Propaganda, the drive to war, and the battle for the mindJun 14, 2023
A battle of ideas is being fought in Australia. And the front line is the drive to war and the demonisation of China. There is a battle but it is a one-sided affair.
Ranged against those who seek a sane and rational world are powerful voices. The government, of whatever persuasion pays think tanks handsomely to make sure that it receives the advice it wants to hear. The mainstream media then pushes dissent to the margins. The propaganda machine, having muffled any opposition then works to convince the public that there is no opposition and therefore right remains firmly on the side of the powerful.
A mad, Kafkaesque shell-game is played out. A key player in all this is the right wing, militarist Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI). This body is pivotal as it exists largely to advise to the Government and the Department of Defence on ‘strategic’ matters. It currently gets 57 per cent of its funding from arms dealers. Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, the Thales Group and Raytheon are the major sponsors. They invest for a reason and miraculously, ASPI makes the ‘right call’ when advising Canberra about threats from China. The fact that the threats are fictitious are by the by. The advice is all that matters and ASPI are the experts. If they were not the right people to deal with, then the Department of Defence would not be happy to kick in another 37 per cent of the militarists’ budget.
Government hears what it wants to hear and pays handsomely to get the advice that goes to formulate defence policy, and therefore justify profligate spending on weapons of mass destruction that enrich the arms traders, who have just funded the advisors!
And so, with the combined weight of government, right wing think tanks, an arms industry and a media that manipulates public thinking, the fact that dissenting voices exist at all is remarkable.
A glance at the anti-AUKUS Coalition website shows that over 1,000 individuals and more than 200 organisations have thus far leant their support for a rational and sane response to the rising threat of war with China and the obscene military spending that accompanies it. There are many important voices among the signatories but their voices are not regularly heard in our media. Their words do not appear in the major daily newspapers, regardless of how well credentialed they might be. Our former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, has effectively been relegated to the sidelines for voicing a position that does not fit with the official line.
And, while the collective wisdom of so many is ignored, the war-mongers are given free rein. Defence Minister, Richard Marles, when announcing the establishment of a Washington office for ASPI remarked that, ‘in so many ways, the product of ASPI is critically important, not only in informing the Australian public, but those of us in government who seek to play a role in this space.’
Marles states that the Australian public must be informed. He recognises this to be ‘critically important’ but the unhealthy degree of censorship is impossible to ignore. The information that the public is allowed to see, hear and read is the information that is filtered. There is a strong sense of a creeping authoritarianism in all of this.
John Pilger, in an article published in early May, referred to the Congress of American Writers and its appeal to writers to speak about the ‘rapid crumbling of capitalism’ and the threat of war. The most important literary voices in America responded. Thousands more, ordinary men and women took heart from their call. It seemed to herald an awakening and a collective refusal to accept a vision of a world that was being dragged into poverty, inequality and war. That assembly took place in the mid-1930s.
Inevitably war came, and from the ashes of war capitalism regained a sense of equilibrium. What also came was cold war and McCarthyism. Radical alternatives, it was decided, could no longer be tolerated.
And what of today? We see once more that same ‘rapid crumbling of capitalism’ and a very real drive to war, but there is a difference. The war that is now so close cannot be cast as a defensive war against barbarity or tyranny. It will not be a war ‘for’ anything but a war to protect the dominance of the US and to seek to halt the further crumbling of capitalism. There is another difference this time around. The intellectuals, essayists, poets, and novelists that might speak up and speak out are silenced by the mainstream media. It is not that they are not there. It is not that many thousands of ordinary people do not share the view that things are terribly wrong. The media has played and is playing a terrible role. It is media in name only. It has abandoned any semblance of independence. It is so hard to speak out if you are kept captive, if ideas are filtered and disinformation passes for truth.
Pilger calls on those with a conscience to speak out, but the marketplace for ideas has been deliberately shrunk. Pilger is today read in the columns of on-line journals with a limited circulation. He is one of the great journalists of the latter 20th century and beyond and yet, he has been deliberately excised from public memory. Truth has become the property of those who control the media.
Pilger has been sidelined. American vengefulness would see Julian Assange die in prison. Successive Australian governments have behaved equally badly, but the USA calls the shots. Assange’s crime? To report the truth. The truth, however, is not what Richard Marles is thinking of when he talks of the ‘critical importance’ of informing the public.
In the period before WWII the pretence of a free media allowed for events such as the Congress of American Writers to be held and for their ‘manifesto’ to be published for an attentive audience. That pretence is now a thing of the past. What is different today is that those same writers, workers, unionists, men and women, must seek alternative ways of presenting alternative viewpoints.
Voices have been silenced. Dissent has become difficult. The road to war with China is both ideological and driven as always by the need to preserve capitalism. It might be an inconvenient truth but a truth never-the-less.
John Pilger’s call, for us all to speak up, has never had more urgency. The decades since the end of WWII and the proclamation of the US-inspired rules-based-order have seen millions die in American led wars. As Pilger says, ‘if the current propagandists get their war with China, this will be a fraction of what is to come.’