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Brand Loyalty and the Absence of Remorse
Midway through this month, a Wall Street Journal headline captured the flimflam spirit that infuses so much of what passes for mass communications these days: Despite Slump, Students Flock to Ad Schools. Many young people can recognize a growth industry and the business of large-scale deception is booming.
But if Madison Avenue makes us think of subliminal twists and brazen lies, then Pennsylvania Avenue should bring to mind a similar process of creating and perpetuating brand loyalty. The Defense Department is far from truth in labeling. But no player in Washington would suggest renaming it the War Department, any more than executives in charge of marketing Camels, Salems, and Marlboros would re-brand them with names like Cancer Sticks, Coffin Nails, and Killer Leaf.
As the department head, Donald Rumsfeld has gone through media ups and downs. Two years ago, he was riding high. Lately, his stock has dropped. Like every person, hes expendable. Individuals are the easiest brand names to retire.
For wars, brand loyalty is crucial. By the time most people think critically, tragedies are history. Unlike a defective product (or a California governor), wars are not subject to recall.
A successful branding operation preceded the launch of war on Iraq. Despite what we might call extensive consumer resistance in the United States, the Bush administration pulled out all the stops to persuade the U.S. public. The war sold politically because enough people failed to see through the mendacity. They bought a bogus story line as truth.
Now, long after the Bush teams pre-war lies served their purposes, the dead are dead. While no recall can retroactively cancel the war, no remorse can be heard from the perpetrators of the lies and the carnage. Vehicles for war keep gunning their engines without a single repentant glance into rearview mirrors from those in the driver seats.
It would be unduly charitable to describe U.S. foreign policyand the prevalent U.S. media coverage of itas hit and run. Some events do occur by chance or happenstance, but the baseline of governmental policy and media spin is far from accidental.
Washingtons policies toward the Middle East may or may not be inept, but overall theyre purposeful. U.S. control over Iraqs massive oil reserves is one key goal; others include geopolitical leverage and military domination of the region. Meanwhile, the Bush administrations rhetoric about human rights is akin to an upbeat photo for a full-page cigarette ad.
The tasks of news media ought to include demanding moral accountability in every direction. We should want that from all journalistsU.S., Arab, or any otherin connection with the slaughter of innocents, whether by Hamas, the Israeli government, Al Qaeda, or the Defense Department.
Appropriate scrutiny would extend to matters of cultural arrogance, which inevitably takes the form of grievous assault. On this score, the U.S. is culpable.
Consider this report that the British daily newspaper the Independent published in mid-October: U.S. soldiers driving bulldozers, with jazz blaring from loudspeakers, have uprooted ancient groves of date palms as well as orange and lemon trees in central Iraq as part of a new policy of collective punishment of farmers who do not give information about guerrillas attacking U.S. troops. Now, suddenly, the stumps of palm trees, some 70 years old, protrude from the brown earth scoured by the bulldozers beside the road at Dhuluaya, a small town 50 miles north of Baghdad.
Even the finest and fattest U.S. papers seem to have scant room for remorse about the human toll of Washingtons foreign policy. Along the way, the chronic brand loyalty that has endlessly reinforced support for Israel continues to blur coverage.
As a matter of routine, Israel destroys precious olive trees and homes that belong to Palestinians in the occupied territories. On October 13, Amnesty International issued a statement saying that it condemns in the strongest terms the large-scale destruction by the Israeli army of Palestinian homes in a refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, which made homeless hundreds of people, including many children and elderly people.
There was nothing ambiguous about Amnesty Internationals assessment: The repeated practice by the Israeli army of deliberate and wanton destruction of homes and civilian property is a grave violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, notably of Articles 33 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and constitutes a war crime.
Collective punishment and other war crimes are also integral to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. But in the United Stateswhere taxpayers subsidize those methodical crimes brand loyalties are still too strong and remorse too weak.
Norman Solomon is co-author of Target Iraq: What the News Media Didnt Tell You.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
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BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
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NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
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