Edward S. HermanAmerican journalist
America's Vietnam Policy
, with Richard B. Du Boff, 1966
As American foreign policy has moved toward the open use of military power to dominate other states, the employment of Orwellian language has become more frequent. Words with emotionally satisfying (or repellant) qualities are increasingly employed to describe their precise opposites. Nowhere is this more in evidence than the claim by President Johnson
and Secretary Rusk
that the goal of American policy in Southeast Asia is the preservation of “independent” states.
In sum, the logic of American military escalation leads to nothing less than a war of extermination against the native Vietnamese peasantry: because the guerillas cannot be segregated from the peasantry; because the peasantry provides the necessary broad base for the guerillas; and because the United States has the military means to eradicate this base completely, if need be, to create an “independent” South Vietnam.
Atrocities in Vietnam: Myths and Realities
An important body of evidence that suggests the irrelevance of enemy atrocities to U.S. intervention in Vietnam may be found in official Washington responses to a broader spectrum of foreign atrocities. Official estimates of deliberate NLF
killings in South Vietnam for the nine-year period 1958-1966 are on the order of 12,000, and the Defense Department estimates 19,578 enemy killings of civilians in South Vietnam from 1964 through September 1969. Yet in 1966 between 500,000 and 1,000,000 men, women, and children were slaughtered in Indonesia without even provoking any official U.S. protest, let alone an invasion to prevent mass murder.
The question of relative atrocities may be illustrated by this fact: a close examination by the author of newspaper files for 1966 alone disclosed somewhere between 600 and 1,000 reported South Vietnamese civilian deaths attributed to “errors” in the use of “allied” firepower. During the same year the number of NLF killings, including paramilitary personnel, according to official Saigon estimates, was 1,000. That is, our acknowledged accidental civilian killings were of the same order of magnitude as official claims of NLF killings. It should be obvious that U.S. bombings and killings in “unfriendly” villages were many times greater than killings by mistake.
The misleading character of the accident theory is evident from the fact that even now the “error” involved from the standpoint of U.S. policy-makers and American leaders generally is neither one of purpose nor method – it is strictly a case of unexpectedly large expense. For the U.S. leadership, in other words, Vietnam is simply another, painfully large “cost over-run.” In terms of basic U.S. objectives and methods employed, in the Third World – essentially establishment of reliable client states, increasingly managed by military elites, with generous financial and military support (arms, advisors, Green Berets, and more extensive military intervention when junta control is threatened, as in Santo Domingo) – Vietnam is a facet of a completely rational policy. The policy may be vicious and catastrophic, from the perspective of the Vietnamese; and it may be a sordid and disruptive waste of human and material resources from the standpoint of the real interests of the ordinary American; but to the Rostows, Westmorelands and Nixons, the Vietnam War is a noble endeavor (“one of our finest moments”) that we cannot afford to abandon without achieving our original ends. The evidence is compelling that this leadership is entirely capable of destroying every village in Vietnam (and in the process, every Vietnamese) if this is required to attain the original political objectives.
An earlier version of this volume
was originally contracted for and produced as a monograph by Warner Modular Communications, Inc., a subsidiary member of the Warner communications and entertainment conglomerate. The publishing house had run a relatively independent operation up to the time of the controversy over this document. The editors and publisher were enthusiastic about the monograph and committed themselves to put it out quickly and to promote it with vigor. But just prior to publication, in the fall of 1973, officials of the parent company got wind of it, looked at it, and were horrified by its “unpatriotic” contents. Mr. William Sarnoff, a high officer of the parent company, for example, was deeply pained by our statement on page 7 of the original that the “leadership in the United States, as a result of its dominant position and wide-ranging counter-revolutionary efforts, has been the single most important instigator, administrator, and moral and material sustainer of serious bloodbaths in the years that followed World War II.” So pained were Sarnoff and his business associates, in fact, that they were quite prepared to violate a contractual obligation in order to assure that no such material would see the light of day. […] they decided to close down the publishing house […]. The history of the suppressed monograph is an authentic instance of private censorship of ideas per se. The uniqueness of the episode lies only in the manner of suppression. Usually, private intervention in the book market is anticipatory, with regrets that the manuscript is unacceptable, perhaps “unmarketable.” Sometimes the latter contention is only an excuse for unwillingness to market, although it may sometimes reflect an accurate assessment of how the media and journals will receive books that are strongly critical of the established order.
The common view that internal freedom makes for humane and moral international behavior is supported neither by evidence nor by reason. The United States has a long history of imposing oppressive terrorist regimes in regions of the world within the reach of its power, such as the Caribbean and Central American sugar and banana republics […]. Since World War II, with the great extension of U.S. power, it has borne a heavy responsibility for the spread of a plague of neofascism, state terrorism, torture and repression through large parts of the undeveloped world. The United States has globalized the “banana republic.” This has occurred despite some modest ideological strain because the developments serve the needs of powerful and dominant interests, state and private, within the United States itself.
Among the many symbols used to frighten and manipulate the populace of the democratic states, few have been more important than “terror” and “terrorism.” These terms have generally been confined to the use of violence by individuals and marginal groups. Official violence, which is far more extensive both in scale and destructiveness, is placed in a different category altogether. The usage has nothing to do with justice, causal sequence, or numbers abused. Whatever the actual sequence of cause and effect, official violence is described as responsive or provoked (“retaliation,” “protective reaction,” etc.), not the active and initiating source of abuse. Similarly, the massive long-term violence inherent in the oppressive social structures that U.S. power has supported is typically disregarded. The numbers tormented and killed by official violence – wholesale as opposed to retail terror – during recent decades have exceeded those of unofficial terrorists by a factor running into the thousands. But this is not “terror,” although one terminological exception may be noted: while Argentinian “security forces” only retaliate and engage in “police action,” violence carried out by unfriendly states (Cuba, Cambodia) may be designated “terroristic.” The status of proper usage is settled not merely by the official or unofficial status of the perpetrators but also by their political affiliations.
In the post-Vietnam War era the need for Communist abuses has been no less pressing than before. More facts have come to light on the scope of U.S. violence in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, the extent of which U.S. officials lied to the public with regard to their programs and methods, and the brazenness with which these officials defied treaty obligations and international law. Much as the government and the media tried to isolate the scoundrelism of Watergate from the much more profound immorality of the “secret” devastation of Cambodia, the linkage between the two could not be entirely concealed and therefore tended to discredit still further the campaign to bring “freedom” to South Vietnam. Counterrevolution, torture and official murder in Argentina, Guatemala, Chile, and other U.S. satellites was also reaching new peaks. Thus, if Cambodian terror did not exist, the Western propaganda systems would have had to invent it, and in certain respects it did […].
Even today, as regards East Timor, where our brutal Indonesian satellite (authors of the 1965-1966 butcheries) have very possibly killed as many people as did the Khmer Rouge, there is a virtually complete blackout of information in the Free Press. This is a bloodbath carried out by a friendly power and is thus of little interest to our leaders. It is a “benign bloodbath” in our terminology.
K. Barton Osborn, who served in a covert program of intelligence in Vietnam, not only testified to a wide variety of forms of torture used by U.S. and Saigon personnel, but also made the startling claim that “I never knew an individual to be detained as a VC
suspect who ever lived through an interrogation in a year and a half, and that included quite a number of individuals.”
Our chapter on East Timor was far and away the most important in the two volumes, precisely because the huge ongoing crimes could have so readily been ended. It passed without mention in the doctrinal system - as, indeed, did our detailed review of many other U.S. crimes. In dramatic contrast, a sizable literature has been devoted to our chapter on Cambodia, desperately seeking to discover some error, and with unsupported and unjustifiable claims about our alleged apologetics for Pol Pot. We reviewed those that were even mildly serious in Manufacturing Consent, and there should be no need to do so again.
Preface to the 2014 Edition
We will consider the facts about postwar Indochina insofar as they can be ascertained, but a major emphasis will be on the ways in which these facts have been interpreted, filtered, distorted or modified by the ideological institutions in the West.
The beauty of the democratic system of thought control, as contrasted with their clumsy totalitarian counterparts, is that they operate by subtly establishing on a voluntary basis – aided by the forces of nationalism and media control by substantial interests – presuppositions that set the limits of debate, rather than by imposing beliefs with a bludgeon. Then let the debate rage; the more lively and vigorous it is, the better the propaganda system is served, since the presuppositions (U.S. benevolence, lack of rational imperial goals, defensive posture, etc.) are more firmly established. Those who do not accept the fundamental principles of state propaganda are simply excluded from the debate (or if noticed, dismissed as “emotional,” “irresponsible,” etc.).
As in the other cases discussed, our primary concern here is not to establish the facts with regard to postwar Indochina, but rather to investigate their refraction through the prism of Western ideology, a very different task.
Vickery points out that the Kissinger-Nixon policy during the last two years of the war was a “major mystery,” for which he suggests an explanation that appears to us quite plausible. Referring to the “Sonnenfeldt Doctrine,” which holds that “pluralistic and libertarian Communist regimes will breed leftist ferment in the West,” he suggests that “when it became clear [to U.S. leaders] that they could not win in Cambodia, they preferred to do everything possible to ensure that the post-war revolutionary government be extremely brutal, doctrinaire, and frightening to its neighbors, rather than a moderate socialism to which the Thai, for example, might look with envy.” In short, though it was understood that the United States had lost the war in Cambodia (even though it was, quite clearly, still trying to win it in Vietnam), the destruction of rural Cambodia, by imposing the harshest possible conditions on the eventual victors, would serve two classic ends: retarding social and economic progress, and maximizing the brutality of the eventual victors. Then the aggressors would at least be able to reap a propaganda victory from the misery they had sown.
It is a common error, as we have pointed out several times, to interpret opposition to U.S. intervention and aggression as support for the programs of its victims, a useful device for state propagandists but one that often has no basis in fact.
A few months after Khieu Samphan’s now famous “admission” that his regime was responsible for the deaths of about one-sixth of the population of Cambodia, Indonesian Prime Minister Adam Malik admitted that 50-80,000 people, close to the same percentage of the population, had been killed in East Timor in the course of what the Indonesia propaganda ministry and the New York Times called the “civil war” – that is, the U.S. backed Indonesian invasion and massacre – though one would not have discovered that fact from the U.S. media. While Khieu Samphan’s “admission” was concocted by the media and scholarship on the basis of remarks that quite possibly were never made, Malik’s admission, by contrast, was clear and explicit. A comparison of media reaction to the actual admission by Malik and the concocted “admission” by Samphan gives some insight into what lies behind the machinations of the Free Press.
When the facts are in, it may well turn out that the more extreme condemnations were in fact correct. But even if that turns out to be the case, it will in no way alter the conclusions we have reached on the central question addressed here: how the available facts were selected, modified, or sometimes invented to create a certain image offered to the general population. The answer to this question seems clear, and it is unaffected by whatever may be discovered about Cambodia in the future.
Our primary concern has been U.S. global policy and propaganda, and the filtering and distorting effect of Western ideology, not the problems of reconstruction and modernization in societies that have been victimized by Western imperialism. Correspondingly, we have not developed or expressed our views here on the nature of the Indochinese regimes. To assess the contemporary situation in Indochina and the programs of the current ruling groups is a worthwhile endeavor, but it has not been our current objective. […] The success of the Free Press in reconstructing imperial ideology since the U.S. withdrawal has been spectacular. The shift of the United States from causal agent to bystander – and even to leader of the struggle for human rights – in the face of its empire of client fascism and long, vicious assault on the peasant societies of Indochina, is a remarkable achievement. The system of brainwashing under freedom, with mass media voluntary self-censorship in accord with the larger interests of the state, has worked brilliantly.
The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfil this role requires systematic propaganda.
A propaganda system will consistently portray people abused by enemy states as worthy victims, whereas those treated with equal or greater severity by its own government or clients will be unworthy. The evidence of worth may be read from the extent and character of attention and indignation. […] the U.S. media’s practical definitions of worth are political in the extreme and fit well the expectations of a propaganda model. While this differential treatment occurs on a large scale, the media, intellectuals, and public are able to remain unconscious of this fact and maintain a high moral and self-righteous tone. This is evidence of an extremely effective propaganda system. […] The worth of a victim Popieluszko [Polish priest] is valued at somewhere between 137 and 179 times that of a victim in the U.S. client states, or, looking at the matter in reverse, a priest murdered in Latin America is worth less than a hundredth of a priest murdered in Poland.
pp. 37, 39.
Third World elections provide an excellent testing ground for a propaganda model. Some elections are held in friendly client states to legitimize their rulers and regimes, whereas others are held in disfavored or enemy countries to legitimize their political systems. […] the United States organized what have been called “demonstration elections” in its client states, defined as those whose primary function is to convince the home population that the intervention is well intentioned, that the populace of the invaded and occupied country welcomes the intrusion, and that they are being given democratic choice. The elections in El Salvador in 1982 and 1984 were true demonstration elections, and those held in Guatemala in 1984-85 were strongly supported by the United States for image-enhancing purposes. The elections held in Nicaragua in 1984, by contrast, was intended to legitimize a government that the Reagan administration was striving to destabilize and overthrow. The U.S. government therefore went to great pains to cast the Nicaraguan election in an unfavorable light.
Few countries have suffered more bitterly than did Cambodia during the 1970s. The “decade of genocide,” as the period is termed by the Finnish Inquiry Commission that attempted to assess what had taken place, consisted of three phases – now extending the time scale to the present, which bears the heavy imprint of these terrible years:
Phase I: From 1969 through 1975, U.S. bombing at a historically unprecedented level and a civil war sustained by the United States left the country in utter ruins. Though Congress legislated an end to the bombing in August 1973, U.S. participation in the ongoing slaughter continued until the Khmer Rouge victory in April 1975 […] The vast numbers of Cambodians killed, injured, and traumatized in that period were, in our conception […] “unworthy victims.”
Phase II: From April 1975 through 1978 Cambodia was subjected to the murderous rule of the Khmer Rouge, overthrown by the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in December 1978 […] the Pol Pot era is the “holocaust” that was widely compared to the worst atrocities of Hitler and Stalin, virtually from the outset, with massive publicity and outrage at the suffering of these “worthy victims.”
Phase III: Vietnam installed the Heng Samrin regime in power in Cambodia, but the Democratic Kampuchea (DK) coalition, based primarily on the Khmer Rouge, maintained international recognition apart from the Soviet Bloc. Reconstructed with the aid of China and the United States on the Thai-Cambodia border and in Thai bases, the Khmer Rouge guerillas, the only effective DK military force, continued to carry out activities in Cambodia of a sort called “terrorist” when a friendly government is the target […] Phase III renewed the status of the people of Cambodia as worthy victims, suffering under Vietnamese rule.
The war was a “tragic error,” but not “fundamentally wrong or immoral” (as the overwhelming majority of the American people continue to believe), and surely not criminal aggression - the judgment that would be reached at once on similar evidence if the responsible agent were not the USA, or an ally or client. Our point is not that the retrospectives fail to draw what seem to us, as to much of the population, the obvious conclusions; the more significant and instructive point is that principled objection to the war as “fundamentally wrong and immoral,” or as an outright criminal aggression - a war crime - is inexpressible. It is not part of the spectrum of discussion. The background for such a principled critique cannot be developed in the media, and the conclusions cannot be drawn. It is not present even to be refuted. Rather, the idea is unthinkable. All of this reveals with great clarity how foreign to the mobilized media is a conception of the media as a free system of information and discussion, independent of state authority and elite interests.
Doublespeak embedded in a convenient matrix of anticommunist ideology was essential, as the U.S. establishment was obliged to pretend (or internalize the belief) that the huge global expansion of the U.S. political economy on which they had embarked was “defensive” and responsive to some external threat; that we were “containing” somebody else who was committing “aggression” and threatening our “national security.” The words and phrases “defense,” “containment,” “aggression,” and “national security” are core items of the doublespeak lexicon, essential ingredients of the ink squirted out by imperial cuttlefish.
(within Beyond Hypocrisy
Chutzpah factor: Self-righteousness, arrogance, and a sense of superiority so great that gross double-standards seem entirely reasonable and no self-interested action is beyond rationalization. This factor is positively correlated with size, power, and per capita income.
Demonstration election: A circus held in a client state to assure the population of the home country that their intrusion is well received. The results are guaranteed by an adequate supply of bullets well in advance.
Free election: A post-pacification election, in which the “hearts and minds” of the survivors are shown to have been won over by the force of pure reason.
Magic bullet: One that wends its way through several bodies, smashing bones on the way, but ends up in pristine condition, conveniently located for police attribution to the gun of choice.
Police brutality: A myth built on a mountain of cracked skulls.
Privatization: Disposing of public sector assets at low prices and high sales commissions to powerful groups and individuals who generously supported the ruling party’s last election campaign. It provides short-run cash windfalls to the government, while weakening its power and its cash flows in the years to come. In the Third World, a means of making valuable assets available to First World creditors and investors at fire sale prices in a situation of virtual state bankruptcy.
Conspiracy theory: A critique or explanation that I find offensive.
Truth: Emissions from the mouths of the powerful.
Jesus Christ: An irresponsible rabble rouser of communistic tendency; victim of an early witch-hunt.
National interest: The demands and needs of the corporate community.
Overmature trees: In timber company and Forest Service lingo, trees which may live in splendor for another 500 years, but which would make damned fine boards today.
: A U.S. military campaign of 1951-1952, designed to wipe out North Korean guerillas; the terminology reveals an early version of the Mere Gook Rule.
Patriotism: Judging disputes on the basis of place of residence.
Mere gook rule: The deaths and injuries of lesser breeds who stand in our way may be ignored in law and policy-making; technically, the marginal cost of a dead gook (Arab, etc.) is zero. The rule is based on the fact that gooks do not value life and feel pain like we do; besides which, they stand in our way.
Suspecting that we would be accused of apologetics for the Khmer Rouge, Chomsky and I went to some pains to point out Khmer Rouge crimes and to stress that our purpose was to emphasize the discrepancy between available facts and media claims and to lay bare what we saw to be a propaganda campaign of selective indignation and benevolence. This effort was futile. With such a powerful propaganda bandwagon underway, from the very beginning the mass media were closed to oppositional voices on the issue, and any scepticism, even identification of outright lies, was treated with hostility and tabbed apologetics for the Khmer Rouge. Our crime was the very act of criticizing the workings of the propaganda system and its relation to US power and policy, instead of focusing attention on approved villainy, which could be assailed violently and ignorantly, without penalty. The issue was framed as a simple one: those for and against Pol Pot. […] I would estimate with some confidence that over 90 percent of the journalists who mentioned Chomsky's name in connection with Cambodia never looked at his original writings on the subject, but merely regurgitated a quickly adopted line. The critics who helped formulate the line also could hardly be bothered looking at the actual writings; the method was almost invariably the use of a few selected quotations taken out of context and embedded in a mass of sarcastic and violent denunciation.
Herman, “Pol Pot, Faurisson, and the Process of Derogation”, in Otero, Ed. (1994), Noam Chomsky: Critical Assessments, pp. 598-615.
What is the propaganda model
and how does it work? The crucial structural factors derive from the fact that the dominant media are firmly imbedded in the market system. They are profit-seeking businesses, owned by very wealthy people (or other companies); they are funded largely by advertisers who are also profit-seeking entities, and who want their ads to appear in a supportive selling environment. The media are also dependent on government and major business firms as information sources, and both efficiency and political considerations, and frequently overlapping interests, cause a certain degree of solidarity to prevail among the government, major media, and other corporate businesses. Government and large non-media business firms are also best positioned (and sufficiently wealthy) to be able to pressure the media with threats of withdrawal of advertising or TV licenses, libel suits, and other direct and indirect modes of attack. The media are also constrained by the dominant ideology, which heavily featured anticommunism before and during the Cold War era, and was mobilized often to prevent the media from criticizing attacks on small states labelled communist.
The model does suggest that the mainstream media, as elite institutions, commonly frame news and allow debate only within the parameters of elite interests; and that where the elite is really concerned and unified, and/or where ordinary citizens are not aware of their own stake in an issue or are immobilized by effective propaganda, the media will serve elite interests uncompromisingly [...] Many liberals and a number of academic media analysts of the left did not like the propaganda model. Some of them found repugnant a wholesale condemnation of a system in which they played a respected role; for them it is a basically sound system, its inequalities of access regrettable but tolerable, its pluralism and competition effectively responding to consumer demands.
In retrospect, [...] it is quite possible that nothing we could have done would have prevented our being labelled conspiracy theorists, rigid determinists, and deniers of the possibility that people can resist (even as we called for resistance). The propaganda model still seems a very workable framework for analyzing and understanding the mainstream media—perhaps even more so than in 1988. As noted earlier in reference to Central America, it often surpasses expectations of media subservience to government propaganda. And we are still waiting for our critics to provide a better model.
“Herman’s Law” states that when the dictator of a shakedown state loses control and ceases to be useful to the United States, the mainstream media suddenly discover that he is a crook and focus intently on his corruption. This was the case with Marcos and Mobutu, and it fits well the recent treatment of Suharto.
Herman (1999), The Myth of the Liberal Media: An Edward Herman Reader, p. 214.
An important and perhaps growing feature of official and strong-interest-group propaganda is the resort to personal attacks and flak to keep dissidents at bay and inconvenient thoughts out of sight and mind. […] We were very conscious of this when studying the Western dismantlement of Yugoslavia, where the Western media quickly fell into line and treated with aggressive condemnation any departures from the accepted truth and de facto party-line.
On the assumption that the shoot-down was central to the larger plan of Hutu Power and genocide, this would have required a miracle of Hutu incompetence; but it would be entirely understandable if it was carried out by Kagame’s force as part of their planned program to seize state power.
In short, once the RPF
controlled the Rwandan state, it immediately turned its prodigious killing machine towards Zaire’s natural resources. This it may have done under cover of chasing the Hutu genocidaires
, but the pillage of Zaire-the DRC worked out so well for the RPF that by the late 1990s it had “built up a self-financing war economy centered on mineral exploitation,” in the words of the UN Panel, with the pillage of resources so complete that it not only finances the RPF’s aggression, but generates annual surpluses back in Kigali as well. As the historian René Lemarchand sums up this system of blood and money: “It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that by turning a blind eye to the profits drawn from the looting of the Congo’s wealth, the international community . . . is tacitly encouraging a colonial enterprise in the best tradition of European imperialism.” Of course, what is true of the “international community,” is true of academics as well.
We know that our work will be assailed as “historical revisionism” and, worse, as “genocide denial,” but charges such as these are fundamentally political in nature, and we regard them as no more than cheap-shots and evasions, whose real purpose is to preempt challenges to a firmly established party-line. The regnant account is regularly protected by aggressive personal attacks on the challengers in lieu of the more arduous task of answering with evidence.
In the final analysis, The Better Angels of Our Nature is an inflated political tract that misuses data and rewrites history in accord with its author’s clear ideological biases, while finding ideology at work only in the actions of his opponents. […] Small wonder, then, that the message of Better Angels pleases so well the editors of the New York Times and the large U.S. permanent-war establishment. It is regrettable that despite its manifest problems, the book has bamboozled so many other people who should know better.
Disappearances, assassinations, and extended prison sentences for opposition political figures and journalists, and the banning of opposition parties, have been regular features of a 20-year-long Kagame-RPF “regime consolidation” and the ascendancy of Kagame Power. Were U.S. targets such as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin or Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez or any number of successive Iranian presidents ever to have been awarded 93 or 95 percent of the reported votes in an election, the establishment U.S. media would have devoted huge, angry, and sarcastic denunciations to such a display of electoral corruption, and rejected and delegitimized the outcomes. But Kagame’s flagrantly corrupt victories and brutal means his RPF has employed to guarantee them have hardly caused a dent in his recognition as a respectable and legitimate leader.
Herman and Peterson (2014), Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide and the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later, p. 13.
It is enlightening to see how pugnacious the U.S. establishment
[...] has been in dealing with the Ukraine crisis. The crisis arguably began when the Yanukovich government rejected an EU bailout program in favor of one offered by Russia. The mainstream media (MSM)
have virtually suppressed the fact that the EU proposal was not only less generous than the one offered by Russia, but that, whereas the Russian plan did not preclude further Ukrainian deals with the EU, the EU plan would have required a cut-off of further Russian arrangements. And whereas the Russian deal had no military clauses, that of the EU required that Ukraine affiliate with NATO. Insofar as the MSM dealt with this set of offers, they not only suppressed the exclusionary and militarized character of the EU offer, they tended to view the Russian deal as an improper use of economic leverage, “bludgeoning,” but the EU proposal was “constructive and reasonable” (Ed., NYT
, November 20, 2014). Double standards seem to be fully internalized within the U.S. establishment. The protests that ensued in Ukraine were surely based in part on real grievances against a corrupt government, but they were also pushed along by right-wing groups and by U.S. and allied encouragement and support that increasingly had an anti-Russian and pro-accelerated regime change flavor.
The sniper killings of police and protesters in Maidan on February 21, 2014 brought the crisis to a new head. This violence overlapped with, and eventually terminated, a negotiated settlement of the struggle brokered by EU members that would have ended the violence, created an interim government, and required elections by December. The accelerated violence ended this transitional plan, which was replaced by a coup takeover along with the forced flight of Victor Yanukovich. There is credible evidence that the sniper shootings of both protesters and police were carried out by a segment of the protesters in a false-flag operation that worked exceedingly well, “government” violence serving as one ground for the ouster of Yanukovich. Most telling was the intercepted phone message between Estonia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Paet, and EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Upton, in which Paet regretfully reported compelling evidence that the shots killing both police and protesters came from a segment of the protesters. This account was almost entirely suppressed in the MSM
[...] There is also every reason to believe that the coup and establishment of a right-wing and anti-Russian government were encouraged and actively supported by U.S. officials.
[Rwanda’s Untold Story] marks an important, informative, and decisive break from the now-more-than 20 years of false and propagandistic storytelling in the Anglo-American world that has buried the real history of the period. Both the BBC 2’s This World and the documentary’s production staff deserve their audience’s gratitude - not condemnation. […] We have seen that the 38 have a penchant for slander as well as straightforward misrepresentation. It is for committing the grave intellectual and moral crime of providing an alternative but, we believe, entirely credible and evidence-based reinterpretations of what really happened in Rwanda in 1994 that the 38 would like Rwanda’s Untold Story expunged from the BBC archives and its production team sent to the woodshed.
[the authors in Justice Belied made a] compelling case that this system is not only flawed but produces serious and systematic injustice. One major theme pressed in a number of chapters is that the international criminal justice system (ICJS) that has emerged in the age of tribunals and “humanitarian intervention” has replaced a real, if imperfect, system of international justice with one that misuses forms of justice to allow dominant powers to attack lesser countries without legal impediment. No tribunals have been established for Israel’s actions in Palestine or Kagame’s mass killings in the DRC. Numerous authors in Justice Belied stress the remarkable fact of the ICC’s [International Criminal Court] exclusive focus on Africans, with not a single case of charges brought against non-Africans. And within Africa itself the selectivity is notorious – U.S. clients Kagame and Museveni are exempt; U.S. targets Kenyatta, Taylor, and Gadaffi are charged. […] The system has worked poorly in service to justice, as the authors point out, but U.S. policy has had larger geopolitical and economic aims, and underwriting Kagame’s terror in Rwanda and the DRC and directing the ICC toward selected African targets while ignoring others served those aims. Many of the statutes and much political rhetoric accompanying the new ICJS proclaimed the aim of bringing peace and reconciliation. But this was blatant hypocrisy as the exclusion of aggression as a crime, the selectivity of application, the frequency of applied victor’s justice, and the manifold abuses of the judicial processes have made for war, hatred, and exacerbated conflict. The authors of Justice Belied do a remarkable job of spelling out these sorry conditions and calling for a dismantling of the new ICJS and return to the UN Charter and nation-based attention to dealing with injustice.
Herman, review of Justice Belied: The Unbalanced Scales of International Criminal Justice, Z Magazine, January 2015.
Israel is a major regional rival of Iran, and having succeeded in getting the United States to turn lesser rivals, Iraq and Libya, into failed states, it has been extremely anxious to get the United States to do the same to Iran. And Israel’s leaders have pulled out all the stops in getting its vast array of U.S. politicians, pundits, intellectuals, and lobbying groups to press for a U.S. military assault on Iran.
Herman, “King of Chaos”, Z Magazine, March 2016, pp. 4-6.
The warfare in Syria is a follow-on to the attacks on Iraq and Libya. We may recall General Wesley Clark’s claim in March 2007 that shortly after 9/11 a Pentagon official had shown him a Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz list of seven Middle East and North African countries that were scheduled for attack and regime change. Iraq and Libya, both on that list, have been attacked and transformed into U.S.-destroyed states with new or unsettled leadership. The United States has been supporting regime change forces in Syria as far back as 2011, but the job has not been completed, in part because of Russian support for president Assad
. Truce efforts by the U.S. and Russia have regularly broken down because the U.S. still aims at regime change and supports the rebel forces that Russia targets, many or most of which are Al Qaeda- or ISIS-related and whose victory would mean another Libya-like failed state.
Herman, “U.S. Political and Moral Disarray”, Z Magazine, December 2016, pp. 15-17.
Amazeen: “Is there anything you’d do differently if you could go back?”
Herman: No, I don’t think so. No. It’s kind of hard to reconstruct the past, but I think we would have hedged more on Cambodia and maybe put in more qualifiers. We did realize that we were going to be vulnerable and did attend carefully to putting in qualifiers. I did this reluctantly. I’ve always hated to make excuses for what I was going to do, and inserting more than scientifically necessary qualifiers is sort of a cop-out.
Lent and Amazeen (2015), Key Thinkers in Critical Communication Scholarship, Interview with Edward S. Herman on September 2, 2013, pp. 56-57.
Lent: “What would you consider your major contribution to the field of scholarship? Your assessment of what you’ve done in a lifetime.”
Herman: The introduction of a structural model of the media, the use of pairing analysis, and the use of these methodological devices or frameworks in dozens of applications. The techniques are not new, but I and my co-authors have possibly given them more salience. Also, not new but hopefully in a useful framework is the focus on the mass media as elite-based and elite-serving institutions, with biases that follow accordingly. In a way, my writings have virtually all been an exposure of these biases and a demonstration that the idea of a “party line” applies to the mainstream US media as well as to media in authoritarian countries.
Lent and Amazeen (2015), Key Thinkers in Critical Communication Scholarship, Interview with Edward S. Herman on September 2, 2013, pp. 51-52.
On June 20, 2009, twenty-six-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan was shot to death in Iran while participating in a peaceful demonstration in Tehran. Her death became a “galvanizing symbol, both within Iran and increasingly around the world,” Rachel Maddow said on MSNBC. Video images of her plight circled the globe. The same day Roger Cohen denounced the killing on the editorial page of the New York Times. Only fifteen days later, nineteen-year-old Isis Obed Murillo was shot dead by the Honduran military during a peaceful protest in Honduras. Like Agha-Soltan’s, his death was recorded in video images that circulated on the Internet. The differential media interest in US newspaper coverage was 736-8 in favor of Agha-Soltan; the TV differential was 231-1 in favor of Agha-Soltan. The dramatic video images of Murillo’s killing never caught hold in the world beyond Honduras. The social media, which had displayed such potential for organizing protest in Iran, failed to come to life in Honduras. The Propaganda Model is as strong and applicable as it was thirty years ago. […] the performance of the MSM [mainstream media] in treating the run-up to the Iraq War, the conflict with Iran, and Russia’s alleged election “meddling” and “aggression” in Ukraine and Crimea, offer case studies of biases as dramatic as those offered in the 1988 edition of Manufacturing Consent. The Propaganda Model lives on. [the last published words in Herman’s lifetime]
Herman (2017), “Still Manufacturing Consent: The Propaganda Model at Thirty” in Roth and Huffman, eds., Censored 2018. p. 221.
Quotes about Edward Herman
Perhaps the most shattering lesson from this powerful inquiry is that the end of the Cold War opened the way to an era of virtual genocide denial. As the authors put it, more temperately, “during the past several decades, the word ‘genocide’ has increased in frequency of use and recklessness of application, so much so that the crime of the 20th Century for which the term was originally coined often appears debased.” Current usage, they show, is an insult to the memory of victims of the Nazis.
Noam Chomsky, “Foreword”, Herman and Peterson (2010), The Politics of Genocide, p. 7.
He was an inspiration to those lucky enough to know him personally but also to countless others who have been following in his footsteps in institutional analysis, media critique, exposing hypocrisy and lies, and to the many who recognize him as providing a model of integrity and understanding.
[Herman produced] scrupulous, diligent and comprehensive research; a keen instinct for detecting and exposing hypocrisy and deceit and the effects of conformity to doctrine; and a recognition of the role of institutional structures in shaping interpretation and analysis.
In 1984, when I was part of a lawyers’ delegation monitoring an “election” in death squad-run El Salvador, I remember a gaggle of progressive attorneys at the Salvador Sheraton tussling with each other to get their hands on a shipment of hot-off-the-press copies of Demonstration Elections
, Ed’s devastating book (with Frank Brodhead) on the US “staging” elections as PR [public relations] shows to prop up repressive puppet regimes, from the Dominican Republic to Vietnam to Salvador. […] A highpoint of my life was flying with Ed across the Atlantic to Brussels to speak alongside him before the European Parliament on the problem of media conglomeration, a hearing organized by the European Greens. As happened too often, Ed’s name went unmentioned in the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting
; when Will (Matt Damon
) says to his therapist (Robin Williams
) that Howard Zinn’sPeople’s History
is a book that will “[…] knock you on your ass,” the therapist responds: “Better than Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent
?” I asked Ed if he felt left out. Not at all - the movie “will bring our book more attention, more readers.” Pure Ed.
His work has never been more relevant. Manufacturing Consent was a kind of bible of media criticism for a generation of dissident thinkers. The book described with great clarity how the system of private commercial media in America cooperates with state power to generate propaganda. […] Herman and Chomsky's work was a great gift to a generation of thinkers trying to make sense of how power in the West sold itself to populations. The late Herman should be honored for that critical contribution he made to understanding American empire.
[...] Herman’s insights become most keen at the points in which they meet my own experience, study, and engagement with the media. It means almost nothing to state repeatedly that the media function as complements and conduits of a capitalist regime without a personal history and context through which one can fully understand the everyday mire of journalism’s entanglements. It is through the mire, I think, that Herman’s theories are most clear.
Last edited on 18 February 2020, at 01:50
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