From Socialist Voice, September 2010

Tony Blair and the media

The promotion of Tony Blair’s book by a visit to Dublin with a book signing in Eason’s and an appearance as a guest on RTE’s “Late Late Show” is just one aspect of a concerted campaign to change public opinion about the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and the continued occupation of those countries, with tens of thousands of deaths and the horrific torture and imprisonment of thousands of others. The war has caused the destruction of some of the most beautiful cities and buildings in the world and in Iraq the dismantling of a sophisticated social infrastructure and public services system and the stealing of valuable resources.
     Blair, of course, was the head of a government that, along with the United States and Israel, has the biggest military spending in the world and was representing that interest, but he still had individual power that could have brought about a different outcome.
     This promotion of his book is a well thought-out media campaign to rehabilitate a man who is widely considered a war criminal and is the most hated person in Britain, where the majority of people opposed the invasions and continued occupations.
     The use of the media to change public opinion has become very sophisticated, and the media are quite happy to oblige, as it gives them the continued legitimacy to rub shoulders with the powerful elite. No longer do they need to set up current-affairs programmes, with balance and reasoned debate, when they can saturate all their programmes with subtle comments and carefully inserted messages to unwary listeners.
     For some time now the relentless pushing of a pro-war British army view has permeated such unlikely places as the televised opening of Premier League football matches, with wounded soldiers and soldiers’ widows being paraded before matches, soldiers’ wives and widows being given “make-overs” in fashion magazines, and televised concerts and award ceremonies having an obligatory mention of “our brave heroes.”
     Television chat shows and radio programmes increasingly mention stories about this or that soldier. There are documentaries about life on board warships, programmes about wounded soldiers in hospital, and funeral parades. The word has gone out, to the BBC in particular, that the British government wants a positive view of the war.
     Of course we know that people join armies when they have no hope of getting work that pays as well, and we must be sorry for the relatives and the maimed; but that is a different matter from acquiescing in the continuance of a criminal war.
     People are so preoccupied with trying to survive unemployment, the ruthless dismantling of public services and attacks on wages that opposition to the war is hard to maintain.
     We got our own version of this media saturation with the immediate filling of the air waves with how dreadful it was to vote against the Lisbon Treaty, and more recently the constant insertion of comments aimed at dividing public and private-sector workers over wage cuts.
     That is why we also have to adopt new tactics to deal with this saturation, by actively engaging with the media at all levels to voice our opposition. People feel they are helpless; but programme-makers take notice when floods of complaints come in. There are a lot of people who oppose not only the wars but the way right-wing governments and their media are delivering the message of the rich, attacking unions and kowtowing to transnational corporations.
     While it will take some time to build up a strong, organised opposition to this onslaught, the simple act of picking up the phone or sending e-mail to the media or Government minister concerned sends a message that we know what they are doing and that we do not give it our consent.

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