The Black Art of News Management

Linked with John Pilger – Australia & England. – Published on Dissident Voice, by John Pilger, June 55, 2010.

How do wars begin? With a “master illusion”, according to Ralph McGehee, one of the CIA’s pioneers in “black propaganda”, known today as “news management”. In 1983, he described to me how the CIA had faked an “incident” that became the “conclusive proof of North Vietnam’s aggression”. This followed a claim, also fake, that North Vietnamese torpedo boats had attacked an American warship in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964.

“The CIA,” he said, “loaded up a junk, a North Vietnamese junk, with communist weapons — the Agency maintains communist arsenals in the United States and around the world. They floated this junk off the coast of central Vietnam. 

Then they shot it up and made it look like a fire fight had taken place, and they brought in the American press. Based on this evidence, two Marine landing teams went into Danang and a week after that the American air force began regular bombing of North Vietnam.” An invasion that took three million lives was under way … //

… Now imagine another public official, the force behind one of the great war criminals and liars. This official “spun” the illegal invasion of a defenceless country that resulted in the deaths of at least a million people and the dispossession of many more: in effect, the crushing of a human society. If this was the Balkans or Africa, he would very likely have been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

But crime pays for the clubbable. In quick step with the Laws affair, this truth was demonstrated by the continuing celebration of Alastair Campbell, whose frequent media appearances provide a vicarious thrill for the liberal intelligentsia. To the Guardian, Campbell is “bullish, sometimes misdirected, but unafraid to press on where others might have faltered”. The Guardian’s immediate interest is its “exclusive” publication of Campbell’s “politically explosive” and “uncut” diaries. Here is a flavour: “Saturday 14 May. I called Peter [Mandelson] and asked why he didn’t return my calls yesterday. ‘You know why.’ ‘No, I don’t.’ He said he was incandescent at my Newsnight interview…’”

In a promotional interview with the Guardian, Campbell dispensed more of this dated incest, referring just once to the bloodbath for which he was a principal apologist. “Did Iraq lose us support in 2005?” he asked rhetorically. “Without a doubt…” Thus, a criminal tragedy equal in scale to the Rwandan genocide was dismissed as a “loss” for New Labour: a master illusion of notable profanity. (full text).

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