An article by Mike Whitney in Counterpunch is an example of why we must ve careful with propaganda.
Mr. Whitney writes that “communist” North Korea is justified in having nukes, because of decades-long U.S. threats and hostility toward North Korea. Whitney then recounts a history of U.S. hostility.
Unfortunately Mr. Whitney lost the entire argument in his first sentence when he called North Korea “communist” (i.e. evil), and when he accepted the Empire’s premise that North Korea has nukes.
How do we know that N. Korea has nukes? How do we know anything about North Korea? Our only source of information about N. Korea today is the neoliberal Empire’s propaganda outlets. Where are the official pronouncements from North Korea’s government? Why assume that the corporate media outlets are speaking the truth?
The Empire portrays N. Korea as a “threat” in order to distract pubic attention from political scandals. When a Washington bureaucrat gets caught in an a scandal, the corporate media outlets announce that N. Korea has conducted a “failed missile test.” This causes the scandal to vanish. Every month or two the media outlets announce another “missile test.” Since the test supposedly “failed,” there is no need to prove there was any “test” in the first place.
Again, our only source of information about North Korea is the corporate media outlets, and they never lie. (Right?)
Sometimes the media’s lies are a product of inversion. For example, the Empire sanctions and blockades North Korea, isolating the DPRK from the rest of the world, and then calls N. Korea a “hermit communist dictatorship.”
Regarding the term “communist,” how does Mr. Whitney know that N. Korea is “communist”? All we know is what the propaganda outlets tell us. The corporate media outlets like to use the term “Communist” because for most people, “Communist” means evil. (For the Empire, “Communist” simply means not-neoliberal-enough.)
The Empire’s goal is not to make you use the Empire’s “logic” but to make you start with the Empire’s vocabulary (e.g. communist”) and the Empire’s “facts” (e.g. “nukes” and “missiles”). Once you submit to the premises, you submit to everything else. Once you get your vocabulary and your “facts” from the corporate media outlets, you support the media lies, no matter how much you claim not to. This is unavoidable.
Therefore it is useless to begin from a stance of “Yes, but…”
“Yes, North Korea is a communist dictatorship whose nukes are aimed at Americans, but…”
Right away you lose the entire argument, since you have conceded all your opponent’s premises and buzzwords. You figured that the “Yes, but…” approach would be persuasive. You thought you could score points by conceding the fundamental lies, and by spinning the lies in a different way. You were wrong.
In politics the most crucial part of any lie is its premise and its vocabulary. For example, society allows you to criticize Israeli atrocities (up to a point) but you may not question Israeli premises (“Nazi Germany gassed six million Jews”). To question the premise (i.e. to question the basic lie) is to violate a fundamental taboo, in which case you are a “conspiracy theorist” and an evil “anti-Semite.”
In any human society, political power and social strata are maintained by taboos.
“Of course North Korea has nukes! The corporate media outlets say so!” (And the media outlets never lie.) “Of course North Korea is a threat. It’s common sense!”
“Common sense” simply means mass obedience to the taboo against questioning the emperor’s new clothes.
In obeying the taboos, we obey the Empire.