Wars have always been fought to conquer territories, to plunder the riches of the sea, land and subsoil, for the strategic control of sea and air routes. Today, wars are also fought to prevent the growth of competition in markets, to redefine the structure of world governance, where a unipolar and a multipolar vision collide.
Along with the development of technological systems, the new weapon considered decisive in war scenarios is communication, because in the age of information bulimia, wars are also won or lost through the way they are told.
Paradoxically, the opinion that is formed about a given war sometimes counts as much as its military aspect. Because the battle ends, while its communication continues and transmits values, feelings, convictions and produces common sense, which are as important as the military story. Defeats are overcome, but opinions about the defeat settle and carry historical weight.
That is why the international media have quietly buried NATO’s last two resounding defeats: the first in Syria, at the hands of Russians, Syrians, Iranians and Hezbollah; the second in Afghanistan, where defeat was compounded by humiliation at the hands of the Taliban, to the point that Macron said NATO is “brain dead.”
Admittedly, the United States was the first to consider the value of communication in the defense of its interests. Freedom House came into being at the behest of F.D. Roosevelt, in 1941, when several associations were created in the United States whose aim was to prepare the country ideologically for war. They met shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor and established a common home in New York called Freedom House.
In 1982, the Republican administration led by Ronald Reagan decided to accelerate the US penetration and propaganda machinery in crisis scenarios. The NED (National Endowment for Democracy) was born and assumed the role of catalyst for agencies dedicated to political and military destabilization.
Today, the NED is the matrix of a series of governmental (and other private, but politically related) agencies that are in charge of organizing the processes of regime change and of transferring the unconfessable US interests to the plane of positive communication. In other words, war and domination of the entire planet to finance and sustain the US model in crisis.
The Vietnamese lesson
A few days ago was the anniversary of the Mi Lai massacre in Vietnam. Vietnam was the first war documented by television, which played a fundamental role in telling a different truth from the one proposed by the government. The documentation of that horrendous crime dealt a mortal blow to the image of the United States.
For the Pentagon, a strategic question arose: if the presence of the media could not be avoided, it was necessary to learn how to use them. This is why the Pentagon devotes enormous resources to the manipulation of information and disinformation, much of which goes to the publishing industry, which is inevitably affected. It is also present in the entertainment industry and in television and film productions. it buys space for its self-promotion and image campaigns. No other advertiser has such a large budget, which means that no one else has as much consideration, which often leads to a real identification of journalism with the advertiser’s agenda.
The adherence of information to the reasons of the military is dictated to be both part of the establishment, and of the elites. In this sense, the role of the mainstream media is really similar to that of an establishment press office, working before, during and after events so that the unacceptable is accepted.
The basic categories of a good press office, after all, are timeliness, credibility and reliability. Well, war communication has precisely these characteristics: it is punctual because it provides support in real time, reliable because it is believed to verify information, and credible because it does not publish non-existent news. But above all it is unique because it acts in the absence of dissent or even simple alternative sources of information.
Credibility is a fundamental asset for a message. But this is where the medium is more important than the message: the credibility of the military outweighs the non-credibility of the news itself. With the media’s support, the impossible becomes probable and the unbelievable becomes credible. The best example? Making the existence of “smart bombs” credible is like spreading the concept of “humanitarian war”. The generational mutation has taken place: information, which should have been the watchdog of power, has become a nightingale of power.
The change in the communication model
War communication was transformed with the first war against Iraq. For the first time, access to the independent press was forbidden: no journalist, photographer or television cameraman could enter the theater of war without being under the strict control of the military. Embedded journalism was born: the transformation of critical journalism into a journalism that tells what the military allows it to tell: finally a press office of the military apparatus.
To reduce the powerful international opposition to the war, images of death and destruction were completely absent from the screens and pages of newspapers. They wanted to convey the idea of a war without civilian casualties, “surgical” in attacking military targets, “intelligent” like the Patriot missiles. It was false, just as the evidence on chemical weapons shown to the UN by Colin Powell was false.
From a technological point of view, the war in the former Yugoslavia and the NATO offensive against Serbia in 1999 brought a new dimension to the relationship between war and information. In fact, it was the first war enriched in real time by the telecommunications network. The time taken to disseminate the news was reduced to zero thanks to the e-mailing of direct witnesses and the convergence of traditional media such as radio and new media such as the Internet, while military censorship continued to prevent public opinion from knowing the real evolution of the conflict.
The communication of the war in the Balkans had unquestionable merits, conveying the oxymoron of “humanitarian war” as credible and reconstructing history for imperial convenience. Horrible concepts such as ethnically based warfare have been assigned to the former Yugoslavia, concealing that the first to apply it were the fledgling United States toward Native Americans.
NATO wars portrayed as a video game
Today, the dynamics of warfare are exposed to the greatest media manipulation. Major international networks document wars in different ways, depending on who the attacker is. In NATO wars, the images are those of Patriot missile launches from aircraft carriers, from the wake streaking across the sky to the subsequent detonations. They look as if they were in a video game and the distance of the deflagrations only projects the explosions and not the effects on the ground on houses and people. The launch and arrival of the missile is promoted as a sign of strength, but the innocent casualties it causes are carefully concealed. The emotional dimension is avoided in order to reinforce the cognitive dimension of the reasons for war.
If, on the other hand, it is the enemies of the West who are fighting, then the images are reversed. The dead and the destruction are highlighted, and the most heartbreaking stories are constructed and amplified, with children and the elderly as the preferred subjects. In short, an attempt is made to build indignation and opposition to war on the basis of the emotions it arouses, regardless of the reasons behind it.
Then there is the method for forgotten wars. These are all those wars that, although they destroy entire countries, are unleashed by U.S. allies without the direct intervention of Western troops. The most classic example is the war in Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia, which in a few years has caused two million deaths in the absolute absence of images and words in the mainstream media.
The levers of the coup
The same happens in the so-called “springs”, the coups organized by the United States and the EU throughout the world. It was one of the most important inventions of the US military doctrine of the last twenty years, after the low-intensity warfare.
The sentiment that animates popular uprisings, always in the history of the latter against the former and always in search of progress and freedom of the peoples, has been transferred by imperial means.
Thanks to the manipulation of communication, the world is sold the idea that freedom and independence are identified with the Western empire and the lack of them in the countries that have not submitted to the empire.
The interference and subsequent intervention in the different countries is built with funds, personnel and ad hoc policies and the training on the ground of the groups destined to be protagonists of the coup are formed by the false NGOs that complement the activities of the American and European embassies.
In terms of communication, a series of codes of conduct are established, based on:
A) Construction of a bad image of the government, generally accused of repression, corruption, inefficiency and authoritarianism. Depending on the case and when the situation permits, nepotism or uncontrollable social violence, lack of security and ethnic discrimination are added to the menu.
B) In order to convince public opinion of a possible alternative, an image of the opposition is created and disseminated regardless of its real existence. The media present a democratic and peaceful opposition, conceived on the basis of the values of freedom against tyranny, which longs for the Western model of life that is forbidden to it by the criminal grip of the autocratic government.
C) Unleashing of the revolt sold as “spontaneous” and narration of the gradual involvement of a large part of the population. The narrative provides a circumstantial casus belli, which nevertheless triggers the revolt in a slow fire. The role of the university students is decisive, as in every protest movement and in every revolt, and the escalation of the crisis occurs with the apparently unprovoked murder of one or more people, from which a more aggressive level of protest may emerge. An important part of the script consists of images evoking positive feelings to which the government responds harshly, leading to the defection of soldiers and policemen, civil servants and ambassadors who denounce the government for which they have always worked and identify with the uprising.
D) Events are obscured in the part where armed rioters and the behavior of criminals are recorded, and instead are exalted by producing dramatic images of government reaction, whether fake or real. As in conventional wars, the manipulation of images and texts corresponds to the concealment of reasons.
E) Pure hatred stands out in the conduct of the coup, but is omitted by the media system, which instead disseminates images of a romantic character in support of the revolt. The pianist, Churchill’s victory sign, the tears, the slogans and the hugs become the images around which the righteous are counted. Which, let it be clear, are almost always beautiful, pure and compelling in their depiction of change.
F) They are also so because they express concepts in short sentences with an emotional effect, upon which to tell the next step, which will transform those same sentences into a mnemonic meme capable of penetrating any cognitive distrust of those invested by the story.
Information, therefore, is a strategic weapon for any war, whether procured or suffered. But its default condition is absolute osmosis between the political, financial, media and military systems.
The decisive stake is to represent a free world fighting against those who oppose it: the former being by definition “free”, the latter can only be “dictatorial”. No plural concepts or different models of democracy and freedom are admitted: the crisis of unipolar domination is too deep to be tackled with liberal principles. Not only against Socialism or Indipendentism: also liberal thought and democracy, sold as their doctrine, have become the enemy of those who claim to represent them.