If you’ve remembered the contents of the first and second postings in this developing series — and they were quite a few months ago, so it’s entirely possible that you haven’t — you’ll know that they concerned the propaganda significance of individual words as used in the West’s notionally ‘feral’ but actually power-protecting state-corporate media system.
Somewhere in the pile of papers to my left — and currently unreachable because of a snoozing ginger cat — is a list of another 20 or 30 propaganda-related terms that seem to me to be in need of discussion; the main reason I haven’t yet written about them, shortage of time apart, is that this entire Summer has seen our elite-serving media behave with such outrageously undisguised dishonesty that my own amateurish attempts to unmask it have hardly been necessary. Think back: whether the news concerned Syria, Salisbury or socialism, our Vichy media’s immediate embrace and furious defence of the most self-evidently fictional elite narratives has undermined its standing with the thinking public more effectively than anything I myself could have produced.
But, just to keep my hand in, here’s a little discussion of something that a net buddy of mine noticed in an online BBC news item a few days ago… (My thanks to the good David Traynier of davidtraynier.wordpress.com)
As is my usual practice, I’d like to approach my example in clarifying stages — of which this is the first. Imagine that, somewhere within the UK, some harmful act had been carried out that any decent and neurotypical person — reasonably law-abiding, generally empathetic, and so on — would consider not only bad, but even straightforwardly criminal…
Such as … a seeming attempted double murder using a highly poisonous substance, and where the attackers are assumed to be agents of what is considered, rightly or wrongly, to be an enemy state with a hostile leader. (Yes, I’m talking about the Skripal case — and, for the time being, I’m allowing you to forget both the insultingly unconvincing official narrative presented to us and the way the ‘finger of blame’ has been pointed on the basis of nothing except short-term political opportunism.)
In such an alleged situation, one would expect the UK’s state broadcaster to be putting out news items with headlines such as the following (which I have created specially for this demonstration):
Perfectly reasonable, you might think — and I’d agree with you (the crappy fabricated narrative aside). Even given the fact that, back when the story first broke (and I use the word advisedly), no-one was actually dead, it could not possibly be thought inappropriate for a UK Prime Minister to ‘condemn’ a foreign government or leader for supposedly having attempted a double assassination on UK soil.
Now compare that perfectly reasonable headline with the following:
It makes a difference, doesn’t it?
You see, with its combination of complete disapproval and implied moral clarity, ‘condemns’ is a verb of potency and focus, conveying the impression of the most justified and most severe censure in a way that still avoids anything that might be considered indecorous or unseemly.
Whereas ‘fumes’, very much by contrast, is a word redolent with impotence and frustration — a term for those who, thwarted and powerless, are consumed by a rage whose evidently ‘personal’ component helps to make it as diffuse as it is unavailing, and as lacking in dignity as it is deficient in moral justification.
Needless to say, I created that example too — because I had to. As every single one of its news-like broadcasts amply demonstrates, our elite-serving state broadcaster is not in the business of undermining a Conservative Prime Minister — least of all in relation to a supposed ‘national security’ issue. (The BBC, let us remember, is the UK’s principal cheerleader for the ‘warfare state’ and everything connected with it — from surveillance-mania at home to outright neoimperial conquest abroad.) Therefore, faced with a parliamentary statement about the supposed actions of a supposed enemy, the BBC would always see its duty as bestowing the maximum amount of gravitas: ‘fuming’, in other words, is out.
Now, my purpose in producing those two contrasting examples is easily explained. Where the Skripal poisonings are concerned, it has apparently — and remarkably! — been the case that neither of the alleged assassination targets was even permanently injured, let alone killed. (I will not discuss the question of what part — if any! — our amazing disappearing policeman and the unfortunate Dawn Sturgess play in this fairy-story.) Yet, even in the absence of the expected fatalities, you and I are agreed that it would have been radically inappropriate for a BBC news report on Theresa May’s reaction to present her as ‘fuming’ at the supposedly hostile state and leader alleged to be behind the attack. As we have seen — and I am repeating this because I want it to be clear — even with no deaths having occurred, an altogether more ‘statesmanlike’ verb would have been required.
Consider, therefore, how much more inappropriate it would be for Theresa May to be described as ‘fuming‘ after, say, a terrorist outrage that left 25 people dead and 70 injured.
And, yes, I mean this seriously.
Imagine, if you will, that a military parade in a provincial UK city was the target of an attack by terrorist gunmen that killed 13 civilians (including two children) as well as 12 soldiers. A BBC headline that had Theresa May ‘fuming’ at the state that, rightly or wrongly, was considered to be the principal or ultimate backer of the terrorist force responsible would be literally unthinkable. Indeed, a BBC news item on such an attack which went online with a headline beginning ‘Theresa May fumes…‘ would probably mean someone getting sacked on the spot.
— But not, of course, if the 13 civilians and 12 soldiers murdered were the citizens of an official enemy state and the ‘fuming’ was that of the enemy state’s leader…
For, the following headline — applied to a BBC report about the terrorist attack on an Iranian military parade that took place on 22 September and killed 25 people — was not created by me…
There are several aspects to this particular piece of ‘directional language’, and they need to be described carefully.
First, in being presented as ‘fuming’, Iran’s elected President Hassan Rouhani (seemingly a lawyer, academic and former diplomat, as well as an Islamic cleric) is denied potency: he ‘fumes’ because that’s all he has the power to do. (Media rule: Always present your enemy as ridiculous as well as threatening.)
Secondly, Rouhani’s complaint — or, more properly, that of the assaulted Iranian people — is denied legitimacy: as we have discussed, ‘fuming’ is personal, petulant and pitiful, not principled, justified or moral. (Media rule: Always present your enemy’s perfectly reasonable case as worthless, his understandable human reactions as absurd.)
Thirdly — and to a certain extent underlying the two previous aspects — there is the fact that, rightly or wrongly (but probably rightly), Rouhani feels entitled to accuse the US — by some margin the world’s principal terrorist and terrorist-enabling state — of bearing a significant measure of responsibility for the attack. (Media rule: As the Western world’s imperial hegemon, the US must never be credibly presented as a malicious force on the world stage: those who would describe it thus must always be undermined — usually by being depicted as evil and agenda-driven or, preferably, evil and insane.)
So there we have it. A terrorist attack kills upwards of two dozen people in a far-away land — and the reaction of their head of state gets reported in terms that subtly but firmly direct the Western reader to regard his accusatory statement — and, indeed, the crime itself — as of no real significance. On this occasion the attack took place in Iran; but the same pattern of directional language will be observed in our media’s reporting of events across all non-compliant (and thus ‘enemy’) states.
So consistent is the pattern of behaviour, in fact, that one might even begin to define a conjugated verb that covers this depraved area of media-political discourse. Faced with attacks attributed to hostile foreign states…
We are resolute;
Word of the Day.
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