Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama’s Central Role in the US Propaganda “Myth”

Adam Curtis, in the UK Guardian has written an interesting and honest piece about the death of Osama Bin Laden, and the role he had in the US political world view. He explains that although bin Laden helped to kill thousands of innocent people, the west needed him!

When communism collapsed in 1989, the scare story drilled over decades into westerners—that of the global battle against a distant dark and evil force—evaporated. The story was that of the good guys against the bad guys, born out of the war against the Nazis and the imperial Japanese in the second world war—a just war. Though in Europe few honest observers will deny that it was the Soviet Union that defeated Hitler’s Germany, after the war it was communism that was set up as the original evil empire, and communists became the bad guys in the cold war, first the Russians, then the Koreans and Chinese too, then the Vietnamese, and constantly all those poor countries whose people tried to get free of the grasp of US business. Then anti-Sovietism and anti-communism were academic subjects, now it is anti-Islam and anti-terrorism.

In the confusion of a global economic crisis in 1998 Bin Laden emerged as responsible for bombing US embassies in east Africa. From 2001, neoconservative politicians took what little they knew of Bin Laden to mold him in the shape of the global monster they were now missing—an evil enemy with spies and sabateurs everywhere intent on destroying western civilisation—ie the US. Al Qaida was the new Soviet Union, and Bin Laden was its evil director, a mad puppeteer pulling strings all over the world. What was a minor threat compared with US power was magnified into something meant to replace the Soviet Union in the minds of the 25 percent or so of people who will believe everything that the pro government media offers them, for the reporting of the Islamist terror threat was always distorted to reflect this propaganda narrative.

Neoconservatives, the news media, and Bin Laden were partners in pumping up the threat of a new evil empire. It gave the neocons a perfect myth, in the pseudo Platonic jargon invented by Leo Strauss, the neofascist godfather of neoconservatism—useful lies, in truth—to feed fear to the masses that would distract them from the shenanigans going on in reality. It served the propaganda function of the media while selling plenty of hair raising copy, and it suited Bin Laden who was desperate to seem to be important to his frustrated Islamist followers. The Moslem Brotherhood, a conservative Islamic organization reject Bin Laden as ever representing Moslem views. In his announcement of the death, Obama agreed—he did not.

In Afghanistan, the neoconservative myth has led to fantasies that justify the activity there of western military, and nothing else. The good against evil myth suits the US political desire to be free to intervene anywhere they choose, but the world is no more just black and white in nature for imagining it to be so. Reality has shades of grey and even different hues. Neglect of them prevents a proper critical framework to judge the whole situation and to tailor responses accordingly.

Of course, Bin Laden’s death was immediately presented as we are conditioned to expect—cowardly, as bullies are meant to be. He was reported as dying while shooting at his assailants, sheltering behind one of his wives, who consequently had to die so that the evil master could be shot twice—blam, blam—in the head. A day later, Bin Laden turned out to unarmed and so unable to get off any shots. Why, then, he had to be shot is unclear, but he was shot in the chest then straight into his left eye. His wife was not killed but wounded in the leg, and it seems she was not shielding him. Another woman was also killed, and one of his sons, whose identity changed also. As the whole thing was reportedly videoed, the confusion seems strange.

Bin Laden’s death is actually a serious blow to the US’s propaganda paradigm. Immediately, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, hurried to assure anyone delerious with relief, that the end of Bin Laden was not the end of terrorism. They need to preserve the myth, and if it fails, they need to find a new one. What will it be? Who will be the next bad guy? The myths are written by those in power, to suit their own interests, and their interests are not necessarily, or even often, those of the ordinary American. America is run for its super rich class. When enough of them realize it, the new myth will be of a monstrous Joker ruling Gotham City from within, and every yankee will be suspect. The stage is set for it already.

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