BY HAL SPAKE
A fake news story, “Pizzagate,” that identified a pizza restaurant as the headquarters of a child pornography ring run by Hillary Clinton, recently made headlines because a gunman, investigating the site, discharged his weapon. There was momentary outrage because a misled individual could be spurred to violence over a fictional conspiracy theory.
No one should have been surprised. Fake news, aka propaganda, has been around forever and our history is littered with examples. We all know the story of “Remember the Maine,” where the boiler of the battleship Maine exploded and William Randolph Hearst used his papers to start the Spanish American War. When the resulting Spanish-American War ended, America had gained coaling stations across the Pacific, and control over Cuba, the Philippine Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.
The Gulf of Tonkin incident was a fictional attack on the USS Maddox that was used by President Lyndon Johnson to wag war on North Vietnam. The war took the lives of 57,939 U.S. servicemen and nearly two million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians.
Everyone now knows the war in Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 but was based on information manufactured by the White House on behalf of the Project for a New American Century.
Content analysis of news shows that propaganda, to be effective, needs a villain. Bad breath to sell mouthwash. Deep cleansers to stop zits. The fear of our loss of freedom, our property, our way of life or that our families, wives and daughters will be attacked by crazies, mongrels, murders, monsters or some other adjective used to dehumanize the person [people] we should fear.
Harry Anslinger, who might be called the grandfather of War on Drugs, waged a campaign against cannabis, by relabeling it marijuana. He then began a marketing campaign against demon weed and made Reefer Madness, a film showing people committing all kinds of violent acts after smoking a joint. The true object of this assault were the “Mexicans,” who had entered the U.S. as they fled their civil war.
Richard Nixon, chose to ignore the Shafer Commission report that showed marijuana harmless. According to John Ehrlichman, Nixon had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people that he attack by vilifying them night after night, on the evening news, as dangerous drug users.
In Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow, she describes how although crime rates were dropping, Ronald Regan ran on the manufactured issue of getting tough on crime. He understood that if he was to win over the Dixiecrats, who had been abandoned and angered by LBJ’s civil-rights legislation, he needed to implement new Jim Crow laws. He hired advertising firms that created the images of crack addicts, crack babies and crazed crack users. As a result of this 1981 marketing campaign, our incarcerated population has grown from around 300,000 to over 6 million either in prison or on probation. The figures would be exponentially higher if whites, who statistically have the same crimes rates, were locked up in the same percentages as brown and black people.
In short, wars are fought for political reasons. They are packaged in fear and patriotism. They oppress the weak, attack the defenseless and protect the privileged. As Major Gen. Smedley Butler said, “War is a Racket” and political/prison industrial complex is the racket.
Drug addicts may be mentally ill, but users incarcerated are clearly the political prisoners of opportunists. If we don’t end this ongoing mass destruction of our citizens by people who create laws, based on fake news and false assumptions, who will? What will be the outcome of our inaction and what does our complacency say about us?
– Hal Spake has worked for the National Security Agency and is a retired U.S. diplomat. He is chairman of Common Cause Oklahoma and a board member of Americans Against the Next War.