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Mickey Z. is the author of two new books: “A Gigantic Mistake: Articles and Essays for Your Intellectual Self-Defense” (Library Empyreal) and The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda (Common Courage Press). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JOSHUA FRANK: Mickey, you were one of the few commentators on the left who was skeptical of the “Anybody But Bush” mentality this past election year. What do you think the consequences were for the anti-war movement when so many of its leaders opted to pursue anti-Bush agenda, rather than anti-war agenda?
Mickey Z: The answer lies in your question. The anti-war aspect was co-opted by a personalized attack on one man and, at most, one party. It became Bush’s war…a Republican war. The mantra become so overwhelming that even those who should know better bought into the lie.
This is hardly new, however. Compare the public response to Clinton’s illegal bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 to Bush merely talking about an invasion of Iraq in 2002 and you’ll clearly see the fruits of long-time conditioning. For the next four years, Democrats can confidently posture as anti-war, knowing a large mass of the population will ignore or simply not notice that their actions contradict their rhetoric.
It will be a giant step toward change when more people realize that our two-party (sic) system is like an airplane. It has a right wing and a left wing…but only one pilot.
JF: And who is this “pilot?”
MZ: The pilot, and this is crucial, is not any individual or political party. The “pilot” is institutional. Call it “corporate America” if you like, but we’re talking about an entrenched global financial system unburdened by national borders or allegiances. Bush may be the public face of this predatory paradigm for the next four years, but he is as interchangeable as any corporate CEO. Sorry to mix metaphors here, but he’s gotta keep those shareholders and board of directors happy.
JF: Are you talking about some big conspiracy theory here, like the Illuminati? Or simply, as C. Wright Mills would call them, the “power-elite?”
MZ: When the board of a massive transnational corporation meets to plot ways to maximize profit, it’s not a conspiracy. Multiply that times thousands and you have the “power elite.” They don’t need secret societies…just enough people with a vested interest in maintaining the economic status quo.
JF: You have a new book out, called the Seven Deadly Spins. Can you talk a little about what influenced you to take on the topic of spin and how the government sells the American public “war?”
MZ: An underlying theme of almost all my writing has been the debunking of myths and decoding of propaganda. I believe it’s my entry point in terms of reaching people. After 9/11, with all the talk about the world being changed forever and a perpetual war of terror (sic) being unilaterally declared, I was drawn to the topic of wartime propaganda and felt if I could present an historical perspective, it might provide the context needed to better understand what’s going on now.
JF: And what is going on now regarding the use of spin and propaganda and the Iraq invasion? Is it different, than say, the propaganda used by the government and the corporate press to justify the Vietnam War?
MZ: The spin and propaganda are dutifully following the formula laid out in my book.
Spin #1: The Sleeping Giant: The U.S. wanted peace but was provoked by the evil aspirations of Saddam Hussein.
Spin #2: Good Wars: Having been forced into war, the U.S. is only fighting in the name of democracy and justice.
Spin #3: U.S. vs. Them: The Iraqi opposition is made up of ruthless thugs who hate freedom and threaten peace-loving humans everywhere.
Spin #4: Support the Troops: No matter what we think of Bush or the lies he told before the invasion, we must all unite behind our troops and support the brave men and women fighting to preserve our way of life.
Spin #5: The Devil Made U.S. Do It: During every war, even the U.S. has to play a little rough…when the enemy is terrorists who behead civilians and set up rape rooms, sometimes you have to put the rules of law aside.
Spin #6: Surgical Strikes: Those billion-dollar weapons can differentiate between the guilty and the innocent.
Spin #7: Only Losers Commit War Crimes: Enemies of the U.S. must be brought to justice. Bad behavior by U.S. soldiers is an aberration…the actions of a few bad apples.
While variations must exist, of course, from war to war…for the most part, there’s not an ounce of originality in there.
JF: Why do you think it is necessary for the U.S. government to use “spin?”
MZ: With a few exceptions, most humans are not looking for opportunities to slaughter other humans. However, history has shown that we’re all susceptible to the allure of nationalism, chauvinism, and ethnocentricity. Spin preys on our deepest fears…exploiting the human spirit in a heinous manner. One of the most disgraceful aspects of life in this 21st century white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy is how so many of our best minds are working day and night to conjure methods of mass deception…whether it be state-sponsored propaganda or corporate disinformation.
JF: So what can we do to combat the “spin” we are inundated with? Will the masses ever see through the lies and deception?
MZ: As Neils Bohr said, it’s difficult to make predictions…especially about the future. Will the American population eventually wake up? Hard to say.
I’d say 9/11 was a potential wake-up call and that just resulted in more myopia. However, if we examine our historyÐfrom the abolition of slavery to women getting the right to vote to the civil rights movement and moreÐwe see brilliant examples of large sectors of the populace shrugging off the shackles of propaganda.
In terms of “how” to combat spin, there’s no secret formula. It requires that we use the faculties of independent thought we are born with. On my end, what I can provide is a litany of cases in which we were deceived and duped while demonstrating why the government/corporate nexus has little motivation to be honest.
But nothing will change until we change our minds.
JOSHUA FRANK is the author of the forthcoming book, Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, to be released in early 2005 by Common Courage Press.