Omarosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children

Here’s a pop current events identification quiz for U.S.A-ers:

(1) Briefly describe the dispute raging between former Black female reality television star and former White House senior staff member Omarosa Manigault-Newman (hereafter “Omarosa”) and the Donald Trump White House.

(2) Briefly describe what recently happened to at least 40 children riding in a recreational trip on a school-bus in Sa’ada, a city in northern Yemen.

The answer to the first question is that Omarosa has gone public with a taped phone conversation of how she was fired by White House chief-of-staff John Kelly and threatened by Kelly with damage to her public reputation if she did not go quietly.  She has also sent out a taped conversation of the tangerine dotard, Trump, pretending not to know that she’d been fired and to be upset about it.

Extra credit to those who know that Omarosa claims to have heard a tape in which Trump says the word “nigger” and that she has now come to the belated conclusions that Trump is a racist and that she was “complicit” in Trump’s racist games while she worked for him.

Extra credit for those who know that these revelations are being made in connection with the release of an Omarosa memoir about her years with Trump before and during his idiotic presidency.

It’s a tabloid story to no small extent, though the “N word” allegation may be useful for the public to hear. It is yet another sign of the epic dysfunction at the heart of the Trump Operation in the White House.

The answer to the second question is that dozens of Yemeni school children were killed by a Saudi Arabian missile attack last week. Fourteen other Yemenis died in the deadly assault.

Extra credit to those who know that the Saudi strike occurred with logistical support of the U.S. military and that it is just one of hundreds of horrific attacks that the arch-reactionary and absolutist Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other oil-rich nations in a Saudi-Emirati-led coalition have made on Yemeni civilians with U.S. weapons, logistical assistance, and money.

Super extra credit to those who know that the U.S. (along with its dutiful imperial pit-bull the United Kingdom) is equipping and otherwise aiding the abetting the infliction of an epic humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. The Saudi-Emirati coalition has already killed many thousands of innocent Yemenis and has so devastated the nation that famine and a deadly 19thcentury disease, cholera (from unsanitary water) have gone epidemic there, causing mass child mortality.  For weeks now, the coalition has been savagely bombing the port city of Hodeidah, the main entry point for desperately needed food and medical supplies coming into the besieged nation.

Honorary doctorates to those who know what the intrepid antiwar witness and activist Kathy Kelly recently reported on CounterPunch last weekend:

“U.S. companies such as Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin have sold billions of dollars’ worth of weapons to [the Saudi-led] coalition which is attacking Yemen. The U.S. military refuels Saudi and Emirati warplanes through midair exercises [and]…helps the Saudi[s] hoose their targets….Isa Blumi, an associate professor at Stockholm University and author of the book Destroying Yemenhas said the United States is ‘front and center responsible’ for the Saudi coalition attacks….Looking for a helpful way to describe U.S. support for the Saudi-Emirati operation in Yemen, journalist Samuel Oakford recently offered this comparison: ‘If an airstrike was a drive-by and killed someone, the U.S. provided the car, the wheels, the servicing and repair, the gun, the bullets, help with maintenance of those—and the gas.’”

Be honest, dear CounterPunch reader.  You know very well that far more USAers would get a passing grade on question 1 than on question 2 (I’m thinking 47% would pass on the first question and 3% on the second).  You know that that is seriously messed up because the U.S.-equipped/-funded/-assisted murder, maiming, sickening, and starving of masses of innocent civilians, including thousands of children, is a much bigger deal than Donald Trump sloppily firing “wacky Omarosa” (Trump’s characterization is not all wrong), pretending not to know about or approve her discharge, and (possibly) being caught on tape saying racist stuff. At least it would be in a remotely moral and decently informed nation with a functioning democratic culture.

Things different in the United States, an “advanced” nation where “popular culture” is relentlessly shaped by a senseless, atavistic, propagandistic, nationalist, imperialist and corporate war and entertainment media that functions like the combined embodiment of the dystopian visions of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Neal Postman (author of the aptly named book Amusing Ourselves to Death) and Phillip K. Dick. A functioning democracy and a moral political culture require a functionally democratic and morally sentient media.  There’s no such thing to be found in the U.S. outside the officially marginalized left organs like this and other ones (Truthdig, Black Agenda Report, Z Magazine and more) I have written for many years.

There were, to be sure, accurate accounts of the Saudi missile bus strike in the New York Times, CNN, and other major media outlets. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes even took a brief break from his network’s around the clock RussiaGate obsession to momentarily report the grisly horror in Sa’ada and to acknowledge that “our government, our public dollars, are paying to kill Yemeni children.”  But such brief and halting reports are like rare pearls of carefully hedged truth [1] easily swamped by a much bigger flood of media sewage.  Omarosa’s personal drama with her former “Apprentice” boss El Donito (a reality television star and brand name who out-Postmaned Postman by becoming POTUS) trumps many buses of dead Yemini children in the reigning U.S. media-politics culture. That’s how things go in that great complex of mass indoctrination, misinformation, distraction, diversion, and dumbing down that is American corporate and so-called mainstream media.

Distorted imperial “manufacturing consent” news coverage of the sort that can never see people on the wrong end of Uncle Sam and his allies’ gun-, bomb-, and missile-sights as “worthy victims” meriting serious concern is part of the problem.  But it’s not the whole story.  If you really want to see where mass consent to the U.S. imperial project – and the U.S.-UK-Saudi-Emirati crucifixion of Yemen is a classic reflection of that gory project (please seem my August 2017 Truthdig essay “The United States and the Crucifixion of Yemen”)  – is most effectively manufactured, watch the movies, the nightly non-news television content, and the video games, the entertainment media where masses of U.S.-Americans are being far more than just merely entertained. When it comes to effectively propagandizing U.S-Americans on the supposed virtues of the American Empire and the purported evil of America’s enemies, and to desensitizing ordinary USAers to the monumental crimes of the U.S. empire, the major news media have nothing on movies like “The Deer Hunter,” “Top Gun,” “Iron Eagle,” “Independence Day,” “Rocky IV,” “Black Hawk Down,” “Argo,” “A Few Good Men,” “From Paris with Love,” “Captain Phillips,” “American Sniper,” “Zero Dark 30,” “Iron Man,” and “Eye in the Sky,” and nothing on television shows like “24,” “Homeland,” “Law and Order,” “NCIS,” and “FBI.”  (This is just a very short list from the vast portfolio of U.S-imperialist “entertainment” media production, often with the Pentagon directly involved.)   A relentless story line in this propaganda is the standard imperia and nationally narcissistic narrative: “The USA good and most of the rest of the world is bad and in need of inherently benevolent U.S. power and heroism.”

Along the way, dominant media works relentlessly to reduce its consumers to the merely personal and private.  It erases the social, historical, and institutional. It inculcates the primitive level of consciousness where one can grasp something as childish as “Omarosa and Stormy Daniels were treated badly by Donald Trump” but nothing more complex beyond the individual scale than “America Good, It’s ‘Enemies’ Bad” – and certainly nothing as involved and ideologically verboten (in so-called “mainstream” U.S. media [2]) as “the American Empire and military-industrial complex is invested in the murder of children in the Middle East.”

It doesn’t help that the U.S. crucifixion of Yemen was in full swing under Obama [3], who was and is beloved by the nation’s non-FOX and generally Democratic Party-affiliated corporate media. The savage destruction of Yemen (increased but hardly initiated under Trump) is a bipartisan crime, whereas the Omarosa story can more clearly be seen as an incident specific to Trump, who is widely loathed by that media.

The populace has been so badly conditioned this way for so long – and the endlessly childish Donald Trump Show is deepening the infantile regression – that it might not matter all that much if CNN magically decided to run around the clock with the real and horrible story of the American Empire, as told by Noam Chomsky and other great democratic and anti-imperial truth-tellers.

What is to be done? For starters, we need to make truth-telling non-corporate and non- and anti-imperial news and commentary outlets like CounterPunch go-to-media for millions of U.S.-Americans. Clearly, however, it’s not enough just to get the facts right. We must confront not merely the bad and misleading corporate-imperial news but also the bad and misleading corporate and imperial entertainment media (where Huxley leads but Orwell follows along strongly), which joins with but does more than the itself increasingly Huxleyan news media to turn U.S. citizens into infantilized “good Americans” who are badly unprepared to see, much less resist, the hideous imperial crimes (i.e., the crucifixion of Yemen) regularly committed in their name and with their tax dollars.


[1] Here’s the great lefty and Chicago-born-and-raised comic Jimmy Dore talking about MSNBC briefly breaking its long silence on U.S. crimes in Yemen and letting its anchor Chris Hayes speak a bit of extremely belated truth about that criminality in connection with the attack on the school bus:  “The biggest humanitarian catastrophe in the world, we’re gonna wait until 8:45, we’re gonna wait until 45 minutes into our [Hayes’] news broadcast. Biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. We haven’t covered it for over a year, Not even mentioned it. So now everyone’s going ‘kudos’s he’s doing it now’…So now, when Assad was supposed to have had chemical weapons and supposed to have killed 30 people with chemicals, we were supposed to bomb him now and if Trump didn’t bomb him it was proof that he was a treasonous president who was a Manchurian candidate. We literally just killed 56 kids. Who’s supposed to bomb us now? When do we get bombed? When does someone call us butchers? When do we get called butchers? When does that happen? It never happens…’Wow look at that he went almost two and half whole minutes’ [about Yemen and the US role in the missile attack on a school-bus there] and people are going nuts complimenting him for doing that…So there you go ,’we covered it.'”   Dore’s death-toll may be too high (the most commonly cited number is 40, but hey who knows?) and I would have added something like “so when do we bomb Riyadh?”  but that’s good stuff.  “So,” Dore said. “MSNBC’s been given a hard time by Fairness and Accuracy in Report [FAIR] and by us, by a lot of people, because they don’t cover Yemen.  They’re not covering the genocide in Yemen, but they’re covering Russia 24-7 and they’re covering Syria. But they won’t cover Yemen. Why?  Because we’re complicit.  The United States military-industrial complex is helping commit genocide and war crimes inside of Yemen.  We’re doing that.  We’re doing a thing called ‘siege warfare.’ Siege warfare is a war crime…that’s where you cut off supplies to people, you’re trying to starve them, you’re keeping them from medical supplies.  You’re keeping them from clean water…we’re doing that.”

[2] It is appropriate to place quotation marks around the phrase “mainstream media” when writing about dominant U.S. corporate media.  During the Cold War era, U.S. officials and media never referred to the Soviet Union’s state television and radio or its main state newspapers as “mainstream Russian media.” American authorities referred to these Russian media outlets as “Soviet state media” and treated that media as means for the dissemination of Soviet “propaganda” and ideology. There is no reason to consider the United States’ corporate and commercial media as any more “mainstream” than the leading Soviet media organs were back in their day.  It is just as dedicated as the onetime Soviet state media to advancing the doctrinal perspectives of its host nation’s reigning elite—and far more effective.

[3] Jimmy Dore again: “This was happening under Barack Obama. This is being ramped up under Trump. It certainly would have been ramped up under Hillary Clinton.” It’s very easy to imagine the Sa’ada bus incident taking place under a president affiliated with MSDNC’s (I mean MSNBC’s) party of choice.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).