Sunday, April 18, 2004

I was looking for something else today and found an old bit of writing dated April 1999. This was at about the time NATO was bombing Belgrade, and refugees were streaming into Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro, a year before Milosevic was overthrown.

It is not an especially outstanding piece of writing. Here it is word for word;

I am horrified. I think the whole world is in shock. The only ones who speak of it are the newspapers and the t.v. Everyone continues with their daily lives. The unspeakable has happened. A tragedy so enormous is unfolding that no-one can truly grasp it. Not in our day and age. Not in our civilisation. For we are, civilised. It could not happen again ever, and surely not so soon. How could such a barbaric thing occur. How could we not possibly have learnt anything. It is not our fault. It is that madman. And we are safely miles away. Safely? The whole world seems in disarray everyone is fighting someone or for something. And to make matters worse, those who were formerly dissidents on the edge are now eagerly jumping into the fray while the chance for vengeance is high. It will be short and very very bloody. But it has been boiling at least the best part of a decade and who knows what is brewing at the core and who has really been stirring the flames. And in the name of what. I suspect it is not so cleancut a horror story and I imagine someone else has stoked that tyrants pot, and is stoking others too for their own ends to unity. And what price to pay for that.

There was a question I remember asking myself at that time; in the event of increased conflict, how would a media savy population react to increased propaganda promoting war? I mean, most of the world has had television for the best part of half a century now. The Balkans wars were not the first to make televised primetime news. Vietnam, the Falklands, previous Gulf wars, all these have been televised to some extent. But even since the early 1990's Gulf conflicts, the increasing degree of propaganda western populations have been exposed to is phenomenal. No, I don't mean political propaganda, I mean the sort that tells us which dishwashing detergent to buy, or which brand of tea will make us happier, which toothpaste to use and which toilet paper is softer... you know the sort, you see it everyday. Advertising companies have been in a bind for years because of consumer fatigue - we know bull when we see it. So, if we can recognise hype in the form of an advertisement telling us a hamburger and fries are wholesome - then surely we could recognise hype telling us bombs will bring peace to the earth.

I wondered what would happen; a). How would we react to war propaganda, and; b). How would propaganda machines counter the cynical nature of a media saturated public? Well, five years later I guess I have an answer to those questions.


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