The global media is the most powerful weapon in the system of domination. Inculcating commodity worship, sexism, racism and war, it grips most of us as passive spectators. With the Charlie Hebdo murders as a pretext, the media tapped into the xenophobia to serve the system’s ends, mobilizing a movement to support the so-called war on terror. They even made it appear to be “against hatred and for free speech. ”
Like the beheadings carried out by ISIS, the Charlie Hebdo killings have been used to divert attention from the far greater atrocities of the US wars. Presidential summary assassinations, aerial bombings, drone attacks, kidnappings, night raids on peoples’ homes, renditions, tortures, lawless imprisonment for decades, global surveillance, etc., etc., were all forgotten in an orgy of false unity, where over 3 million people marched in Paris. A chorus line of Western leaders, including Benjamin Netanyahu, the odious Prime Minister of Israel, whose crimes seemed for the moment also forgotten, led the march.
All mention of the US Senate’s report on CIA torture disappeared from view as the media hammered home the evil of the terrorists. The obvious fact that war is terrorism, was submerged. Critics of the Global War on Terror were sucked into the vortex of denunciations of the Charlie Hebdo killers. The alleged murderers, the brothers Kouachi, were killed by police; this eliminated any possibility of an inconvenient trial.
The Charlie Hebdo murders took place on French soil, violating the holiest of holies, national sovereignty. This gave the media a pretext for even louder and more passionate cries of righteous indignation.
The media’s inflated outrage was used to strengthen their control over their political subjects, an exercise in domination. While earlier media crusades were largely orchestrated to divert peoples’ attention, this was the first time the media has been used to launch an international movement – to support the “global war on terror.”
This is probably the largest, and loudest single display of the rulers’ power since the birth of the modern propaganda system. From 1917 to 1919, President Woodrow Wilson’s Creel Commission, officially known as the Committee on Public Information, reversed overwhelming public opposition to World War I and brought the US into the war. Both Nazis and Bolsheviks learned from this seminal experiment in modern statecraft.
The hostage “crisis” in Iran (1979 – 1980) helped lay the basis of 24/7 breathless journalism and the “national obsession” manufactured by the media in the OJ Simpson trial (1994-1995) were two milestones in the development of the system’s ability to divert peoples’ attention away from the grim realities of daily life under its domination. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Islam became the official enemy of the West; Sept. 11 launched this crusade.
The Charlie Hebdo case marks an innovation. For the first time an international mass movement was initiated to endorse their current effort: uniting Western societies (sometimes called “civilization”) to crush opposition and dissent. Launching a mass movement is fraught with danger. Much can go wrong. A mobilization like this suggests the ruling elite has great confidence in its control. Can we prove them wrong?
This sobering development needs study. It is a level of psychological operations, “psyops” to covert operatives, we have not seen since the US entered into WWI. It requires study and discussion.
Three points are worth considering:
1. Charlie Hebdo as a “satirical” magazine:
Like all people, all humor has a point of view. It has to do with whom we laugh at and why. Charlie Chaplin said a prosperous businessman falling on the ice is not the same as a young mother with small children falling. Chaplin took the side of the little guy against pompous authority. His films are still loved.
Charlie Hebdo was a little journal (circulation about 45,000, or 60,000) devoted to attacking Islam. The media obscured their role by asserting that the magazine attacks all religions (“an equal opportunity provocateur”), or even “attacks everything.” But making fun of the religion of the dominant and making fun of that of the oppressed are not the same.
Denigrating Islam, in the context of the “war on terror,” Charlie operated as a small cog in the gears of the prevailing order’s machinery of manufactured public opinion, an in-house journal of “satire” for the rulers, more valuable to their masters dead than alive. Quotation marks around the word satirical are justified because they made fun of victims of the system’s racism, but not those who propagate and benefit from that racism. Unlike Chaplin, they typically take the side of authority. That’s not satire it’s flunkeyism.
Like critics of “political correctness” seeking acceptance of prejudiced and hateful comments, Charlie Hebdo promotes racism, despite their claims of irreverence and joviality. They widen divisions among oppressed and exploited people. They are friends of the owners not of the poor. Charlie Hebdo’s designation as a “satirical” magazine should be judged from this perspective.
2. Muslims in France:
Concentrated in banlieues (suburbs) around the largest cities, Muslims in France are the country’s second largest religious group, after Catholics (http://www.brookings.edu/press/books/chapter_1/integratingislam.pdf ). Suffering disproportionately high rates of unemployment, police harassment and racial profiling, in large underserved neighborhoods called ghettos, they are treated by French authorities much like African-Americans are treated in the US. No wonder French Muslims express hostility to and mistrust of officialdom.
They comprise a large and growing percentage of blue collar and white collar laborers. If they can shed the pernicious influence of radical Islam, with its politically and morally bankrupt reliance on terrorism, they could become a major force for social transformation in France as well as in other European countries.
The media does not want Muslims to repudiate terrorism. It constantly presents radical Islam as the only route for young, dissatisfied Muslims to take. This misrepresentation serves radical Islamists and the owners. Young Muslims are diverted from a revolutionary path.
France’s decaying Left, exemplified by President Francois Hollande, has no interest in social transformation. It competes with the right to attack Muslims to curry favor with Western interests and France’s dominant classes by assuring a split among French workers. Other European countries, also experiencing a large influx of Muslim laborers, though not as large as that in France, pursue a similar course.
3. Racism will continue as long as the dominant elites need racism to divide workers and to prevent movements to eliminate class society.