Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Sunday, June 06, 2010

John Pilger on the 'master illusions' of our age

How do wars begin? With a "master illusion", according to Ralph McGehee, one of the CIA's pioneers in "black propaganda", known today as "news management"...The Israelis have played this murderous game since 1948. The massacre of peace activists in international waters on 31 May was "spun" to the Israeli public for the better part of the week, preparing them for yet more murder by their government, with the unarmed flotilla of humanitarians described as terrorists or dupes of terrorists. The BBC was so intimidated that it reported the atrocity primarily as a "potential public relations disaster for Israel", the perspective of the killers, and a disgrace for journalism...

In Britain, we have our own master illusions. Imagine someone on state benefits caught claiming £40,000 of taxpayers' money in a second-home scam. A prison sentence would almost certainly follow. But David Laws, chief secretary to the Treasury, does the same and is described as follows: "I have always admired his intelligence, his sense of public duty and his personal integrity" (Nick Clegg). "You are a good and honourable man" (David Cameron). Laws is "a man of quite exceptional nobility" (Julian Glover, the Guardian), and "a brilliant mind" (BBC).

The Oxbridge club and its associate members in politics and the media have tried to link Laws's "error of judgement" and "naivety" to his "right to privacy" as a gay man, an irrelevance. The "brilliant mind" is a wealthy, Cambridge-groomed investment banker devoted to the noble task of cutting the public services of mostly poor and honest people.

Now imagine another public official, the force behind one of the great war criminals and liars. This official "spun" the illegal invasion of a defenceless country that resulted in the deaths of at least a million people and the dispossession of many more: in effect, the crushing of a human society. If this was the Balkans or Africa, he would very likely have been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

But crime pays for the clubbable. In quick step with the Laws affair, this truth was demonstrated by the continuing celebration of Alastair Campbell, whose frequent media appearances provide a vicarious thrill for the liberal intelligentsia. To the Guardian, Campbell is "bullish, sometimes misdirected, but unafraid to press on where others might have faltered". The Guardian's immediate interest is its "exclusive" publication of Campbell's "politically explosive" and "uncut" diaries. Here is a flavour: "Saturday 14 May. I called Peter [Mandelson] and asked why he didn't return my calls yesterday. 'You know why.' 'No, I don't.' He said he was incandescent at my Newsnight interview . . .'"

In a promotional interview with the Guardian, Campbell dispensed more of this dated incest, referring just once to the bloodbath for which he was a principal apologist. "Did Iraq lose us support in 2005?" he asked rhetorically. "Without a doubt . . ." Thus, a criminal tragedy equal in scale to the Rwandan genocide was dismissed as a "loss" for New Labour: a master illusion of notable profanity.

The full article is online here. I couldn't unfortunately make the 'End the Siege of Gaza' demonstration in London yesterday, part of a world-wide day of action, but a flavour of the mood of defiance can be got from George Galloway's announcement at the rally that a further convoy of aid to Gaza will be launched:

"On the day after Ramadan [expected to begin on 11 August] two mighty convoys one by land and one by sea will begin. We will enter together for the mightiest breach of the siege there has ever been. We will end the siege that day. This wall is now tottering we have to break it down ourselves."

Edited to add: Check out Mark Steel on Israeli propaganda

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