The degree of self-delusion required to be a journalist in our American empire of lies is difficult to conceptualize, like imagining the space between stars.
First, a brief stop by our newest court jester, John Oliver, and his new HBO program, Last Week Tonight. I’ve seen a couple of the programs, and he’s got some good writers and an unusual delivery style, almost as if he is as surprised by what he says as we are. It makes him very entertaining.
In an empire of lies, however, court jesters are only allowed to go so far, and must adhere to the big lies with the same blind incuriosity as regular journalists. So while Oliver did an excellent job taking on the FCC and net neutrality, Obama’s latest broken campaign pledge, he was rigidly in line as he viciously attacked first Syrian President Assad, and then the Chinese government. The Chinese crime, as I gather, is not being transparent about the events of June 4, 1989, known in American propaganda as the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
I wasn’t there that night and do not know what happened, but did watch it on CNN. I understand better now the power of suggestion in news reporting, and so know that I was supposed to think something terrible happened after our intrepid American news outlet was shut down that evening. And it could be that nothing happened, something happened, or something in between nothing and something happened. Since there were so damned many witnesses you’d think we’d have some eyewitness reports, but as of now we have only suggestions. That’s enough for most Americans I suppose, certainly for John Oliver and his writers. According to his clip, somewhere between 200 and 2600 people were murdered that night.
But wait! There was one eyewitness, a young American, T.D. Allman, was present that night and the following day, and says
“As anyone who was there knows, the ‘Tiananmen Square Massacre’ is a myth. No one was killed inside the square that famous night of June third to fourth, 1989. Instead, when the troops reached the entrance to the plaza, the armored column paused. Following negotiations with the military, most of the hundreds of thousands of people in Tiananmen Square left in an orderly, self-disciplined fashion. But some people felt they had to stay… No one was killed right in the square, though from my balcony I saw dozens killed on Chang-Ang Avenue when demonstrators attempted to reenter Tiananmen Square the next day.”
Allman wrote a piece for GQ in 1989 called Living Well Is The Best Revenge. It never made it to print, of course, because the Chinese must be censoring the American media too, that’s all I can make of it. It was published as part of a group of magazine articles that were deep-sixed in a book published in 2004 called Killed: Great Journalism too Hot to Print.
And the point is, of course, a humorous one that Oliver’s people should have picked up on, that it is American censorship that keeps us from knowing the non-events of Tiananmen Square, and American propaganda that by power of suggestion has allowed us to believe all these years that something horrible happened there. Now that’s funny.
But let’s take it up another notch, because why, fer chrissakes is it the business of Americans to be worried about other countries’ massacres? Don’t we have enough of our own? Why can’t we focus on them?
In the previous post I noted the work of journalist Andre Vltchek. He has spent his career investigating and compiling numbers, and claims that 50-55 million people have been killed in the post-war era “as a direct result of wars initiated by the West, pro-Western military coups and other conflicts.” That’s a lot of reporting and ought to keep American journalists busy for the next century just digging up corpses and details. But please, we all know this elephant in the room. That sort of reporting is not done in an empire of lies. Instead we focus exclusively on the crimes of others, and in the case of Tiananmen, the suggested crimes of others.
I did not sit down to write here with that in mind. Instead, I was chuckling at a piece of American journalism, such as it is, by Hal Foster in USA Today. Foster, whose role in American journalism is professorial, encountered people in Odessa who think that the Americans were behind the massacre on May 5th at the Trade Union Hall that killed at least 38 people. Here’s what Foster has learned about that event, to date:
…someone had thrown a Molotov cocktail, setting the structure ablaze.
I am not kidding! Foster has been visiting Ukraine now for twelve years as a journalist and professor, and THIS IS ALL HE HAS LEARNED!!! Sorry to shout at you like that, but someone please get me a two-by-four, as I have a message to deliver to Foster and need something to write it on. I am staring in the cold gray and vacant eyes of American journalism. The guy does not know anything of the event he is reporting on, and is not curious enough to want to know more. He’s appalled that Ukrainians he interviewed use the term “fascists” for the new Kiev government. That, he says, is “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s term for the pro-European Union protesters who ousted the Russia-leaning Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich in February.”
Foster concludes that
…the United States has a lot of work to do to win the hearts and minds of the millions of Ukraine’s Russia-leaning population.
Indeed. We might start by stopping our support for fascists and their massacres. We might even try to learn who that “someone” was who threw the Molotov cocktail that day. That would take a journalist. I am going to get in touch with Foster, without the two-by-four, and see if he knows of any. Surely a professor who travels abroad has met one or two. He should hire one of them to do some reporting.