dimanche 10 août 2008

Language and War

The tired truism that a particular philosophical concept is the first to bite the dust the moment war starts is as relevant as ever as the war between Georgia and Russia gets under way. The conflict will end very soon with the withdrawl of Georgian troops back to their original positions. Yet the reporting in the MSM is another lesson in how the state propaganda machines operate. Their goal, of course, is to propogate a particular interpretation of events, irrespective of the reality, present partial evidence that substantiates it, repeat and lie back in the conviction that its consumers will deduce the desired response.

The desired response here, evidently, is that a large proportion of the public interested in this type of event, will believe the Russians are being aggressive and savage and that the "territorial integrity" of Georgia is to be respected. [Forget what yhou think you remember about Yugoslavia for now].

First, in the all to familiar pattern, the 'facts' are presented in a leading way. That is, the viewer is influenced by the header of a story. The BBC's latest report has it that "Georgia 'calls Ossetia ceasefire' ". Immediately this language conjours up the impression of reasonableness and peaceful intention. It is the Georgians who are the peace seekers and Russia that is the obstacle, even though, if one thinks about it, a ceasefire has to be jointly announced. But there is no "for" in the headline. Simply calling a ceasefire is futile. Calling for a ceasefire another. The Observer's interpretation of events "Russia widens attacks as world pleads for peace in South Ossetia." is also as clear, if more strongly pronounced. It is Russia that is the intransigent aggressor. Further, the world does indeed 'plead for peace' but this part of the headline suggests that the onus is on Russia for that peace to happen. (Presumably by a 'humiliating withdrawl').

As these reports continue, it becomes ever clearer just on whose side these sources are. France Inter reports that altough Georgia has called a ceasefire, Georgian troops continue to fight. However, on the BBC we read that "Georgia says it has ordered a ceasefire in South Ossetia and offered to hold peace talks with Moscow. But Russia denied that exchanges of fire had stopped, and continued to bomb targets near Georgia's capital Tbilisi, including the airport, reports said. " (Please think) It is Russia that is continuing the bombing and bears responsibility for the continuation of the fighting.

The Observer's opening paragraph is more forthright in its disapprobation of Russian action, "Russian bombers and artillery yesterday widened their attack against Georgian forces with strikes against towns and military bases across the country in a dangerous escalation of the two-day-old war. [REL emphasis] as if Georgian action on Friday afternoon were of no consequence and were certainly not an escalation. The line is clear. Russia is still the long range threat, despite all that Glasnost thing and how well capitalism has freed the soviet hordes since 1989 that has since been consigned to the dustbin of PR history. "The new enemy has always been Russia", the headlines might as well have read for all the double think their stances involve.

And so on. And on and so boringly on goes the straight laced po faced slanting of reality in all the liberal press. We are being fattened for future conflicts and military actions - Gerogian, Russian and Britisher alike. As Nietzsche said, though, truth is an old woman - and its them too who cop for it pretty soon in this type of sordid conflict.