Sobran's -- The Real News of the Month

 The Media War 

April 1, 2003

This war is different. No, really. When President Bush spoke of “a new kind of war” right after 9/11, he meant that fighting stateless terrorists would call for new methods to counter a new kind of enemy. But now he is merely continuing his father’s conventional war against another state, Iraq.

But Bush has also announced an ambitious new war aim: the creation of “democracy” throughout the Middle East, bringing peace and stability to the region. Of course this means pro-American democracies, agreeable to the United States and Israel.

That goal was always highly improbable. Western institutions can’t simply be transplanted into the Muslim world, as anyone in his right mind knows. And Bush has already made it even harder than ever with his violent invasion of Iraq.

Democracy has been defined as “rule by publicity” — that is, by the mass media. If you’re going to win the hearts and minds of the people, you have to do it with the news media.

As in the first Gulf War, the U.S. Government has reasonably firm control of the American media. This is no longer called censorship; the new term is message discipline. American reporters are “embedded” in the military expedition, trusted to support the official perspective.

Ostensibly the purpose of censorship is to protect military secrets from the enemy, but the real purpose is propagandistic, as message discipline implies. The media are expected to put out the American message. That’s why we are seeing so many pictures of U.S. Marines carrying little Iraqi children. Awww. You’d think our troops had been sent on a child-care mission, and that “The Marines’ Hymn” had been replaced by Brahms’s Lullaby.

[Breaker quote: The United States has already lost.]But this war is different, because the U.S. Government controls only the American media. This time the war is also being covered by alternative media, notably Arab media like Al-Jazeera. The American media monopoly is gone. Most of the world is watching the war through other lenses.

What the world sees is not Marines cuddling children and trying to avoid civilian casualties, but the casualties themselves: dead and mangled Arab women and children. It sees brave young Arab soldiers desperately fighting a mighty invader. It sees Donald Rumsfeld holding a press briefing on a split screen, the other half of which shows a wounded girl in a hospital bed. It doesn’t see Iraqis joyfully welcoming their American “liberators,”as Bush led us to expect.

The Arab coverage also shames the American media into showing the war more candidly. The April 7 Newsweek features a color photo of a small Iraqi girl with blood flowing from what had been her right eye. How can the U.S. Government neutralize a picture like that? There are no photos of little American girls whose eyes have been shot out by Iraqis.

Horrors abound — a devastated marketplace, a van full of women and children shot dead for running a checkpoint. It’s no use trying to supply “context” or “perspective” to soften these images. Accidents or not, they are the natural results of the “war of choice” the United States has chosen — and chosen in the teeth of worldwide opposition and warnings that such things were bound to happen.

The Bush administration continues to insist that the military war is going well, according to plan. But nobody doubted American military superiority. What is surprising is that the administration is already on the defensive. And no victory will erase the memories of the innocent victims. Even if you expected and predicted them, the actual images are still shocking.

Bush’s goal of a postwar Middle East happily reconciled to the United States depends on winning not only the military war, but the propaganda war as well; and the propaganda war has already been lost. It has been lost as lopsidedly, and as early, as the military war was supposed to be won.

If the United States is going to dominate the Middle East, it will have to do so by raw force, suppressing huge hostile populations the way Israel suppresses the Palestinians. If the West Bank has been a severe headache for Israel for decades, imagine turning the whole region into a mega-West Bank!

Even if the American people support the current war, will they have the stomach for an endless aftermath of resistance and suppression?

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2003 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of Griffin Internet Syndicate

small Griffin logo
Send this article to a friend.

Recipient’s e-mail address:
(You may have multiple e-mail addresses; separate them by spaces.)

Your e-mail address

Enter a subject for your e-mail:

Mailarticle © 2001 by Gavin Spomer
Archive Table of Contents

Current Column

Return to the SOBRANS home page.

FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.

Search This Site

Search the Web     Search SOBRANS

What’s New?

Articles and Columns by Joe Sobran
 FGF E-Package “Reactionary Utopian” Columns 
  Wanderer column (“Washington Watch”) 
 Essays and Articles | Biography of Joe Sobran | Sobran’s Cynosure 
 The Shakespeare Library | The Hive
 WebLinks | Books by Joe 
 Subscribe to Joe Sobran’s Columns 

Other FGF E-Package Columns and Articles
 Sam Francis Classics | Paul Gottfried, “The Ornery Observer” 
 Mark Wegierski, “View from the North” 
 Chilton Williamson Jr., “At a Distance” 
 Kevin Lamb, “Lamb amongst Wolves” 
 Subscribe to the FGF E-Package 

Products and Gift Ideas
Back to the home page 


SOBRANS and Joe Sobran’s columns are available by subscription. Details are available on-line; or call 800-513-5053; or write Fran Griffin.

Copyright © 2003 by The Vere Company