A Whiff of Fascism
by Carla Binion Online Journal
Online Journal, April 7,
During election 2000, Bush paid campaign
operatives posing as ordinary voters shoved people and banged
on doors at the Miami-Dade canvassing offices in an effort to
stop the Florida vote recount. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
said he detected a whiff of fascism'in their tactics.
Some people criticized Nadler for drawing the comparison, but,
of course, not all forms of fascism have to equate precisely to
the classic form represented by Hitler or Mussolini. Fascism doesnt
have to involve mass genocidal slaughter, nor does it have to
be equal in degree to the fascism practiced by members of the
Axis powers. Traits of classic fascism include: strong nationalism,
expansionism, belligerent militarism, meshing of big business
and government with a corporate/government oligarchy, subversion
of democracy and human rights, disinformation spread by constant
propaganda and tight corporate/government control of the press.
Today all of those conditions exist in
our country to a degree.
Lets focus on corporate/government control
of the pressspecifically corporate control of U.S. television
news networks. According to a March 24 article, Protests Turn
Off Viewers'by Harry A. Jessell, 45 percent of Americans rely
on cable channels as their primary source of news, and 22 percent
get most of their news from broadcast networks evening newscasts.
Only 11 percent rely on other forms of media as their principle
source of war news.
Our corporate controlled TV networks might
as well be state controlled, because they promote the war and
Bush policies fairly consistently and have virtually eliminated
all dissenting voices. NBC fired Phil Donahue despite his good
ratings, saying in an internal network memo they didnt want to
air Donahues antiwar views. Peter Arnett was fired for giving
an interview to Iraqi TV and merely stating the obvious on a number
of issues. For example, Arnett said media reports of civilian
casualties had helped the growing challenge to President Bush
about the conduct of the war.
According to William Shirer (The Rise
and Fall of the Third Reich, Ballantine Books, 1950), the Reich
Press Law of October 4, 1933, ordered editors not to publish (among
other things) anything which tends to weaken the strength of the
German Reich . . . or offends the honor and dignity of Germany.'The
Nazis forced dissenting journalists out of business and consolidated
the press under party control.
U.S. television news networks have been
consolidated under the control of a handful of corporations. America
doesn't need a press law'prohibiting the airing of anything which
might weaken the strength of Bush's war policies, because the
corporate owners of todays television networks are in total agreement
with the state.
It is irrefutable that corporate owners
of American television networks want only pro-Bush, pro-war opinions
aired, because those are virtually the only views that are in
fact aired. The Phil Donahue and Peter Arnett firings, especially
when coupled with the NBC internal memo explaining the Donahue
firing, also indicate this is true.
Do the various TV networks do a good job
of informing the public, or do they more often propagandize? Propaganda
is aimed at the emotions, while news sources that disseminate
factual information aim toward reason.
In Nazi Germany: A New History (Continuum
Publishing, 1995), Klaus P. Fischer says Hitler promoted a system
of prejudices rather than a philosophy based on well-warranted
premises, objective truth-testing, and logically derived conclusions.
Since propaganda aims at persuasion rather than instruction, it
is far more effective to appeal to the emotions than to the rational
capacities of crowds.
If youve spent much time watching the
pro-Bush, pro-war cable television news programs, you cant help
but notice they manipulate (whether deliberately or not) the viewing
audiences emotions rather than appealing to viewers' logic.
That is, instead of providing the American
public with a broad range of necessary facts and varied viewpoints
about the war, the TV networks exploit emotions by urging the
audience to focus on and identify with the day-to-day plight of
individual soldiers and their families.
There's nothing inherently wrong with
empathizing with the troops. However, when that aspect of war
news is heavily emphasized at the expense of hard facts and varied
debate, the networks serve the purpose of managing the public
mood rather than informing the public mind.
According to Klaus Fisher, the Nazis eliminated
from state media any ideas that clashed with official views. He
writes that permissible media topics for public consumption included
war itself and the Nazi movement; support of Nazi soldiers; praise
for Hitler and celebrating the thrill of combat and the sacredness
of death when it is in the service of the fatherland.
Todays Bush-friendly TV networks have
also deemed only certain subjects permissible,'as evidenced by
the irrefutable fact that they only cover a narrow range of subjects.
Coincidentally, the proverbial network list'would read virtually
the same as the list in the paragraph above. Permissible topics
include praise for the war;'praise for the administrations policies;
support for our soldiers; praise for Bush and the celebrating
the thrill of combat and the sacredness of death when it is in
the service of'(in this case) the homeland, even though there
is no rational link between attacking Iraq and defending our soil.
Of course, who needs rationality or facts
from TV news when the American public already has enough information
about world events? In a March 26 article for Editor and Publisher,
Polls Suggest Media Failure in Pre-War Coverage,'reporter Ari
Berman refers to a Knight Ridder/Princeton Research poll. This
poll showed 44 percent of respondents believed most'or some'of
the September 11 hijackers were Iraqis. Only 17 percent gave the
correct answer: none.
In the same poll, 41 percent said they
believed Iraq definitely has nuclear weapons. As Berman points
out, not even the Bush administration has claimed that.
Berman also refers to a Pew Research Center/Council
on Foreign Relations survey showing that almost two-thirds of
people polled believed U. N. weapons inspectors had found proof
that Iraq is trying to hide weapons of mass destruction.'This
claim was never made by Hans Blix or Mohammed ElBaradei.
The same survey found 57 percent of those
polled falsely believed Saddam Hussein assisted the 9/11 terrorists,
and a March 79 New York Times/CBS News Poll revealed that 45 percent
of respondents believed Saddam Hussein was directly involved in
the 9/11 attacks.
TV news reporters have done little to
correct the publics misconceptions. On the contrary, network reporters
and their guests have often helped bolster the false impressions
by mentioning September 11, or the threat of terrorism by al Qaeda,
and the threat'posed by Saddam in the same breath.
Individual TV reporters aren't always
free to choose the information they pass along to the public.
CNN now has a relatively new script approval'system, whereby journalists
send their copy in to CNN chiefs for sanitizing. In his article,
Guess who will be calling the shots at CNN,'British foreign correspondent
Robert Fisk quotes a relatively new CNN document (dated Jan. 27),
Reminder of Script Approval Policy.
The policy says, All reporters preparing
package scripts must submit the scripts for approval . . . Packages
may not be edited until the scripts are approved . . . All packages
originating outside Washington, LA or NY, including all international
bureaus, must come to the ROW [a group of script editors] in Atlanta
William Shirer comments on the Nazi party's
control of press, radio and film, Every morning the editors of
the Berlin daily newspapers and the correspondents of those published
elsewhere in the Reich gathered at the Propaganda Ministry to
be told by Dr. Goebbels or by one of his aides what news to print
and suppress, how to write the news and headline it, what campaigns
to call off or institute and what editorials were desired for
the day. In case of any misunderstanding, a daily directive was
furnished along with the oral instructions.
In an interview with TomPaine.com, Janine
Jackson of the media watchdog group, Fairness and Accuracy in
Reporting (FAIR), said that the group examined two weeks of nightly
television news coverage. FAIR found that 76 percent of all news
sources or guests on ABC, NBC, CBS and PBSs NewsHour were current
or former government officials,'leaving little room for other
In addition, FAIR found that only 6 percent
of those sources were skeptical about the war. Jackson noted that
on television news at night, there's virtually no debate about
the need to go to war.'It would further public understanding if
the TV networks would offer substantial debate on the following:
The Bush administration's invasion of
Iraq has alienated many world leaders and lost this country the
respect of millions of citizens around the globe. The Bush team
has created instability in the Middle East and risked retaliation.
They've undercut the U.S. economy with the financial cost of this
endeavor. Theyve increased the likelihood that worldwide nuclear
weapons proliferation will increase. And, according to a recent
Red Cross report, they have likely helped create a horrifying
number of human casualties and a rapidly expanding humanitarian
crisis in Iraq.
The content of television news lacks range
and diversity, but the way the news is presented is also disturbing.
Television reporters often deliver news of the war'with apparent
breathless excitement, as if they're giving play-by-play descriptions
of football games. People are dying in this conflict. Civilians
are caught in the middle, being blown to pieces or losing loved
ones. Children are left behind when their soldier-parents are
killed. Instead of presenting news of this war'with giddiness,
wouldnt it be more appropriate, more human, for network reporters
to take a somber, respectful approach?
On TV, we see bombs dropping from a distance.
Network commentators seldom offer the public close-ups. In his
article, Military precision versus moral precision,'Robert Higgs,
writes that the much-used JDAM bombs dropped in Iraq kill most
people within 120 meters of the blast. According to Higgs, such
a bomb releases a crushing shock wave and showers jagged, white-hot
metal fragments at supersonic speed, shattering concrete, shredding
flesh, crushing cells, rupturing lungs, bursting sinus cavities
and ripping away limbs in a maelstrom of destruction.
Just yesterday I heard a TV reporter describe
certain casualties with the sterile phrase, This is what war does.'Well,
it isnt war'that bursts sinus cavities and rips away limbsnothing
as nebulous as that. George W. Bush and his administration have
done these things. They have directly ordered that these things
be done. The bombs' shredding of flesh and crushing of human cells
didnt just passively happen.
In an April 5 article for The Mirror,
The saddest story of all,'reporter Anton Antonowicz describes
an Iraqi family's loss of their daughter. Nadia was lying on a
stretcher beside the stone mortuary slab. Her heart lay on her
chest, ripped from her body by a missile which smashed through
the bedroom window of the family's flat nearby in Palestine Street.
Nadias father said, My daughter had just
completed her PhD in psychology and was waiting for her first
job. She was born in 1970. She was 33. She was very clever. Everyone
said I have a fabulous daughter. She spent all her time studying.
Her head buried in books.
Nadias sister Alia said, I don't know
what humanity Bush is calling for. Is this the humanity which
lost my sister? It is war which has done this. And that war was
started by Bush.
Today we're again getting a whiff of fascism
from the Bush administration. This isn't the equivalent of Hitler
or Mussolinijust sort of a creeping fascism lightand the corporate
controlled television news networks are only one example of the
way even light fascism undermines American values.
With the Bush administration and television
networks currently fixated on the high melodrama of winning'the
war'and sprucing up its aftermath, they don't have much time to
reflect on whether winning at any cost is a good idea. Whether
the slaughter in Iraq and its aftermath go well,'the war'has already
destroyed many lives in Iraq and the U.S. and damaged the American
character and democracy at home. For thoughtful people in this
country, the question has never been will we win,'but at what
Corporate Media's Threat to Democracy