Talking points on Syria for news propagandists

Chris-CuomoI’m one of those “cord-cutters.” I’ve also given up all mainstream media news. Even though I can still watch and read it online, I mostly choose not to. The lies and distortions are reaching full on lunacy, and if I do catch a headline, or watch a clip, or read a few paragraphs of what the “voices of empire” have to say about Syria or Ukraine, it just ruins my day. I get depressed knowing that most Americans believe the false narratives spun by the White House and State Department, narratives that go unquestioned by the “journalists” who report them. These stories are designed to get the country on board with the administration’s expensive, illegitimate wars that drain resources away from the many to enrich the few.. Unfortunately, most Americans feel that If CNN or the New York Times says it’s true, it must be true.

In case you haven’t noticed, the U.S. government uses the media to demonize the legitimate heads of state in countries it wants to overthrow—most recently Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar al-Assad, and Vladimir Putin. When the demonization starts, you know that country is in the crosshairs of the United States. We pursue “regime change” if a country refuses to bow to U.S. hegemony, is making economic alliances with other countries that threaten U.S. economic interests, or if it has resources we want, such as oil. We also destroy countries that bypass the dollar on trade settlement, as Libya was intending to do. Gaddafi was in the process of starting a gold backed pan-African bank that would serve, rather than exploit, the countries on the African continent. That was unacceptable to Wall Street and international banking cartels. Gaddafi was assassinated, and Libya, once the most prosperous country on the continent, is now a completely destroyed, failed state.

How do we invade without deploying troops? We have NATO do our dirty work, we impose economic and financial sanctions, we impose “no fly zones,” we use mercenaries, we use NGOs to stir up internal unrest and opposition, we send in  CIA-backed fighters like al-Nusra in Syria, we recruit and train jihadists to destabilize our target countries in the Middle East, and we get in bed with corrupt oligarchs and neo-Nazi’s in countries like Ukraine. We steal resources, destroy economic competition, and preserve, or restore, the primacy of the dollar as reserve currency. Most Americans have a misguided view of the United States as some sort of benign force keeping the peace and taking out “bad guys.”  Actually, we are the bad guys. 

Have a look at this moronic Newsweek cover. This is what propaganda looks like. There are deranged Neocons infesting the Obama administration, like Victoria Nuland at State, and Ashton Carter at the Pentagon. And in the DC media, you have people like Richard Cohen at the Washington Post.  They drool over the idea of assassinating Putin, installing another U.S. puppet, like the late, drunk, Boris Yeltsin, and making Russia, with its vast landmass and resources, into a vassal state. This image of Putin as a crazed power hungry “pariah” is the false narrative they want you to buy. Neocons are elitists who don’t believe in democracy. They have no problem manipulating and lying to the American people, as they did going into the Iraq War. They feel the destiny of the United States is nothing less than full-spectrum world dominance.


Humor to the rescue, or, “if I wasn’t laughing I’d be crying”

I love humor, especially when it’s used to expose a devastating truth about current events. So, in the spirit of John Stewart, John Oliver and the venerable Onion, I bring you Gary Leupp, professor of History at Tufts University. By mocking current news coverage on Syria, Leupp points to what’s not true in what we’re hearing and reading. Here’s an edited excerpt of his post “A Useful Prep-sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists”, (emphasis mine). You can read the rest of his wickedly insightful commentary at Counterpunch.

State Department talking points on Syria for cable news anchors:

  • Keep mentioning the barrel bombs. Do not mention how the Israeli Air Force pioneered their use in 1948, and how they were used by the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam in Operation Inferno in 1968. Keep repeating, “barrel bombs, barrel bombs” and stating with a straight face that the Syrian regime is using them “against its own people.” Against its own people. Against its own people. Against its own people.
  • Keep mentioning “200,000.” (The UN estimates that 220,000 have been killed in the conflict since 2011.) Declare, like you really believe it, that this is the number of civilians the Syrian government of Bashar Assad has killed during the war. (Do not be concerned about any need to back the figure up. No one is ever going to call you on it publicly.) Do NOT mention that around half of the war dead (estimates range from 84,000 to 133,000) are Syrian government forces waging war against an overwhelmingly Islamist opposition, and an additional 73,000 to 114,000 are anti-government combatants. Do not discuss these figures because they would call into question the claim that the Syrian government is targeting and killing tens of thousands of civilians willy-nilly.
  • Keep expressing consternation if not outrage that Russia is “interfering” in Syria. Scrunch up your face and act like you think it’s puzzling. Do NOT mention that Syria is much closer to Russia than to the U.S. and that Russia faces a much greater threat of Islamist terror than the U.S. (in places like Chechnya and Dagestan that your viewers can’t locate on a map). Downplay the fact that Russia has had a military relationship with Syria since the 1950s, no more nor less legitimate that the U.S. military relationship with Saudi Arabia. (And avoid any objective comparisons of the human rights records of Saudi Arabia and Syria since the former’s is manifestly so much worse than the latter’s!) Do NOT imply any moral equivalence between Russia’s desire to prevent U.S.-backed regime change in Syria and the U.S.’s desire to inflict another Iraq or Libya-type regime change on that tragically war-torn country.
  • Keep treating the Assad regime as an obvious pariah, whose leader has “lost legitimacy.” Say that with an air of authority, like you really believe that U.S. presidents—like Chinese emperors of the past or medieval popes— enjoy so much “legitimacy” that they can confer this on, or remove it from, anybody else. Study CNN anchor Chris Cuomo’s facial expressions and body language when he announces—so matter-of-factly, as a self-evident fact, as a done deal—that (come on, everybody!) “Assad has lost legitimacy.” (Chris is your model. He’s the State Department’s pleasantly vapid headed scion-of-privilege poster boy, whose occasional dark flashes of indignation—especially those directed towards anyone questioning the official talking points on Russia—embody the attitude Foggy Bottom seeks to encourage in the corporate press.) Do NOT remind viewers that the Syrian government is internationally recognized, holds a UN seat, retains cordial relations with most nations and is engaged in a life-and-death struggle against people who enslave, crucify, behead, bury alive and burn alive people, and want to replace Syria’s modern secular government with a medieval religious one intolerant of any diversity.
  • Keep treating Russian President Vladimir Putin as America’s Enemy Number One, an ally of a Syrian government that U.S. has said must go, deploying force in Syria to bolster Assad rather than (as Moscow claims) to target ISIL. Do NOT lend any credence to the Russian assertion that the Syrian Army is the force best placed to defeat ISIL. Do NOT point out the incongruity of the U.S. invading and attacking countries from Pakistan to Libya since 2001 while expressing alarm that Moscow is (after much hesitation) taking action against Islamist terrorists at Damascus’s invitation.
  • Please keep everything simple, following the examples set by MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Scarborough and CNN’s Cuomo, and inculcate in the mind of the viewer that Assad is the main problem and most horrible actor in the Syrian situation. Tell them that Putin, while striving to revive the tsarist empire, is backing Assad as a loyal ally and using his military to prolong his rule that Washington condemns rather than (as he states) taking action against ISIL.
  • If you do all this, you will demonstrate your loyalty to the State Department, the bipartisan foreign policy consensus, the military-industrial complex, the One Percent, your advertisers, your producers and editors, and the unsung heroes behind the scenes who arrange your teleprompter scripts.