Monday, September 17, 2007

The Diction of War Propaganda

One of the ways in which the victims of Empire are dehumanised and misrepresented is through ‘language’. The English language is a beautiful language, and has earned itself the title of the ‘universal language’. How did English spread? While it is a kind of colonial poltergeist that cannot be forgotten or underestimated, it is largely a simple, easy language that has incorporated from many nations and peoples. It is no more “the British way of speaking” that reflects “the British way of life”, but is now the world’s way of speaking. It is a force that unites peoples. But an old misgiving still lurks in Anglo-American and even Australian politics, which is the tendency to repeatedly borrow from its imperial discourse and throw up words like “civilisation”, “democracy” and “freedom”, to which I have previously hinted elsewhere. During the Crusades, both Muslims and Christians referred to each other with this good vs. evil imagery, whereby they represented a more superior civilisation, not by actions and good deeds but polemics. I was going through John E. Richardson’s book ‘Analysing Newspapers: An Approach from Critical Discourse’, and it explained this really well:

They launch
Sneak Attacks
Without Provocation
Their men are
Saddam Hussein is

We launch
First strikes
Our men are
George Bush is
At peace with himself
Resolute [1]
Much of the media is concentrated in the ‘North’ (America, Europe), and this lends a veneer of acceptability to actions which would otherwise be viewed as crimes. Hence, the ‘South’ is depicted as an area of expendability, and how best it may serve the interests of the North. Such is the state of the ‘media’ that my pointing out this failure will be construed as radical, while what is actually radical i.e. contemporary newspaper reporting will be construed as ‘normal’. But no matter how serious and eloquent the propaganda, truth will out time and again. Alan Greenspan, "America's elder statesman of finance", has claimed (as reported yesterday) that "the prime motive for the war in Iraq was oil". As the sectarian killers in Iraq undermine Islam, so do the war profiteers in America undermine the very Western values they exhibit as "saviours" to the lesser peoples 0f Iraq.


John E. Richardson, Analysing Newspapers: An Approach from Critical Discourse Analysis (New York, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p. 48.


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