The Ironical Chronicle

April 20, 2003

Otto Hinckelmann

Language In The Service Of The State

The Quest For A Concept

It is an empirical observation that in "real existing capitalism" the sequence for the implementation of all important policies is:

  1. The segment of the elite comprising those with an interest in the subject reaches a consensus on a goal.
  2. Subcommittees comprising persons with expertise in the means necessary to achieve the goal are formed.
  3. If the goal will have public visibility, a media team comprising representatives of the most influential media outlets will be one of the subcommittees.

The role of the media subcommittee is to design and conduct campaigns to create the public opinion climate to support the goal and the means to achieve it.

Wars are the best example of this sequence and the war against Iraq is no exception. Part of the media campaign in this war was the promotion of the term "weapons of mass destruction" to induce fear in the US population and to make credible the claim that the war was a defense against an imminent attack, the only war that is legal under international law since the creation of the UN in 1945.

The greatest fear-inducing concept for Americans is the possibility of an attack against the United States with a nuclear weapon and it was this fear which the propaganda team decided to exploit. The problem was that simply to assert that Iraq had nuclear weapons lacked the minimal credibility that all propaganda must have in order to be effective. The solution to this problem was to introduce a less specific term which included nuclear weapons, but was not limited to them and that the newly included objects could, with some plausibility, be asserted to be in Iraq's possession. In other words to introduce a defocusing concept which linked the fear-inducing power of nuclear weapons which Iraq couldn't possibly have with other fearful objects which it could.

As everyone knows by now, the defocused term was "weapons of mass destruction," or WMD. This term included the anthrax bacterium which, in a fortunate coincidence for the propagandists, had just been disseminated by persons unknown and caused a few fatalities in the United States.

Now that the war is over, the propaganda problem of what to do about the non-existent WMD is acute. On April 18, 2003 the NY Times signaled a second concept change which completely blurs the meaning of WMD. The new term is "illicit weapons." The dictionary definition of illicit is:

illicit, adj., not allowed by law, custom, etc.; unlawful; prohibited; unauthorized; improper.

The fear-inducing capability of this term is near zero, but illicit weapons are everywhere and, with the war ended, this fits precisely the propaganda requirement at this stage of the project. We can anticipate the widespread use of this term to settle it into the public consciousness and it is such a weapon which will be found in Iraq.

There remains, however, a question with profound moral implications, which will occur to any thinking person, excluding the media, who are by now so saturated with their own patriotic lies that they are unable to think rationally on the subject.

The US, from its highest offices asserted repeatedly in many forums, that it was certain that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. With this as a rationale it started a war. For years it denounced its enemy as evil incarnate. We will take the US at its own word and see where it leads us logically.

We now have some facts before us. Iraq did not use its weapons of mass destruction at any time during the war in which the balance of forces was overwhelmingly against it. It had no chance to win with the conventional weapons it had. Yet it did not pre-emptively, nor on the first or last day of the war, as it faced certain defeat, use the one weapon which might have saved it.

The United States, in 1945, dropped two atomic bombs, which are certainly weapons of mass destruction, on Japan when it was winning the war. There was absolutely no chance that the US would lose. Yet it reached for the ultimate weapon and used it against two cities, killing, indiscrimately, hundreds of thousands of people.

With this as a precedent for the use of weapons of mass destruction, why did the government of Iraq not use them against the very country which set the precedent, when it had every right to do so?

The only possible answer is that it was morally inhibited from using them.

And if Saddam Hussein is evil incarnate and yet went down to defeat rather than use them and the United States used them when it was winning its war, where does that put the United States on the scale of morality? Clearly worse than evil incarnate.

This is the moral dilemma which the propaganda apparat has gotten itself into. It is a lose-lose situation. If Iraq did not have the WMD's which the US said it did, then the US lied to its people and the world and it is guilty of war crimes. If Iraq had them then the Bush regime is worse than evil incarnate.

It will be interesting to see how the media extricates itself and its government from this dilemma.

The propaganda is moving in two directions. One is the switch to the term "illicit weapons" mentioned above and the other is to float the possibility that the Hussein government smuggled its WMD's out of the country. The latter is, even within their own frame of reference, sheer stupidity. If they persist they will have set and then stepped into a trap of their own making.