May 23, 1999
The crisis in Kosovo has been framed from day one as a humanitarian crisis. The Western Powers launched a war against a sovereign nation that, far from aggressing or invading another nation, was engaged in a civil conflict essentially created by the Western Powers in the first place.
So from day one the major networks and news media, "Officialdom," have repeatedly showered upon us texts and pictures depicting the terrible conditions of the refugees as well as horrific tales intended to move our sensitivity toward wanting to alleviate the human misery and to hate the perceived cause of such inflicted misery. Good guys, bad guys. An age old recipe to manipulate public opinion. Today, PR firms are paid to do the bidding of the powers-that-be. After all, we are only emulating Goebbels. As Talleyrand once said, "Politics has always been and will always be a means to agitate people before using it."
So we got sold on the story as we were sold to it in Croatia and Bosnia. Let it be known once and for all that the Serbs are inhuman and their leader is a tyrant. Once we are emotionally convinced, everything becomes possible.
For instance, in 1995, when the Croatian army expelled from the Krajina region -- a region ancestrally inhabited by Serb -- over 250,000 Serbs, killing thousands in the making, the West did not even wink. Officialdom did not mention it. Perhaps was it considered to be a just retribution for all the alleged crimes committed in Croatia and Bosnia by the tyrant Milosevic and his thugs.
Once the official line was bought by public opinion the next stage was to control it. This was achieved in a series of steps.
First, the preemptive attacks in the print media against any possible dissenting voice. William Safire of The New York Times exemplifies this approach. In his April 26, 1999 essay (Mr. Safire writes "essays", not opinions), he admonishes us: "The big lie undergirding the deal [of course, for him the "deal" is nothing less than a compromise to allow Milosevic and NATO to claim victory] is already in place: that ethnic-cleansing was caused by NATO bombing, not the other way around; the creation of a million terrified refugees is no worse than the NATO punishments intended to bring the expulsion to an end."
This is an extraordinary exercise in style...and propaganda. Note that NATO punishments is "intended to bring the expulsion to an end." This is in exact contradiction to the initial goals of NATO bombing. Remember, it was to avoid the so-called ethnic-cleansing in the first place, that is to avoid the masses of refugees. It is also a fact, A FACT, that expulsions started on March 25, 1999, that is the following day after the bombing began. Mr. Safire is incorrect on both points but I am accused of being the Big Liar. Clever, don't you think?
Second, when public opinion started getting some conflicting news directly from Belgrade, risking to bring some disruptive questions to public opinion, NATO took care of this by bombing the TV stations in Serbia. No more potentially disruptive pictures from the front. Journalists became legitimate military targets. As the joke went on in Belgrade, a cruel joke, children of 8 to 12 years of age might well become legitimate military targets too since in ten years they would grow up to become soldiers!
The end result is that there were no more conflicting and embarrassing pictures coming out of Serbia. And the actual news could advantageously be buried out of the front page in the main newspapers. So, by now, the only news that public opinion was receiving is what NATO and the Western governments wanted their public opinions to watch or read. It also has been reported that the US government was looking into how to shut down the Internet connections in Serbia. Not that practical to do, but where there is a will, I guess there might well be a way.
The third and last step was put into place in the past three weeks. Slowly and incrementally, the networks pretty much stopped giving any news except for a short daily footage of the refugees, generally measured in terms of seconds during the penultimate or last segment of the newscast.
So all critical thinking has been muffled, the events themselves are not even related anymore, and public opinions rely on the "experts," read officialdom, to tell them what to think.
On Thursday evening, May 20, Peter Jennings, the anchor of ABC World News left his evening audience with a little rhetorical question following the daily few seconds of the refugees' misery. Is not it why NATO is there, to bring back the refugees to their homes, he asked with tremolo in his voice.
So the following evening, on Friday, May 21, I sat in front of the TV with my notebook handy and took notes of all the news Mr. Jennings and his editors felt worthy of reporting to the American audience. And then, I repeated the exercise with the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather. Here below is the unabridged transcript of those notes (each dash means a news segment. I also include the commercials).
ABC World News, 17:30 Pacific Time, May 21, 1999
- The shooting in Georgia
- In Mississippi, a local TV news cast ends its programs with a prayer. Possibly a way to stop school shooting in the US.
- Somewhere else in America, seniors play a ritual game with plastic gun. It's called the "assassination game."
Advertising Time: First ad: Calcium; Second ad: Cadillac Seville
- Cleaner technologies: Vegetable oil to replace petroleum oil for car engines. It's not toxic; makes disposable cheaper and safer; and it burns cleaner. In the long run it will save money.
- Mazda makes money thanks to bringing on US executives
- Nissan loses money
- Wall Street: Dow and Nasdaq
- Internet sex
- Little Rock bad guy [I seem to remember it was about fund raising]
Advertising time: 1) Merrill Lynch, 2) Dupont Stain Master, 3) pop-tarts [kind of cookies], and 4) Ecco Domani [Italian red wine]
- Belgrade's fuel deposit is bombed. NATO maps are being rebuilt [15 seconds]
- Rocket launching: Lost a rocket carrying a satellite. A booming business which we could lose. Pressure to keep costs down not to lose business.
- Malaysia: A ship sunk [5 s.]
Advertising time: 1) Crime of the century [ad for the next segment of the news], 2) Affordable insurance by AETNA for the 43 million uninsured, 3) Health ad, 4) ALL detergent, 5) REMAX, the real estate leader, 6) Prilosec, against heartburn. Results may vary, 7) Delphi [GM] automotive parts, 8) Band Aid cushion for feet, 9) ad for next program.
- Century on Friday: Why are people, children compelled to kill? Some kind of brutal crime committed by some rich kids in Michigan in their 20ies.
End of newscast
Now, the CBS Evening News at 18:00, same day.
- Georgia: 6 wounded. The kid got the gun from his home. 15 year old. Went to church with his parents the night before.
- Gun control: Politics in the House of Representatives. Loophole in the law...
- School shooting: Law enforcement response. How SWAT teams respond to "incidents". Can we afford to wait to stump the bad guy?
Advertising time: 1) Something [...I missed], 2) Red Lobster, 3) Laxative, 4) Nicorette
- NATO: Unrelented pace. Expert analysis on the number of ground troops. KLA has increased in size four times to 15,000. The more KLA wins the more Serbs will have to deal.
- Korea and Pentagon
- Dow Jones, Nasdaq
Advertising time: 1) Miracle Grow, 2) Quaker Toasted Oatmeal, 3) Imodium [laxative again], 4) Cal Burst calcium, 5) Ad for next program
- Floods in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Lack of insurance nightmare. What are we going to do with the 663 residents of the town, Holland. [please resist the joke such as...sending them to Kosovo!]
- Pain killers: super aspirin
Advertising time: 1) Transitions lenses, 2) Boston Market [restaurant], 3) Aleve Gel Caps [pain reliever], 4) Caltrate Plus Calcium [see ABC], 5) Ad on golf
- Eye on America: Albanian Kosovars who have immigrated to the US. [two to three minutes of emotion-loaded stuff]
Advertising time: 1) Band gate, 2) Mail boxes, 3) J & J bifocal contacts, 4) Sundown herbs, 5) Honda.
- Ordeal of paralyzed Chinese gymnast. Thanks Americans who, before returning to China, helped arrange a visit to the UN Headquarters. Goodwill between US and China.
End of newscast
Yes, we can keep bombing in total impunity. We can level hospitals, schools, markets, electrical grids, pharmaceutical factories (do you remember the Sudan? It is now proven that there were no chemical or biological components being developed there. No problem. We do not know. It's the past anyway; and who cares?), bridges, diplomatic missions, embassies; in a word, the entire infrastructure of a country. We did it in Iraq, we do it in Serbia. Who's next?
We've been completely silenced and left with our commercials.
Will we wake up or will we, in the words of Branislav Andjelic, end up living "as drones with the consciousness of a hive controlled by the Queen and enforced my NATO"?
I ask you.