we are almost solely responsible for the conditions that exist in Iraq and in similar places around the globe. These have not come about through our efforts gone awry but are actively pursued by us. At the very least then, if we find ourselves in a state of ‘quiet unyielding anger’ at the recent attacks made upon us, think what the conditions that we have brought about in other countries must inspire in others. Again, it is not hard to imagine that ‘quiet unyielding anger’ doesn’t come close to being an adequate description.

So it’s not possible for us to entertain the notion that the attacks carried out on the US were random and unprovoked. In fact we ought to seriously ponder Iraq’s contention that we reap the consequences of our own inhumanity.

Adam RossiUMB ’02

All Quotes from Noam Chomsky’s ‘The New Military Humanism’ published by Common Courage Press 1999.