There exists, in reality, a world-girdling, electric-signal-driven Media Establishment (I capitalize it as a proper noun because of its institutional characteristics) that has existed ever since the telegraph and the telephone and the lithograph (printed picture) were first invented and became widely used during the 19th Century. At that time, the primary vehicles of rapid communication were the daily newspaper, and the weekly or monthly magazine, fed by the wire services used by the press.
In the 20th Century, the capabilities of this Media Establishment were enhanced and extended by the development of the motion picture, the radio, and television. In these later days, the primary vehicles of communication were national and international broadcasting networks, and newsreels and other Hollywood offerings, fed by teams of reporters, commenters, artists, and producers.
Throughout the twentieth century, the Media Establishment has been mostly known through its stars of stage and screen, and its commentators. The news was passed down to us through the trusted voices and images of Huntley-Brinkley, Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, and others like them. Most people, understandably enough, did not concern themselves with who owned the cameras, and who wrote the scripts.
But the history of the entire 20th century has shown that the Media Establishment has had a pronounced pro-war bias. ( Past generations — our great grandparents, and others — saw the sensationalized claims and counter-claims in the press that pushed whole nations toward wars. And some of them doubted the truth of those claims. But what could they do, really? ) Of course the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II were the most obviously propagandized (they were all “good” wars in their day, saving democracy, saving civilization, and so forth); but the formula worked so well that it was re-used for every “post-War” war that came along, from Korea and Vietnam to Kuwait and Kosovo.
And what was — is — that Media Narrative Formula? That formula is to create and maintain a flexible, plausible narrative that can and will be readily swallowed by the People:
A. Locate the suitable enemy du jour. Begin a process of marginalizing him. Claim the moral high ground. He is not like us. He cannot be trusted. ( We, of course, can always be trusted. )
B. Demonize him: Visualize the danger, imagine the horror: He throws babies out of hospital incubators onto the floor! Use scare words like genocide, existential threat, and worse than Hitler. He hates us for our freedoms.
C. Scapegoat him. If he can be eradicated, our problems will be solved and there will be a Much Better Day.
D. Once the war is underway, stifle all discussion and dissent. There is No Other Way. To doubt the rightness of the war-narrative is traitorous, treasonous, seditious. War must be bi-partisan, yea, it must rise to a pure non-partisanship. Dissenters should be locked up. Whistle-blowers should be shot. Our leaders are all wise. Our officers are all noble. We must do as we are told. We must be willing to make great sacrifices for the Cause. We don’t negotiate with terrorists. We just need to take over their economy.
This Narrative Formula has proved pretty successful, all the way up to the present. It is the formula that was in play when Donald Trump began to campaign. And the War Media has applied this formula not once but twice within the past months:
#1.Syrian Civil War
A. The Enemy du Jour is “the Assad Regime” in Syria.
B. Bashir Assad is the Demon.
C. If we can “wipe out” Assad, things will be much better.
D. Nations like Russia, or Iran, or Turkey, who have different ideas, are Wrong. And if they stand in our way, well, that’s Too Bad for Them.
#2. Dealing with Donald Trump.
The Narrative Situation: We have a noble war under way to bring Democracy to the Middle East. Now that we have succeeded so well in Afghanistan and Iraq, we want to bring the same blessings to Syria. We had pretty well stifled discussion and dissent by our “cultivation,” shall we say, of both parties in Congress, until Donald Trump challenged the Narrative by challenging the buy-in of the Congressional Republicans.
The Current Problem: There were two enemies of the Establishment Narrative that needed removal. The first (and arguably most dangerous) was Bernie Sanders. But he has been taken care of. For Now. We Hope. That leaves Donald Trump as the Scapegoat, Demon, and Enemy du Jour.
So here is the current bi-party line:
- Donald Trump has challenged the War Narrative. He has even mentioned negotiations with Vladimir Putin ( Sin ! Treason !) But that doesn’t seem to be quite enough to do the trick, so . . .
- Donald Trump said something that Demeans Sacred Womanhood! ( Oh, Mortal Sin ! Oh Treachery Most Foul ! )
- Away with him !
Yes, I remain a Christian with strong libertarian leanings and an abiding admiration for Ron Paul.