Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Story Without an End

Over the last week, President Bush embarked on a media tour of America to bring his personal message about the Iraq debacle directly to the American people. His message? American troops will most likely remain in Iraq indefinitely.

In a series of speechs, Bush pleaded for support from an increasingly disillusioned populace. He cited real progess in Iraq, argued for patience, and warned against the dire repercussions of "retreat".

CNN, FOX, MSNBC, USA TODAY and the usual suspects of the corporate media machine, dully and dutifully reported the President's remarks, all of which culminated in his current Iraq War policy: It will be left to future presidents and generals to decide the fate of the U.S. entanglement in Iraq.

Vice-President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice and Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld also took to the podium at the same time, asserting the same message.

When the President of the United States and his cabinet take to the airwaves and the presses in such a coordinated fashion, there is a lot at stake. What was behind the strategy of announcing an indefinite military committment for the U.S. in Iraq? Why now? What effect will such an announcement have on the nation?

There are always two levels of meaning to any such media and communications strategy, derived from examining the way in which messages like this are disseminated in America.

The first level is the immediate repercussions to the status quo: Low poll numbers and weak support for the war are targeted at home. Overseas, allies and other nations that have a national interest tied to the war must consider the consequences. That is to say, the American public is meant to be informed of a new twist in an ongoing narrative, whereby the long term presence of American forces in Iraq becomes an accepted reality. Once that reality is accepted, any real oppostition to this presented reality is by definition "unrealistic". The foreign audience for this news is meant to hear a different nuance: American forces will be in the region indefinitely, so any hopes insurgents or other opportunists might have are also unrealistic.

The second level is the more intriguing. Underneath the concerted effort to communicate a "new message" about the war, is a subtext regarding American economics and American politics.

1. Economics, which some would argue are the baseline causes of all wars, are meant to be impacted in a positive manner. A long term U.S. commmitment to the region spells stability for local economies, oil prices, and investment potential. Locally, a long term occupation speaks to a new free market that will need U.S. goods, capital, and investment.

2. Politically, a long term U.S. presence in the region denudes the topic as a source of election conflict, encourages regime stability in the Middle East, and sends a signal to Asia and Europe that the military balance in the world has shifted in a permanent manner. By further imbeddng the U.S. in the region over time, the Bush adminstration hopes to weaken the argument for withdrawal. As evidence mounts of expensive, permanent bases being built in Iraq, this strategy is already in play. Political opponents of the President lose ground arguing for a withdrawal as the billions invested there increases. Too late to cut and run. Too much invested. Too many negative repercussions.

Using the corporate media platform to lay out this mode of thinking can be very effective. Because the corporate media reports the President's speeches as news, there is no room for opining on the event. Unless the organization is blatantly a public service media outlet for the President, as Fox News is. In tha case, there is overt confirmation of the message.

Bush's remarks on the potential long term presence of American troops in Iraq went by in the public perception in the course of a three day news cycle. Therefore, the news itself passes on into oblivion, but what remains is the subtext.

Corporate investors, oil speculators, foreign leaders are meant to read the subtext of the message as a signal. It is an assurance that the United States never embarks on a policy, no matter how wrong-headed, without accounting for the ramifications of future economic factors.

The most alarming truth in this subliminal strategy of communication is the lobotomized acquiesence of the voter base. As messages about a war without end are presented to the American public, we should expect a reasonable and responsiible level of objection. However, from the neutered Democratic leadership in Congress, to the well-behaved corporate media matrix, to the "Joe Beer Can" populace, there is barely a whimper. The real voice of scrutiny exists only in the blogosphere.

When the corporate media becomes nothing more than an obedient delivery device for military-industrial PR, the public interest is imperiled.

In this story of a war without end, the central character is a comatose electorate attached to a feeding tube. Beware the doctor's bedside manner.

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