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[OPIRG-EVENTS] Media Credibility Crisis, re: Canada’s Role in theWar

Canada's Role in the War and the Media's Crisis of Credibility
By Richard Sanders

How long can the government persist in making blatantly erroneous 
statements that they are against the war and that Canada is not involved in it?

How long can this pretense be maintained by those in the media that persist 
in presenting the government's lie as if it were the truth?

Are we approaching a point at which the myth of Canadian non-involvement in 
this war is perceived by so many Canadians as a baldly false and ridiculous 
statement that the government and media will have to backtrack on the 
official story?

Thanks largely to the media for disseminating government statements, and 
seeming to accept their veracity, the erroneous assertions that Canada 
stands for peace and is not involved in this war, have spread quickly and 
have taken root in our society's consciousness.  This myth of Canada's 
pro-peace stance was an easy one to perpetuate because it feeds directly 
into a much broader, already widely-accepted, myth that has been built up 
over many years, that is, the myth of "Canada the global peacemaker."  This 
myth is basic to Canadian cultural consciousness.  It is part and parcel of 
how we define ourselves as cultural beings. It reaches so incredibly deeply 
in the roots of our national self-image that even though Canada continues 
to take a leading role in the international weapons trade and in aiding and 
abetting illegal, US wars of aggression, the myth of Canada as a force for 
global peace continues to persist.

Since this war began, despite much evidence to the contrary, many in the 
media have persisted in presenting government lies as if they were the 
truth.  Through the subtle phrasing of thousands of questions and 
statements made by hosts, anchors, interviewers, columnists, editors and 
others, many voices representing the media have parroted the government's 
line of approach to the matter of Canada's supposed peace-loving, non-role 
in this war.

It is as if a kind of quasi-judicial set of rules apply between government 
and the media.  The government is innocent until proven guilty.  Perhaps 
more to the point, the government line on the truth is accepted by the 
media, until it is proven false.

That's fair enough, but who's job is it to prove that the government is 
lying?  Is this the responsibility of opposition parties, academics, 
activists or, perhaps, everyone in society?  What about that dying breed, 
the investigative journalist?

We're in a new world now.  In this new revolutionary era of internet 
communications, many millions of Canadians get their news and information 
in ways that completely bypass the mainstream media's historic, near 
control over what is accepted as "fact."  It wasn't too long ago -- even 
during the 1991 Iraq war -- that the mainstream media was just about the 
only way that people could get any information about the war.

Nowadays, using the internet, members of the public are doing their own 
research.  Even being able to quickly access media coverage from other 
countries has made a big difference. There are also scores of alternative 
ways to interpret current and historic events that can be quickly accessed 
by anyone who is plugged in. Nowadays, when people hear some small piece of 
evidence that contradicts the official story  for instance that Canada has 
for months had war planners working for US Central Command even though the 
government asserts that Canada is not involved in the war -- they can 
within a few moments access a wealth of information that exposes the 
contradiction.  This means that the public can sometimes quickly build 
arguments proving that such contradictions are evidence that the government 
is being hypocritical, or is deliberately trying to deceive the public. If 
the media persists in broadcasting such deceptions while the public 
simultaneously becomes aware of the deception, the media  not to mention 
the government -- loses credibility.

In the past, collecting evidence to build arguments that expose 
contradictions within the official propaganda took much longer and, even 
more significantly, it was very difficult to disseminate such 
counter-propaganda. Now, with ready access to alternative sources of news, 
information and analysis, the public has become much more aware of facts 
that are being ignored by the media and the public is becoming much more 
sophisticated in their media criticism. The public can much more quickly 
see through the lies and, what's even more threatening to the status quo, 
the public can debunk those lies very quickly to a much wider audience than 
ever before in history.

This has created a very sticky situation for those who have long made their 
business to lie to the public.

As people begin to see through government efforts at deception, their 
perception of an official story goes through various stages. The internet 
revolution in communications has effected this process.  At first, when 
members of the public feel themselves to be in a small minority that sees 
the official story as a lie, they may feel extreme irritation upon hearing 
the status quo perspective expressed in the media.  Many then boycott the 
media because it is so irritating, infuriating and disempowering to be 
exposed to what are perceived to be as such dangerous lies being spread 
through their society.  However, in the old days, when the mainstream media 
was our only access to the news, we had to keep consuming the media and 
become more skilled at reading between the lines.

Exposure to propaganda inspires some people to produce counter-propaganda 
to correct the predominant misperceptions that permeate the public pysche. 
Another response is to seek out alternative means of getting news and 
information.  Both of these responses are now made much easier by the 
internet. This means that a positive feedback loop is created because as 
more people use the internet to conduct research into the contradictions 
inherent in the reporting of government lies, and as more and more people 
make their research findings available on the internet, the number of 
people who realize that the mainstream perspective is a lie, increases 
incredibly rapidly.

As the percentage of the population grows who have become aware that the 
official story is a lie, the official story comes to be seen as a ludicrous 
joke. The government and the media lose credibility and become a source of 
ridicule and contempt.

Governments and the media have always ignored such public perception and 
awareness at their peril.

Knowing, from opinion polls and audience feedback mechanisms, that the 
public is no longer buying the official line, the government and media have 
learned to slightly alter their descriptions of the official story in order 
to accommodate public awareness of what's really going on.  However, thanks 
to the rapidity of communications offered by the internet, this need to 
alter the official story is occurring so frequently that even more people 
are made aware of the patterns of deception. It is easier to remember the 
previous version of the official truth because the upgraded versions are 
coming out so frequently.  This may lead people to think the government is 
confused, muddled or waffling in its indecision on a certain subject.  This 
may in fact be a defence mechanism to cover for their duplicity.  As a 
result, there is now an almost constant crisis in credibility for the 
government and the media.

The official story that the Canadian government is against the war in Iraq 
and is not supporting it, cannot possibly hold its shape. Canadians will 
increasingly see through this lie and the government will increasing look 
hypocritical.  They will have to manufacture new lies to cover for their 
old ones.  Will the media assist them in this cover operation that will be 
necessary to put out the fires of controversy resulting from their initial 

The media is being put to an incredible test in this crisis of government 
credibility.  Who in the media will stand for truth, and who will stand, 
wittingly or not, for the continued deception of the Canadian 
public?  Canadians are watching the media in this struggle for truth, but 
we are also participating in the struggle.

Richard Sanders is the editor of Press for Conversion! magazine.

Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT)
(A network of individuals and NGOs across Canada and around the world)
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