One of These Days
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 11 May 2005
Whenever I get asked to speak about the media and its role in our world, I always remember something that happened to me in the fall of 2002. My book on Iraq had been out for a few weeks, I was writing for truthout, and I was also carrying a full teaching slate of high school classes. Needless to say, I was busy.
I was driving home from a long day of teaching back in the fall of 2002, and my cell phone rings. Now, and this is kind of a funny aside, I had always resisted getting a cell phone. Didn't like them, didn't want them. But all of a sudden I had all these radio interviews to do because of the Iraq book, and I did not want to do those interviews on the school phone for obvious reasons. So I went down to the phone store and got the cheapest one there. That meant, of course, that the phone was huge.
So the phone rings and I answered it while trying to navigate Memorial Drive in Cambridge - yes, at that moment I was the jerk on his cell phone who almost kills you with his car - and on the line is a producer from MSNBC who wanted me on the Connie Chung show. Hot damn, I thought. This is getting serious. The producer wanted me on the show to talk about Hans Blix and the weapons inspections taking place in Iraq. Great, I said. Yeah, she went on, we want you to talk about how the inspectors are doing a really bad job.
So picture this moment. There I was, trying to drive down one of the worst roads in Cambridge with a cell phone the size of a gallon of milk stuck to my ear, and I have this MSNBC producer telling me that if I go on the show, I have to dump all over the inspectors who at that time had been in-country about a week. Coincidentally, that was exactly the same line of rhetoric being pushed by the White House at exactly that time. I'm sure the look on my face was priceless, and I'm lucky me, the car and the giant cell phone didn't wind up in the Charles River.
I asked her if she knew who she was talking to. She didn't understand. My book, I told her, says there are no weapons of mass destruction and therefore no reason to go to war there. I'm the last person on the planet, therefore, who is going to haul water for the idea that there are weapons in Iraq. Furthermore, I said, I don't know where you get off trying to gin up resentment against the inspectors. They just got there, and if they can finish their work without getting derailed by nonsense like this, it'll hopefully keep a lot of people from getting killed. The MSNBC producer laughed quietly - that's the part I will never forget, how she laughed - and hung up.
For me, that's it in a nutshell. That's what ails us as a nation. The corporate media does not report the news anymore. They create consensus, they manufacture the common fictions under which we are expected to live. With the TV media, this behavior is all the more insidious because TV reaches everyone.
Television is the most extraordinarily effective tool of mass control that has ever been invented by anyone anywhere.
If this MSNBC producer is an appropriate example - and I think she is, because she was asking me to basically be yet another Bush administration mouthpiece - the fictions they create do not merely soothe and placate the populace. They kill. They kill in large numbers, and a few people (who coincidentally own large chunks of the corporate news media) get paid handsomely for that killing.
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Pitt continues in this essay to give egregious examples of when the media conspired with imperialist violence to manufacture American consent to it. Available online at: