By Joe Giambrone
Ideology is the modern plague, because ideologues have all the answers already. Every event, every situation fits the mold of their beliefs, and contrary evidence is discarded in the service of bolstering said ideology. This is easily seen in the people one disagrees with on a regular basis, but nearly never acknowledged in one’s own determinations.
I have been wrong (as has the NY Times), and have occasionally written based on assumptions rather than on cold hard analysis. That is the obvious danger of having partial information. I’ve also corrected these assertions and moved on. I have no problem being mistaken if I am proved wrong – the key word being proved.
Many people simply do not understand the concept of unproved or unknown issues. This occurs when several competing explanations can hold true, but the actual truth is unknown, as in the case of classified state secrets, or hidden criminal conspiracies (often the same thing). The public simply cannot know based on available information. In that case multiple explanations may exist, but it is impossible to determine which – if any – is the correct one. What we have are ever growing bodies of evidence to analyze.
These are Donald Rumsfeld’s “known unknowns.” It is a perfectly valid analysis and probably more fitting much of the time than many of the snap rushed judgments of ideologues on the left, right and particularly the centrists, who are a breed unto themselves. Unknowns are unthinkable to the ideologue, quite literally; these cannot be thought of in that manner. Ideologues know, just like Tom Cruise “knows.” They know. Their leaders know, and usually the factions fall in line without a second thought. A different reality would crush them, or would force them to think, rather than to place events into easily managed ideological boxes.
“Everybody’s talkin’ about Bagism, Shagism, dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism, This-ism, That-ism, ism, ism, ism.”– John Lennon , Give Peace a Chance
This psychological reality motivates those with the power to classify events as secret. Withholding information from citizens is a very useful strategy indeed. If the truth cannot be determined, then the people will continue to scramble to make sense of the events, usually by contorting the few known facts into an acceptable ideological narrative. Secrecy prompts the common people to stay busy. By following false leads and misinformation people waste valuable time and resources attempting to comprehend the secret event and resolve the conflicting evidence. Even insider whistleblowers with partial knowledge of the actual event are sidelined, as they usually cannot explain the full extent of the hidden state secret, nor name the names, dates, contacts and all the related evidence required to fully expose the wrongdoing. This is the “compartmentalization” organizational model, which is the gold standard in covert operations, and is well known and employed by intelligence services. Whistleblowers are also routinely censored by the mainstream news, and most citizens simply never hear what they have to say.
The next option, if one’s strategy is to distract the population, is disinformation. Deliberately false information, those “conspiracy theories” we hear so much about in the corporate media, are valuable to those seeking to keep secrets hidden. As more false leads are provided for people to pursue, less time and effort is spent pursuing the true leads. The more outlandish the disinformation, the better it can discredit those who choose to investigate it. By simply discrediting people and discouraging them from investigating secret events, those who create the secrets are empowered and shielded from public accounting. That is the game. How have you been playing it?
Needless to say, this has not been an academic discussion. These observations are the result of firsthand observations over many years. The events in question are easily named, but this paper concerns the strategies behind the flows of information. A strategy can apply to many events. A strategy is employed because it works. This strategy is proven, and it has a long track record.
Media censorship is a critical factor in keeping the population misinformed and distracted. This may sound counterintuitive to some, as the media, your TV news, newspapers and magazines, present themselves as the informers of public awareness, the leaders of investigation. But what aren’t they telling you? What is not permitted to appear in these sources?
It’s not hard to find that out, actually. Media censorship is a well-studied phenomenon in the United States. The Project Censored group is perhaps the best known clearinghouse of censored critical information here. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) is also a notable media watchdog, as is PR Watch, Medialens and others. To understand what is not permissible on public airwaves is to understand the reality of our governing system. Washington, with its financiers from Wall Street, its Military-Industrial-Complex and its multinational corporate sector, rule through deception and not through honesty and full disclosure. Deception is the default position, not an anomaly.
Case in point, when the United States military drops bombs in one of its many war theaters, the initial story told by the military is almost always that the enemy was killed; those killed are described as “militants” or “terrorists” or “high value targets” or some other euphemism for bad guys. When independent sources investigate these incidents later the truth tends to come out. Children, innocent families, weddings, funerals, first responders, these are the actual victims of many US bombings. But the US public has already been told that they were “enemy combatants.” The likelihood that the domestic public will ever hear about the correction from the US wall of media noise is very slim indeed. Thus a false overall impression of US military operations is maintained and believed by a large percentage of the population. This is a mechanism for promoting a global empire to the common people.
Occam, The Misunderstood
When someone mentions “Occam’s Razor,” it is usually a telltale sign that they wish to avoid actual investigation and settle for the obvious or simple explanation. Thus all complicated crimes are rejected outright as many cling to this false faith-based argument instead of investigating the facts fully. Highly complicated crimes are therefore abandoned to “the experts” perhaps rightly so considering the labor commitment required to understand them. But one cannot simply trust the experts, particularly when these experts are challenged by factual, evidence-based refutation.
The scientific method relies upon disproving the impossible: if x, then y cannot be true. As new evidence emerges, old assumptions are tossed out. Occam’s full meaning aligns with this search for evidence and with the elimination of assumptions.
Whenever anyone makes a claim, be they the President of the United States, the Deputy Director of the CIA, or your mother, but they are unable or unwilling to prove the truth of their claim with evidence, then the choice to believe what they say is clearly an assumption. Governments rely upon this tendency of the majority to assume that leaders are telling the truth.
Ronald Reagan went on television to tell glaring falsehoods to the nation during the Iran Contra Scandal revelations in the press, but he was soon forced to return to the airwaves and to apologize for it.
“A few months ago I told the American people ‘I did not trade arms for hostages.’ My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.”
–President Ronald Reagan, March 4, 1987
So what is an investigator to do?
Personally, I follow leads and weigh their veracity against known patterns. It’s a natural process. Most people lack the time and knowledge to investigate more fully. Professionals dig far more deeply than I could, leaving me somewhere in the middle. It’s telling to note which incontrovertible facts are censored by the self-aggrandizing “free press.” Censorship is like a bright flashing beacon that lures us to pick up the slack. While it takes no coordination or collusion to investigate an obvious lead, the practice of censoring the truth across a wide swath of the media, numerous entities, numerous newsrooms, numerous channels, must be more deliberate and intentional. Pay attention to the verboten. Pay close scrutiny to what those who are handsomely paid to inform the public will never admit to “on the record.” To manipulate a society as large and as varied as ours is a feat indeed. But it’s happening, every single day 24/7. The publicly accepted term for this is “spin.” Spinning the news works because only 5 or 6 media oligarchies control what the overwhelming majority of the public exposes themselves to daily. Be aware.
A Central Intelligence Agency honcho named Frank Wisner once bragged that he could play the American media like a “Mighty Wurlitzer,” one of those ghastly carnival organs. The CIA’s Operation Mockingbird had already infiltrated “friendly” US media sources, the owners and the talking heads entrusted to inform the nation. An historical track record of what the CIA did exists and reveals what they wanted to accomplish. Within 6 years of the CIA’s founding, already President Eisenhower was setting up a “Special Group” (5412) to keep the rogue CIA covert operations in check. How can anyone assume that things have somehow changed in the bowels of secret state power? If anything it has gotten more sophisticated with the advent of computers and globalization, not less. The advantage is clearly with those who understand these matters, and not with the primarily ignorant worker class.
Crucial information about the state of the world today flows from top to bottom, and that is by design. An air of distrust surrounds all grassroots journalism, those “bloggers” and worse whom the public is fearmongered into rejecting. Without official blessing, be it governmental or corporate, the public mind is by and large not free to think for itself. As unreliable as both government and corporate media have proven to be, countless times in the past, it is these sources that maintain a strict hold on the public information channels. If it didn’t happen on shiny corporate TV News then it didn’t happen.
“Information is Power”
So what is the rational response to selective censorship? Clearly what we have is not total censorship, as some facts slip through from time to time. Not all newsrooms are so easily intimidated, particularly at the local level. Foreign desks often report what the entire United States media self-censors across the nation. Some alternative websites collate these news stories, but their reliability and thoroughness are spotty. A variety of sources is recommended, a hedging of bets, a diversification of the information portfolio.
Paul Thompson noted this treasure trove of foreign reporting and uncensored local reports, and so he founded the History Commons website to keep track of the many thousands of reports streaming in concerning this alleged “War on Terrorism.” His approach was to use only actual newspaper reports, dated, verified and summarized for ease of research. Slogging through the History Commons site is like diving down Alice’s rabbit hole, and can consume a reader for hours. Topics are searchable by names as well as by specific dates.
And so we research, we learn and we use what we have learned to try and understand the things that the current military empire does not want us to know. This can be an ideological affair, or it can be evidence-based, but it can’t be both. The ideologue tosses out all contrary facts, no matter how true they may be, as they are inconvenient to maintaining the integrity of his ideology. Thus, ideology is the enemy of truth, the enemy of understanding, and the enemy of reality. That is why I call it a modern plague, for fundamentalist ideology lies at the root of most world problems. The other major underlying root problem is apathy, mass apathy and ignorance.
Beside the smug ideologist and the somnambulant apathetic couch potato is the realist, the evidence-based thinker. In my view that is the only tenable position.