Telling the Children What to Think: Corporate Media and Degraded Citizenry

On Friday, February 22nd, the Leesburg Daily Commercial provided two perfect examples of the way in which it suppresses any tendency toward independent thinking among the citizenry. We refer not to the reliable red-baiting of Cal Thomas, which has long since degenerated into tragic comedy for the few of us who watch what Barack Obama does far more closely than what he says. With no banker left behind, relaxed emissions standards for industrial polluters, faster line speeds at chicken-processing plants, water supplies across the land permanently polluted by fracking, and genuine health care reform rendered out-of-reach for a generation, this is a most peculiar kind of Marxian utopia. But let us leave Thomas and his Fox News zombies in their kleptocrat-funded fantasy land. The real insult to the readership of the Daily Commercial came from the sources that are generally taken – except by the aforementioned zombies – to be somewhat neutral and authoritative. When the Associated Press (AP) and Scripps Howard News Service speak, we are hearing the voice of the Establishment. This is precisely when we should be most on our guard.

Reinforcing Hatred of “The Other”: The Arrogance of Empire

The AP’s reporting on the discovery of an Arabic-language “tip-sheet” on how to avoid drone strikes was simply breathtaking for anyone who ever appreciated the works of Orwell, to which we pay homage in our War Is Peace section. Slathering such threatening descriptors as “extremist” and “jihadist” throughout the text, the article feigned surprise and even indignation at the resourcefulness of the rebels of Mali while ensuring their demonization as an unquestioned enemy of the United States and, by extension, everything that is good in this world. How dare they, the tone seemed to imply, resist the deadly attacks of the mighty America? How dare they be upset that America seeks to kill them in their own country and plans to intensify its undeclared war from new drone bases in the region? Don’t they understand that the world belongs to the United States and that, as God’s chosen people, we are the ones to decide whose worldviews are legitimate and who gets to live or die?

Assault rifles in an appropriate context.

Assault rifles in an appropriate context.

As ever, the corporate media that long ago abrogated its solemn responsibility to hold the imperial presidency in check added yet another brick to the wall of popular belief that America is at war with a dangerous, global enemy, therefore justifying the maintenance of the security state and all the costs – financial, human, and moral – that this entails. One authority opined that “we are no longer dealing with an isolated local problem, but with an enemy which [sic] is reaching across continents to share advice.” Putting aside the irony that al-Qaeda members no doubt say much the same about the Great Satan, why on earth are we supposed to be surprised or impressed by this revelation? Didn’t President Bush tell us we were at war all over the world – whether we wanted to be or not? Are we supposed to be even more afraid now that pick-up drivers in the deserts of Mali have figured out how to camouflage their vehicles after logging on to And of what, exactly, are we supposed to be afraid? Ah, well, let’s leave that one unasked and unanswered, all the better to fan the irrational flames that feed the rise of unbridled militarism.

Another authority figure expressed surprise that the rebels were capable of such sophistication: “These are not dumb techniques. It shows that they are acting pretty astutely.” While further reinforcing fear of the hated “other,” such sentiments also belittle them, a posture of arrogance that one might have thought was overdue for reevaluation given the inability of the mighty, superior Americans to defeat their targets in Afghanistan. The British couldn’t beat them. The Russians left with their tails between their legs. But the Americans, just like in Vietnam, refuse to admit defeat. The primitive, alien others are subhuman, not expected to be sophisticated or resourceful; we are superhuman, technically advanced and invincible. Or not.

Naturally, the underlying causes of the hostility between al-Qaeda and the West are left unexamined. Long forgotten are Reagan’s words that the Afghans who resisted the Soviet invasion of their country were freedom fighters. Never mentioned is the profundity of the provocation of stationing American forces (including a hitherto secret drone base) on the holy ground of Saudi Arabia. Conveniently elided is the fundamentalist nature of our best friend forever, Saudi Arabia, or our former fondness for fundamentalists who were the enemies of our enemies. No, it’s all very simple, children: we’re good, they’re bad; we live, they die. Don’t trouble your little heads over it.

One Man and His Dog1: Not as Pretty as the Yorkshire Dales

In an earlier post (Preparing the Lambs for Slaughter: The Debt Knife Awaits) we explored the cynical process through which the American people were being herded toward a Grand Bargain that will see the plutocracy take another massive stride ahead in the name of debt control. This process is a long-term game; indeed, one might even refer to it as a master plan. It did not end with the Fiscal Cliff drama in January; that was but one episode in the one-percent’s favorite soap opera. The plot continues to unfurl toward its inevitable climax. With the president railing against congressional Republicans for their unwillingness to prevent the horrors of sequestration – a measure that has his fingerprints all over it – the sheeple are about to be shown that the alleged debt crisis cannot be solved through the blunt instrument of cuts alone. Never mind that this episode is a boring repeat of the showdown that effectively ended the significant part of Newt Gingrich’s career. Americans like sequels, so you can show them the same stuff over and over again. Let’s see if we can guess how this episode is going to end.

Erskine Bowles and Alan SimpsonScripps Howard columnist Dale McFeatters2 spoiled the surprise ending (darn it!) by heralding the timely reappearance on the political scene of Messrs. Simpson and Bowles, the very personification of the Establishment. Once (apparently) spurned by the great Obama and cast out into the wilderness (literally in Alan Simpson’s case), they have ridden back into town at just the right moment to offer America a “balanced package of entitlement reforms, targeted spending cuts and new revenues created by closing tax loopholes.” In other words, the poor and middle class are about to get reamed out. McFeatters is not exactly subtle in encouraging America’s children to swallow their medicine, positing this plutocratic brew as “shovel ready” for quick enactment. Such a slogan might appear a poor choice for winning over House Republicans (who could experience an allergic reaction to phraseology associated with the stimulus plans they love to hate) unless one considers the macabre implications of who is going to get buried by that shovel.


  1. A long-running BBC television show, shot in bucolic settings, demonstrating the skills of shepherds and their canines.
  2. The Daily Commercial failed to identify the individual columnist, a sloppy practice that leads to much confusion. Their presentation gives readers the impression that they are reading a “house editorial” from the news agency itself, when in fact these columns are the opinions of individual authors. When this post was first published, we hadn’t figured that out. Some of the Daily Commercial‘s own people – who presumably have a better chance to know what happens on Leesburg’s Main Street – still haven’t.

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