Elite Fear Of The Public: Ukraine, Gaza and Assange   

Remarkably, we recently witnessed the US defending what could rightly be called wrong-sided legal arguments at the UN, ICJ and Assange hearings. All within 24 hours. But it would be foolish to suggest they will not bounce back.

Photo: No credit listed for artwork or artist

22 February 2024 | Clipper Media

‘Elite shaping of public opinion is not 100 percent foolproof, of course, but it is often highly effective.’

Effective, indeed. And we have to admit, they have learned much in the last couple of decades. We went from years of 24/7 ‘War on (or of) Terror’ until that fell off the map with the advent of 24/7 covid which then fell victim to #IStandFor various wars.

Few people seem to have noticed, but this latest 24/7 orchestrated incarnation adopted the term ‘Pro-Palestinian’ protests on Day One instead of the more-traditional – and factual- anti-war protests. Talk about oven ready.

It was not clear at first why this became the universally accepted media term, but we now realize it would be difficult to charge people for taking part in ‘anti-war’ protests, but the term ‘Pro-Palestinian’ became a secret government and media code for that other ‘anti‘ thing that ‘Pro-Palestinian’ has been used to absurdly denote.

Absurd, but the two ruling parties do not care about history, past, present or future. Not from 80 years ago, not the decades of South African apartheid, not the unhinged endless war machines.

This current history lesson will eventually turn on a dime, just as it did in South Africa once the ever-present skirt of protection is removed and all parties suddenly find themselves accountable for the horrendous shitshow we have seen every day.

By that point, most of us will be satisfied if they simply crawl under a rock and let the rest of the planet get on with living life, exploring the universe, and creating a better world for the next generations.

James Porteous | Clipper Media

Elite Fear Of The Public: Ukraine, Gaza and Assange      

It is a historical fact that powerful elites do not wish to be diverted from pursuing their selfish interests by the public. Minimal, unthreatening expressions of dissent may be tolerated in ostensible ‘democracies’. But public opinion needs to be managed, manipulated or, if necessary, simply ignored.

After all, as Noam Chomsky has said, real ‘democracy is a threat to any power system’. He noted that Edward Bernays, one of the founders and leading figures of the huge public relations industry:

‘reminded his colleagues that with “universal suffrage and universal schooling… even the bourgeoisie stood in fear of the common people. For the masses promised to become king.” That unfortunate tendency could be contained and reversed, he urged, by new methods of “propaganda” that could be used by “intelligent minorities” to “[regiment] the public mind every bit as much as an army regiments the bodies of its soldiers.”’

(Preface to ‘The Myth of the Liberal Media’, Edward S. Herman, Peter Lang Publishing, 1999, pp. x-xi)

Elite shaping of public opinion is not 100 per cent foolproof, of course, but it is often highly effective. As Peter Beattie, an assistant professor in political economy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, observed:

‘While the media is far from a brainwashing “influencing machine” or a hypodermic needle capable of injecting ideas into our minds, it is nonetheless the greatest influence on public opinion, as it is the conduit through which the building blocks of public opinion are transported.’

(Beattie, ‘Social Evolution, Political Psychology, and the Media in Democracy: The Invisible Hand in the U.S. Marketplace of Ideas’, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019, p. 8)

In fact, one could argue that the media is ‘a brainwashing “influencing machine”’, as demonstrated, for example, by the power and success of the propaganda blitz against Jeremy Corbyn, and the deliberate conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism in establishment attempts to smear critics of Israel. However, if public opinion remains stubbornly immune from establishment pressure, it can simply be rejected or overridden.

Consider a YouGov poll last October showing that 66 per cent of the British public support reinstating public ownership of energy companies. Likewise, a 2022 survey by campaign group We Own It revealed that a majority want to see public ownership of utilities such as energy and water.

We Own It director Cat Hobbs said:

‘Privatisation has failed for nearly 40 years. Politicians can’t ignore the truth any longer: these monopolies are a cash cow for shareholders and we need to take them back.

‘We need energy companies that don’t rip us off, public transport that works for passengers and water companies that don’t pour sewage into our rivers.’

The poll also showed very strong support for public ownership of buses, the railways, the National Health Service and Royal Mail. These findings were echoed in an Ipsos poll last August.

None of these popular policies are consistent with the extremist, corporate agenda of the Tory government or the ‘opposition’ Labour party. Nor do they feature much in ‘mainstream’ media reporting and commentary. This sums up the reality of British ‘democracy’: a state that suppresses the wishes of the majority and is run for the benefit of a very rich minority.

None of this is unique to the UK; it is an endemic feature of capitalist societies. Justin Lewis, professor of communication at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Culture, wrote that:

‘Majorities [in the US and other western countries] consistently support increased government spending in traditionally “liberal” areas such as healthcare, education, environmental protection, and even – when the word “welfare” is not used – programs for assisting the poor. This has been well documented in a number of comprehensive studies. And yet the media’s interpretative frameworks tend to suppress the leftist leanings of opinion poll responses, creating a picture of a moderate to conservative citizenry that matches a moderate to conservative political elite.’

(Lewis, ‘Constructing Public Opinion: How Political Elites Do What They Like And Why We Seem To Go Along With It’, Columbia University Press, 2001, p. 44)

Of course, the notion that power is held to account by a ‘free press’ in a modern ‘democracy’ is a discredited myth. Patrick Lawrence, formerly a foreign correspondent for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, noted that the US:

‘does not have a press by any serious definition of the term. It has a government that, over the course of many decades, has turned the press into an appendage responsible for the manipulation of public opinion.’

For instance, US political journalist Glenn Greenwald observed of Ukraine war coverage:

‘Every word broadcast on CNN or printed in The New York Times about the conflict perfectly aligns with the CIA and Pentagon’s messaging.’

Journalists with successful careers in the major Western news media would never dare make such a cogent remark in public. Instead, attention has to be directed towards the propaganda operations of whoever the current ‘Official Enemy’ happens to be. To give just one example: on 27 February 2022, Steve Rosenberg, the BBC’s Moscow correspondent, stood outside the Kremlin and declaimed live on BBC News that evening:

‘In Russia, television remains the key tool for shaping public opinion. So, if you control TV, as the Kremlin does, you control the messaging. But not 100 per cent, because today many Russians do get their news and information online. And there they see a very different picture.’

Likewise, a BBC ‘Live’ webpage about the Ukraine war on 24 February last year included a supposed analysis by Francis Scarr of BBC Monitoring titled, ‘The evolution of Russian propaganda at home’. It began:

‘A year since the invasion of Ukraine, coverage of the war on Russia’s state-controlled TV channels has shifted as the Kremlin attempts to shape public opinion at home.’

Scarr continued:

‘Two-thirds of Russians receive most of their information from TV, where the messaging is under tight Kremlin control.’

What about the ‘tight control’ of government ‘messaging’ via BBC News? It does not necessarily require direct instructions from Whitehall or Downing Street. But senior BBC managers and editors have certainly risen to their positions by thinking the right thoughts and saying the right things.

You will therefore struggle to find a BBC journalist pointing to the disparity between state-mandated BBC News ‘messaging’ and informed sources challenging establishment ideology via non-corporate media. A vanishingly rare exception is Rami Ruhayem, a BBC Arabic and BBC World Service journalist and producer since 2005, who was scathing about the BBC’s coverage of the current phase of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (see our recent alert). Ruhayem has essentially been ‘disappeared’ with no public response from the BBC and virtually zero coverage in state-corporate media.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.