Just back from a long weekend at the Disney World reality show, where my wife and I spent the weekend trailing our 11-year-old son around Walt’s sterile and contrived alternate universe, I find the U.S. media hard at work trying to produce the same kind of world of illusion as one finds on display in the Magic Kingdom.
Double standards (if one can even use the word standard in connection with the media today) are on full display.
Take Lebanon. While tens and even hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathering in America is a story that can be buried on inside pages (as the N.Y. Times did in the case of the first big New York march against the Iraq War), or in many cases not covered at all (at least unless a few of them behave violently or react assertively to police provocation), a few thousand, or even a few hundred stylishly Western-clad young Lebanese protesting against America’s enemy of the week, Syria, get full-bore coverage. When is the last time we’ve seen a U.S. protest on the cover of Time or Newsweek? Yet there were those fresh-faced young Lebanese, gracing the fronts of both magazines on display in the airport newsstand. A little embarrassing when half a million Lebanese who back Syria’s role in their country take to the streets a few days later, and the pro-Syria prime minister, who was pressured to resign last week, is brought back, but hey, who’s paying attention to what happened last week?
In Iraq, it’s the same story. The insurgency continues to grow, with attacks on the Abu-Ghraib torture center in the Green Zone getting so bad that the U.S. has decided to move its “high-value” prisoner/victims to a jail in the center of the Baghdad airport, where there is a wider perimeter of control, Yet all the American media can talk about is how dramatic the new democratic developments in Iraq are, with liberal columnists even suggesting that Bush is being proven right in invading Iraq. It’s as though a tide of democracy had already swept the Middle East, though at this point, not one authoritian government has shown signs of foundering, much less toppling. Of course, there are some things that are hard to ignore or paper over. The killing, by nervous and trigger-happy American troops, of a Bulgarian “coalition” soldier, the Italian secret service rescuer of an Italian journalist, and the body guards of an Iraqi government official, all in the space of a few days, have made it abundantly clear that the U.S. occupation force, far from defending democracy, is slaughtering civilians in Iraq on a daily basis.
Even the business press, usually a bit more inclined to realism, is in on the fantasy game, breathlessly reporting that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is closing back in on the 11,000 mark, while ignoring or downplaying the larger reality that the U.S. dollar is a balloon of hot air, waiting only for the arrival of a pin to send it crashing to the floor, dragging the DOW and the rest of those indices with it. As a private banking money manager on the seat behind me on my plane to Florida confided, the smart money in America these days is pulling out of equities and investing in commodities-copper, oil and gold-aware that the collapse of paper assets, real estate and the dollar itself is just a matter of time.
Whatever else one may say about him, Walt Disney was a shrewd marketeer. He saw early on that what Americans crave is happy fantasies, where the scares are contrived and predictable, and good always triumphs in the end. It’s an approach that neatly meshes with Bush’s good-vs. -evil foreign policy propaganda, and that the media, eager for easy handouts and good visuals, is happy to disseminate.
And like those pricey tickets to Disney World, Americans seem to be buying it in bulk.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org