Obama used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to defend making war:
Glenn Greenwald is absolutely right to note that both the Democratic president’s speech and the bipartisan praise for it goes a long way to baking permanent militarism into our political debate. It’s hard to argue anymore that militarism is merely a Bush-ian or Republican ideology – it’s now become a consensus within our political establishment.
One of the reasons that militarism has become a mostly unquestioned consensus within the United States is the interrelationship between the military, their corporate partners, and the corporate media. Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff have written Inside the Military Media Industrial Complex: Impacts on Movements for Peace and Social Justice
In the United States today, the rift between reality and reporting has peaked. There is no longer a mere credibility gap, but rather a literal Truth Emergency in which the most important information affecting people is concealed from view. Many Americans, relying on the mainstream corporate media, have serious difficulty accessing the truth while still believing that the information they receive is the reality. A Truth Emergency reflects cumulative failures of the fourth estate to act as a truly free press.
A long thread of sociological research documents the existence of a dominant ruling class in the US, which sets policy and determines national political priorities. C. Wright Mills, in his 1956 book The Power Elite, documented how World War II solidified a trinity of power in the US that comprised corporate, military and government elites in a centralized power structure working in unison through “higher circles” of contact and agreement.[vi] This power has grown through the Cold War and, after 9/11, the Global War on Terror.
At present, the global dominance agenda includes penetration into the boardrooms of the corporate media in the US. Only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. Four of the top 10 media corporations share board director positions with the major defense contractors including:
William Kennard: New York Times, Carlyle Group
Douglas Warner III, GE (NBC), Bechtel
John Bryson: Disney (ABC), Boeing
Alwyn Lewis: Disney (ABC), Halliburton
Douglas McCorkindale: Gannett, Lockheed-Martin.
Given an interlocked media network of connections with defense and other economic sectors, big media in the United States effectively represent the interests of corporate America. …
The media elite, a key component of the Higher Circle Policy Elite in the US, are the watchdogs of acceptable ideological messages, the controllers of news and information content, and the decision makers regarding media resources. Their goal is to create symbiotic global news distribution in a deliberate attempt to control the news and information available to society. The two most prominent methods used to accomplish this task are censorship and propaganda.
Sometimes the sensationalist and narrow media coverage of news is blamed upon the need to meet a low level of public taste and thereby capture the eyes of a sufficient market to lure advertisers and to make a profit. But another goal of cornering the marketplace on what news and views will be aired is also prominent. Billionaire Rupert Murdoch loses $50 million a year on the NY Post, billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife loses $2 to $3 million a year on the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, billionaire Philip Anschutz loses around $5 million a year on The Weekly Standard, and billionaire Sun Myung Moon has lost $2 to $3 billion on The Washington Times. The losses in supporting conservative media are part of a strategy of ideological control. They also buy bulk quantities of ultra-conservative books bringing them to the top of the NY Times bestseller list and then give away copies to “subscribers” to their websites and publications. They fund conservative “think tanks” like Heritage and Cato with hundreds of millions of dollars a year. All this buys them respectability and a megaphone. Even though William Kristol’s publication, the Standard, is a money-loser, his association with it has often gotten him on TV talk shows and a column with The New York Times. Sponsorships of groups like Grover Norquist’s anti-tax “Americans for Tax Reform” regularly get people like him front-and-center in any debate on taxation in the United States. This has contributed to extensive tax cuts for the wealthy and the most unfair tax laws of any industrialized country – all found acceptable by a public relying upon sound-bites about the dangers of ‘big government.’ Hence media corporation officials and others in the health care, energy and weapons industries remain wealthier than ordinary people can imagine. Their expenditures for molding opinion are better understood as investments in a conservative public ideology.
By the time of the Gulf War in 1991, retired colonels, generals and admirals had become mainstays in network TV studios during wartime. Language such as “collateral damage” and “smart bombs” flowed effortlessly between journalists and military men, who shared perspectives on the occasionally mentioned but more rarely seen civilians killed by U.S. firepower. This clearly foreshadowed the structure of “embedded” reporting in the second Iraq War, where mainstream corporate journalists literally lived with the troops and had to submit all reports for military review.[xiii] A related militarization of news studies by Diane Farsetta at the Center for Media Democracy documented a related introduction of bias. These investigations showed Pentagon propaganda penetration on mainstream corporate news in the guise of retired Generals as “experts” or pundits who turned out to be nothing more than paid shills for government war policy.[xiv]
The problem then becomes more complex. What happens to a society that begins to believe such lies as truth? The run up to the 2003 war in Iraq concerning weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) is a case in point. It illustrates the power of propaganda in creating not only public support for an ill-begotten war, but also reduces the possibility of a peace movement, even when fueled by the truth, to stop a war based on falsehoods. The current war in Iraq was the most globally protested war in recorded history. This did nothing to stop it and has done little to end it even under a Democratic president who promised such on the campaign trail. The candidate of “hope and change,” with peace groups in tow, has proven to be dependent upon the same interests in foreign policy that got the US into war in the first place.
As to the change from Obama the liberal campaigner to Obama the corporatist and militarist president, Cenk Uygur has some thoughts for the people who elected Obama:
The core of Obama is a man who is a cautious politician. That is what he is at his center. He can’t help himself. Asking him to be something else is asking a rock to be a little less hard. He is what he is.
So, what Obama does by his nature is find the middle ground. As an excellent innate politician, he will find the political center of any field and rush to it. That’s where elections are won – the center. So, that’s why he sounded so progressive during the primaries, because that was the center of the left. And why he sounded like such a reformer during the general election because the great majority of Americans desperately wanted change.
So, what happened to that Obama? The country is the same, so why did Obama drop the progressive reformer angle and go toward the right and corporate America? Because his field changed. He went from campaigning all across the country to being in the middle of Washington, DC. The center of Washington is very different than the center of the country.
The Washington bubble leans far more to the right than the rest of the country (poll after poll indicates this). The corporate media in Washington are pros at protecting the status quo and view people who challenge the system as fringe players. A natural politician would naturally move right to accommodate this new environment. Obama can’t help himself. Why does a scorpion sting, why does a horse gallop? Because they were made to. Hoping Obama snaps out of it is hoping against reason and nature.
For people living and voting in the US:
So, our only hope is to move the island. We have to move his center. If we can move what he perceives to be the center, he will naturally flow to it. …
The next time Obama pushes a corporate agenda, progressives have to knock him upside the head. Deny him. Or as the kids would say, send his shit. And make a big stink out of it. Draw everyone’s attention to how far right Obama is and how out of whack he is with the American people.
If that scares you and you start to worry about damaging a Democratic president, you’re never going to win at this game. You’re never going to get the policies you want. They don’t listen to reason, they listen to power.
If you don’t move the island, the rest is futile. You have to shift the ground underneath them. And the only way to do that is to create such a strong and aggressive progressive movement that they cannot help but notice it – and respond to it. Move the center and you’ll move Obama. And he’ll move the country. There is no other choice.
Added December 29:
Cenk Ugyur is right about trying to move the center. His prescriptions are more short term and tactical rather than taking the long view. As b real says in the comments, Chris Hedges comes closer to describing the current state of American media and American democracy.
From an interview with Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.”
It’s the story of an America that has transferred its allegiance to spectacle, to pseudo-events, that no longer can determine what is real and what is illusion, that confuses how they’re made to feel with knowledge, that confuses propaganda with ideology, and that’s exceedingly dangerous. All totalitarian societies are image-based societies, and that’s what our society has become.
… newspapers are dying, the publishing industry is dying, you have 42 million Americans who are illiterate. You have another 50 million Americans who are semi literate, meaning they read at a 4th of 5th grade level. And then you have people who are functionally literate, but they don’t read. There are tremendous consequences for that, because as you well know, having worked in the advertising industry, these images are not benign. They are skillfully orchestrated and manipulated by for-profit corporations to get us to do a lot of things that are not in our interests. And of course, this all ties into the rise of celebrity culture, well on display with our 3 week coverage of the death of Michael Jackson.
Sheldon Wolin, the great political philosopher who taught at Berkeley and later Princeton, now 86, has written his sort of magnum opus called, “Democracy Incorporated.” And he argues that we live in a system that he calls inverted totalitarianism. The classical totalitarianism, in classical totalitarianism, like fascism or communism, economics is always subordinate to politics. But in inverted totalitarianism, politics is subordinate to economics. And with a rise of the consumer society, with the commodification of everything, including human beings and natural resources, you have built into it a form, an inevitable form of self annihilation. Because nothing has intrinsic value when society is no longer recognized as sacred. You exhaust everything for their, for its ability to make money. No matter how much human misery you create, no matter how much you go, how far you go to destroy the ecosystem that is sustaining the human species. And that with the rise of celebrity culture, of consumer culture, and on federate capitalism, you get what Benjamin Demott has called, I think quite correctly, junk politics.
Karl Polanyi, this great economist in 1944, wrote a book called “The Great Transformation” in which he said that a society that no longer recognizes the sacred, that exhausts everything for profit, always kills itself. And I think that’s what we’re seeing. And as an economist, he actually used the word sacred. That human beings have an intrinsic worth, that the natural world has an intrinsic worth, beyond it’s potential to generate profit.
We live in a corporate state. We live in a state that no longer responds to the interests of its citizens, but does the bidding of corporations. There is no shortage of examples of that, from the largest transference of wealth upwards in American history, to the so-called healthcare debate, where for profit healthcare industries are literally profiting off of death, any debate about healthcare must begin from the factual understanding that the for profit healthcare industry is the problem. Then we can debate what we do. But unfortunately, and many, many citizens know that, across the floor, but we can’t have it because we are completely controlled. We’ve undergone a kind of coup d‘etat in slow motion. We live in a kind of inverted totalitarianism where the façade of democracy and the constitution are held up as an ideal but the actual levers of power are driven by very destructive forces.
These corporate forces will never permit real reform. It would mean their extinction.