Selling War – What WE Say Goes

Linked with Walter J.”John” Williams – USA.

Published on, by Gunnar Garbo, 10 June, 2008.

Introduction at the Conference on the Implications of Language for Peace and Development, (IMPLAN), University of Oslo, May2, 2008.

When Hitler’s troops invaded Norway in 1940, their bomber planes also spread leaflets declaring that the troops considerately came to protect the Norwegian people and secure our freedom and independence. In warfare lies like these are common. Recently two non-profit journalism organizations in the US documented that during the first two years after 11 September President Bush and his top officials issued at least 935 false statements about reasons for attacking Iraq. Bush led with 259 lies …

… Terrorism is not an armed enemy. It is a concept naming a special way of fighting, the harassing of people in order to bend their leaders to the will of the harassers. Western governments tend to define it as a cruel tool solely used by rebels. But in fact militant states are terrorizing people much more devastatingly than insurgent movements.

But missiles and bombs can’t kill a concept. Extinguishing terrorism depends upon a change in the attitudes of common people and politicians all over the world. Not the kind of brainwashing which is facilitated by double-talk, but change promoted by ethical attention, rational reflection, open debate and popular mobilization. Terrorism may be overcome when all states at long last learn to respect human rights and international law. Especially it presupposes measures to remove those underlying causes of violence which the UN General Assembly twenty years ago rightly described as “misery, frustration, grievance and despair, and which cause people to sacrifice human lives, including their own, in an effort to effect radical changes” …

… Above all this is a challenge for journalists. To-day they tend to defend themselves as professional, when they are in fact giving priority to writing and programming which produce that audience and further those profits which owners and advertising corporations are insisting on. Media professionalism ought to be something very different, namely to provide information which shows readers and listeners the realities behind political and commercial rhetorics and to tell people what they need to know in order to check their masters and influence the forming of our societies. A leading Norwegian journalist, Ragnar Wold, many years ago said that when Hitler stated that he wanted peace with all his neighbours, newspapers should not simply quote the dictator, but announce that now Hitler had produced one more of his lies.

That is still a good advice. (full text).

Links:, 10 June, 2008;

Leaders With No Conscience, 10 June, 2008.

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