Strange Things Happen at Sea

Once you know how our so-called ‘news’ is manipulated in order to deceive us it’s quite difficult not to see it in action wherever you look. The Times last Saturday was, as it invariably is, rich in examples, and because the Times sets itself up as the leading authority on news reporting this is obviously quite serious. I mean, if it were a paper that was commonly known to peddle absolute rubbish, and didn’t pretend otherwise, we could safely ignore its lies on the assumption that no-one in their right mind would believe it anyway; but the Times is supposed to be a serious paper, so obsessed with the truth that it used to claim it would rather be late to report a story than report one inaccurately. All this creates an impression of trust: we can always trust the Times to tell us the truth. The problem is of course, we can’t.

Headlines are a very important part of the propagandist’s art. They are seldom written by the same person who writes the article to which they refer. As far as ‘news’ reporting is concerned, headlines are the vanguard of subliminal brainwashing. We automatically think they summarise a news report, telling us in advance what we can expect to learn from that report. A headline will remain in our memories as a summary of that article. Even if we do not actually read the article at all, we will probably have noticed the headline, and a little note will be stored in our memories that we have read something, somewhere about whatever that story is about, and the vague memory of the headline will be our sole recollection of that story.

North Korea has been a popular western whipping boy for about as long as Cuba. It is identified as the same sort of threat to world peace that Iran currently enjoys. Consequently when a headline in last Saturday’s Times read “South Korean ship ‘sunk by torpedo from North Korea’”, we naturally expect the attached ‘news’ report to inform us of how that arch-villain North Korea has been spoiling for a fight again. The problem is the article which accompanies that headline simply doesn’t provide a single shred of evidence to justify it.

The very first sentence of the report reads: ‘A South Korean naval ship sank last night after an explosion that may have been caused by a North Korean torpedo.’ Note the words ‘may have been’, as they’re quite important. As soon as they’re employed the writer is at liberty to conclude the sentence any way they like. They could claim the explosion ‘may have been’ a suicide bomber, an asteroid, the cook forgetting to turn off the stove … anything. So we read a little further to find the evidence of this North Korean torpedo, but already feeling a little suspicious of the words ‘may have been’.

Next we learn that ‘Six naval ships and two coastguard vessels’ were in the area. As these vessels rescued most of the crew of the sunken ship, and because the article doesn’t say otherwise, we can probably assume they were all South Korean. Then we read that ‘it was not clear whether North Korea was the cause of the explosion’. Not clear? That’s a little different from the very clear headline. So too was this sentence: ‘”We have been unable to pinpoint the exact cause of the incident,” a spokesman for the South Korean Navy said.’ Next we learn that a ‘South Korean ship in the same area fired shots towards an “unidentified target”’.

In short, apart from a vague reference to unattributed ‘reports from Seoul’, not a single word in the actual article offers any evidence at all that North Korea had anything whatsoever to do with the sinking of the South Korean ship. In fact, what the ‘news’ report tells us is that the only ships in the area appear to have been South Korean, and the only ship that appears to have been doing any shooting was South Korean – a very different set of circumstances to that suggested by the headline.

The similarity between this story and the ‘Gulf of Tonkin Incident’ is quite remarkable. That scandal is now known to have been made in America two months before the USS Maddox was allegedly attacked – an action that was used to trigger a full scale US invasion of Vietnam. Not that the Tonkin Incident was the first time the US had taken itself to war on the back of an alleged attack upon it. In 1898, the sinking of the USS Maine in mysterious circumstances off the coast of Cuba was used to provoke the brief Spanish American war over ownership of that blighted island.

How on earth is the Average Person supposed to have any chance at all of forming a reasonable understanding of how her world works? When pillars of the journalistic profession such as The Times routinely peddle such obvious propaganda, presumably on behalf of The Empire, what price truth?

John Andrews is a writer and political activist based in England. His latest booklet is entitled EnMo Economics. Other Non-Fiction books by John are: The People's Constitution (2018 Edition); and The School of Kindness (2018 Edition); and his historical novel The Road to Emily Bay Read other articles by John.

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  1. Don Hawkins said on March 30th, 2010 at 10:10am #

    How on earth is the Average Person supposed to have any chance at all of forming a reasonable understanding of how her world works? John can you imagine if we could form a reasonable understanding of how her world works? I guess you could be like me and just say a few times a day,”strange”

  2. Wingnut said on March 31st, 2010 at 9:31am #

    Hi John, Don, fellow boatrockers. Yeah, I was wondering who “her” was myself. Yes, men may be coming from Mars, but I don’t think ANYONE knows WHERE most women are coming from. 🙂

    Okay, back on subject, as best I can be so. Media… runs on money… and so… media will produce controversy… because many Americans LOVE it. It powers the juicy gossip and impending doom theories that keep most from being bored to death. In a way, its “snort”… or cocaine if you will. An average gossiper can actually get another person’s attention IF he/she delivers the opening line to a potential conversation starter… in a juicy, smash-mouth, bowl-them-over, shocky way. Juicy shocky one-liners spur kneejerk reactions, and not only do such things cause gossipers to take notice, but article readers as well. Its also a type of people-filter. For example, open up a conversation with a total stranger… with something like “God has been proved to deplore USA money and ownership (economies)”. In your “average person”, this kind of line CAN stab/zap a person in three ways. 1. God, a thing held sacred by many. 2. USA, a thing held sacred by many Americans. 3. Capitalism, a thing held sacred by capitalism lovers. Three little juicy appalling morsels of irking, all in one opening line. Needless to say, this line will catch the (fight-back-?) attention of quite a few… because it has “bashed” or at least included… three held-sacred things.

    Now let’s wander over into another area of potential flim-flam. ANY newspaper… might get “special treatment” from insider sources and press secretaries… IF they spin a story per the preferences of the news releaser. Its a type of favoritism. We see lots of this going-on in the “economic recovery” realm because… in order to “save” the pyramid scheme… errr… capitalism, the “consumers” need to think everything is fine, and thus, get out there and buy buy buy. Consumers won’t do that, if they are scared (consumer confidence). This is why “the big boys” are painting-up the “recovery” dogturd with all these Bari clothes, makeup, and perfuming. This is a type of “propping up the economy” being done by SOMEONE, and its likely we’ll never get to the bottom of it. These same “proppers” are doing the same to the stock market… behind the scenes.

    In a way, its a continuation of the “do as you’re told, or else”… from child-school. The average 18 year old gets about 15 years of “do as you’re told, do what I say, believe as I do, act as I do, OR ELSE!”- indoctrination railroading/bandwagoning. And so, when they turn 18, they believe that they MUST join the free marketeers pyramid scheme (get a job), or ELSE. Pull your weight, earn your keep, stand on your own two feet, get some responsibility, buckle down, work hard, get good grades, follow the rules and social mores, get a job, do as the bosses tell you. Get enough of that programming, and pretty soon, American sheeple will follow you to school one day, school one day, school one day.

    What I’m saying is that they/we/her do as they are told, and believe what they are told, and they tend not to be boatrockers, but instead, good little marchers for the “Yay USA” imperialism. You ask them about world problems, and you get “its not my job”… and they are driven instead to be “normal”. And normal… is sheeple… do as you’re told-folk… surface dweller shoppers and eaters (fat, lazy, unaware, uncaring, unthinking, selfish enjoyment junkies).

    There becomes an extreme lack of critical thinking and scrutinizing of things told to them/us/her. A mental laziness. Its hard to gun down evidence to a story… and costly… and most of us would highly prefer that the story be proven correct and accurate by those whose “job” it is to do so… and we believe, believe, believe. Its sort of like religion… a phenomenon which seems to fill-in the places where knowledge has not yet been gathered. Its easier to chalk something up to “magic” than it is to go gun down the truth about something. Truth isn’t controversial enough to gain anyone’s attention, anyway.

    Conclusions? Boy, I sure don’t have any. We love our stories… but… I suppose its become a necessity to avoid wholeheartedly believing ANYTHING seen or heard… until its been thoroughly scrutinized. Blowing smoke and embellishment has become a national pass-time, so reader and listener beware. I don’t see it improving until capitalism finally flops and we abolish economies, ownership, and competing. Until then, the motives for embellishing and lying are too great… and newspapers are sure to succumb to the dark side of the force. Take care, gang!

    Anti-capitalism-ist in Michigan