Loud noises from Washington about a US pull-out from Iraq are a poor disguise for America’s determination to keep waging war.  And the same sort of spin is at work here in Britain

by John Pilger

Edward Bernays, the American nephew of Sigmund Freud, is said to have invented modern propaganda.  During the First World War, he was one of a group of influential liberals who mounted a secret government campaign to persuade reluctant Americans to send an army to the bloodbath in Europe.  In his book Propaganda, published in 1928, Bernays wrote that the “intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society”, and that the manipulators “constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country”.  Instead of propaganda, he coined the euphemism “public relations”.

The American tobacco industry hired Bernays to convince women that they should smoke in public.  By associating smoking with women’s liberation, he made cigarettes “torches of freedom.”  In 1954, he conjured a communist menace in Guatemala as an excuse for overthrowing the democratically elected government, whose social reforms were threatening the United Fruit Company’s monopoly of the banana trade.  He called it a “liberation”.

Bernays was no rabid right-winger.  He was an elitist liberal who believed that “engineering public consent” was for the greater good.  This could be achieved by the creation of “false realities” which then became “news events”.  Here are examples of how it is done these days.

False reality The last US combat troops have left Iraq “as promised, on schedule”, according to President Barack Obama.  The TV news has been filled with cinematic images of the “last US soldiers”, silhouetted against the dawn light, crossing the border into Kuwait.

Fact They have not left.  At least 50,000 troops will continue to operate from 94 bases.  American air assaults are unchanged, as are special forces’ assassinations.  The number of “military contractors” is 100,000 and rising.  Most Iraqi oil is now under direct foreign control.

False reality BBC presenters have described the departing US troops as a “sort of victorious army” that has achieved “a remarkable change in [Iraq's] fortunes”.  Their commander, General David Petraeus, is a “celebrity”, “charming”, “savvy” and “remarkable”.

Fact There is no victory of any sort.  There is a catastrophic disaster, and attempts to present it as otherwise are a model of Bernays’s campaign to “rebrand” the slaughter of the First World War as “necessary” and “noble”.  In 1980, Ronald Reagan, running for president, rebranded the invasion of Vietnam, in which up to three million people died, as a “noble cause”, a theme taken up enthusiastically by Hollywood.  Today’s Iraq war movies have a similar purging theme: the invader as both idealist and victim.

False reality It is not known how many Iraqis have died.  They are “countless”, or maybe “in the tens of thousands”.

Fact As a direct consequence of the Anglo-American-led invasion, a million Iraqis have died.  This figure, from Opinion Research Business, follows peer-reviewed research by Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, whose methods were secretly affirmed as “best practice” and “robust” by the Blair government’s chief scientific adviser.  This is rarely reported or presented to “charming” American generals.  Neither is the dispossession of four million Iraqis, the malnourishment of most Iraqi children, the epidemic of mental illness, or the poisoning of the environment.

False reality The British economy has a deficit of billions which must be reduced with cuts in public services and regressive taxation, in a spirit of “we’re all in this together”.

Fact We are not in this together.  What is remarkable about this PR triumph is that only 18 months ago, the diametric opposite filled TV screens and front pages.  Then, in a state of shock, truth became unavoidable, if briefly.  The Wall Street and City of London trough was on full view for the first time, along with the venality of once-celebrated snouts.  Billions in public money went to inept and crooked organisations known as banks, which were spared debt liability by their Labour government sponsors.

Within a year, record profits and personal bonuses were posted and the “black hole” was no longer the responsibility of the banks, whose debt is to be paid by those not in any way responsible: the public.  The received media wisdom of this “necessity” is now a chorus, from the BBC to the Sun.  A masterstroke, Bernays would surely say.

False reality Ed Miliband offers a “genuine alternative” as leader of the Labour Party.

Fact Miliband, like his brother and almost all those standing for the Labour leadership, is immersed in the effluent of New Labour.  As a New Labour MP and minister, he did not refuse to serve under Blair or to speak out against Labour’s persistent warmongering.  He now calls the invasion of Iraq a “profound mistake.”  Calling it a mistake insults the memory and the dead.  It was a crime, of which the evidence is voluminous.  He has nothing new to say about the other colonial wars, none of them mistakes.  Neither has he demanded basic social justice – that those who caused the recession clear up the mess and that Britain’s fabulously rich corporate minority be taxed seriously, starting with Rupert Murdoch.

The good news is that false realities often fail when the public trusts its own critical intelligence.  Two classified documents recently released by WikiLeaks express the CIA’s concern that the populations of European countries, which oppose their governments’ war policies, are not succumbing to the usual propaganda spun through the media.

For the rulers of the world, this is a conundrum, because their unaccountable power rests on the false reality that no popular resistance works.  And it does.

Source: New Statesman

John Pilger, renowned investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, is one of only two to have twice won British journalism’s top award; his documentaries have won academy awards in both the UK and the US. In a New Statesman survey of the 50 heroes of our time, Pilger came fourth behind Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. “John Pilger,” wrote Harold Pinter, “unearths, with steely attention facts, the filthy truth. I salute him.”

Also See:

JOHN PILGER : Tony Blair must be prosecuted


  1. Ross on the 03. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    I think John we also need to attack the source of oppression and wars.It is the International Reserve Banking system that keeps countries in poverty and the war machine running.

    In our country Australia we now have a pop for 22 million people and GDP of $ 1.4 trillion.Our economy has been very similar to the USA.Each yr additional money is added to our economies ie GDP + inflationary money.Increases in GDP or gross domestic product average about 3.5% plus inflation of 3%.Inflation is the excess money above increases in GDP that devalues our currencies.

    In Aust inflation + GDP increases adds $91 billion to our economy or $8500 for every working person.You would think that increases GDP or production by all Australians belongs to them.Not so,our Reserve Bank paid a dividend of $6 billion last financial year or $500 for every working person.Who got the other $8,000 for every working person?

    It is the private banks and in likes of the US Federal Reserve who generate the new currency for people’s productivity.It is like stealing your neighbour’s money and loan it back to him at interest.This is why we have such a huge balance of payments deficit.

    So if you really want to get people’s attention,let them know how the banking system is robbing them blind.It is theft by stealth.

  2. Cold Wind on the 03. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    The wars enrich the thieving banks, which are protected by a corporatized military and a thoroughly corrupt government. In consequence the people are enslaved, impoverished (those who are not outright killed) and otherwise brutalized on a daily basis. Thanks to the new crop of Bernay’s in the world, the new propaganda and mind control technologies, we have entered a period (unaware and well masked by the media drivel), of mass killings, depopulation and the ‘best of Eugenics’.

  3. Jackthesmilingblack on the 04. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    You can fool all the people some of the time…but not all the people all the time.”
    For me this is the most encouraging aspect. So “Never believe anything until it’s been officially denied”. Attributed to Claud Cockburn.
    Clearly Authority has over played its hand. Increasingly the public do not trust Authority and do not believe the MSM. Good, huh?

  4. Vickie on the 04. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    Truth – Lies
    Propaganda – Public Relations
    Greater Good – Exploitation
    Theft – Bail Out

    They are nothing but lies and they know it.

    Welcome To Orwells World of 2010

    The bible does say much about deceitful tongues and there were zero exceptions. People deserve to be told the truth. The government and the liars on the news aka: the press really are zero exception.

    They may not believe me now; but they were warned. Death really is the great equalizer and it will hunt them and over come them and then Jesus will get his hands on them and put them exactly where he thinks they belong despite where I think they delude themselves into thinking they are headed.

    Lies – Truth and yes there is a difference and there is not one damn justification for the literal barrage of lies that I see paraded in front of me every day. It is a sad commentary on our world.

    For the lying game:

    There will be hell to pay
    There is zero other option

    There is only one correct answer to a sum and that is it.

    Alas – A just honest world is for another King and another Kingdom; that does not excuse us from trying.

    This evil age is going to end – Time it’s on my side.

    Take it as a promise and take it to the bank.

    And so the lying game goes

  5. Marianne on the 04. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    Dear John
    In case you read this, long may your mind remain sharp and your writing hand supple and strong.
    This poor deluded world sorely needs brave and honest journalists and you most certainly are one of these.
    Thank you.

  6. Ross on the 05. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    In the early 1970′s we went off the gold standard ie countries now did not have a % of gold to keep their currencey stable.This was the green light for our Global Reserve Banks to create volumes of counterfeit money in their computers and loan it out as debt.It also enabled the derivative market to grow.

    Another big development was the growth of the credit card. Previously we used cash and our mints had to create % of money as notes and coins to cater for the increase in productivity and inflation.This reduced our taxes.Now foreign companies like VISA and Mastercard create much of this cash as debt in conjunction with the private banks,which further enslaves people.

    Then came the big deception of bailouts and stimulus.The US Fed created over $80,000 per working US person,bailed out their mates in the derivative market and added that to the workers’s tax bill.Total US debt is $330,000 per working person.It is the greatest monetary fraud in our history.

    With the US economy on the brink of collapse they will use war to stop civil unrest.Obama will probably suspend the constitution and bring in martial law if things get really nasty.

    We’ve seen it all before.The real enemy is our own Govts and the corporates who finance them.

  7. Kevin Jones on the 05. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    John Pilger is Australia’s most awarded journalist yet most Australians have never heard of him and his views it seems are not wanted by the media here.

    That all points in the direction of John Pilger being a true hero, a real journalist with truths to tell. This troubled world is a better place because of him.

  8. Fred on the 05. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    It’s the Jews, stupid.

  9. Ross on the 05. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    Fred “It’s the Jews stupid” It is not that simplistic.It is a certain % who are Zionist but far from being all Jewish.You can never blame an entire race for the sins of a few.

    It was the Jewish banks like the Rothchilds who financed both sides during WW2.Prescott Bush,George Dubwooya’s grandfather was on the board of the Union bank which laundered Nazi money.In other words the Jewish banks financed the slaughter of 6 million of their own people.

    Fred you have to learn to more clever.Tribalism does not make people seek the truth or freedom.

  10. Colin on the 06. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    Its not so much a matter of tribalism as much a parrotting unsubstantiated news read in a magazine on your last trip to the dentist. People need to dig below the surface , research properly and uncover the facts for what they are and have an informed viewpoint.

    Firstly the 6 million Jewish slaughter figure is a proven fairytale . Secondly , you are right – it is not all Jews – the general population of Jews are deceived as as much as the rest of us by the Zionist element. (Read the Elders of Zion document and be frightened of how that vision perfevtly defines todays world – and it is not a fake) The fact is that litle true Jewish blood runs in these peoples veins. They are mainly Askenazis and Kharzaks (Rothschild was originally a Kharzak named Baer until he changed his name.

    On the whole it is a consortium of egocentric and delusional power mongers that are responsible for this sad state of affairs in the world today and the only way to fix the problem is for all of us to hit them where it hurts. The only way this can be effectively done is by turning our backs on these globalist corporates , not buy their products and generally find or create an alternative living arrangement that does not include them. Its possible but only with a gigantuan amount of courage on our part.

    The question is – do we have the courage to do that ? – I think not.

  11. Ross on the 08. Sep, 2010 remarked #

    Colin the numbers of Jews who died in concentration camps might be in dispute but the film archives say otherwise.I’ve been to Dachau.It looked pretty real to me.To make this a Jewish hate crusade make us no better than the perpetrators.

    What proof do you have for this being a complete falsehood?

  12. Blair Francis Hamilton on the 06. Dec, 2010 remarked #

    “you can fool Some of the people All the time,you can fool
    All of the people Some of the time.” If you have a decent “public relations team” and a few loyal supporters, you can fool Most of the people Most of the time and form a “democratic government”.

  13. adam weishaupt on the 29. Jan, 2011 remarked #

    John Pilger.
    Ask him about 9/11 if you can like I did–EVASION BIG TIME.

    Qui tacet consentit.

  14. Tsvi on the 02. Mar, 2011 remarked #

    I am interested in John Pilger’s reaction to the anti-Semitic comments (by Fred, Ross & Colin) to his brillant amalysis.

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