[OPE-L:5990] media and the state

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Sat Sep 22 2001 - 08:59:08 EDT

I think there are *two* messages being put forward
by the media and the state in the US:

One message is repeatedly made by Bush: the "War
on Terrorism" is to be a war against terrorists and 
states that assist terrorists.  It is not to be a war against
Arabs, Islam, or Muslims. These messages have often been 
made by the White House in recent days and have been
echoed by the media.

Yet, there is also *another* message.  The other message is 
made by both official state sources and the media (mostly
with imagery but also with language). We can see the other
message when the US government talks about a "Crusade"
(see Alfredo's 5930). More significantly, we can *observe*
the effects of the other message in the rise in racially and
ethnically motivated attacks. Indeed, there has even been an
open call by some (including a 'talk radio' host) for racial
profiling.  Ironically, some of the early victims of these 
attacks are Sikh men who wear turbans (Islamic women who 
wear cover have also been subject to harassment in recent days). 
The recent talk
about 'sleeper' terrorists is intended to heighten this fear
of neighbors (this was also something done in the McCarthy
period when the public was told that 'the enemy' could
be living next door).  The language being used by the media 
(e.g. Dan Rather on CBS)  also plays the important role of helping 
to demonize 'the enemy' (one might add, btw, that the media has
arguably through its sensational reporting played a larger role than
the terrorists themselves in _actually_ terrorizing the public!).

Both of these messages have a purpose. On the one hand,
the first message is necessary for diplomatic reasons
primarily. I.e. in order to win support from other nations,
state policy has to be put forward in this way. Thus, if the
second message were the only message being put forward, there
could be expected to be mass resistance to the upcoming US
war in many parts of the world and opposition by many bourgeois
governments that the US state wants support from for its
military efforts. On the other hand, the second message is part
and parcel of the effort to whip up a nationalist hysteria for the
war effort. From the standpoint of gaining domestic support and
'preparing' the troops, demonization is a necessary prelude to

A  recent example of such imagery being intentionally
put forward by the US state was Bush's "Wanted Dead or 
Alive" speech. This scared a lot of the US's "allies" because of
its suggestion of cowboy politics and Ramboism. On the other
hand, that same message played well in the US (in NYC, the
right-wing [Rupert Murdoch-owned] _New York Post_ then
had a front cover with bin Laden's photo made to look just
like a "Wanted Dead or Alive" poster from the Old West.
What I found more interesting, though, was that this was
then photocopied and appeared in the front windows of
small businesses throughout the City).

None of this is accidental -- as Nicky suggested in 
making the argument that 'the news' is made
(Noam Chomsky's works, including _Manufacturing 
Consent_ have this as a theme).  Indeed, 
'the news' in bourgeois society also takes the 
*commodity-form*, doesn't it?  Accordingly, it must
be produced and then sold and have a use-value, a value,
and an exchange-value. 

On the other hand, I don't think that wars in the epoch of
imperialism can necessarily be understood only in terms of
the logic of capital. E.g. it should be evident that there have
been recent wars where at least one side has been motivated
by something other than attempts to break the resistance of
the working class (see the recent exchange that I had with 
Paul B).  Perhaps we need to recognize that while class
struggle is part of this dynamic,  struggles over race, gender,
and religion can be *relatively autonomous*.  Thus, it seems
quite obvious to me that bin Laden (who is a capitalist, btw)
and his supporters are not anti-imperialists -- they are 
motivated by other concerns. Similarly, the current Afghani
government is neither motivated by the desire to fight
imperialism nor to smash the Afghani working class. 

Yet, it is often difficult to identify the real aims of state 
policy -- including US state policy. This is in part 
because we don't know whether the official reasons given
by the state for its policies and actions are the actual 
reasons. In due course, the actual reasons often become
known (sometimes years after the wars are concluded).
Yet, at the time we don't *know* what the motivation for
state policy is -- nor can we trust what they say since we
have countless examples of how they lied to us. 

Perhaps what is needed in part is for 'Marxist economists' (or 
whatever you want to call Marxists who have jobs as
economists) to engage more of the literature by other
Marxists on media and cultural studies. 

In solidarity, Jerry

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