Censorship is a necessary component of every 'successful' war. As General William Westmoreland observed during the Vietnam War, 'without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.' So long as government controls the flow of information and images to the folks back home, it can maintain the slaughter and oppression of thousands half a world away indefinitely. Essential to wartime deception is a compliant media. Nothing does more to elevate a government's campaign of mass murder and tyranny to a struggle of good versus evil than a press willing to prostitute itself.
A 'free' press serves an important purpose in a free society: keep an eye on government and its petty tyrants who seek to plunder the liberties and property of the people, and expose transgressions to the public in a timely manner. This should hold true whether the press is covering failed foreign imperial adventures or local scandals involving elected or appointed officials. Misinformation that trumpets the failed policies and malfeasances of government only paves the way for further corruption and thievery by elected officials.
When the media cooperates with government against the best interests of a supposedly free people, expensive and disastrous policies are given a sense of legitimacy they do not deserve. The failed occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan provide two glaring examples.
President Bush's recent request for $87 billion to continue 'reconstruction' efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan is tacit admission that the U.S. occupation there is nothing more than a money pit for American taxpayers and a growing treasure trove for U.S. corporate interests closely tied to the White House. Once token Congressional resistance to the president's request is complete, the Federal Reserve will wave its magic wand and create more money for the world monopoly board's elite players. It will be hailed as a 'show of support for the troops' and democracy, rather than as the prolific waste of resources that it is.
Should the media allow the Bush administration to repeat its favored worn out imperial clich' without question--that continued funding of the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan are vital to U.S. and world security, and that failure to follow through on 'reconstruction' efforts in Iraq sends a dangerous signal to terrorists the world over--it will simply be a continuation of the media's policy of giving President Bush's imperial ventures a free pass by not subjecting his justification and motives for war and occupation to criticism and scrutiny.
President Bush and his close circle of advisors are extraordinary liars, but they would not have gotten this country into the military and financial mess we face without the help of the media. As Eric Margolis recently pointed out, Bush's foreign policy disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan are directly attributable to one of the 'key organs of democracy--an independent, inquiring media,' completely failing in its primary function--as the watchdog of government. Once going out of its way to 'rock the boat,' the 'free' press in this country is now contented with embedding itself in the executive branch as the Ministry of Information.
September 11, 2001, elevated lying by the executive branch from an art to an in-your-face daily activity calculated to exact fear, uncertainty, and unquestioning loyalty from the American people. Carol Norris, writing in Counterpunch magazine, identifies 'Remember 911!' as the Bush administration's 'catch-all response' to a media and American people in danger of awakening from their self-induced intellectual slumber. As Norris argues, that phrase, relayed endlessly by the media for over two years now, has freed the president and his advisors of 'any obligation to account for their actions. It is the cozy, protective cloak that has made the Bush administration all but impervious to questioning and doubt.'
The brazen actions of the Bush administration--facilitation and manipulation of a crisis for maximum political gain--are nothing new among Twentieth Century chief executives. It has been the foundation of government growth and power for the last hundred years. As General Douglas MacArthur said, 'The powers in charge keep us in a perpetual state of fear: Keep us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind' their cause. In the words of H. L. Mencken, the powers that be have created 'an endless series of hobgoblins' to heighten our fears and boost our trust in government.
Increasingly, the media's assault on the flow of information critical of government policy has been helped along by 'concerned citizens' and special interest groups whose economic success is directly linked to government abuse of power. Wrapping themselves in a veil of patriotism, these individuals and groups harass and intimidate the remaining vestiges of dissent and criticism into silence or compliance. Of this ilk of people, William E. Borah said, 'I look upon those who would deny others the right to urge and argue their position, however irksome and pernicious they may seem, as intellectual and moral cowards.' More precisely, they who seek to silence criticism of government and its Napoleons, Caesars, and Hitlers are best suited to make their views known by using crayons, scissors, construction paper, and Elmer's Glue.
The press is never held in high esteem by public officials and their associated leeches that suck the public treasury dry. A 'free' press best serves the people when it is critically examining every move government makes, not touting the destruction, havoc, and chaos of government militarism abroad or regulatory strangulation at home.
NPR's Bob Edwards recently commented: 'We are to hold public officials to account . . . If pointed questions make public officials squirm--well, that just goes with their job, and they're supposed to take it. That's the price that comes with the privilege of serving the people.' If the press caves to intimidation by misguided crackpots, the numbers physically slaughtered abroad will pale in comparison to the numbers intellectually slaughtered here at home.